Category: Liturgy

The Roman Missal and liturgical renewal

Performance by tdenham [stock.xchange]Yesterday, I suggested parishes use this coming year as a time of preparation for the introduction of the new Roman Missal and as a time of liturgical renewal. To help you do that, you can find a liturgy self-assessment tool here. You can also consider some of these questions regarding your parish worship:

  • Do visitors on Sunday always feel welcome and part of the community? (How do you know?)
  • Do the ushers, greeters, staff members, and key volunteers all wear nametags?
  • Are the lectors always well prepared, and do they proclaim with excellence? (What is your standard for “excellence”?)
  • Does the music always meet the three criteria of being pastoral, liturgical, and musically excellent?
  • Does the assembly know the music and sing confidently?
  • Does the music reflect the diversity of your community?
  • Is the presider always clear, confident, prayerful, well-prepared, and attentive?
  • Are the homilies always relevant, surprising, and applicable to daily life?
  • Are the acolytes well-trained and always fully engaged in the liturgy?
  • Do the Communion ministers always exhibit a high-level of leadership and competence when serving?
  • Do parishioners leave the liturgy inspired to live out the Gospel and evangelize others? (How do you know?)
  • Do you avoid the three most common mistakes made every Sunday?

I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list. What else should be added to insure a powerful year of liturgical renewal?

Will the new Roman Missal make liturgy better?

Sunday Mass at 11.30am by      becca1301We are about to have a nanosecond (in terms of church history) in which we can have a dramatic impact on the faith lives of Catholics. Catholic worshipers are beginning to be aware that a new translation of the Roman Missal is on the horizon. As we get closer to the mandatory implementation date, that awareness will grow. And so will their questions. Their number-one question will be: Why is this change being made?

There are many answers to that question, but there is only one that matters to your parishioners. It is the answer to a deeper, probably unspoken question: How will this change affect me?

How will we respond?

That is the golden opportunity before us. The introduction of the new translation will get people’s attention. They will have a genuine question about their experience of worship, and we will have a very brief window of time in which to answer that question. I think that means we have to do two things. First, we have to stir up as much buzz as possible about the new translation so more and more people will start to ask questions. Second, we have to prepare an answer to that deep, unspoken question.

If someone asks why these changes are being made (and is really asking how these changes will affect the way he worships) what will you reply? If you are standing in front of a room full of people who are asking that question or preaching at Sunday Mass about the coming changes, what will you say?

A deep question needs a deep answer

If you are not a fan of the new translation, it may be difficult to find a graceful answer. And if you are a fan of the new translation, it may be difficult to avoid getting bogged down in line-by-line comparisons of the old and new. In both cases, we have to broaden the scope of the answer to fit the deep concern of the question.

I don’t think most parishioners are going to be all that wrapped up in the new texts. Most of the changes will be in the words the presider says. The changes to the assembly responses will be novel and maybe even jarring for a while, but people will adapt quickly. So one possible answer could legitimately be that the parishioners’ experience of the liturgy will not change all that much.

Parishioners expect great things

However, I don’t think that is the answer people are looking for. I think they want to know that these changes are being made to improve the Mass and make worship better—more spiritual, more prayerful. They want to experience the liturgy as both more reverent and more fascinating. If you don’t like the new translation, you might find it difficult to promise them that. And if you do like the new translation, you would be overpromising if you expect a new text, alone, to accomplish improvements on that scale.

Time for a liturgical renewal

So here is the challenge before us. Between now and Advent 2011, what changes can we make to the way we worship every week so we can honestly say to parishioners that the introduction of the new missal will have a dramatic, positive impact on the quality of the liturgy? In other words, how can we grasp this brief opportunity—when we will have the attention of parishioners perhaps like no other time in our ministry—to institute a year-long liturgical renewal in our parishes? If we begin now to improve all aspects of our worship, by the time the new texts are introduced, they will be more smoothly incorporated into our more active and vibrant parish worship.

10 leadership practices for Communion ministers

Eucharistic Minister by Danny McL [Flickr]Management guru Tom Peters posted this on his Twitter feed yesterday:

Leadership has … ZERO … to do with org charts. It can be practiced, for example, on Day #1 in any job at any age.

