Continuing with our discussion of the pastoral priorities established at last fall’s pastoral assembly and refined by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, we turn to the topic of Divine Worship (the Sacred Liturgy). The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Sacred Liturgy is the source and summit of the Christian life, and so it must be a priority for us in this local Church in western Oregon.

Sacred music

The first initiative under this heading has to do with the sacred music that should enhance our worship. The use of chant and sacred song in our liturgies is an important part of the ars celebrandi (“art of celebrating”) of the Sacred Liturgy. Few things make more of an impact on the dignity, beauty, prayerfulness and reverence of the Mass than the music we employ.

Simply put, not all forms of music and song are appropriate for the Mass. We must follow the direction that the Church gives us through the various documents and guidelines established by the Church in the period before, during and after Vatican II. The focus here will be on the education and formation of musicians for the Sacred Liturgy. These musicians are people of real talent and good will. The formation that will be given will help them bring out the true nature of Divine Worship and the spirit of the liturgy, especially at Mass. The formation will be given on a local and regional basis.

Ministry formation

The second initiative will focus on the formation of other liturgical ministers, including extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, readers, sacristans, altar servers and ushers/greeters. The focus will be on helping these ministers understand the importance and dignity of their roles in Divine Worship and to provide them with the formation that will help them exercise their ministry with attention, reverence and devotion. Again this formation will be provided on a local and regional basis, and even by electronic means.

Catechesis

The third initiative focuses on the education of all the faithful with regard to the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Mass. Many of our people have never received an adequate catechesis on the true meaning of what happens at every Mass, i.e., the sacramental re-presentation of the paschal mystery (the passion, death and resurrection of our Divine Savior). We will help the faithful better understand the spiritual richness of the Mass, the meaning of the various parts of the Mass, and our history and tradition in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. This should go a long way in helping us all celebrate the Church’s liturgy with the spirit and devotion it demands.

Consistency

The fourth initiative will seek to promote more consistency in the celebration of Mass in all the parishes of the archdiocese, always according to the Church’s norms. There is no reason for a widely different experience of the Sacred Liturgy from one parish to another throughout this local Church. We are all one Body of Christ and our unity in faith, hope and love is demonstrated in our celebration of the Mass under the guidance of our chief shepherd, the archbishop.

In this regard, we will provide guidance and expectations, publicly promulgating standards and providing updated training for the clergy to clearly define the range of accepted practices in celebrating the Mass. This is to enhance the faithful’s understanding and active participation in the Mass, eliminating confusion and setting aside practices that are not in accord with the faithful celebrating of the Mass in accord with the mind of the universal Church. There is a liturgical principle that will guide us: lex orandi lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing). How we celebrate the Mass expresses our faith and at the same time forms us in a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our faith.

Hospitality

The fifth and final initiative under this heading is to promote a culture of hospitality in our parishes, especially when gathered for worship. This is one of the most common criticisms of the Catholic Church, that we do not provide a welcoming and friendly atmosphere toward those who join us at Mass. Special emphasis will be placed on the objective of helping people want to return again and again to our parishes for Divine Worship. We will focus on first time visitors who will be invited into a deeper life in Christ in the Church, occasional “Easter and Christmas Catholics,” and those who, for whatever reason, have fallen away from the practice of their Catholic faith.

I emphasize that we need to bring all of these objectives to the local and regional levels, even using electronic means when appropriate. If we can get the Sacred Liturgy “right,” it will go a long way toward the spiritual renewal of the faithful that is so much a part of the new evangelization.