Sunday, February 27, 2011

What They Don't Know...Catechists and the Necessity for Ongoing Liturgical Catechesis

Recently, as I facilitated the University of Dayton VLCFF course "Introduction to Liturgy", one of the participants, a second grade catechist, remarked that until she took the course, she did not even know what the word "liturgy" meant.   This, coming from a catechist for those preparing for First Communion.  (I am very glad she took the course - obviously she had a large gap to fill and she is beginning to work on that!)

What do our catechists really know about liturgy? I suspect for many the answer is "only a little".  I have facilitated this course a number of times, and every time, when the course is over, participants, mostly the catechists, tell me how much they learned they had not known before.  I have watched as many of them learned there are three cycles of readings at Mass, that the second part of the Mass is called Liturgy of the Eucharist, and that the Offertory includes the bringing forward of bread, wine and gifts for the poor.  I have read comments from so many who cannot believe what a difference it makes when they attend Mass when they understand the structure, purpose and the importance of their role as members of the Assembly. 

These are the same well-meaning people who will be catechizing children and youth about the changes in the Mass next fall. There is still time for some liturgical catechesis in the parish to help them understand what the materials for the transition assume they already know - the basics of the Mass.  Need I say more?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Worshiping as a Stranger in a Not-So-Strange Land

This morning, our parish pastoral council members (mostly Anglos) met at the 9:30 Spanish Mass to join our brothers and sisters in their worship - in a show of solidarity - and as a sign that the parish has lay leadership.  We have been trying to face our current reality as a mostly Hispanic parish by inviting increased representation from the Spanish-speaking community -- and this gesture seemed like a great idea.

So, nine of us attended, seated in a pew near, but not in the front. Of course, it was the Mass - and we all know the ritual and structure... it's universal, right? Well, mostly.  I tried to navigate the experience with my muy poco espaƱol and more than a little uncertainty.

I was determined to participate, since that is a high value for me... so I valiantly opened the missal, located the Ordinary of the Mass in Spanish, which enabled me at least to attempt the longer people's spoken parts. Of course sometimes they spoke faster than I could read! (muy despacio, por favor!). Many of the sung acclamations were familiar to me from having sung at bi-lingual Masses... although I admit I had to chuckle a bit when they got to the Memorial Acclamation and out came "Christo ha muerto, Christo resucitado... " which was NOT a choice in the missalette. (So, tell me again that in November we English worshipers won't be able to sing "Christ has died, Christ is risen..."?)

I was able to follow about half of what was said in the readings, prayers and the homily - it helped that  I had already heard the readings Saturday night because I had been cantor at the English vigil Mass.  What I think I heard, was pretty much a simple run-through and explanation of the meaning of the readings. No frills, but not bad. The straight dope, more or less.

As to joining in the singing, I learned I really have to get better at my numbers in Spanish - because it was hard for me to find the two selections the 15-member choir announced and led that were from the Spanish hymnal - the only time I had a hope of joining in the songs. I did locate one of them after the second time they sang the refrain, because I could pick out the first few words and find it alphabetically.

Most of the songs, however, including three they did at Communion, were not announced and not in the book - but that didn't stop almost everyone, from the children to the grandmothers, from singing along loudly... all the words by heart - and from the heart.  In the end, for the final song, all we Anglos could do was stand and clap along with the rhythmic clapping, having very little idea what was being sung so enthusiastically, yet somehow feeling a part of it all. Maybe I should do this more often.

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Roman Missal - Will it Take a Graduate School Education to Understand It?

An interesting post over at the Pray Tell blog about a readability test run on parts of the new Roman Missal reinforces the need for lots of catechesis and help for children and youth... and most average adults as well, because of the vocabulary and sentence structure of the Mass texts.  The test was conducted by Father Padraig McCarthy, a retired priest from Dublin, Ireland.

The result that jumped out for me is that according to the tool he used to test it, the amount of education a person needs to understand the new wording jumps, in some cases, to 16 or more years of formal education. The jump in the number of words per sentence, for example,  means, according to Father McCarthy that

... it will make full active conscious participation in the Liturgy very difficult for many people who do not have a college education, and even for many who have! It goes contrary to what paragraph 25 of Liturgiam Authenticam states: “So that the content of the original texts may be evident and comprehensible even to the faithful who lack any special intellectual formation, the translations should be characterized by a kind of language which is easily understandable.” 
Whatever one thinks, it is a "done deal" that these are the texts we will be implementing in November.  This is not the vernacular of 21st century people - and the average member of the English-speaking Assembly at Mass will need all the help that catechists and priests can give to understand the new words.  What we may need to help them is a translation of the translation!

