Still Going Deeper! Active Participation in the Sacred Liturgy, Part III

By: Fr. Aaron Johanneck
(From a series found in The Prairie Catholic)

How do we enter in?  How do we “go deep”?  These are the questions we continue to ponder as we strive to understand better what it means for us to truly, actively, and consciously participate in the Sacred Liturgy of the Church.

We have said that true participation is not a matter of making sure that everyone “does” something at Mass; it is not about “mere external activity”, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us.  Anything that we do exteriorly should form and reveal what is happening interiorly; our exterior participation should form and reveal how we are engaged in our hearts and souls.

In the last article, we ended with a great quotation from Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium that gives a very helpful description of what our participation at Holy Mass should include.  The document states that when Christ’s faithful take part in the sacred action of the liturgy they, 

“should be instructed by God’s Word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s Body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all” (SC 48).

There is a lot to this statement.  First, the Council Fathers tell us that at Mass we should be “instructed by God’s Word.”  This happens especially during the first half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word.  Here we listen attentively to the Word that is proclaimed in the First and Second Readings, in the Responsorial Psalm, in the Gospel, and in the homily given by the priest, or on occasion, by the deacon.  This is God’s living Word to us today.  We should listen with open hearts, asking the Holy Spirit to show us what our loving Father desires to reveal to us in our lives here and now.  What is He asking of us?  How is He inviting us to a deeper relationship?

We are to be “nourished at table of the Lord’s Body.”  That is, we are to be open and disposed in such a way as to allow our reception of Christ’s Sacred Body and Blood in Holy Communion truly to form and to strengthen us.  We also need to be aware of what an intimate moment this is when we receive the Lord Jesus into our Bodies.  He is so close to us.  He shares Himself with us so completely.  When we receive Holy Communion we should adore God who dwells in the Sacred Host, give Him thanks for this great gift, and share ourselves with Him.  This is an especially appropriate time to “pour out our hearts before Him” as the psalms entreat us (cf. Ps. 62, for example).

Next, we are told that we should “give thanks to God.”  Indeed, we know that in Greek the word, Eucharist, means “thanksgiving.”  This serves as a reminder that we participate in the Mass not only for the great gifts that we receive, but to praise, worship, adore, and thank God for who He is and for all He has given us.  As we proclaim almost every Sunday in the Gloria, “we praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we give you thanks for your great glory!”

We have already run out of space for this month!  In the next article, we will continue to unpack this beautiful statement from Vatican II.  Until then!

Go deep! Active Participation in the Sacred Liturgy, part II

By: Fr. Aaron Johanneck
(From a series found in The Prairie Catholic)

Last month we began our discussion of what it means to fully, consciously, and actively participate in the sacred liturgy.  The question we began attempting to answer is, “How do I enter in?”

We said that this active participation was the primary aim of the restoration of the liturgy called for by the Second Vatican Council.  We noted that the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, talks about participation in terms of the various roles that can be fulfilled in the liturgy, and that it mentions participation through acclamations, antiphons, songs, gestures, and bodily attitudes (cf. SC 30). 

Now we might ask the question, is this all there is to active participation?  Or is participation also, and perhaps especially, something more; something deeper?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI takes up the question of active participation in the liturgy in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, or “The Sacrament of Charity.”  In writing about what the Fathers of the Synod on the Eucharist discussed in the fall of 2005, Pope Benedict affirms that in the decades since Vatican II “considerable progress” has been made towards the full and active participation of the faithful in the sacred liturgy (SaCa 52). 

However, Benedict also insists that “we must not overlook the fact that some misunderstanding has occasionally arisen concerning the precise meaning of this participation.”  He continues, “It should be made clear that the word ‘participation’ does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration.  In fact, the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life” (SaCa 52; emphasis mine). 

Pope Benedict then makes reference to the document of Vatican II, which states that when the faithful are present at the sacred liturgy, the Church desires that they be there not as “strangers or silent spectators” (SC 48).  Rather, “through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration” (SC 48; emphasis mine).

