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Tuesday, July 5, 2011


"That 53-word sentence,
[The collect which follows the Isaiah 54 reading in the Easter Vigil
(Roman Missal, third edition, Vox Clara translation of 2010
makes sense if one has the leisure to study it and perhaps to draw a diagram. But the person in the pew does not have that luxury. She or he will hear this prayer once a year at most. An individual word or phrase may ring a bell. But the essential meaning of the prayer will be lost. As an act of oral communication, a text such as this cannot but fail for the vast majority of Catholics. Like so many of the newly translated prayers, it will come across as theo-babble, holy nonsense."

Commonweal source article

I may adopt "theo-babble" instead of "glittering generalities" to describe sermons which deliver true statements without any application to living as a Christian in the present world.  

Some of those sermons are similar to MS-speak, where everything MicroSoft tells you on the screen is true but nothing is useful to you in solving the problem which brought up the screen.

The Homily  No. 65.
The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended,63 for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.

Number 391.
It is up to the Conferences of Bishops to provide for the translations of the biblical texts used in the celebration of Mass, exercising special care in this. For it is out of the Sacred Scripture that the readings are read and explained in the homily and that psalms are sung, and it is drawing upon the inspiration and spirit of Sacred Scripture that prayers, orations, and liturgical songs are fashioned in such a way that from them actions and signs derive their meaning.  Language should be used that can be grasped by the faithful and that is suitable for public proclamation, while maintaining those characteristics that are proper to the different ways of speaking used in the biblical books.

General Instructions of the Roman Missal [2002]

Monday, June 27, 2011


Paul Inwood wrote on June 27, 2011 on 
To be perfectly accurate, “Christ has died” was not fashioned [by ICEL] but borrowed.

No one knows for sure who wrote it, but it seems to have been the work of an Anglican clergyman attending a World Council of Churches meeting, possibly in India, in about 1963.Already by 1965 it was in fairly wide use in Anglican Churches, and found its way into the Series 3 Eucharist. 

ICEL simply borrowed it without acknowledgement for the 1970 translation of the 1969 Latin Order of Mass (and, worse still, claimed copyright in it themselves — naughty!). 

... [I]t was about Christ, rather than addressed to Christ, and the other three acclamations were indeed criticised by liturgists for addressing Christ in the middle of a prayer addressed to the Father. 

(rather in the same way that Rome instructed the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales on two separate occasions — but they did not take any notice — not to include the Hail Mary in the General Intercessions because the thrust of these prayers was towards the Father and a prayer addressed to the BVM interrupted that).  

There has always been some justification, therefore, for saying that “Christ has died” was more appropriate than the other acclamations.  

When in July 2003 I interviewed Joseph Gelineau, who had worked on the Eucharistic Prayers and was responsible for the inclusion of the Memorial Acclamation in the EP, I quizzed him closely on this. 

He said that in the tradition as they found it (for example in Greek liturgies), such acclamations of the people were always addressed to Christ because, it was surmised, the people felt “closer” to Christ than to the Father. (My [Inwood] reaction to that would be that today, it is possible to say that people feel a lot closer to the Father than they once did — and it’s also possible to point to the openings of the 1973 ICEL collects as a reason for that!.)  

Gelineau also told me that he had frequently been asked questions by other liturgists about why these acclamations were addressed to Christ instead of to the Father.  

I asked him if there was any reason why the three acclamations might not have been on the lines of 

“We profess his death, O Lord, and proclaim his resurrection, until he comes again” or 

“When we eat…. we proclaim his death, O Lord,…”, 

in each case with “Lord” being addressed to the Father rather than to Christ.  

He said there was absolutely no reason why this couldn’t have been done; it was simply that they hadn’t thought of it because of what they found in other traditions.  

Paul's comment is a good example of questioning ourselves about every little thing we do in liturgy.  In order to make a good decision as a liturgical presider (or planner) regarding the proclamation of the Mystery of Faith (following the Institution Narrative in the Eucharist), it is helpful to have the sort of information Paul provides.

He has pointed out an inconsistency and simple ways to eliminate it by either rephrasing or selecting the more consistent option.  It could be an example of something “feeling better” to the congregation without them even knowing that an inconsistency has been eliminated. Maybe it explains why so many congregations are most comfortable with the “Christ has died” response.

Using Paul's information could fit under a heading I have in preparation, "Decide to Preside."

In order for one to be the best possible presider one possibly can become, each presider needs to decide, on a good basis, what is to be done with each word or action and not just accept the practices one has seen previously or fallen into using without making a specific decision. 

If you preside at Eucharist, can you say why you use every particular word in that particular delivery with those particular postures or gestures, for all of your presiding? 

Do you think that too much to ask?  Talk to any good actor after a performance and they can probably answer such questions.  They are well aware that everything they do or omit can affect how effectively the meaning of the playwright gets to the audience and how easy it is to distract from that effectiveness. Does not sacramental presiding deserve at least as much care?

Many clergy could benefit from realizing that having such reasons can make the liturgy clearer to persons in the pews. They can benefit from someone asking how the presider might make the intentions of the church even clearer.  
That is, I think many clergy could benefit from a presiding coach asking such questions and discussing possible alternatives for the presider to select.

