Liturgical Year
Part 8 Conclusion

Chapter y89 Conclusions

Preliminary Questions

Contemporary Culture and the Church Year

Pastoral Outlook for the Future

Back to the Basics

 

Preliminary Questions

1.  Using the ten divisions of the historical grid, give a summary history of the development of the Liturgical Year.

2.  In ten simple, declarative sentences list what you consider to be the ten most important things you have learned during this course.

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Contemporary Culture and the Church Year

1.  What attitudes / experiences / customs need to be put in place in our parishes in order that the Liturgical Year might have its intended effect on the faithful?

2.  How can the material studied in this course be made available to Today's "young Catholics"?  See, for example, Colleen Carroll, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy.   Chicago:  Loyola Press, 2002.  ISBN 0-8294-1645-5

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Pastoral Outlook for the Future

 

 

 

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Back to the Basics

1.  Are Catholics Christians?    At the beginning of the course we saw that two key elements of this course concern 1) Jesus and 2) the Bible.  The Church Year can be defined as "the way Catholics read the Bible."  And the importance of Jesus is highlighted in the six "general principles" which guided the coetus in the reform of the calendar. (Msgr. Jounel told us in class that the following six principles guided their work.)   (Regarding the importance of General Liturgical Principles see my notes on obedience to liturgical law.)

1 Restore Sunday  (Resurrection of Jesus)
2 Christ over saints (It all starts with Jesus!)
3 Seasons to original meaning  (Born into Jesus / Incarnation)
4 Understandable to all the Faithful
5 Subsidiarity: local celebrations to local churches
6 Saints: truth in advertising

Not too long ago a repairman was at my house and after he had fixed what he was called in to fix he talked to me for some time.  He noticed the "Rev." front of my name as I signed the check, and when he learned that I was a Catholic priest he recounted to how he had been brought up Catholic, but he was never taken by the religion because it was so formal and so full of hypocrites.  However, after some troubled years, he finally "found Jesus and became a Christian."  And now that he is born again he regrets the time that he spent as a Catholic because "Catholics do not know Jesus and they do not read the bible."

Perhaps your think that nothing could be further from the truth, but remember that there was a time -- not too long ago -- when we Catholics gave this impression.  (In place of Jesus we had "saints" and in place of the Bible we memorized the Baltimore Catechism.)  Now we know that this has all been changed with getting the four treasures out of the attic.  But my conversation with this very sincere and obviously religiously motivated repairman reminded me of the dynamics of change.  It is going to take many years before the changes in facts and practice influence our Catholic "group behavior." 

I believe there are thousands of Catholics today who have "left the Church" because "Catholics do not know Jesus" and "Catholics do not read the Bible."   During this course as we discuss whether Christmas Midnight Masses can be anticipated on the afternoon of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and whether or not the custom of covering statues with purple during Passiontide is still a good idea, we are always in danger of missing the "important stuff".   I hope that one of the things we become convinced of as a conclusion of this course is "don't miss the important things."  It all starts with Jesus ... 

2.  Is it Good Friday or the Triduum?  At the end of this course it is time once again to look under your iceberg and see if your most basic understanding of the mysterion is Good Friday or the Triduum with Thursday, Friday and Sunday in both rigorous tension and interactive balance. 

I cannot "see" your "presuppositions, myths [i.e. root images], memories, etc." which are stored in that big part of the iceberg which lies hidden below the waterline, but from which I hear and see of the great majority of Catholics I am convinced that "Holy Thursday" and "Easter Sunday" are still "in the attic."   For example:  1) If the liturgical year is the way we read the Bible, and the privileged context for reading the Bible is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is understood exclusively in terms of "sacrifice" [i.e. the death of Jesus], This will color our understanding of the Liturgical Year in ways that this course cannot get at. 

Check your own iceberg.  Quietly ask yourself sometime:  Each Sunday at Mass do I  "receive Holy Communion" or do I "share a meal with the parish"?  This will give a clue as to whether "Holy Thursday / Meal" has become part of your theology.  A second question:  When I think of receiving Holy Communion, what/who do I receive?  Do you think first of all of Jesus of Nazareth, or of the Parish Community, the Body of Christ.  This will give a clue as to whether "Easter Sunday" has become part of your theology. 

One day at the dinner table at the Franciscan Convent in Seville Spain during Holy Week in 1992 where I had been participating in the many processions of the "floats" depicting the sufferings of Christ and the Sorrowful Mother [I was also researching a book on the Liturgical Year and Catholic devotions -- and Holy Week in Seville is the "super bowl" of Catholic devotions!], the friar next to me at table leaned over during the table reading and whispered "I guess by now you realize you are in the only city in the world where Christ has not yet risen from the dead!"   --  Today, fifteen years later, I now realize there are many places where Christ has not yet risen from the dead!  