Just “doing something” at Mass is not necessarily real, active participation.  There must also be an interior dimension.  There must be an understanding of the nature of the liturgy and of what it is that we are participating in, so that we can enter in appropriately.  This is why the Council Fathers exhorted priests who have the care of souls to promote the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy “both internally and externally” (SC 19).  What is done exteriorly must foster and manifest a deep, interior entering into the reality being celebrated.

To conclude this article and to offer a good indication of what the interior (and most important aspect) of active participation might look like, we cite again the words of Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium.  The Council Fathers instruct that during the celebration of the sacred liturgy, especially the Holy Mass, the faithful,

“should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s Body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all” (SC 48).

Now we are starting to get to the heart of full, active, and conscious participation!  More to come!

Go deep! Active Participation in the Sacred Liturgy

By: Fr. Aaron Johanneck
(From a series found in The Prairie Catholic)

In these articles we have spent the last several months exploring the nature of the sacred liturgy, attempting to answer the question, “What is it?”  We have discussed the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Christ, as a participation and foretaste in the heavenly worship of the angels and saints, as the source and summit of our lives, and as the memorial and re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.

Hopefully, having a better understanding of what the liturgy is, we can now turn to another important question: what does it mean to participate in the sacred liturgy?  Or we could phrase the question, “How do I enter in?”

The question of participation in the liturgy was an important one taken up by the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.  In the document the Fathers of the Council state, “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism” (SC 14). 

The Fathers go on to say, “In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (SC 14).

While the term “active participation” is closely associated with Sacrosanctum Concilium and Vatican II, this term did not originate at the Council.  It was first used by Pope St. Pius X in a document he published in 1903.  The true, active participation of the faithful in the sacred liturgy is something that the Church has been working to promote for over a century.

What exactly does this “active participation” mean?  How do the faithful enter into that beautiful and mysterious reality upon which we have reflected these past months?

We often think of participation in terms of “doing something” at Mass.  Sacrosanctum Concilium does mention this when it talks about servers, lectors, commentators, and members of the choir, and their “genuine liturgical function” (cf. SC 29).  However, this certainly cannot be the only way in which the faithful participate.  If it were the case that in order to participate everyone had to be “doing” whatever it is that these roles require, then at any given Mass probably 98 to nearly100% of those present would not be participating!

In addition to carrying out ministries, the Council Fathers also write about the participation of the faithful by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs.  They also mention actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes (SC 30).  Certainly, all of these are ways in which everyone present can take part.

However, it would be a mistake to say that the active participation of the faithful at holy Mass only refers to these external elements.  These must foster and manifest a deeper way of entering in.  In future articles we will explore and attempt to explain what this deeper, interior participation might involve.  Until next month!  

Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art

The Institution of the Eucharist by Nicolas Poussin

The Institution of the Eucharist by Nicolas Poussin

By: Fr. Aaron Johanneck
(From a series found in The Prairie Catholic)

Over the past months, we have explored in these articles different aspects of the nature of the Sacred Liturgy.  As we have seen, the liturgy is a profound mystery.  It is the prayer of Christ.  It is our participation in the worship and adoration of heaven.  It is the memorial and re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary that actually makes that sacrifice present.  We could say that the reality of the liturgy can be summed up in the words prayer, praise, and presence.  Let us reflect a bit more now on the liturgy as presence and on what our response to that presence, the Real Presence, should be. 

Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive.
— Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The Eucharist: what an amazing gift from God.  God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, love us so much, that Jesus remains with us always.  We all know what happens when the priest prays the words of consecration during the Eucharistic Prayer: the bread and wine are truly changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass makes present his perfect offering to the Father.  It also, as we know, makes Christ himself present.
The Church calls the change that takes place at the consecration “transubstantiation.”  What it means is that while the appearance and characteristics of bread and wine remain – what are referred to as the accidents – the reality is no longer the same.  The bread looks and tastes like bread, but it is not; it has become the Precious Body of our Lord.  So with the wine: it looks and tastes like wine, but it is not; it is the Precious Blood of the Lord.  What has changed is the very reality of what these elements are – what is referred to as the substance.  Thus, tran-substance-tiation. 
The reality of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which is brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit acting through an ordained priest, is not just something interesting for us to memorize for a religion test, or to ponder as an interesting fact.  It is a reality that (whom) we should receive in Holy Communion at Mass, if we are properly disposed to do so.  And it is a profound reality that (whom) we must adore.  It is Jesus, God himself.
St. Augustine wrote, “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes, “In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us…Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 66).
Our adoration of Christ in the Eucharist deepens our disposition to be able to receive the grace that Jesus pours out upon us through receiving Holy Communion, the greatest of which is intimate union with himself.
Whenever we gaze upon the Sacred Host and the Precious Chalice as they are elevated by the priest after the consecration, or when we are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle or in the monstrance, let us adore him!  Let us make the words of St. Thomas Aquinas (translated by priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins) our own:

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.


What does it mean to "Do this in memory of me"?

Last Supper by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Last Supper by Duccio di Buoninsegna

By: Fr. Aaron Johanneck
(First of a series found in The Prairie Catholic)

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and wine, declared them to be his Body and Blood, shared them with his disciples, and instructed them to “do this in memory of me.”
When we think of a memorial, we normally think of remembering an event or a person in terms of “calling them to mind.” Memorial plaques, statues, or services call to mind significant events in history and those who were involved in them.
Pictures or other mementos of loved ones who have died or who live far away from us help us call them to mind. In this way, these activities are participated in or items are viewed “in memory” of the events or persons they commemorate.
The Holy Mass is a memorial. However, it is not a memorial in the same way as the examples just described. The Mass does more than call to mind the Paschal Mystery – the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.
If the Mass were only a memorial in the common use of the term, some sort of dramatic reenactment of these saving events in the life of Christ would probably be more appropriate. Instead, the Church has passed down a ritualized liturgical celebration that has been organically developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the centuries.
To understand what the Church means when she refers to the Holy Mass as a memorial of the sacrifice of Christ, we have to understand the scriptural understanding of this word. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this as follows:
“In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them” (no. 1363; italics in the original).
In the New Testament, and in the time of the Church, the memorial takes on a new and deeper meaning. The Catechism explains, “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice of Christ offered once for all on the Cross remains ever present” (no. 1364).
Here we connect again with the theme of last month’s article: the Holy Mass as a sacrifice because it is the re-presentation and the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The Catechism refers to the Eucharist as the “sacrificial memorial” of Christ and explains that the Mass is a sacrifice because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover (cf. CCC, no. 1365).
It is the memorial of this not simply because it calls it to mind, but because the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist makes this event truly present.
Jesus says, “This is my Body and my Blood: Do this in remembrance of me,” affirming the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He could also say to us, “This is my sacrifice … this is the making present of my offering to the Father for love of you: Do this in memory of me. Allow yourself to be united to my offering as you enter into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Make your own offering in union with mine, so that I may take it for you to the Father.”

Prairie Catholic Series: At the foot of the Cross in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

by Fr. Aaron Johanneck
What do we mean when we refer to “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”? How is the Mass a sacrifice?
This month we continue our reflections on the nature of the Sacred Liturgy, focusing on this central aspect of the reality of the liturgy, and of the Mass in particular. As we have in the previous months, we turn to the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” or “Sacrosanctum Concilium” as our guide.
In this document the Fathers of the Council state, “At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection” (SC, no. 47).
Especially important here are the words, “to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again.” In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary, made out of love for us, is perpetuated.

At every Mass we go to Calvary; we are at the foot of the Cross where we behold and then receive the One who was pierced for our sins.