If any priest or minister who presides at Eucharist would like to have a presiding coach, please email

If you think some presiders you know could improve with a little bit of coaching, send them a link to or copy of  this blog posting.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


So much good here, and so much which is misleading in very usual ways, in this blog in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Rev. Pamela Dolan
In a previous post, I wrote a bit about looking for God in unlikely places--in a homeless woman on the subway, for instance, but also perhaps in our own closest relationships with friends and family. Now I'd like to turn from the unlikely to the obvious: seeking God in worship.

Scripture and our faith both promise us that we can always find Jesus in our midst by gathering together and breaking bread together in his Name. Of course that does not mean that God's presence is only available to us in church. Christ's risen presence is a bodily presence, and we are being asked to meet Jesus again and again in our incarnated lives, in flesh and blood.

Nevertheless, when we are seeking God's presence in our lives, we must not forget to look in the obvious place, the place that the Psalm 116 calls the "courts of the Lord's house." In other words, we still might need to learn to trust that God is truly and readily available to us in worship.
Some seem to think that “worship” is entirely about praise going up.  This is  vertical imagery.



Others see praise going up with attraction and holiness coming down, vertical but bi-directional.


Liturgy, unlike simple worship, goes downward to the assembly, then upward to the divine. It also goes in all the horizontal directions. The sharing, being one-with [communion], is essential to Christian liturgy. It distinguishes it from other beliefs which only engage in worship or appeasement of the divine.


Rather than being drawn heavenward, after being strengthened in community through the liturgy, we are sent out to mission, to live our individual Christian lives.  

It is hard to live a Gospel of Love in a world of competition.  In liturgy, we experience that we are not alone in our attempts. 

This is why I suggest avoiding the word “worship” to name or describe the Christian liturgy, because it is more downward and outward than the upward which "worship" suggests.  

Many get trapped in our accustomed vocabulary in much worse ways than this author has.  What is conspicuous is how much she comprehends yet she still gets misled by terminology which reflects non-liturgical concepts of public prayer, indeed, concepts which can even lead one away from what is distinct about Christianity from other sorts of belief.  She has the big picture, but some of the verbal tools she has inherited can lead away from her own good points.
Worship can take a nearly infinite number of forms and occur in a nearly infinite number of places, but I am particularly interested in corporate worship, in what happens when people gather as a community and offer "a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" in a place set apart for just such an activity. This is not to denigrate individual prayer, also a necessity in the spiritual life, but to remind us that--however unfashionable it might be--repetitive, predictable, tradition-bound, liturgical worship [prayer] is a primary place for encounter with the living God. Such worship is corporate and incorporeal--it is done in community, and it involves our whole body, through gesture, posture, and all the senses.
I have added emphasis for these very important points, except substituting “prayer” where the author had “worship”.

Liturgy, beyond worship/adoration, includes, as mentioned, thanksgiving, but also petition and contrition. To refer to liturgy as worship is to re-enforce, through omission, some misconception of liturgy's origins and essence.

God made us to be people who worship him, who regularly come into his presence as a worshipping community. Worship is both the gift given to us and the most right and proper gift we can give back to Him; as the Psalmist says, it is how we "repay the Lord for all the good things God has given us."

C.S. Lewis rightly points out that our worship now, important as it is, is really just a tuning up for the time when we are gathered together as a communion of saints, caught up in eternal praise and worship. In his thorny little book, Reflections on the Psalms, he writes,
It is along these lines that I find it easiest to understand the Christian doctrine that "Heaven" is a state in which angels now, and men hereafter, are perpetually employed in praising God. This does not mean, as it can so dismally suggest, that it is like "being in Church." For our "services," both in their conduct and in our power to participate, are merely attempts at worship; never fully successful, often 99.9 per cent failures, sometimes total failures. We are not riders but pupils in the riding school...
There is a myth that liturgy is an earthly imitation of angelic worship, and Lewis is one of its prisoners. Liturgy is not about heaven at all. It is about God nurturing the members of the Christian community that we might be supported in the difficult way of life which is to

Follow Jesus instead of
-the stock market,
-the home team,
-any political ideology,
-the almighty dollar,
-the fashions,
-or any of the other Mammons advertised to us.

This myth of angelic liturgy on earth ends up putting the emphasis on cultural expressions under the banner of "offering our best to God". In contrast, when describing Christian liturgy, the bishops of the Roman Catholic church called for “noble simplicity” [Second Vatican Council document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #34 and other places]
Leave it to a starchy old Anglican to puncture any self-importance a clergy person might be tempted to feel! And yet I do not despair. As imperfect as our attempts at worship [communal prayer] are, nonetheless they are the great gift of the Church to the world. They are, or can be, the place where the vertical and the horizontal planes of life come together, where we sense for a fleeting moment our lives and souls being drawn heavenward.
Again, I have added emphasis for these very important points, except substituting “communal prayer” where the author had “worship”. Yet, the point is not to be drawn heavenward but to be drawn to Jesus who came to earth to show us how to live.

In the liturgy, God offers nurturance to the people of God through the Scriptures and the Eucharist, sharing of the Word and of the Meal. We respond with thanks and praise. Liturgy is much more a gift of God to the Church than an offering of the Church to God, who has no need to receive anything from us.

