Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
September 2, 2007
“Controlling” the Liturgy The Catholic Liturgy is a phenomenon that seems to be illusive to many Catholics. For centuries Catholics attended a Mass that was “private” to the priest while the laity sat in the pews praying in their own personal way. For all practical reasons the laity was cut off from any participation in the liturgy.
In the early 20th Century, the laity began expressing a desire to participate in this liturgy. As a response to this desire, the Catholic people’s missal came into print. Many of us in the baby boomer generation remember owning a St. Joseph’s Sunday missal. It contained many of the prayers that were being said in Latin by the priest. We could read these prayers in English and experience at least some degree of participation.
Finally, in the 1960's, the 2nd Vatican Council came to the rescue of the laity. Many bishops realized that something had to be done to allow the laity a fuller participation in the
liturgy. If the Church was to teach that we are a Eucharistic people and that the Mass was the focus of our entire lives, it needed to become more meaningful to the people, not only to the priest.
One important change than came about was the use of the vernacular. This enabled everyone to participate in a language they could understand. Many people were excited about this change while others were disappointed that the Church was betraying them. The latter group felt that the elimination of the Latin Mass was actually a letting go of their Catholicism. Sadly, some people continue to feel this way even after 40 years of change. The changes in the liturgy were seen as favorable by most Catholics however. Most were ready for the change.
What most of us were not quite ready for was a possible confusion of attitudes among Catholics. Cardinal Godfried Danneels from Belgium brings out an excellent point in his article in the Sept. 3 issue of America Magazine. Danneels points out that in all our exuberance to participate, “there is a serious danger of believing that we are in possession of the liturgy. It becomes, in a sense, the property of those who celebrate. Those who serve the liturgy - both priests and laity - become its “owners.” In some cases this can even lead to a sort of liturgical “coup,” by which the sacred is eliminated, the language trivialized and the cult turned into a social event.” Danneels continues by saying that the “ real subject of the liturgy is no longer the Christ, who through the Spirit worships the Father and sanctifies the people in a symbolic act, but it is the human person or the celebrating community.”
The above is often very true. Sadly, we have come to the point of thinking that we are control. The mystery of the liturgy has been taken away. The celebration has almost become too “familiar” The sad part is that we have become stuck in the quagmire of this familiarity and we have failed to move on to the real meaning of participation. We cannot quit now. We need to continue to attempt to understand the liturgy for what it really is. If we have not already reached our goal, we must strive to develop an attitude of grateful reception, wonder, adoration and praise..i.e. an attitude of prayer, of handing ourselves over to God and letting his will be done in us.”
Lorette P. Nault