Consider for a moment the image of a pie sliced into pieces, and think of that pie as the Church and all of her activities. Some of us would likely think of Sunday Mass as one piece of that pie, when in actuality, the wisdom of the Church might offer a different image. 

Think of the work of the Church, instead, as a wheel, with Sunday Mass at the center, or hub, of the wheel. The spokes leading out from the hub are the various works of the Church, but the liturgy is the “primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 14). 

This means that the work of every parish, every pastor, every department of religious education, every parish council, liturgy committee and finance council, every spoke of the wheel that is the Church, “must zealously strive in all their pastoral work to achieve such (full, conscious and active) participation” in the liturgy for the entire community. The primary resources of a parish, in terms of energy, people power, and finances, must be directed towards the liturgy in order to achieve this.

Such energy and enthusiasm is very difficult to muster in the midst of all the stress and conflict in our country currently, or the added stress of raising a family or working more than one job, or the stress of old age, health or special needs challenges, or the stress of broken relationships, loneliness or mental anguish. How do we find the voice of God in the midst of all of these other voices pulling us in so many different directions? How can our Sunday liturgy “speak” with more power and presence in our lives, enough to drown out the other voices? How do we shape our church life so that our full, conscious, and active participation in the Sunday liturgy becomes the hub of the wheel of Church, and also the hub of the wheel of our lives? How do we begin to see our participation in and as church as more than just an enhancement of our lives, or of our children’s lives? How do we begin to see “being Church” as the reason for our being alive? How do we begin to hear Jesus’s command to “do this” as our own personal mandate, not just the role of the presider at Mass?

One way we can do this is to take the time to participate in ongoing formation and renewal in the liturgy as a member of the assembly. We are all first and foremost assembly participants, and for our liturgies to “speak” in ways that are louder than the voices of the culture around us, we need to all accept and fulfill our internal and external part in the liturgy.

To explore how to engage the whole assembly in more conscious participation, what about offering the opportunity for dialogue in small faith communities that focuses on the liturgy? Parish leadership could provide time and space for regular gatherings centered around small group discussion and reflection on why we do what we do at the liturgy, and how it makes visible the invisible truths of our lives. These gatherings could be provided seasonally, that is, just before or after each liturgical season. The liturgical year and our ritual prayer are a never-ending source of spiritual nourishment. 

The catechism of the church states that one of the ways that God reveals God’s self to us is through the tradition of the church, and the liturgy is the longest standing tradition we have. It is not only the task of the priests or the liturgical ministers, it is everyone’s job to participate in the ever-renewing presence of God in Christ, revealed through the liturgy.

Regarding formation and renewal of liturgical ministers, the archdiocesan guidelines for lectors offers these directives: 

“All liturgical ministers, especially the ministers of the Word, must be properly trained for their ministry. The ministry of the Word requires skill in public reading, knowledge of the principles of liturgy, and an understanding and love of the scriptures.” (No. 7)

“Those who are presently lectors should annually participate in enrichment programs.” (No. 10)

The archdiocesan guidelines for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion also state:

“Candidates for the ministry of Holy Communion are to be properly formed with spiritual, theological and practical training.” (No. 4).

“At least once a year, each community should arrange some program or retreat to renew the faith, prayer and commitment of the present ministers.” (No. 8)

What are we waiting for? If you need help in moving forward, please contact the Office for Worship at [email protected].

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