This is well captured in Dolan's “where the vertical and the horizontal planes of life come together”. Yet the “horizontal” immediately gets “drawn heavenward.”

Worship was demanded of subjects by rulers, and adoration was worship of the divine ruler. [See blog on latria and dulia.] 

Living as Jesus taught is to bring forth the rule of God on earth, much more so than to imitate some apocalyptic image of greatness based on monarchy, domination and power, royal cities and royal courts.  These are not the only images of God and are probably not the best images for our times and culture.
The same Jesus who walked with his friends on the road to Emmaus calls us to the table and asks us to "do this in remembrance of me." What if we lived our whole lives in remembrance of Him? The more deeply we immerse ourselves in prayer and worship, the more we can become attuned to the revelation that is also available to us in our everyday interactions, and especially in our relationships with those we love. When we are out in the world, living our lives, and we feel our hearts strangely warmed, we can stop and take a moment to recognize the presence of God in our midst--and give thanks for it.
A final caveat to the blog readers: Do not mistake immersing oneself in prayer with turning inward or turning to a “me and Jesus” spirituality. Christians are called to pray always, yes, to be immersed in prayer. This call is the “Ora et Labora” of St. Benedict. We are called to work and pray. That is, we are called to always be mindful of God as we do our daily work, even our recreation.

Morning and Evening Prayers are reminders, as are Meal Prayers and recited prayers, that we are not called to focus inwardly or on heaven but called to live as Christians. We change the world through living the commandment to love. We keep ourselves on that task through prayer which includes contrition, petition, gratitude, and, yes, worship, adoration, and honor to God. These are our self-improvement tools.

Liturgy is more like our work-out class where it is easier to do the exercises because we are led and are not alone. We do not go there to admire the style of the place or of the leader. We go in order to get in better shape for daily living. That is also the reason for participating in the communal prayer called liturgy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Biblical archaeology is not really relevant to liturgical practicalities, but I find this web page to have a very interesting theory.
If this author is correct, it would make a peace settlement in Jerusalem much easier because the holiest sites for the Jews and Muslims would be separate.

He posits that the present "Temple Mount" is actually the base for the "Antonia Fortress" and that the "Second Temple" site was to the south, between the present mount and "City of David" [with has the Gihon Spring and the Pool of Siloam].

One reason this makes sense to me is that the mount is the one thing in Jerusalem NOT destroyed by the Romans. 
There is also evidence that there  was later a Roman temple on the site when the city was Aelia Capitolina under Roman settlement.

I suggest you at least look at the illustrations and see whether they give you pause.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


“The trouble with some of us is that we have been inoculated with small doses of Christianity which keep us from catching the real thing.” -- Leslie Dixon Weatherhead

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it." 
-- Robert A. Heinlein, naval officer and novelist.

“There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.” 
-- Lazarus Long, according to Robert A. Heinlein

There is that wonderful quote from Charlie Gardner years ago: 'The pastoral musician must learn to love the sound of a singing congregation above any other sound.' All of our efforts should point toward THIS sound.” -- David Haas on May 29, 2011 - 9:19 pm

How can one cope with liturgical distractions? This is a liturgical skill which one cannot learn too early. Inspired by the rule of St. Benedict, one mother taught her son a prayer he could say when he was having trouble listening at Mass. He liked it because it simultaneously released him from the distraction and from his awareness of the distraction, so he didn’t continue to be distracted by the guilty thought that he should be paying better attention.
Jesus, help me listen with the ear of my heart.” 

--  Robin Drake Iwasawa

Christian liturgy consists of those practices organized into official communal rites by a church and required for or considered necessary to the continued functioning of a local church community and which the local community must provide for its members. 
-- [Author unknown]

“According to G. K. Chesterton, 'Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried;' the same might be said of liturgy.” -- Tom Poelker

“There is no single right way to do liturgy.” 
-- Tom Poelker

“Anything which turns an assembly into an audience is counter-liturgical” -- Tom Poelker

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


  1. Liturgy is public prayer.
  2. Liturgy is communal prayer.
  3. Liturgical prayer is regulated by the church.
  1. Liturgy is more a gift from God to the Church than an offering to God from the Church.
  2. Liturgy exists to strengthen communal support for personal Christian living.
Role of the Assembly
  1. The assembled believers are themselves the ones who are praying, the ecclesia.
  2. Christian liturgy is an exercise of the priestly office of the baptized.
Implications (from the role of the assembly)
  1. The members of the assembly should learn the importance and fullness of their roles in liturgy.
  2. The elements of the liturgy should be comprehensible to the assembly without explanation.
  3. All of the members of the assembly should be supported in actively participating in all the liturgical elements not specifically requiring a ministry expertise.
  4. The assembly needs to be prepared by its ministers before complications or variations are added to a liturgical service.
Nature of Ritual
  1. Liturgical prayer involves ritual, whose positive effects are supported by repetition over a lifetime.
  2. The primary role of liturgical music is to unify the prayer of the assembly.
  3. Ritual music is based on the repeated use of melodies and texts, which assists the assembly's participation in song.
General Guidelines
  1. Liturgical preparation is based on the text of the church and must support its flow and climaxes.
  2. Christian liturgy is based on Scripture and should use vernacular translations of Scriptural texts rather than paraphrases in prayers and songs.
  3. The texts of the liturgy and the Scriptures have priority over musical expression.
  4. Liturgy needs to be prepared with the size of the assembly in mind.
  5. Liturgy needs to be prepared with the nature of the prayer place in mind.
  6. Liturgical celebrations, even of a particular congregation, vary in formality depending on the occasion and the size of the assembly.
Role of Ministers
  1. Liturgical ministers, ordained or not, are called to serve and support the praying of the assembly.
  2. Things should not be added or expanded in the liturgy for the gratification of the tastes or demonstration of the talents of the ministers.
  1. Unity in liturgy does not require uniformity in performance.
  2. Beauty in liturgy is an element of acculturation and varies among societies, classes, and places.
  3. Elements of the liturgy require craftsmanship of noble simplicity rather than artistic expression.
  4. The essentials of any liturgical service need to be distinguished from accretions and protected.