New Roman Missal Course from University of Dayton VLCFF - Register Now!

A second section has been opened up...  and there is still time to register for the new 5-week online course "Roman Missal: Preparing for the New Translation" which begins its first run on March 13.   I am excited to be one of the facilitators of this excellent course created by Sr. Joyce Ann Zimmerman, which will lead you through the background and meaning of the changes and challenge you to reflect on how you handle change - to prepare you as a parish leader to help others negotiate the changes.  Click the link above to view the course description.
 If you are new to VLCFF, view the course description and then go to the home page and click on the lower left where it says "become a new student" - then click calendar, scroll down to Cycle 2, and find the course name.  Click to register.  If your diocese is a member of VLCFF, the registration fee is $40 - otherwise $90... 

Don't miss this chance to prepare yourself to help your parish become an MRIII - compliant parish that not only complies with the Vatican's desire that we use the new translation, but one that embraces a renewed and fuller understanding of the Eucharist and why the words we say at Mass really do matter!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Parish Kits for Roman Missal Implementation

Diocese of San Jose is providing an excellent parish kit for implementation of the new Roman Missal.  Take a look at what will be included here.  Kudos to Diana Macalintal of their ODW and those who prepared this kit! Great idea.  These are essential resources.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Gift of Technology - Online Connection and Learning

Just spent an entire day online in a virtual meeting that was not only exciting and engaging but well worth spending a day on: the annual Diocesan Partner's Convocation for University of Dayton VLCFF (Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation) the brainchild of Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski.   Originally, I had planned to drive to the event, as I had for the past 3 years, but the weather in the Chicago area had other ideas this year.  Actually, except for missing out on the great food, participating through the Virtual Conference Center (VCC) with pretty much half the people at the meeting was almost like being there.

Perfected over the last couple of years, the VCC interface, typical of many webinars in style, is the face of things to come. We could see the PowerPoint, a video and sound feed of what was being said by presenters and those with microphones, and at the same time, could chat with the moderators and other online participants.  In that way, we were able to engage in real dialog with others in the room.  Obviously, this kind of gathering has many possibilities for distance faith formation in the future.

What did I learn today? Quite a bit.  I heard about finalization of courses for the lay ministry formation and youth ministry certificates.  I heard about plans for growth and future certificate programs and courses. I heard about an openness to updating the technology in the original message-board and internal email interface to provide an experience attractive to young adults - and about many other plans... but I also heard a commitment to keeping courses at a basic level and remaining true to the original vision of the VLCFF - to make faith formation accessible to nearly everyone with access to a computer, no matter how slow the connection.

What emerged from the reports and dialog was that the VLCFF is growing rapidly - with increased use across the board each year - including the near-doubling of participants in Spanish online courses in the last year alone.  Registration for the current cycle is over 900 students - from dioceses all over the world.  VLCFF expects to break the 1000-mark soon.  Courses are inexpensive - participants from member dioceses get a discounted price of $30 for 3-week seminars and $40 for a 5-week course.  (Even if your diocese is not a member, the top price for a course is only $90.) Offerings are varied - Catholic belief, scripture, liturgy, media, Christology, ministry competencies, prayer and lots more.

New offerings will include a liturgy track - with one of the first new courses coming later this spring: an online  course on the Revised Roman Missal, created by Sr. Joyce Ann Zimmerman.  (More news about that when it is available)

As a regular facilitator of VLCFF courses myself, I have to say, this is really great stuff.  Where else, for a low dollar amount, can catechists, Catholic school teachers, liturgy committee members, RCIA team members, and Catholics who want to learn more about their faith meet and share with others from all over the world, while engaging in reading and sharing about great faith-related topics?  Why not check the link above - and consider becoming a new student!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Gripping" New Youth Catechism: Will Youth Read a 300-page BOOK?

This just posted by Catholic News Agency: "Pope promotes 'gripping new Youth Catechism" . This 300-page book is supposedly written in a youth-friendly style and will be translated into 13 languages by April, 2011. It will also be handed out at World Youth Day.

Nice try. Long overdue. Now, when was the last time you met a teen who would actually read a 300-page book?  Someone needs to start creating the searchable YOUCAT i-Phone / iPad app.