This blog post corresponds to the mission priority of “Vibrant Liturgy”
“You will get out of this experience what you put into it.” These formative words were spoken at my first retreat in high school and have served me ever since. When I feel bored or I check out, I take a moment to consider what I am putting into the experience. Am I paying attention? No. Am I fully present? No. In what ways am I contributing to the experience? I’m not. Well, no wonder I’m bored!
Take a look around at this very moment and consider: what can you do at this very moment to be fully engaged in your current experience?
I have had the wonderful opportunity to experience the richness of our Catholic Liturgy in many different settings. Some in my native English, others in Spanish, French, or German. I have had celebrated the Eucharist with millions of pilgrims and with a small intimate community. I have participated in the Mass with popes, cardinals, and bishops as well as those new to the faith or discerning entering the Catholic church. These various opportunities have shaped me in profound and unique ways. Often the vibrancy of the experience is in direct correlation to my active participation in the Mass.
Are you looking for that warm family feel at your church? Just like any relationship, it takes time. I have a friend in New York City who has opened my eyes to the need for intentionality in building community. He has made a conscientious decision to get to know the people he meets on a regular basis. If he sees the same person three times he asks their name. The barista at the local coffee shop. The cashier at the grocery store. He shared with me his excitement about how this has transformed his local community and made some place as large as New York City like family. He keeps an eye out for others and they keep an eye out for him. I started to imagine what this would look like at my own parish and community.
Do you know the names of the ushers or extraordinary ministers of Eucharist at Mass? Do you know the young adult who regularly sits behind you? How about the octogenarian who is dropped off by a senior care shuttle? Let us be intentional about building community in our own parish. Everyone can do it!
Proclamation of the Word
This can be an easy time to check out at mass, especially if the person reading is difficult to understand or speaks without intonation or energy. However, this is the time we actually get to hear God speaking to us. This is not the time to check out! You have the right to pick up the missalette in the pew and read along so that you can understand what is being spoken. As you read along, what word pops off of the page to you?
There are also times we have the opportunity to hear someone read Scripture in a way that is melodic, powerful, and full of energy. I encourage you to close your eyes, listen to the words and absorb the richness of the experience. What do you hear?
During the Liturgy of the Word pay attention to how the Scripture makes you feel or what images it brings to you. Reflect on this experience throughout your day. God is speaking! Take time to listen and share your experience with family and friends.
I can hum some church music for hours and days to follow. My husband and I worshiped with a wonderful multicultural community that had a gospel choir who sang from their toes. When the Holy Spirit took over the rafters rattled! “I have decided to follow Jesus,” they would sing. “I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.” (Lead Me, Guide Me #118) The second verse continues “Tho’ no one join me, still I will follow… No turning back, no turning back.” On those difficult days this verse gives me the boost to keep going.
What church song sticks with you and has you humming throughout the day? Which song brings a smile at the first notes? Be fully present with the song and pray the words as you sing. Pray it right now. I know you’re humming it.
Vibrant Liturgy comes when we are fully present to the experience. What is going on around us? What is going on within us? To be missionary disciples, we must be fully present in the experience of life and open to where God is calling us to act, to speak, or to listen.