Friday, May 13, 2011

ADORATION, WORSHIP, AND LITURGY [or: Latria, Dulia, et Liturgia]

About twenty years ago, I began to be uncomfortable with liturgy being described as “public worship.” This was because I felt that worship was only one of the four basic kinds of prayer, along with petition, thanksgiving, and repentance; and that worship did not include all of what took place in liturgy. That is, describing liturgy as public worship could imply that liturgy did not cover the entire range of communal prayer while, at the same time, worship could include forms which were not particularly liturgical because they were not ritual in form, nor official in having their forms set out by denominational authorities. 

As a result of a recent discussion on the Pray Tell Blog, [ ] I described here what I thought was a significant difference between those who favor the Missal of 1570 and those who favor the Missal of 1969/75. The former group wants liturgies which are wondrous, while the latter wants liturgies which are communal. [See ]

Recently, in trying to understand better someone who said that the Mass was entirely about adoration, I looked up the etymologies of both “adoration” and “worship”. It did not help a lot to find out that the Latin ad-orare merely meant “speak to” and English “worth-ship” merely meant “having worth” before being converted to a verb. The fact that the etymological meaning of “pray” is merely “to ask” did not clear up anything either.

So I went to Wikipedia for a refresher on the theological terms latria and dulia. [ ] Here are some excerpts.

Latria is sacrificial in character, and may be offered only to God. Catholics offer other degrees of reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Saints; these non-sacrificial types of reverence are called hyperdulia and dulia, respectively. In English, dulia is also called veneration.[Mark Miravalle, S.T.D, What is Devotion to Mary? ] Hyperdulia is essentially a heightened degree of dulia provided only to the Blessed Virgin.
This distinction, written about as early as Augustine of Hippo and St Jerome, was detailed more explicitly by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, A.D. 1270, II II, 84, 1: "Reverence is due to God on account of His Excellence, which is communicated to certain creatures not in equal measure, but according to a measure of proportion; and so the reverence which we pay to God, and which belongs to latria, differs from the reverence which we pay to certain excellent creatures; this belongs to dulia, and we shall speak of it further on (II II 103 3)"; in this next article St. Thomas Aquinas writes: "Wherefore dulia, which pays due service to a human lord, is a distinct virtue from latria, which pays due service to the Lordship of God. It is, moreover, a species of observance, because by observance we honor all those who excel in dignity, while dulia properly speaking is the reverence of servants for their master, dulia being the Greek for servitude."
Generally, in English, the word adoration is reserved for God alone and therefore it aptly translates latria. The word worship is derived from the W. Saxon noun weorðscipe 'condition of being worthy', which is from weorð 'worthy' + -scipe '-ship'.[ Harper, Douglas. "worship". Online Etymology Dictionary] The word worship is used in a strong sense in relation to God (latria), but also in a weak sense in relation to man: for instance, "His Worship the Mayor", or "Your Worship" (when addressing a magistrate in Court), or the worship of the saints (dulia) as distinct to the adoration of God (latria). Adoration provides a clear and unequivocal, and therefore better, translation of latria and expression of the absolute sacrificial reverence due to God alone.
Protestantism considers the Catholic conception of the Mass as sacrificial to be in error, citing passages such as Heb 6:6, 9:25-28 in arguing that Christ's sacrifice of the Cross was a unique event that need not and can not be repeated. Catholics counter this objection with verses such as Malachi 1:10-11 and rebut that they do not "repeat" the sacrifice of the Cross but merely re-present it to the people.[]
Latria and dulia have two interesting qualities.  Not only are they both entirely vertical in that they relate people to God and not to each other, but they are both specifically upward in conveying what people give to God and not downward in conveying what God gives to people, such as Scripture and Eucharist.
The etymological sources of the two words raise other questions. Given that latria refers to the relationship of a hired servant toward the master, and dulia refers to the relationship of a slave toward the master, are either of these good words to use regarding the liturgia of the brothers and sisters of Jesus, the sons and daughters of God? Do these words describe the acts of royal and priestly people?
It is my impression that Sacrosanctum Concilium taught
both –
that liturgy includes adoration and worship,
and  –
that liturgy is nourishment from God for the members of the Christian community. 
I think that it this inclusive both/and sense which the Second Vatican Council was explicitly teaching and asking the liturgy to be revised to reflect.
C) Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgy
33. Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.
Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read "which were written for our instruction" (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace.
Wherefore, in the revision of the liturgy, the following general norms should be observed:
34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.
59. The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.
It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life. []
If those who want wondrous rather than communal liturgy think that liturgy is only latria and nothing else, then, are they in dissent from the teaching of the Church or not discussing liturgy as Sacrosanctum Concilium defined it, but some other and narrower thing?
In order for those usually distinguished as "progressives" and "traditionalists" to be able to speak accurately to each other,   I think we need to ask, “Do those who favor more wondrous, reverent, and awe-filled liturgy think that liturgy is exclusively adoration [latria] or worship [dulia] and nothing else?”
The question for those who favor communal liturgy is, “Do you think that liturgy is exclusively about nourishing the members of the assembly and nothing else?”
I think that to answer, “Yes” to either of these questions is to misunderstand the message of Vatican II.