As I asked at the end of the teaching segment of the "Lent/Easter" video:  "Do you believe in the resurrection? If so, what difference does this make in your life?"

3.  Is Lent about Dying or Rising?  Is Baptism a Death or a Birth?   Is Sin more Original than Grace?  Again, I know that I cannot "see" your "presuppositions, myths [i.e. root images], memories, etc." which are stored in that big part of the iceberg which lies hidden below the waterline, but I am still convinced that for many Catholics there is a lot more "death" and "sin" than there is "life" and "grace."   I have published an article on this in The Catechist, "The Reality of Sin and Grace."  See especially part 4:  "Grace Is More Original Than Sin." 

4.  Liturgical Ministry:  Is it a job or is it a prayer?    During the course we have often spoken of "tip of the pistol" changes.   One such change is the shift from liturgical ministry as "job" to liturgical ministry as "prayer."  When you are exercising your ministry at the liturgy, what is it that you think you are doing -- really doing -- (look deep under the iceberg).

For example, the liturgical musician playing the organ to accompany a hymn:   The musician must be doing a good job "musically" but if that is primarily "what they are doing" it is not "ministry."  The minister is first of all a leader in prayer and to do that the minister must actually be praying!

For example consider the priest presiding at the Sunday Liturgy:  The priest has lots of things to think about, practical, necessary things.  But if he is to lead the congregation in prayer, he must be praying himself.   I have received lots of complements about "how I say Mass"  but I cherish a comment I overheard after mass one day:  "When Fr. Tom says Mass, I know he sees God!"   Whether we "see God" or not, we have to at least appear to!  You can tell a lot about your ministry by the comments people make. A good minister should be hearing things like: "Your singing really helped me pray this morning." "I really felt God speaking to me when you read the Epistle."

Ministry is different from "doing a good job" or "doing it right."

Søren Kierkegaard. "Many Christians tend to view the minister/priest as the actor, God as the prompter, and the congregation as the audience. But actually, the congregation is the actor, the minister/priest merely the prompter, and God the audience." (Søren Kierkegaard. Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, New York: Harper & Row, 1956, pp 180-181. Quoted in Erickson, "Liturgical Participation" Worship 59 (1985) p 232.)

A man once told me:  "When father asked me to help distribute Communion, I said OK because I knew he needed the help.  But I didn't want to because Communion time is my best time for prayer and giving out Communion keeps me from praying at this intimate moment.  But as I started doing it, and I realized that I was sharing the Body of Christ with the Body of Christ, and as I began to see Christ in each of the parishioners who approached me, the ministry became prayer, a wonderful, rich, deep experience of prayer -- better than anything I had before." 

A reader told me:  "When I started lecturing at Sunday Eucharist, I thought I was just reading out loud to the parish like I used to read out loud to my children at bed time.  Little by little I see that it is not just a story, it is my story.  In order to read it well, I have to live it well."

Another man said:  "When I started taking Holy Communion to the Catholic offenders at the state prison I prayed 'Thank you Jesus, that I am not like them.'  And then, I can't explain it, I began to see that I am like them.  We are all sinners.  Jesus came for sinners.  I began to see how many of my personal accomplishments of which I had been so proud were merely the result the values given me by my parents (parents which I didn't choose).  I became interested in the relationship between education, economic opportunity and crime.  I began to question how various politicians had voted on these issues when bills were introduced in the state legislature.  I began to change the way I voted and whom I voted for!  I had no idea that "taking Communion" was going to change my life in so many ways."

We minister because we follow Christ who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." We do not volunteer for liturgical ministry to get our own needs met (our need to feel important, or to show off) but to serve the community, to aid their prayer, to help this assembly become a place where we can contact the living God. For example, the ministers of music know the difference between a prayer and a performance and they know that the worshiping community can recognize that difference.

It is interesting that the Missale Romanum of Trent listed prayers for the priest to say before Mass and after Mass -- presuming that during Mass the priest would be much to busy to do any praying!  (There was the possibility of committing 80 or 90 distinct mortal sins in the rubrics.) 

To push this a bit further:  If liturgical ministry is primarily "prayer" can one "pray too much?"  For example, what if you have to minister at (or preside at) 6 or 8 Masses a weekend?  Can one pray that much? 

You know from your own experience that it is good from time to time to celebrate a Eucharist at which you have only the "ministry" of being part of the assembly.  This too can be a rich experience, and often a necessary experience from time to time.  How often does the parish pastor have opportunity for this type of prayer experience?  How often should he?  Might it enrich his prayer when presiding?   See Spirituality   See  Spirituality of the Parish Priest

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To Think About

1.  Using the ten divisions of the historical grid, give a summary history of the development of the Liturgical Year.

2.  In ten simple, declarative sentences, list what you consider to be the ten most important basic principles regarding this course.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 05/09/13 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org