Friday, September 25, 2009

Full, Conscious, and Active

Happy Friday to all. My apologies for not posting enough this week. We've been involved with lots of planning meetings here at WLP.

I've been asked to give a presentation in a few weeks at a suburban parish here in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It's an annual gathering—an evening of formation—for the parish's liturgical ministers. I've spoken at this parish several times. This year's focus is on the word of God. This has me reflecting on the realities of liturgical ministers and their relationship to the proclamation of the word.

I have a hunch that liturgical ministers often compartmentalize their ministry. Greeters can sometimes be completely engaged in their ministry before Mass and then feel like their job is over and then don't fully engage in the rest of the liturgy. Acolytes can be so focused on the "what should I be doing next?"syndrome. Cantors can mentally exit the liturgical experience if they are constantly worried about whether or not they will do well on the next piece. Celebrants can sometimes be so focused on running their homilies through their minds that they hardly notice anything else. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion might be so caught up wondering about their precise location for ministering the Eucharistic bread and cup that they lose their concentration. I think what happens most often is that the proclamation of the word suffers because so few are really listening—even the liturgical ministers themselves. The irony of it all is that it precisely God's word proclaimed at the liturgy that is a great source of nourishment and strength for all liturgical ministers. 

I am most impressed in parishes where all the ministers are totally focused on the lector, deacon, and priest when the readings are being proclaimed. If the choir is up front and to the side of the sanctuary, choir members should physically turn toward the area where the word is being proclaimed. Celebrants should turn their heads and focus their attention on the readers and the psalmist. Acolytes should also be attentive. What this all does is model for those in the assembly a posture of good listening. The Second Vatican Council called us to "full, conscious, and active participation" in the liturgy. Perhaps we can reword that just a bit and work toward embracing the idea of "full, conscious, and active" listening at the liturgy.

I hope you have a great weekend. Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

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