Friday, April 15, 2011


When we turn from the ends desired for Sunday Mass, which are listed in previous blogs, to the means, as shown in several categories below, some respondents had very specific items which they want included in Roman Catholic Masses. 

For many items there is likely to be broad agreement when stated generally, but there would be a great deal of disagreement based on tastes and interpretations. There would also be some questions regarding how relevant local circumstances and the composition of the immediate congregation were to defining quality, beauty, and other such generally accepted terms. 

Finally there are areas [shown in brackets below like these] where those interested in the wondrous and those focused on the communal would almost always disagree.


  • humility,
  • reverence,


  • architecture, art, vestments, music, language
    -of high quality,
    -connected to tradition, and
    -well done regardless of style
  • a sanctuary easily visible to the congregation.
  • a spotless church


  • periodic pauses significant enough to be felt,
    silence that punctuate each action, each reading, each prayer
  • allowing space for the congregation to take in the words and make the prayers their own
  • a nice long silence after communion
  • [everything takes a long time]
  • liturgy to be done by the books but done well and with care.
  • follows all the rules in a creative and energetic way,
  • the Mass to be prayed reverently, but naturally and without a lot of self consciousness
  • [no ad libbing]
  • naturalness in the liturgical action and a general lack of pomp and theatricality; the purposefulness and reverence balanced with a sense that the Mass is the most natural thing for the people of God to be doing rather than a theatrical performance.
  • continuity between congregation and ministers, so that everyone is part of the sacred action and feels that they are.
  • attentiveness from servers, musicians, lectors, communion ministers, clergy.


  • good posture and articulate movement
  • gestures which are large, slow, and deliberate.
  • processions take a long time
  • well blocked/choreographed
  • [no liturgical dancing.]


  • Scripture proclaimed from the heart
  • carefully prepared and vigorous but not dramatic proclamation of scripture
  • Scriptures easily audible.
  • a lector who proclaims the scriptures in a way that touches my heart.
  • readers who are well prepared and formed to proclaim the readings
  • readers who read expressively in a way that betrays their own personal encounter not just with the words but with The Word


  • cantillation (chanting)
  • everything to be sung, including the propers as well as hymns for the people
  • well sung: hearty, vigorous, with conscious meaning,
  • fine music
  • musicians who understand that music is truly the servant of the liturgy and so don’t seek to overpower the assembly and the ministers
  • a choir that doesn’t think of itself as leading the assembly in song but as part of the assembly itself
  • no one waving their hands or telling people they didn’t respond loud enough.


  • true welcome shown to every member of the assembly
  • sincere, warm welcome to those who come to church alone; the elderly, young single adults
  • active and heartfelt responses to greetings and invitations throughout the liturgy
  • audible, purposeful participation in song, prayer and dialogues
  • [concentration on the word of God in proclamation, eyes up, not in books]
  • people sitting near each other, in the same area, if the church is not full
  • active participation that is first internally contemplative and then vocal
  • attention to the word of God proclaimed and preached
  • joyful participation in hymns, aided by choir and instrumentalists (organist)
  • the people to sing/say the dialogues that pertain to them
  • worshipers who seem engaged through their posture, their visage, their singing & praying, their listening, their offering, and their partaking of Holy Communion.


  • priest reads the prayers as if he has prayed them himself
  • spoken prayers are read so sincerely that we all think they are the priest's own words.”
  • priest who is obviously directing prayer to God in a way that is personal (as opposed to formal or officious)
  • a priest who understands that presiding in persona Christi does not preclude him from being present to God and to the assembly as who he really is. I have always found the notion that priests must lay their “personalities” aside as bizarre.


  • homily easily audible.
  • inspired preaching
  • homilist who can make Jesus’ words come alive for me. Right here, right now.
  • homilies that are brief, but relevant and to the point
  • homilies that connect the scripture to the daily lives of regular people, to our fears and challenges, to the problems in our local community that we must deal with in a Christian way
  • thoughtful, Scriptural, challenging preaching.
  • Scripture explained with heart


  • servers at least age of 13
  • servers over 9
  • clean and crisp looking server garb
  • [altar servers wear the traditional black and white.]
  • [servers vested in clean and neat albs.]