That made me wonder about many of the volunteer jobs parishioners take on. Do they all think of themselves as practicing leadership in their volunteer roles? How do we, as parish leaders, help those around us think of themselves as leaders? For example, here are 10 ways Communion ministers can practice leadership:

  1. Arrive ten minutes before the liturgy. Offer a brief prayer in front of the tabernacle for all those you will serve today.
  2. Before Mass, find at least one person in the assembly you do not know and greet that person.
  3. Participate fully in the liturgy. Sing even if you don’t feel like singing, as an example to the catechumens and children in the assembly.
  4. If you are new to this ministry, expect to make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes, and don’t make the same one twice.
  5. A Communion minister normally receives both the Body and Blood of Christ. If you are not comfortable sharing in the cup, considers serving in a different ministry.
  6. When a communicant approaches you, say with your mouth, “The Body of Christ.” Say in your heart, “I believe this bread is the Body of Christ; I believe this person before me is the Body of Christ.”
  7. Or, say with your mouth, “The Blood of Christ.” Say in your heart, “I believe this cup is filled with the Blood of Christ; I believe this person before me is filled with the Blood of Christ.”
  8. Do not be scrupulous.
  9. Remain a moment after Mass and thank someone else for his or her ministry that day—another Communion minister, the lectors, a choir member, an acolyte.
  10. If your parish hosts coffee and doughnuts after Mass, find someone who is standing alone and start a conversation with him or her.

What are some additional ways Communion ministers can practice leadership? Share your thoughts, because your insights are valuable.

“Christ has died” acclamation will not be an option

The Harrowing of Hell by jimforrest [Flickr]The new text of the Roman Missal will not be implemented until Advent 2011. However, there is one change you might consider making now in order to make the transition smoother next year. The popular memorial acclamation, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again,” was not approved by the Vatican and is not included in the new missal. You can see the approved texts on the USCCB website.

In my experience, most worshiping communities use “Christ has died…” almost exclusively. If you begin to transition away from that response now, it will feel like one less change you have to make next year.

Unfortunately, none of the new texts are exactly the same as the ones we have now. However, option C in the current translation and option B in the new one are very close:

Current translation New translation
When we eat this bread
and drink this cup,
we proclaim your death,
Lord Jesus,
until you come in glory.
When we eat this Bread
and drink this Cup,
we proclaim your death,
O Lord,
until you come again.

If you begin to use the current option C more often, you will be one step ahead by the time you need to implement the rest of the changes.


See also these related articles:

Introducing the new missal: A four-step strategy

Bath abbey nave by kunalmehta [Flickr]By now you have no doubt heard that the new translation of the missal has been approved by the Vatican and the implementation date has been set for the First Sunday of Advent 2011. And you are probably also aware the new translation has been controversial. In the August 28, 2010 issue of The Tablet, Philip Endean, SJ, lists a four-step strategy for introducing the new translation to our parishes:

            • Acknowledge the wider issues at stake. Some of the issues are not just about correct translation, but also about issues of ecclesiology.
            • Acknowledge conflicting concerns. Some choices in translation were made between conflicting goods. A decision for one “good” is not a rejection of the other.
        • Recognize that reverence and accessibility are theologically complementary. “If the introduction of a new text can be described as one side ‘winning’ some kind of competition between gospel values, things have gone badly wrong.”
        • Only say in public what you actually believe. Parishioners need to hear your authentic voice regarding the new translation. “Defending what you do not believe will be far more harmful to the Church than any public disharmony.”

To read the entire article, click here.

(Thanks to the Pray Tell blog for putting me on to this.)


See also these related articles:

The new missal: We wait in joyful hope

missale_romanum_red_658x10001The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal is not going as smoothly as its promoters perhaps wish that it would. At a recent meeting of clergy and lay leaders in Milwaukee, participants expressed their dissatisfaction with the texts. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted Father Ken Smits, a Capuchin priest and liturgical scholar as saying: “For some people this will be very unsettling. The real concern is among the parish priests, who will have to explain something many of them are not in favor of. They’d much rather spend their time in ministry than have to go through this linguistic exercise.”

Some of the clergy in Chicago are apparently in agreement. Jerry Galipeau, Associate Publisher at World Library Publications, reported on his blog today about a meeting he had with ten priests of the archdiocese who told Jerry that “not one priest of the deanery gives his personal approval for the need for a new translation—and there is some resentment and fear.”

And all this follows on the heels of the “What If We Said, ‘Wait’?” movement, which has collected over 21,000 signatures from people who “are very concerned about the proposed new translations of the Roman Missal.”

Jerry Galipeau, however, sees the introduction of the new missal as hopeful moment.