Or we could say it is continued or extended throughout the ages from the original Holy Thursday and Good Friday, up to today, all the way to the coming of Christ again in glory at the end of time. This is an incredible reality! It is a truly amazing sign of the love that God has for us.
Because Jesus is not only a man but also God, the events of his life are not “trapped” in the past as they are for us; nor are they bound to a particular place.
While it is true that events of my past can and often do have an impact on my present and future, and in this sense can “follow” me wherever I go, the event itself happened at a particular time in
a particular place. It’s over and done. It happened there and then.
As God, Jesus is eternal. Therefore the events of his life are not limited by time and place. It is true that Jesus’ offering of himself on the Cross happened over 2,000 years ago outside of the walls of Jerusalem at Golgotha.
However, through the liturgy instituted by Christ himself, this event is not limited to that specific time or place; it can be made present to all men and women no matter where and when they live.
In the celebration of the Holy Mass, we are made present to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, and it is made present to us. At Mass we do not repeat Christ’s sacrifice, nor do we “re-sacrifice” him.
His sacrifice made once and for all is mystically and sacramentally, really and truly made present and offered again through the priest who celebrates in persona Christi capitis (in the person of Christ the Head). By virtue of our Baptism and the union with Christ that it brings about in us, we are united to his sacrifice and made participants in it.
The same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner on the altars of our churches at Mass. At every Mass we go to Calvary; we are at the foot of the Cross where we behold and then receive the One who was pierced for our sins.
This is how the Holy Mass is a sacrifice. What a great and holy mystery!

The source and summit of the life of the Church

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The liturgy increases the love of God within us and conforms us to Christ so that we can carry Him into the world.
— Fr. Aaron Johanneck

By Father Aaron Johanneck

We continue this month exploring the nature of the Sacred Liturgy, that is, the sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, and other prayers and blessings of the Church all centered on the Holy Eucharist.
In November we discussed the liturgy as the prayer, praise, sacrifice, and offering of Christ to the Father. Last month we looked at the liturgy as a foretaste of and real participation in the heavenly liturgy, which is the perfect and eternal worship of the angels and saints gathered around the throne of God. These two aspects of the liturgy are described in the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” or “Sacrosanctum Concilium.”
A third way in which the nature of the Sacred Liturgy is described in this document (and in a few of the other Council documents as well) is as the source and summit of the life of the Church. The Fathers of the Council put it this way: “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font [or source] from which all her power flows” (SC, no. 10).
In describing the liturgy as the summit, the peak, or the height toward which all of the activity of the Church is directed, “Sacrosanctum Concilium” continues, “For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper” (no. 10).
This is the height toward which all of the work of the Church is directed: to lead all to the worship and adoration of God in a manner that is possible only in the Church’s liturgy, particularly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where we are brought as close to heavenly worship as is earthly possible.
The Fathers describe the liturgy as the source or font by stating,
“The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with ‘the paschal sacraments,’ to be ‘one in holiness’… the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire” (no. 10, citing various prayers of the Mass).
The liturgy is the source of the grace and strength that allows all of us to carry out the work of the Church. This work includes not only formal ministry, but also the everyday evangelizing and witnessing which, by virtue of our Baptism, all Catholics are called to do in our families, at work, and in all of our spheres of influence. The liturgy increases the love of God within us and conforms us to Christ so that we can carry Him into the world.
Finally the Fathers state, “From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way” (no. 10).
So we see that there is a sort of “sacramental cycle.” Through our participation in the liturgy we receive the grace to go about our work as Christians, all of which is directed to the glory of God and to his worship and praise. These, of course, are best carried out in the Sacred Liturgy, the source and summit of the Christian life.

Raise the Roof: Worshipping God with myriads of angels and saints

By Fr. Aaron Johanneck
Director of Worship

This month we continue our reflections on the nature of the Church’s liturgy. Last month we discussed how the Sacred Liturgy is the prayer, praise, sacrifice, and offering of Jesus Christ himself. It is his perfect prayer to the Father to which we are united by virtue of our Baptism, which unites us to him and makes us members of his Mystical Body.

