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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Need for Liturgical Catechesis

This evening, the Holy Father celebrated First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Mother of God.  A migraine prevented me from seeing the Liturgy; however, I was able to listen to the chanting and the commentary.

The Holy Father preached a magnificent homily.  He focused his comments to the Word of God, referencing his Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini.  He noted that:

The privileged place of the Word of God is the celebration of the Eucharist. The Diocesan Convention in June, which I attended, wanted to highlight the centrality of the Sunday Mass in the life of every Christian community and gave indications that the beauty of the divine mysteries can shine more in the act of celebration and spiritual benefits that they send. I encourage pastors and priests to give effect to what is stated in the pastoral program: the formation of a group that animates the liturgical celebration, and a catechesis which helps everyone to better understand the mystery of the Eucharist, which triggers the witness of charity.

Liturgical catechesis is sorely lacking in many of our parishes.  We just do not have a true understanding of the sacred mysteries that unfold before us at every Mass.   We also do not seem to understand the rhythms of the liturgical seasons. 

This evening, I made myself go to Mass for the Vigil of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.  My parish was not going to have Mass this evening, nor tomorrow, so I went to a neighboring parish.  Even though I was still suffering the effects of the migraine, I really wanted to go.

Although the celebrant preached an eloquent homily and he beautifully chanted the Roman Canon, the music was sorely disconnected.  The women selecting the music chose songs that had nothing to do with the Solemnity, let alone the Christmas season.   They rebuffed a suggestion to use a Christmas carol for Holy Communion.  It was as though for them, Christmas was over. 

The women mean well.  However, the parish perhaps needs to offer its liturgical ministers and the faithful some sort of catechesis on the liturgy.  We need to respect the seasons of the Church's liturgical year.  December 24th begins the Christmas season.  It does not end on December 25th.  It does not even end on January 6th, the traditional date for the Epiphany.  The Christmas season ends with the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord.  The women did not know that.  Sadly, not a few of my fellow Catholic facebook friends knew when the Christmas season ends.  It's as though we've shifted from wishing folks a Merry Christmas to wishing them a Happy New Year. 

While the Holy Father's homily was not meant to focus solely on the need for liturgical catechesis, his words certainly made a strong impact on me this evening during Mass.  We are eleven months away from the implementation of the revised translation of the Roman Missal.  Perhaps this can be an opportunity to provide this sorely needed catechesis to our parishes.  This should certainly be a New Year's resolution worth keeping.

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