Friday, October 30, 2009

How Evangelizing is Your Liturgy?

How evangelizing is the Mass at your parish? Since Mass is the primary contact we have with most of our adults, it is a prime opportunity to form the assembly about what it means to be Catholic and about the mission of the Church. In short, it is an opportunity to reinforce their identity as disciples of Jesus Christ.

It's sometimes easy to dismiss the frequent attitude that some people (especially the young) express - that they don't like coming to Mass because it's boring and they don't "get anything out of it." Certainly, one response is to ask what they contributed to the Mass (how much did they participate?) but that is not always the only issue. How are members of the assembly enabled to participate? How does the community assist them? How formative is your ritual experience? And what about easily available catechetical opportunities (for example, what materials do you make available for them to reflect on the lectionary readings before or after Mass?)

In preparing for the Catholics Come Home initiative in our area - high-quality commercials to draw people back to the church which will be airing in December-January, I have not only been gathering resources to help parishes serve the people who may return to the Church, but items that will assist parishes to evaluate themselves so they can be the best they can be.

One of my favorite checklists is from Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association (PNCEA) - it's called "Expressing Our Love for Christ: Full and Active Participation in the Mass Checklist for Leaders" and I have it posted on our website at This tool helps parishes look at their liturgy, from gathering to sending forth, through the lens of evangelization.

Take a look - and think about what goes on at YOUR parish every weekend. There's always room for improvement.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

CCC Paragraph 901 - Offering it Up

Had yet another opportunity to mention my favorite paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the other day: 901, under "The participation of lay people in Christ's priestly office."

Think what a difference it might make in the Church if more people realized that if, as the priest is consecrating the gifts of bread and wine, they offer to God their life, with all its work and activities, successes and even failures and suffering (if these are "patiently born") their offering becomes a spiritual sacrifice that mingles with the bread and wine and makes it possible for their lives to be come holy actions of worship that "consecrate the world itself to God."

In other words, if we offer up our lives, with all their stuff, good and bad, that offering becomes part of the economy of grace, transformed by our faith in Christ. As we go forth into the world, Christ-like, our every action, now sanctified, is a form of praise and worship - a celebration of what it is to be human but always connected to the divine.

So, our offering up of ourselves at Mass makes both us and the world more holy. When were they going to tell us we had that kind of power?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Darkness, judgment & the end of the church year

Musing again on this dark, cold rainy October night What weather could be more fitting for these final weeks of the Church Year? There is something about this time each year between September and Christ the King. We hear readings which mirror the fading year - readings that remind us there will be an end time and judgment, a harvest of souls... Soon, in November, we will remember the souls of the departed. Here is truly where Church Year and physical season intersect to create layers of meaning.

I recently had the opportunity to record the proclamation of the Gospel of the day for this coming Monday to be a part of the morning prayer for the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association's online evangelization conference next week, Proclaiming Christ It is the parable of the man whose farming business was going so well that he decided to build more barns to contain his harvests and possessions, smugly storing up his good things. Yet, God declares him a fool and demands his life, asking him what good his things are in the face of death. And Jesus reminds us that instead of earthly treasure, we should be rich in the things that are important to God.

Interesting that for us, at this time of year in America, farms are literally in the harvest-time. Interesting too, that we have watched, over the past months of economic crisis, people being forced to come to grips with what is really important in life. Yes, there will be, for each of us, an end, a time to let go, whether we are ready or not. (I know the reality of this even more strongly now as I work through challenges of sorting through mountains of possessions left behind by someone close to me who was very tied to his many collections...)

So, what are the things that are important to God that we can claim as our "possessions"? And how do we make them our priorities in a world focused on "getting and spending?"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is Liturgical Ministry Accessible AND Acceptable in Your Community?

As I finalize plans for this year's Bishop's Mass With Persons With Disabilities, a responsibility of our office for the last 21 years, I am moved to reflect on the role of persons with disabilities in liturgical ministry in the average parish.

Have you ever experienced a blind lector reading in Braille? A deaf person signing and voicing a talk after Communion? How about receiving Eucharist from an Extraordinary Minister of Communion in a wheelchair? Does that even happen at your parish? Perhaps, if you don't see them, you think there are no people like that called to ministry in your community. Advocates for those with disabilities would challenge that. Perhaps those with disabilities just don't feel invited or accepted - and maybe the architecture of your worship space sets expectations that are off-putting. (A raised platform for the sanctuary with no ramp, for example.)

What are the barriers to persons with disabilities having a perception that they COULD participate in a ministry in your parish church - both physical and psychological? Most parishes are not like one in our diocese which was specifically built with accessibility to ministries in mind - the ambo raises and lowers to accomodate persons of differing size, and even in wheelchairs. The sanctuary is at the bottom center level, with no steps. Most of all, there is a climate of acceptance. Young people with Down Syndrome read and function as altar servers and more. This parish has truly learned the disability advocate mantra about the dignity of those with disabilities: "First, see the person, then the disability."

A recent series of webinars on liturgical accessibility from National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities highlighted the situations that prevent or make possible participation by all. Take a look at and (scroll down to bottom of page to download transcripts or view recordings.)

So, back to the questions above about "have you ever experienced...?" On Sunday, October 11 at 11 a.m. at our Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, we will experience all of those things. Persons with disabilities of all types will take their rightful places, celebrating the Eucharist with the Bishop and the community of the Diocese of Joliet. For one hour, we will truly celebrate what the Bishops said in their 1978 Pastoral on Disabilities - "we are one flock that has one shepherd."