Pope Francis doesn’t often talk about liturgy, but when he does…wow! Last year he said this about the need for liturgical formation:
We know that it is not enough to change the liturgical books to improve the quality of the liturgy. To do this alone would be a deception. For life to be truly a praise pleasing to God, it is indeed necessary to change the heart. (fdlc.org/content/pope-francis-speaks-liturgy-and-ongoing-formation)
For so many of us involved in liturgical and musical leadership in our parishes, we may not be starting with the liturgical books. But we do often start with the liturgical details, which is sort of the same thing. The pope isn’t telling us not to worry about details and just settle for poor liturgy. Rather, he is telling us to change our starting point.
The starting point is instead to recognize the reality of the sacred liturgy, a living treasure that cannot be reduced to tastes, recipes and currents, but which should be welcomed with docility and promoted with love, as irreplaceable nourishment for the organic growth of the People of God. The liturgy is not “the field of do-it-yourself,” but the epiphany of ecclesial communion.
Okay, I plead guilty. In my early days, I was fascinated with “tastes, recipes, and currents” that I heard about in workshops or read about in pastoral magazines. But slowly, over time, “the epiphany of ecclesial communion” became real to me.
I wouldn’t have said it like that. In my own words, I’d say that I began to realize that I was never in charge of the liturgy, even if that was in my job description. What I was in charge of using whatever Spirit-given talents I had to help the assembly (the “ecclesial communion”) find and express its voice in worshipping God. When I did that well, the Spirit led us to an experience of awe-filled worship. And even if I didn’t do that very well, the Spirit still led us to an experience of awe-filled worship.'The task that awaits us is indeed essentially that of spreading among the People of God the splendor of the living mystery of the Lord, who makes himself manifest in the liturgy.' - Pope Francis Click To Tweet
So what is the role of the pastoral leader or musician when it comes to worship? I don’t think we’re irrelevant. Pope Francis tells us:
The task that awaits us is indeed essentially that of spreading among the People of God the splendor of the living mystery of the Lord, who makes himself manifest in the liturgy. Speaking of liturgical formation in the People of God means first and foremost being aware of the indispensable role the liturgy holds in the Church and for the Church. And then, concretely helping the People of God to interiorize better the prayer of the Church, to love it as an experience of encounter with the Lord and with brothers who, in the light of this, rediscover its content and observe its rites.
Training in liturgical formation
But in order for us to carry out that weighty mission, it is important that we ourselves be well formed in how the liturgy functions. Some of us may have been going to Mass all our lives, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify us to help our parishioners rediscover the content of the liturgy and observe its rites.
So in order to deepen our own liturgical formation, we at Liturgy.Life are planning to offer a series of online training sessions for liturgy and music leaders in parishes. We have an idea of the first few we want to offer, but we also want to hear from you.
If you had a chance to deepen your knowledge and skills in regard to the liturgy, where would want to focus your effort? Another way to ask that is, with regard to your liturgical ministry, what keeps you awake at night?
Would you be willing to share your thoughts with us? If so, please ↑ click the button. And thanks for your help!
See also these related articles:
- Feed my sheep: the second level of liturgical participation
- Where do you need to focus your own liturgical formation?
- Four things the bishops expect us to know about liturgical participation
- The joy of the feast of the Presentation of the Lord
- After a 1,500 year gap, the church recovered its ancient method of joining believers to Christ
- Prepare to tell the whole story
- Moving from technique to artistry: Three levels of liturgical participation
- Do you remember the liturgical revolution of Vatican II?
- Liturgical participation: if you’re not doing, you’re not learning
- Nurturing a servant attitude in liturgical music
Image credit: Chase Clark, Unsplash