The Church says fine things about the impact of the Liturgy on the lives of her members. A few phrases from the Church’s formal teaching:
The Liturgy is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful … derive the true Christian spirit. Furthermore, and maybe more startlingly, the liturgy, “through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,” most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. (Quotations from Sacrosanctum concilium 14 and 2)
Vatican II called for a reform, a renewal, of the way in which the Church’s liturgy is celebrated so that the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy might be promoted and deepened. Promoted and deepened so that they, we all, might more effectively derive the true Christian spirit.
Much has been done to bring that about in the decades since the Council: revision of ritual form, developing practices of celebration which assist participation and again and again providing opportunities for the formation of ministers and assembly alike.
Yet for many people, and for many reasons, the Liturgy still seems rather opaque, a challenge as much as a help.
- We may be more familiar with the scriptures than formerly, but to hear, understand and respond to so many readings in so short a time is tough. Participation in the Liturgy of the Word doesn’t just happen.
- There may be greater richness in the new translation of the Roman Missal, but that richness is sometimes clumsily expressed (by both translator and minister, sometimes)
- The Sunday Assembly is an amazing thing, but not always the easiest environment for us to recollect ourselves and pray as individuals or as community
Those who serve the Church as facilitators of the processes of initiation will know all this very well. And will hopefully also know, that with care and encouragement, people can be helped to a more fruitful participation – of the value of
- ‘mentors’ and ‘guides’;
- the experience of being part of a group learning to do this together;
- of regular gatherings before, after (or – more rarely – during) the Liturgy in which our own ‘take’ on things can be informed by other people’s response.
It is hard work to provide this, but when we do, and people avail of it, it pays off.
One of the quotes given above from Sacrosanctum concilium, reads as follows, in its fuller form:
(The Liturgy) is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work. (SC 14)
Ministers of first initiation do this in catechetical groups during the time of enquiry and the catechumenate, during the period of purification and enlightenment, and perhaps most importantly during the weeks of mystagogy.
However Sacrosanctum concilium seems to envisage something still more prolonged and perhaps more inclusive of the wider community.
Pastors of souls will try to rise to this challenge through their care for the quality of worship; for the mystagogical content of their preaching; the opportunities for continuing adult learning of all sorts in the parish and more widely.
This pastor has tried, and continues to try, all those things. But recently I have been trying something else too.
It began as an intellectual challenge. How to make use of the opportunities presented by some of the modern means of communication? What could be done by using those means that could not be achieved by talks and courses (even if people came!)?
The first ‘answer’ took the form of offering through Twitter a daily verse or two from one of the elements of the Liturgy of the Word for the day. After a stuttering start, that daily tweet has attracted a few fans, who find in the tweet something to pray with or ponder on as they make their way to work, or something to ‘chew over’ during their lunch break. Check it out – even subscribe – at @FrAllenMorris
But though daily Mass and its readings have their place in the liturgical cycle, pride of place goes to our Sunday celebration. So, the focus of the challenge I set myself was how to use the opportunities provided by the modes of the social media to engage members of the parish with Sunday Mass.
The answer presented itself through a blog – a daily blog which people could access directly, or receive daily e-mail ‘reminders’ if they became subscribers, or that they could pick up on Facebook.
The daily blogs follow a simple pattern:
- Each day a text and accompanying image are posted. The image appears first on the page – perhaps because images (even symbols!) are an often neglected and weak part of our Sunday celebration and the blog offers a chance to correct the imbalance.
- From Thursday to Sunday, the readings and psalm of the Liturgy of the Word for the coming Sunday are posted, one a day and consecutively. Sometimes there are a few words of commentary, more often some reflection questions: but the main point is to allow people their own first encounter with the word, more or less unmediated.
- From Monday to Wednesday a variety of texts from the Sunday Liturgy, are posted, sometimes one of the elements of the Liturgy of the Word posted over the days earlier are repeated; sometimes a homily extract, sometimes a collect, etc. And the accompanying reflections tend to be a little longer.
And that’s about it, really. A simple daily entry to help people either prepare for the next Sunday’s Mass, or to continue to reflect on the mass of the Sunday just gone.
The Blog ran as a parish blog for a few weeks, partly so I could see whether the additional work was manageable and whether, over time, it continued to seem worthwhile. Proving manageable and attracting some favourable comment, the Blog took on a new independent form under the title Living Liturgy and has been appearing daily for a couple of months now. And continues to get favourable comment.
There’s still some way to go in introducing the Blog in the parish and more widely, and encouraging people to subscribe, so that they don’t have to remember to visit the web site but they get a reminder by Tweet or e-mail when there is something new for them to turn to when time allows. But that daily, automatic, prompt already proves to be a real help for some…
To check out Living Liturgy, go to http://livingeucharist.wordpress.com/