“Gather Faithfully Together” is the Pastoral Letter on the Liturgy of the Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, written in 1997. This letter encouraged “a singular and concentrated effort to strengthen Sunday liturgy. Lacking that effort, we have no center, no identity as the Body of Christ. With that effort, the renewal of every aspect of our Church life becomes possible.” It expressed a renewed commitment to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
Many members of our Catholic community in Los Angeles do not remember this pastoral letter and the work it called us to fulfill, yet we still are guided by its wisdom today. This local church document reminds us that in order for our liturgy to be alive we need a faithfulness that is “imbued with the Spirit,” that sees in our ethnic, age, social, and economic diversity, one communion in Christ. Let’s take a closer look at some of the principles of liturgy that it presented.
“The Sunday assembly should bring together men, women, and children of all ages. It should be the one experience in our lives when we will not be sorted out by education level, skin color, intelligence, politics, sexual orientation, wealth or lack of it, or any other human condition.”
Liturgy that is “imbued with the spirit” takes careful preparation and time, not only on the part of those serving in the ministries at Mass, but on the part of every member of the assembly. “Gather Faithfully Together” offers steps we can take or habits we can cultivate “that will bring us together into a life-giving liturgical practice Sunday after Sunday.”
Become people who worship in the midst of the Sunday assembly.
Know the Sunday readings. Incorporate them into your daily life. “Mark with prayer your morning rising and your evening going to bed.” Let your daily life be an extension of your Sunday worship.
Become people who prepare themselves for Sunday Liturgy and people for whom Sunday Liturgy is preparation for the week.
“Seek little ways that can help you make the Lord’s Day … a day when liturgy has room. Find some habit … that helps you anticipate being together as a Church.”
At the liturgy, be the Church.
“Do not hide; do your private praying in the other hours of the week. Sit together. Sing songs from your heart…Keep your eyes open to one another and do everything you can to build up the Church, the Body of Christ.”
Apart from the Liturgy, be the Church.
“Remember we are always the Body of Christ, always in communion with one another… we who are the Church are one with others. In us, God is calling and blessing and sanctifying the world God loves. Listening to God’s Word on Sunday morning is preparation for the listening we do for God’s Word in our lives all week.” The common table of Holy Communion is a preparation for how we look at the whole world.
Give thanks always. In all things, give God thanks and praise. Sing!
“The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation … is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.”
“Come on Sunday knowing your dignity. In Baptism, you put on Christ. You are the Body of Christ. Full participation brings us to the liturgy, body and soul, with all our might…Our duty is not just to be present; our duty is to be fully present.”
“Conscious participation is opening every part of ourselves … to what we do at the liturgy. We gather on Sunday, not as isolated persons, but as the Church, with its diversity of cultures, languages, and races. Cultivate, then, your deep awareness that it is not so many individuals who are standing here singing, but the Church. It is not individuals who are coming forward to the table, but the Church. It is not individuals who are going forth to live by the Word they have listened to and the Body and Blood of Christ they have eaten and tasted. It is the Church going forth as a leaven in the midst of the world God loves.”
“Active participation…calls us to attend to others, to a kind of presence. The Body of Christ has to be visible, audible, tangible…at liturgy, we never close out the larger world. The liturgy shows us Gospel living and how to be in the world.”
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