How Good Liturgy Speaks To Today’s Parish

Good liturgy is about people working together. The basic requirement is communication. People notice when this breaks down. It’s a distraction they don’t deserve.

What structures either informal or formal are there in place to facilitate this interaction? Is there a liturgy group? Are all the various ministers invited to assemble in the sacristy for brief prayer before Mass? Is there a mechanism for dealing with miscommunication? Do the various ministers meet socially at any time?

Good Liturgy happens when people prepare thoroughly. Prayer must be an important element of preparation or the liturgy is a choreographed show with all the bows in the right place. Ongoing training in their particular area for all the ministers ensures that their inherent skills are honed. The celebrant too needs to avail of resources and help in fulfilling his role.

Are all those engaged in the various ministries offered the opportunity to reflect together on their role? Is there in-service training – voice projection and scripture study for Lectors? Are Ministers of Welcome offered any advice on their role? Do the Ministers of Music avail of seminars/workshops offered at a Diocesan or National level? Are the Ministers of the Eucharist who leave to bring communion to the housebound offered any training?

Good liturgy is participative. There are two levels of participation, active and passive, and we should experience both in liturgy. We are active when we fully engage in word, gesture and song with each other. We are passive when we listen, reflect and absorb.

Does the celebrant invite active participation by his tone of voice or in his body language? Are people encouraged to sing the music of the Mass? Are their visual aids to participation? Are there times of silence and reflection built into the liturgy? Is there pacing or is it all ‘go ‘?

Good liturgy is sensual. When people gather to prepare a liturgy they usually begin with the readings and quite often don’t think much further than that. We have five senses after all.

When you consider last Sunday’s Mass can you tick all the sensual boxes? How can we improve the experience of taste in our celebrations? Are we attentive to the use of gesture in our liturgies? Could the liturgical space be improved by way of colour, fabric or artefact?

Good liturgy is inclusive. This means that it should be accessible to those who are present. This has implications for communities where there are people with disabilities. The question of language is important. Inclusion of the ‘new Irish is essential. The range of people visibly engaged in ministries speaks volumes.

How are people welcomed to liturgy? What efforts are made to involve those with disabilities? Is there an opportunity to hear the voice of all who gather? Is the parish run by a cabal or clique?

Good liturgy is natural. When things are forced or imported artificially people are turned off. Let people be themselves accent and all. Models belong on catwalks. Less is more.

Are we ashamed sometimes of letting ordinary people take key positions in our celebrations? Do we make people cringe by our condescension or pranks? Easter bunnies come to mind.

Good liturgy is simple. If the ritual is followed in its simplicity without additions it will speak to people in its directness. Look at what the rite asks us to do.

Do we overload the liturgy with extras? Do we upset the order of the liturgy for novelty? Are there so many layers of grandeur in our celebrations that we mask the person of Christ, the Servant King? Do we make things too complicated for people? Do we understand the liturgy?