As we said, this is one of the aspects of the liturgy described in the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”).

Another perspective from which this constitution discusses the liturgy is as a foretaste and participation in the heavenly liturgy. Here’s what the Fathers of the Council have to say in this regard: “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle.”

They continue, “With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory” (SC, no. 8).

What this means is that we truly do “Sing with All the Saints in Glory,” as the hymn goes, every time that we participate in the Sacred Liturgy. Imagine that as the Holy Mass begins the roofs of our churches are torn away and we are lifted up into the perfect and eternal praise offered by the angels and saints, who fall down in worship and adoration before the Lamb who was slain in the heavenly Jerusalem as described in the Book of Revelation (cf., for example, 4:1-11).

Here the living creatures give to the One who is seated on the throne, glory and honor and thanks. The elders fall down before Him and worship Him singing, “Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created” (Rev 4:11).

Here they offer incense, which represents the prayers of the holy ones. Gathered around the throne they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8).

We, too, sing or recite this prayer at every Mass just after the priest invites and exhorts us with these or similar words: “And so, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim … Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!”

This prayer, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Sanctus” is found not only in Revelation, but also in Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah is given a vision of heaven in which he sees the seraphim singing this hymn to one another as they glorify God (6:3). In the liturgy, it is this worship and praise of God that we are drawn into.

This is why traditionally churches have often had images of angels and saints, especially in and around the sanctuary. This is a reminder to worshippers of the reality that we enter into when we gather as Christ’s Body to take part in the Church’s prayer, especially in the Holy Mass. It is the wedding feast of the Lamb; the adoration of the myriads upon myriads in the heavenly Jerusalem.


The prayer, praise, sacrifice, and offering of Christ himself

By Fr. Aaron Johanneck,
Diocese of New Ulm Director of Worship

Last month we introduced these monthly reflections on the Sacred Liturgy. Their purpose is to help us to plumb the depths of this rich source of life and of grace that is at the center of our lives as Catholics, especially through our participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the Lord’s Day. While there are many topics on the liturgy and the Holy Mass that are interesting and worthy of exploration, the most important thing, first of all, is to deepen our understanding of what the liturgy is.

As we said in last month’s article, the liturgy is the public prayer and worship of the Church. Thus, it includes all of the seven sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, sacramentals, and other blessings of the Church. All of these have the Mass and the Eucharist at the center. However, this explanation only scratches the surface of this profound reality. It is not easy to give one simple definition that sums up all that the liturgy is. The Church’s liturgy pertains to the mystery of God and so itself has a mysterious character. We recall this when, at the beginning of every Mass, the priest invites us to acknowledge our sins, “and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” It is helpful, therefore, to reflect on the liturgy from different perspectives, each of which sheds a unique light on the mystery contained therein.

The Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”) offers a few of these enlightening perspectives on the liturgy in its first chapter. One example is when the document speaks of the Sacred Liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ (SC, no. 7). Christ is the true high priest. He is the one, true mediator between God and man. A priest offers sacrifice and thereby leads the people to God, and brings God to the people. The Church’s liturgy, especially the Mass, accomplishes this priestly action of Christ in the most powerful and effective way possible. What this means is that, above all, the Sacred Liturgy is not my prayer, or your prayer, but Christ’s prayer. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The liturgy is … a participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC, no. 1073). For example, in Eucharistic Prayer I the priest prays, “To you, therefore, most merciful Father we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your son, our Lord ….” Our prayer in the Mass is directed to the Father in union with Christ’s own prayer. Therefore, the liturgy is ultimately God’s action before it is our own.