[T]he advent of the new translation—I hope—will lead to a discovery, or rediscovery (as the case may be) of the real art of celebrating the Mass for these priests. We look for a new dawn of liturgical engagement, a synergy among the realities of text, celebrant, music, and people. It is within the life that is generated through this synergy that God’s work of mercy, love, and reconciliation in Christ takes root, blossoms, and grows day after day, Mass after Mass, year after year, until our voices are joined with countless hosts of angels in that eternal “Hosanna!”

The most compelling statement of support I’ve read came from Kathleen Hughes, RSCJ. Hughes committed almost two decades of her life to creating the second English translation of the missal, which was approved by the world’s English-speaking bishops’ conferences in 1998, but rejected by Rome. If anyone has reason to be resistant to the current translation, it would be her. Instead, she said this at the July 2010 meeting of the National Associations of Pastoral Musicians:

[W]e can make a choice now not to be cranky about the new translation or to disparage this word or that phrase. I have more reason than most of you in this room to wish it were otherwise. I worked for the former ICEL for nineteen years and we had neared completion of a new translation of the Missal using different translation principles. But that was then. Now I have made a conscious choice to button my lip. Being cranky, especially being perpetually cranky, sours us and keeps us in a sort of low grade depression. None of us really wants to live like that.

This will be a defining moment in our ministry as liturgical and pastoral leaders in the church. There is certainly enough to criticize and denounce. But, as Hughes, suggests, do we really want to live like that? The reason we all chose lives of ministry is because of our radical conversion to the hope Christ offers and our apostolic compulsion to proclaim that hope to others. It’s time to go to work.


See also these related articles:

Is your worship space contributing to your mission?

“Good architecture should help a company with its mission.”

You might expect that line to have appeared in Architectural Digest and to have been spoken by someone like famous designer Cesar Pelli. In fact, it appeared in the June 2010 issue of Inc., and it was Robert Wood Johnson IV—the owner of the New York Jets football team—who said it. He said it from his office in the Jets’ new “120,000-square-foot shrine to athletic and corporate excellence.”

When I read the words like “mission” and “shrine,” and my little Catholic heart starts to perk up. Aren’t we the people who do mission? Don’t we have the corner on the shrine market? I re-read the article a little more closely.

When Johnson bought the Jets in 2000, they were clearly a second-class team in a first-class town. He did a lot of things you’d expect someone to do who wants to win football games. He hired a feisty new head coach. He drafted a hot young rookie quarterback. But Johnson considers the biggest contributor to the Jets recent success to be the “shrine” where all the employees work. How does his company headquarters help support the Jets’ mission?

A mission to win

The mission is clear: Win football games. So right in the front lobby, through which every employee, including the players, have to enter stands the Jets’ only Super Bowl trophy (from 1969). It is a not-subtle reminder of the team’s legacy and also a challenge for their future.

Next, the facility includes an enclosed, football-field-size fieldhouse with a 95 foot clearance to allow for punting practice. Most of the offices in the building have an outer glass wall that looks out over the four outdoor practice fields. The primary field faces the same solar direction as the Jets’ home stadium, and the office building surrounds it on three sides to mimic the effects of playing in the stadium.

Add to that many dozens of TVs throughout the facility all broadcasting ESPN or the NFL Football Network.

You cannot work in this place and not get the point. But just in case anyone has missed it, all the employees are given free season passes to the Jets games.

Questions for parish design

All this has me wondering, do we put the same kind of passion and focus into building or renovating our worship spaces?

  • When people walk in the front door, is there something akin to the Jets’ Super Bowl trophy that immediately communicates our mission?
  • Is the space generous enough to accommodate everything we have to do in our liturgies? Perhaps we don’t need 120,000 square feet, but do we have space for catechumenate dismissal, child care, hospitality before and after Mass, and other Sunday activities?
  • Is the worship space built to accommodate the lesser-used, but still vital parish rituals, in the same way the Jets have accommodated their punters? In other words, can rituals like the Rite of Acceptance or Easter Vigil be celebrated in a way that looks like the space was designed for these events as well as Sunday Mass?
  • As worshipers assemble for Mass, find their pews, and prepare to celebrate, what do they see? Just as the Jets employees are looking out their windows at their mission every day, what is it in our worship spaces that visually remind worshipers of our mission?
  • Finally, is what we do in our worship spaces so compelling that people feel blessed to be there—just as the lucky season ticket holders do in the Jets organization?

Good architecture should help a company with its mission. It should also help Catholic parishes with theirs.

What is your worship space like? In what ways does it support your parish mission? Please send your pictures and your comments.

Is Sunday dress too casual?