  • fresh flowers
  • incense
  • [Gothic vestments and deacons in dalmatics. ]
  • [a Eucharistic minister who takes time to let me bow before receiving the Eucharist]
  • language in the Prayer of the Faithful that uses rich and poetic images for God.
  • well composed prayers of the faithful, with invitation for petitions or names from the congegation.
  • [priest faces the people. (Prayers are addressed up and out, to God). ]
  • [priest and people face the same direction like we are all in this together]
  • [“ad Deum/ad orientem” posture of the celebrant after receiving the offertory]
  • [the Ordinary Form is used]
  • [language in the liturgy which recognizes that both men and women are in attendance]
  • [bells, especially at the elevation]
  • [keep the sanctuary lights dim prior to Mass to encourage silence and prayer.]
  • [the significant presence of an altar crucifix]
  • [no distracting altar crucifix DURING MASS]
  • [Mass in Latin]
  • [Mass in the local language]
  • [the exchange of the peace as a critical moment of the liturgical action.]


One conclusion which I would draw from the lists of things we want from Sunday Mass is that I see two main lines of thought which are mislabeled to call them traditional and progressive. Though these labels are commonly used, they do not express very well the desired objectives or approaches to Roman Catholic liturgy.

WONDROUS: If one thinks that the sole or even the main objective of liturgy is to evoke and worship the divine as distinct from the human, then one forms or judges a liturgical service with certain characteristics. These favor expressing and supporting what is wondrous in the liturgy.

COMMUNAL: If one thinks that the sole or main objective of liturgy is to gather together Christians for instruction and strengthening, then one forms or judges a liturgical service with other characteristics. These favor expressing and supporting what is communal in the liturgy.

Each attitude mis-characterizes the other to label them progressive or traditional. Granted that both sides are sincere about the many values of liturgy, one does not merely want constant “progress,” nor does the other merely want some particular “tradition”.

Each attitude is taken to the extreme when it entirely rejects the values of the other in favor of focusing exclusively on its own priorities.


The second set of priorities from the Pray Tell survey seem to aim the liturgy at creating a human experience of divine presence.  
They seek a strong sense of:
  • Wonder and mystery
  • The heavenly liturgy
  • Reverence for Christ in all His modes of presence
  • Closer union with Christ in the Eucharist
  • Encouragement for silence and prayer.
  • God’s wonder
  • God’s beauty
The third set of priorities seems more focused on creating an experience of Christian community.
They seek a strong sense of:
  • Strengthening faith and community
  • Naturalness in the liturgical action
  • The presider as teacher, leader, and host of the assembly.
  • A collective act rather than private piety
  • A gathered community present intentionally
  • Continuity between congregation and ministers
  • Natural reverence without self consciousness


I think I see three categories among the responses to the survey which I described in the previous blog. 

There seem to be a great number of desiderata on which all might agree which are listed below.  

There would be disagreements as to the necessary means to these ends because the selected means would depend a great deal on which of the other two categories of ends one favored.  I see those two lists as being focused on distinguishable priorities.

Yet, in Roman Catholic liturgy, all seem to seek a sense of: 

  • Living tradition
  • Poetry in prayer and in song
  • The sacred that goes beyond mysteriousness into the heart of the matter
  • Breaking the bonds of time and space
  • Understanding and awareness of God’s love, grace and energy
  • Room for reflection and prayer.
  • Attention to the word of God proclaimed and preached
  • Quality
  • Purposefulness and focus on the work
  • Prayer obviously directed to God in a way that is personal
  • Connection between what is done as church on Sundays with what is done at home, at work, at school, and at play.
  • Connection to Jesus
  • Connection to the people around me
  • Connection to the people who came before.
  • Sincere, warm welcome to those who come to church alone
  • Connection of the scripture to the daily lives of regular people
  • Mission in the world.
  • Joyful participation in hymns
  • True welcome shown to every member of the assembly
  • Warm welcome for new worshipers or visitors.


In comments exchanged on the Pray Tell Blog

the correspondents have offered brief lists of things they “want to experience ordinarily at Sunday Mass. … positives without mentioning ... negatives” at my request. Some of the responses below are combined, but none were eliminated. These are about ends rather than means. Establishing what are the various ends can provide a basis for evaluating means in other conversations.
  • Wonder and mystery
  • A sense of living tradition
  • A sense of the heavenly liturgy
  • Reverence for Christ in all His modes of presence
  • Poetry in prayer and in song
  • A sense of the sacred that goes beyond mysteriousness into the heart of the matter
  • A “gathered” community
  • The feeling that we are all here together, intentionally
  • A celebration that seems to break the bonds of time and space
  • A deepening understanding and awareness of God’s love, grace and energy
  • Closer union with Christ in the Eucharist
  • Strengthen faith and community
  • The celebrating priest or bishop as teacher and leader of the assembly and its host.
  • True welcome shown to every member of the assembly
  • A collective act rather than a place for private piety
  • Room for reflection and prayer.
  • Naturalness in the liturgical action and a general lack of pomp and theatricality
  • Attention to the word of God proclaimed and preached
  • Quality rather than any specific form
  • A sense of purposefulness and focus on the work
  • Continuity between congregation and ministers
  • Our very best
  • A foretaste of the Paschal feast of heaven
  • Encourage silence and prayer.
  • Prayer obviously directed to God in a way that is personal
  • Connection between what is done as church on Sundays with what is done at home, at work, at school, and at play.
  • A sense of God’s wonder
  • A sense of God’s beauty
  • A connection to Jesus
  • Connection to the people around me
  • Connection to the people who came before.
  • Reverently, but naturally, without self consciousness
  • Sincere, warm welcome to those who come to church alone
  • Connect the scripture to the daily lives of regular people
  • A sense of mission in the world.
  • Warm welcoming of new worshipers or visitors.
  • Joyful participation in hymns

