Continuing our simple suggestions to help improve Sunday Mass, below is another checklist of some ways of improving parish liturgy that might serve as part of an agenda for your liturgy committee in the new church year. This list focuses on the Liturgy of the Word.
1. Once the Gathering Rites have been completed, try waiting a considerable amount of time before beginning the First Reading. Give everyone the chance to settle into their seats and quiet their minds. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM] No. 61)
2. A moment of communal silence is also called for after the First Reading and after the Second Reading. (GIRM No. 61)
3. Remember to pace things graciously. Never hurry. Each lector, charged with energy, strength and conviction, walks to the ambo at a relaxed pace.
4. Be sure that the lectors in your parish are effectively trained in their role, and that they know their responsibility to proclaim God’s Word, not just offer it as a public reading. Can your parish provide lectors, and other parishioners, the opportunity for weekly lectionary scripture reflection (or lectio divina)?
5. The psalmist/cantor generally leads the responsorial psalm from the ambo, since the psalm is also God’s Word. (GIRM No. 61)
6. Be sure your parish musicians have all the resources they need, and that they have the training required to effectively lead the community’s ritual song. If you need assistance with that training, please contact the Office for Worship.
7. Let the “Alleluia” or Gospel acclamation ring out! “An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the gathering of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel.” (GIRM No. 62)
8. Remember: The Liturgy of the Word is not an academic exercise. It is an invitation into the experience of the transcendent God, present in God’s Word. The Hebrew people, who first received God as Word, could not read, so Word, in and of itself, was mystery to them. Word became the symbol that gathered them together into the experience of the transcendent God. It was through the Word that they formed themselves as a people of God. In our liturgy, the proclamation of the Word is another way that Christ is made present to us and within us.
9. “It is appropriate for a brief period of silence to be observed after the Homily.” (GIRM No. 66)
10. The Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful is the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word. The parish liturgy committee should be sure that these prayers are written by a person or group in the parish, so that they reflect the heart of the community in some way. A Ministry of Liturgical Writers could be formed of people who have this skill. If you need to train this group, please be in touch with the Office for Worship. They can assist in this training.
11. The intercessions of the Universal Prayer need to include concern for the following (GIRM No. 70):
> The needs of the Church;
> For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
> For those burdened by any kind of difficulty; and
> For the local community.
In other words, our prayer attends to the needs of all the world, not just our own personal concerns. Our prayer can change us. Our lives are shaped by the concerns we pray for. These intercessions make us partners with God in serving the needs of the world. They open our eyes to see beyond our own challenges. They shape our thoughts and our actions.
12. Here is the formula for the Universal Prayer:
> It begins with an invitation to pray, addressed to the whole assembly, offered by the presider;
> The deacon or other reader announces each intercession and the call: “We pray to the Lord”;
> The whole assembly affirms each intercession with: “Lord, hear our prayer” or other suitable response. (Note: The response is NOT “Lord, hear our prayers,” since, as the body of Christ, we speak as one voice.);
> The presider concludes the prayer, addressing God directly; and
> The assembly offers affirmation by their strong “Amen.”
13. All are seated and prepare to make the transition from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This transition time includes the monetary collection, the procession with the gifts and the preparation of the gifts. This cluster of activities is often accompanied by an assembly song, instrumental or choral piece.
14. All stand for the Prayer Over the Gifts.
This leads us into the Eucharistic Prayer, which we will outline next week.