Posts tagged: sacred liturgy

Fiftieth Anniversaries Surround Us

By , April 16, 2014 5:48 am

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Have you noticed that we are surrounded by a very plethora of anniversaries marking the 50th anniversary of this or the 50th anniversary of that. If it tells us anything at all, it should be that the 1960’s were an extraordinarily important period. It is fifty years since the riots in Watts, fifty years since the death of Jack Kennedy, fifty years since Lyndon Johnson led the change in America by the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is also fifty years since the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

These American events are being rather well marked but for some reason the Catholic bishops of the United States have done little or nothing to remind the 60 million of us that the Council was an extraordinary event widening horizons, creating hope and helping to lead us into the future. Maybe one of the reasons why it has not been spotlighted so much in this country is that many of the younger bishops would just as soon forget it! That is a tragedy but it is not an enduring tragedy. The Council is being brought back to life by our magnificent leader Pope Francis.

A few days ago I started a series of blogs on the documents of the Council. Since I find it so refreshing to go back and study them, you may appreciate or enjoy at least a brief mention to various segments of them as I plod through the next few weeks.

The other day I stressed that the first and most exciting of the Council documents was the one on the sacred liturgy and how it got started. Now I would like to go very briefly through certain segments of this document that has touched each and every one of us in this country and actually every Roman Catholic across the world. I break Roman Catholics into two groups about the Council. Older men and women who remember it taking place fifty years ago connect it with a time of change and tension and the most visible thing they remember is that Latin ceased to be imposed on the Universal Church and all the countries of the world were able to use vernacular language. Imagine – the Church decided to put worship into a language that the worshipers understood. What a breakthrough!

To discuss the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy would require volumes and believe me many volumes have been written about it. With the constraints of this space, I want to simply break it into two key components. Many subdivisions are possible.

The first thrust of the document centers on the fact that the Eucharist is the absolute center of the Church’s prayer life. Certainly, the other sacraments are important and they draw us closer to Jesus and private devotions and prayers of individuals are very valuable. However, it is in the Eucharistic liturgy that the entire Church prays and we pray in unison and with one faith and one heart. The Eucharist is the center of the Church and it unites each and every one of us together. We are believers.

Secondly, the liturgical document calls forcefully and urgently for a resurgence in the study of sacred scripture and more effectively integrating scripture into the Eucharist liturgy and all the other sacraments as well. I am happy to report that this early Council directive has been rather well implemented. While there is much work to be done, it is a very measurable accomplishment.

In the meantime, what we need is millions of small groups across the world taking time out of their lives, day by day and week by week, to study God’s word, to see their own lives in relationship to it and to be guided by that word. We are a long way from there but I think we are moving in the right direction. For that I thank God.

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Being Comfortable All Over the World

By , June 8, 2012 5:23 am


Within the last few weeks, there has been a considerable amount of negative publicity about the Catholic Church, much of it justified. For that reason, I have decided to talk to my friends via the blog about a number of things that I find delightful and encouraging about life inside the Catholic Church. Today, I am going to talk about our liturgical unity across the planet.

Most of my priestly life has been spent in Texas but over the years, I have done a considerable amount of travel in Europe, South America and even a little bit in Africa. Wherever I went in those countries, I was completely at home when it came to celebrating or attending Mass. There is a wonderful unity in the celebration of Eucharist and it extends across the entire planet. This fact was even more true prior to 1965 when the Church relaxed its position that Mass should always be celebrated in the Latin language. After that year, the individual countries were able to use the language dominant to this or that country. It was a much appreciated change and it has been seen as a real gift over the last 50 years. While there will always be some Catholics who regret the loss of Latin, most of us would never want to go back to it.

Apart from the language issues, there is still, however, wonderful liturgical unity in the Church. The format, the signs, the symbols are uniform across the planet even if the language shifts from nation to nation. If you slide into a pew in Mexico City or Paris, you may not know the language but you are perfectly comfortable with what is going on. Many central city parishes that are used to having a vast flow of tourists passing through make available various translations of the services.

When you look at the Church as a totality, it is truly awesome. There are roughly one billion, two hundred million members living their faith in about 200 countries under extraordinarily different circumstances. Who knows how many languages are used by the people who form the Church. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there is a strong bond of unity that is very real, very important and is at the center of Church life. That bond is the sacred liturgy. Whether we gather in small communities or great throngs, we gather about the altar to celebrate the fact that Jesus is still with us, we are one with him and through him we are one with each other.

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