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Recent liturgical studies have shown that there have almost always been great differences between rural Italian and Roman liturgies up to and through the Renaissance.
Papal liturgies were emulated in urban cathedrals, but, despite Roman practices nearby, something much simpler was carried forward in the villages in the ages before printing made changing the local sacramentary simpler and less expensive. Monasteries developed various separate traditions.
Much church practice was developed in agrarian villages or small cities where everyone could walk to church. All lived and worked with the members of their worship community. They were in a single denomination reality and had little communication with any outside world. Should our differences from that affect how we come together to pray?
I think there is a great deal of difference in the USA between early 21st century suburban parishioner needs, and reasonable parish participation expectations, compared to what was reasonable for early 20th century urban parishes, much less comparing either of them to any part of pre-Renaissance Italy.
Our parochial, communal prayer can certainly borrow elements from the monastic and cathedral and papal traditions, but it is very easy to make the mistake of idealizing those strong traditions instead of looking at the actual needs and the contemporary real world in one's own time, place, economy, and social reality.
For example, monastic communities are excellent places for recovery by those spiritually shipwrecked, but they do not necessarily provide a particularly useful form of prayer for those carrying on their daily business at sea. The monastic or hermetic life appeal to particular personality types, too, and are not ideals for everyone, just as celibacy is a particular calling not appropriate to the majority of people.
This is not to reject monasticism or its productive history or its practical examples. Instead, it is to ask whether any parish should take that particular pattern for building its own community or seek some other pattern.
To find other patterns, look at the document on liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium. Instead of a monastic or a cathedral liturgy, in fourteen places it calls for all present to participate fully, participate consciously, and participate actively. This blog is about figuring how to implement that insight in practical ways within the rules of our various Christian denominations.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Have you used your Lent well in preparing for participation in Christianity's High Holy Days?

We Christians, as do all religions, have many holy days of various importance.  We do not designate a few continuous days as our High Holy Days, but we do have three days in a row which ought to be dedicated specifically to prayer and religious remembrance. 

These Three Days, the Triduum, begin with the Solemn commemoration of the Lord's Supper in the Jerusalem upper room on Thursday, the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal and trials of Jesus over night.  On Friday was the presentation to Pilate and to Herod and the Praetorian Guard with their crown of thorns, red robe, and the injuries from heavy whipping.  There finally was a Roman decree of death, the march to the execution site, the nailing to the cross with torture and taunting.  Jesus died, was stabbed, and hurriedly buried.  By early Sunday morning the body of Jesus was gone, and angels were telling the Marys to tell the followers of Jesus that he had gone to the Father and would return to them as he had explained ahead of time. 

What have you done to be ready to attend all these services when we remind ourselves of the most important events of our salvation by Jesus?

Have you arranged for all to be off school and work on Friday and Saturday and not be late for the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday?  Do you have simple heat and serve meals planned so that you can fit them in around the services?  Has your family agreed to avoid entertainment and news for these fifty hours from Holy Thursday through the Easter Vigil in the dark on Saturday night?

Have you cleaned and selected your clothes to wear for the services?  Please plan on wearing some long sleeved white shirt or coat for the Vigil, so that the newly baptized can see the army in white garments which they will be joining after their baths of salvation. 

Plan to get all your Easter shopping done before Thursday.  If you have to order things for pick up for the Sunday dinner, do the ordering early in the week and try to schedule the actual pick up on Sunday when the main services of the High Holy Days are complete. 

Get all that house cleaning, laundry, and yard work done before Thursday night.  Get all tasks and chores done before then.  Be ready to be focused on our High Holy Days.

Finally, plan what else you are going to do to make Friday and Saturday holy instead of boring times.  Do you want to take a meditative walk, visit other churches, go to the cathedral, make the Way of the Cross in a garden, cemetery, or church?  Would you like to read the different versions of the Passion and Death of Jesus in the four Gospels?

If fasting is an effective spiritual exercise for you, it might be of interest that the entire Lenten fast began with fasting while remembering the time Jesus was dead, from mid-afternoon Friday until after midnight on Saturday or dawn on Sunday.  Fasting might be more meaningful for you if you are aware of its origin in fasting in the absence of Jesus.

Perhaps you would like to use the notes in your Bible and examine the passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which are related to the Passion and Death of Jesus, the various prophecies and psalms.  Maybe you would find Friday and Saturday good times to do simple versions of the Liturgy of the Hours, morning [Lauds], midday [None], evening[Vespers] , and bedtime [Compline] prayers.