Over on Facebook, Joyce Donahue posted a link to a story about our increasingly casual dress in society. Societal norms, of course, influence the way we worship.

I think about this when I’m at church and I see people dressed in shorts and old t-shirts. I’m not a big “coat and tie” prude about Sundays, but shouldn’t our garb for worship be a step above whatever we would wear to clean out the garage?

Whenever I’ve discussed this in public before, someone always replies, “God doesn’t care what we wear.” Well, leaving aside the question of how one can know what God cares about in regard to dress, I don’t think that’s the issue. We aren’t going to church for God’s sake in the first place. We are going for our own sakes and the for each others’. Our effort to “dress up” a little says that we take ourselves, each other, and our worship a bit seriously.

I’d love to know what you think, because I wonder about this a lot.

What if Mass were like a hockey game?

The Big Shark by morgen [via Flickr]On Ascension Sunday, I had a lunch meeting after church. The meeting took place at one of my favorite San José brew pubs, which also happens to be a place where sports fans hang out to watch the local teams. I am probably the only person in San José who is not currently caught up in “Sharks fever.” And so I didn’t realize the bar area would be packed with maniacal hockey fans, riveted to the playoff game.

I thought our table was far enough away from the bar that we could still have our meeting without disruption. However, about ten minutes after we sat down, a thundering roar shook the whole restaurant—an ecstatic reaction to a Shark’s score.

I looked at the hockey fans astonished and a little envious. I had just come from a ritual in which we not only celebrated the Ascension of Christ but also the combined sacraments of confirmation and first Communion. (I worship in a restored order parish.) Despite the fire hoses of grace being sprayed out upon us in what should have been a powerful three-for-one liturgy, the standing-room-only assembly seemed mostly distracted and bored. Individual families would spring to life, cameras flashing, at the moment their cherub was actually receiving the Body and Blood. But other than that, the liturgy seemed to hold no fascination for them.

A fascinating mystery

A very long time ago, I read a book by Rudolf Otto, an eminent German Lutheran theologian. In 1917, he wrote The Idea of the Holy, in which he describes the concept of the holy as numinous. He said that God, or “the numinous,” has two qualities: mysterium tremendum and mysterium fascinans. That is, God is both awe-filled mystery and fascinating, exhilarating mystery.

In an article that will appear in the September issue of Today’s Parish, David Delambo cites a study by The Hartford Institute for Religion Research that reports that 95 percent of respondents experience Sunday Mass as either “quite” reverent or “very” reverent. It seems like we’ve got the awe-filled part down.

On the other hand, only 33 percent think Mass is either “quite” or “very” exciting. Far from being fascinated, we’re bored to tears.

I’m sure most of the first Communion families in my parish returned home for a celebration party and probably also had the Sharks game going on in the background. And it makes me wonder—what will we need to do in our parishes and in our liturgies to make the mystery of faith more exciting than a hockey game?

A Hymnal Supplement

One of the summer projects that we are considering is a hymnal supplement.  We have been printing new hymns in our weekly worship aid, and it has received mix reviews.  Everything from the print is too small to these are not our hymns why are we singing them?  Not wanting to give up my dream of expanding the congregation’s repertoire, I figured a hymnal supplement was the way to go, and in fact thought some of the positives of the project were worth writing about.

First, assembling the supplement could get the congregation interested in hymn singing.  Form a committee that’s responsible for researching possible hymns, discuss the merits of text and music, and invite people to learn more about hymn writing, history, maybe other cultures’ sacred music, and other denominations repertoire that may work well in a Catholic Liturgy.  The ownership that the congregation will take in forming their supplement could translate into better participation and their new found knowledge could spread to other people in the Church.  If you don’t involve people and do it on your own, your congregation will feel like its taking medicine, and nobody likes to take medicine.

Second, the church will feel like they have accomplished something in completing the task and having a book to call their own.  Anyone who has read my blog posts know I have a huge pet peeve when the organist and the musicians are separated from the congregation.  Implementing a task like this will forge new bonds between the musician and his or her congregation, and will give each something tangible.  You are the only Church that will have your supplement, it will contain your Church’s identity, and will be a testament to future generations and how much you cared about the liturgy and full and active participation.

Third it might give you an opportunity to tap into your talent.  We have people at our Church who like to write hymn texts.  With a supplement we can print the texts, use them in liturgy, and create an even stronger sense of Church identity.

I’m sure there are more, but these are the most useful to our situation.  Has anyone else tried this?   Did you find it a successful venture; if so why and if not what would you do differently?

Staypressed theme by Themocracy