Rather than move on right away to the next pastoral initiative for the archdiocese in this series of columns, I have decided to reflect further on the initiative covered in my last column on the sacred liturgy. The sacred liturgy is the source and summit of the Christian life, so I think it needs some more attention.

So what are my real goals and hopes for the renewal of divine worship here in the Archdiocese of Portland? Put simply, it is to help us all achieve a more beautiful, reverent and prayerful experience of divine worship in the parishes of our local Church in western Oregon.

In 2003, the Holy See issued a new General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GIRM). This instruction, found at the beginning of the Roman Missal (the book used for the celebration of Mass), includes all the principles and guidelines for the proper celebration of the Mass according to the mind of the universal Church. Included in the GIRM are special adaptations for use here in the United States, approved by the U.S. bishops and confirmed by the Holy See.

The GIRM was incorporated in the new English translation of the Roman Missal, which we began using in Advent of the year 2010. It is this edition of the missal, including the 2003 GIRM, that directs us all on how to celebrate the Mass with the greatest attention, reverence and devotion. It is a great gift for our time. This is the missal which incorporates the liturgical reforms initiated by the Second Vatican Council. It is our roadmap to a proper celebration of the mysteries of our faith.

It is my sincere wish that we all take a new, refreshed and careful examination of the GIRM and the whole missal so that our divine worship can become ever more a reflection of the goodness, beauty and transcendence it deserves. This is to accomplish the twofold goal of the sacred liturgy, i.e., to give glory to God and to sanctify the people.

All of the initiatives under the heading of divine worship, which is part of our overall pastoral plan, will be guided by this re-appreciation of the sacred liturgy as contained in the official liturgical books currently in force for the Church. That is it, plain and simple.

Thanks be to God, we have “rebooted” our own archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship, with a new director of divine worship. He is Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, a priest on loan to us through the generosity of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. Msgr. O’Connor holds a doctorate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Liturgy, which is part of the great Benedictine foundation at Sant’Anselmo in Rome. He also has many years of pastoral experience as a pastor of a large and thriving parish. We are blessed to have him among us in this great effort at liturgical renewal.

In the coming months, Msgr. O’Connor and the Office of Divine Worship will be rolling out various initiatives to help our clergy, lay ecclesial liturgical ministers and the faithful of the archdiocese come to a deeper appreciation for the liturgy of the Church. The focus will be on the new GIRM and missal as described above.

The efforts also will be directed to education and formation so that we all have a better appreciation and understanding of what the Mass is, how we celebrate it, and why we do what we do when gathered for divine worship.

For any who are concerned that the attempt will be to roll back the reforms contained in the current liturgical books, nothing could be further from the truth. We do have a lot to learn from our liturgical tradition so that our renewal is in continuity with the past, but the liturgical books currently in force are what we will focus on and what will guide us.

I am personally excited about this renewal in our common worship, and I look forward to a meaningful revitalization of the sacred liturgy for us all.