Finally, the Fathers of Vatican II tell us that “Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work …. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through him offers worship to the Eternal Father …. “In the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members” (SC, no. 7). The liturgy, before all else, is Christ’s prayer, praise, sacrifice, and offering to the Father. We are united and drawn into that by virtue of our Baptism, which unites us to Christ and makes us members of his Mystical Body. This is what makes it so powerful, and a “sacred action surpassing all others” (SC, no. 7). Sure, we can pray everywhere and anywhere, but not with the same power and effect as when we unite our prayers and offerings to the perfect and infinitely pleasing and powerful prayer and offering of Jesus Christ.

Monthly Reflections will ‘lift up our hearts’

By Fr. Aaron Johanneck,
Diocese of New Ulm Director of Worship

What is the most important activity of the week? What is the very center of our lives as Catholics? It is our keeping of the Lord’s Day – Sunday – through our participation in the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. It is the praise and adoration we give to God the Father, through Jesus Christ his Son, in the Holy Spirit, and our reception of Christ’s sacred Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. It is our entering into the Church’s sacred liturgy: that is, her official and public worship and prayer.

The liturgy of the Church includes the seven sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as other official prayers – and blessings of the Church all centered on the Holy Eucharist. The liturgy is the center of the Christian life because it is the “place” where we encounter the Lord Jesus unlike anywhere else. It is where the saving events of our faith are made present to us, and where we are made present to them. The liturgy is where we are put into real contact with the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. It is what allows these events to have power and to bear fruit in our lives. The sacred liturgy is where we off er ourselves most perfectly as a sacrifice pleasing to God. A gift so powerful, profound, and rich is something upon which we could, and indeed should, spend our whole lives meditating.

The more we understand what the Church’s liturgy is, the more we grow in our love and appreciation of it; and the more we are able to enter in, allowing the saving mysteries recalled and made present to bear fruit in our lives and to form us more and more into the likeness Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of these reflections on the sacred liturgy. Each month we will focus on some aspect of the Church’s liturgy with the hope that this will aid and deepen our full, conscious, and active participation.

These reflections are entitled Sursum corda, which is Latin for “Lift up your hearts.” These words are taken from the liturgy itself. They are part of the dialogue that takes place between the priest and the people at the beginning of the Preface prayed in the Holy Mass just before the Holy, Holy, Holy or Sanctus. They are words of exhortation offered by the priest as we move into the Eucharistic Prayer, the heart and center of the Mass, where the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ, and where the faithful join with Christ, through the ministry of the priest, in “confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifi ce” (“General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” no. 78). Here we are exhorted to lift up our hearts, to lift up our innermost selves “above the confusion of our apprehensions, our desires, our narrowness, our distraction” (Benedict XVI, Wednesday Audience, Sept. 26, 2012), and to focus our attention on the Lord who loves us beyond all imagining.

The hope is that these humble reflections on the sacred liturgy may help us to do just that: to “lift up our hearts” to the Lord; to off er him fi tting worship and adoration; to receive his gifts and be transformed by him. 

Day of Mercy - Graces in Abundance!

The Day of Mercy on Sunday, April 3rd was filled with many graces! The day started with over 600 people at Mass, followed by afternoon activities: lunch, open gym, packaging food, and Divine Mercy Film screening.  More than 200 people helped to package over 10,000 meals for the poor in Burkina Faso.  At 2:00pm the Divine Mercy Holy Hour began.  Fr. John Ubel, one of Pope Francis' Missionaries of Mercy, preached followed by time of prayer during which the Sacrament of Reconcilation was offered.  To accommodate the long lines, 10 priests heard confessions. 

New Order of Confirmation now available for purchase

The long-awaited new translation of the Order of Confirmation is now available for purchase from USCCB Publishing. The new ritual was expected this Fall, but its publication was delayed because the committee made the decision to publish it as a bilingual volume.

The Order of Confirmation/Ritual para la Confirmación has an updated English translation that the Holy See approved with its recognitio in 2015. Beginning on Pentecost 2016, this text becomes the required English translation for the Order of Confirmation for use in the United States. The Spanish-language text of the rite is also included.

