Thursday, June 21, 2012

"The Evangelizing Liturgy" - a Review

I just received a copy of The Evangelizing Liturgy - a video presentation on DVD by Fr. Frank DeSiano of Paulist Evangelization ministries. It's not bad. It has a rather different focus from most resources about the Mass, in that it tries to get at the underlying purpose and dynamic of the Mass and the relationship to evangelization.

Evangelization, Father Frank says, is "a response to the Good News." The liturgy is evangelizing, because we can see the liturgy "as a very profound experience of responding to the Good News of Jesus."  He notes the importance of Paschal Mystery and how it manifests itself  both in life and in the Sacraments, which are a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. The fullest expression of this, he says, is in the Eucharist. 

However, in the last 40 years, Fr. Frank notes, we have seen a pulling away from eucharistic expression, toward a sensation-based worship service, rather than "the liturgy".  Are we an audience or are we a congregation? he asks.

In his sincere, reassuring style,  moving around a chapel with props, Fr. Frank goes on to explain in detail how the Mass is an interactive experience that celebrates conversion, calls us to re-commitment and sends us forth to be disciples.  He then names  and explains 5 ways we respond to the Word of God at Mass:

  1. The Creed ("I believe" is a response)
  2. The Offertory  (We give ourselves in love and response)
  3. The Eucharistic Prayer (We respond in acclamations and give ourselves with Jesus)
  4. Holy Communion (We give ourselves to Christ and identify with him)
  5. The Dismissal (We accept the mission,  sent forth, commissioned and affirmed as disciples, to live like Christ in the world.)
He calls for us to pay attention to intensity, focus and concentration in the way we celebrate, rather than merely doing it "like we've done it a million times before."  He raises evaluative questions about how well we welcome and celebrate, calling attention to the worship and not to ourselves. Mass, he insists, should be focused on "making Christ clearer" - especially to those who are seekers, who might be considering returning, who have yet to experience conversion. If we see Mass as the proclamation of the Word of God and our response, he concludes, we challenge and nourish our people to experience renewal and conversion.

This 40-minute talk would be a great discussion-starter for parish liturgy or evangelization committees, or perhaps the RCIA, apart from their study of the basic structure of the Mass. That is not what this is about. Fr. Frank is concerned with the way we express the purpose and the underlying dynamics of the Mass. If everyone in liturgical ministry in a parish were to hear this message, it could make a difference in how well Mass is celebrated - and ultimately in the quality of parish life.  

While he does not name many specific techniques, Fr. Frank does ask all the right questions.  What he is doing here is issuing an appropriate "wake-up call" to parish ministers to get back to focusing on what is really important. Worth hearing.


  1. The liturgy both catechizes and evangelizes! The more we can help others see this the better! Thanks for posting this Joyce!

  2. This looks very interesting to me. Thanks for the review. I'm anxious to take a look at it.