“Gather Faithfully Together: Guide for Sunday Mass” was a pastoral document issued by the leadership of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in September of 1997. The guiding principles about the Sunday liturgy that this document provides are still important to us. One of the intentions of documents of this kind from the local leadership of any given church is to unify the parishes within that diocese in the way they celebrate the Mass.
Church leadership at all different levels regularly provide recommendations and directives that help to keep the church working and reflecting one body in Christ.
-- Some documents are issued from the church in Rome, adapted to the cultural experience in each country, language or region.
-- Some documents are issued by the bishops of a country. In our case, that is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
-- Some are issued by the local archdiocese/diocese.
“Gather Faithfully Together” (GFT), although almost 20 years old, is the document of our archdiocese, our local church, that provides the liturgical clarifications and recommendations for the way we celebrate Mass in every school and parish.
Here are some statements from GFT that challenged our church of Los Angeles 20 years ago, and that still challenge us today. (Please note: Church documents are numbered by paragraph so that we can easily reference them.)
Number 38: “Liturgical renewal is a matter of passion, of catching some glimpse of the way strong Sunday Liturgy makes strong Catholics.”
Number 92: “Our duty is not just to be present; our duty is to be fully present [at liturgy].”
Number 93: “Conscious’ participation is opening every part of ourselves — body, mind and spirit — to what we do at the liturgy.”
Number 100: “The liturgy shows us Gospel living and how to be in the world.”
Number 107: “Become people who prepare themselves for Sunday liturgy and people for whom Sunday liturgy is preparation for the week.”
These few quotes offer us much food for thought when reflecting on our Sunday liturgy.
One detail of how we celebrate Sunday Mass in our archdiocese, which currently needs clarification, is the posture of assembly members after they have shared in communion and while they are waiting for other community members who are still processing.
After sharing in communion and returning to their seats, some people kneel, some sit, some remain standing. We can find our guidance in “Gather Faithfully Together,” which makes it clear that the community posture in the Mass is to be unified. All participants should remain standing until the last person has shared in communion. Let’s look at the specific words of GFT regarding the Communion Procession:
Number 166: “This processing continues throughout the Communion with singing that begins immediately after the acclamation, ‘Lord, I am not worthy’ … as Communion itself does. … This singing of a single Communion song lasts until the procession and all the sharing of Holy Communion ends. Then the assembly is seated.”
The liturgical guidance provided in GFT reminds us that we are one body in Christ and our common posture during the sharing of communion needs to reflect that understanding. We are not individual prayers who happen to be in the same building! We are one community gathered to renew our commitment to be the body of Christ for the world. If your parish community is not using this common posture during the sharing of communion, perhaps it might be a good suggestion to bring to your parish liturgy committee for discussion.
“Gather Faithfully Together: Guide for Sunday Mass” still has much to teach us. If you would like to order a copy, it is available in English and Spanish through Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, IL.
Remember the Office for Worship of our archdiocese is here to help you in all details concerning the Sunday liturgy. Please contact us if you need assistance.
Joan Patano Vos is associate director for formation in the Office for Worship of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.