The bilingual text includes rites for the following: Confirmation within Mass, Confirmation outside Mass, and Confirmation for a Person in Danger of Death. It also has Confirmation prayers from the Roman Missal and lists the lectionary readings that can be used.

The bilingual text is presented on beautiful natural white paper with a royal-red bonded leather hardcover and gold-foil cover art. The 8 ½” by 11” pages offer easy-to-read text with three color ribbons.

Click here to purchase from USCCB Publishing.

Rubric change for the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday

Pope Francis has introduced a change into the Roman Missal for the rubrics of Holy Thursday in a decree dated 6 January 2016 (but published 1/21/16). In article n. 11 of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the text “the men who have been chosen” has been changed to “those chosen from among the people of God.” This change reflects Pope Francis’ desire that those chosen would reflect “the variety and unity” of the people of God, including “men and women, young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople” (CDWDS 6 Jan. 2016).

While the significance of the rite of the Washing of the Feet in its original form was “more explicitly an imitative sign” making present the action of Jesus at the Last Supper, the new form emphasizes the command of Jesus “I have given you an example, that you should do likewise” (Jn 13:15). According to Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

“The significance does not now relate so much to the exterior imitation of what Jesus has done, rather as to the meaning of what he has accomplished which has a universal importance, namely the giving of himself “to the end” for the salvation of the human race, his charity which embraces all people and which makes all people brothers and sisters by following his example” (2016-01-21 L’Osservatore Romano).

Read the Vatican's press release here, including the text of the decree.

Read an article by Cardinal Sarah outlining the history of the rite and theology of the recent change published in L'Osservatore Romano.

Full text of the decree by the CDWDS, dated 6 January 2016:

"The reform of the Holy Week, by the decree Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria of November 1955, provides the faculty, where counselled by pastoral motives, to perform the washing of the feet of twelve men during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, after the reading of the Gospel according to John, as if almost to represent Christ's humility and love for His disciples.

In the Roman liturgy this rite was handed down with the name of the Mandatum of the Lord on brotherly charity in accordance with Jesus' words, sung in the Antiphon during the celebration.

In performing this rite, bishops and priests are invited to conform intimately to Christ who 'came not to be served but to serve' and, driven by a love 'to the end', to give His life for the salvation of all humankind.

To manifest the full meaning of the rite to those who participate in it, the Holy Father Francis has seen fit to change the rule by in the Roman Missal (p.300, No. 11) according to which the chosen men are accompanied by the ministers, which must therefore be modified as follows: 'Those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers' (and consequently in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum No. 301 and No. 299 b referring to the seats for the chosen men, so that pastors may choose a group of faithful representing the variety and unity of every part of the People of God. This group may consist of men and women, and ideally of the young and the old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople.

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disipline of the Sacraments, by means of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, introduces this innovation in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, recalling pastors of their duty to instruct adequately both the chosen faithful and others, so that they may participate in the rite consciously, actively and fruitfully."

Liturgy Training Publications Order Form

Order materials from Liturgical Training Publications through the Office of Worship and receive a 30% discount on most LTP publications such as books and calendars!

Order form can either be printed and mailed, or filled out, saved, and emailed to Sr. Anna at
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New Confirmation Rite gets the green light for use.

The new translation of the Order of Confirmation has been approved by the CDWDS and will be published by USCCB Publishing this fall.

The official date for the implementation of the new translation is Pentecost Sunday 2016. This means that beginning on May 15, 2016, only the new translation may be used. However, the new Order of Confirmation may be used as soon as it is published this fall.

Two key texts of the ritual have not changed in this new translation. The Bishop’s assent to the profession of faith remains as before: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord” (nos. 23, 40). Likewise, the translators found no need to propose a modification of the text of the words used at the conferral of the Sacrament: “N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” (nos. 27, 44, 55-56). Many other texts, however, are quite different, and contain a richer expression of the prayers of the rite.

Read more about the new translation and read examples from the text in this excerpt from the Committee on Divine Worship June Newsletter.