Certainly craft projects and outdoor play time are appropriate for children.  Braiding the Palm Sunday palms is traditional.  Boiling and simple egg dyeing while soaking can be time for talking about why we use eggs at Easter to remind us of life coming from a closed cave.

However you want to spend your Triduum time, please plan ahead, so you can be calm, focused, and recollected, able to focus on the words of the service, sing the songs, make the responses, experience the messages and the remembering without the distractions of other things to do during those High Holy Days of Christianity.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Here are some notes from watching the Super Bowl and noticing what the liturgically-trained theater-person could not help but notice.

There was another national anthem disaster. This has happened many times before, yet some people still get upset. Consider that this might be because a ritual moment was turned into a personal expression by an entertainer.

Instead of delivering the song of praise for this moment of civil religion, Christina Aguilera attempted to demonstrate personal style and artistic creativity, to draw attention to herself. One can do that in a ritual moment only if one is simultaneously delivering the expected words. For a national anthem, the melody must be recognizable also.

For the half-time show, the person who had the biggest job was the director. Can you imagine how many hours of rehearsal time were involved in putting all the pieces together? How far in advance did the director have to inform the producer and technical staff what equipment was needed? How much effort, before rehearsal, went into making sure all the physical pieces went together? How much planning went into moving people and things so that everybody got where they needed to be exactly when they needed to be there? How far in advance did parts of the stage have to begin moving in order to deliver the next performer exactly on cue? Did you notice that the audience never had to wait for someone to get in place? That there were no pauses or hesitations?

Whether one liked the entertainment content or not, the presentation had one continuous flow overall and from one element to another. Does anyone at your parish work on maintaining such a smooth flow for your services? Do all know their cues and begin as soon as they should without adding or omitting anything? Does everybody come to rehearsal and follow the script as adapted for your worship space and congregation's needs?

Unfortunately, the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy was a great contrast to the half-time show.

Roger Staubach is a man worthy of admiration, but he was not well treated by the planners or by those around him.  He was standing in the midst of the crowd, looking as if he did not know what to do. He was announced, but he still waited to get encouragement to do what he was supposed to do. His route was repeatedly impeded and interrupted. He arrived on the platform after being out of sight for a while, but nobody was prepared to receive the trophy from him, and the whole world saw the awkwardness of Terry Bradshaw guiding Staubach as if “audibilizing” and redirecting some lesser player.

Bradshaw was a great quarterback and is now an admired entertainer, but he has no idea how to conduct a ritual. There were no ceremonial words from him or Roger Goodell.   First Bradshaw handed over the trophy, then he put a microphone in the commissioner's other hand.  The person Goodell addressed was not the person who was given the trophy. The ceremony was over without having an ending, because Bradshaw was now asking one of those obvious and pointless TV reporter questions.

Yet, the ceremony was not over, there was the announcement of a physically non-existent award for the Most Valuable Player. This involved no trophy or plaque, but Bradshaw delivered his most formal words of the ceremony, the carefully rehearsed advertising copy for the automobile which was more visible on the field than the MVP was on the overcrowded stage.

Compare this lack of clear flow to that of the half-time show. Compare this lack of ceremony with how neatly and ceremonially each individual Olympic medal is presented or soccer's World Cup. Compare these events to the coming Oscar ceremonies.

When you find some event to be annoying or distracting, ask yourself why. Was it something that was done or not done? Was it awkward because it was over-prepared and mechanical or because it was under-prepared and rough-edged? If it was too long, what could have been omitted? If it seemed rushed, was it because of the speakers or the overall pacing? Was the event respectful of all the participants or were some more focused on their own parts rather than caring about the others involved?

How can an event possibly be done well if all are not clearly agreed on what are the purposes and priorities of the event?

Friday, February 4, 2011


Let's make the liturgy a little less wordy

An editorial from the author of Lector's Notes
It's the not so humble opinion of this writer
[of Lector's Notes,  ]
that we talk too much at worship.
Before you even get to [any] proposed Scripture introductions, your assembly will have heard a minimum of 270 words, not counting any hymns or ad lib calls to worship, calls to penance, etc.

As Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said about modern architecture, "Less is more."
We risk letting The Word of God get lost among many, many other words, in the hearing of our people. That's why [my] introductions to the readings are so terse.

Some spots where you're likely to find superfluous words:
  • Redundant greetings, like both "Good morning" and "The grace of our Lord Jesus, ...
  • Directions to stand, sit, etc., when a hand gesture, or no direction at all, will do
  • "The second reading is a reading from the first letter ..." instead of simply, "A reading from ..."
  • Explanations of ritual gestures that really speak for themselves
  • Those preachy petitions at the general intercessions
  • Post-communion announcements that duplicate what's printed in your bulletin
November, 2006

Since Greg and I have discussed liturgy with each other for decades, it is not surprising that I find his words to be in agreement with my thoughts. On the other hand, I would not be in favor of adding introductions to the readings.

However, he is right on target to say that the most significant words of our liturgies can get lost if they are scattered among crowds of other words.

Here is an exercise for you to try. Find the shortest version of your denominational service of the Eucharist. You can use either a printed service text and marker or you can download and edit your denomination's service on your computer. If underlining or highlighting text, mark only those words which absolutely must be said. If editing, delete everything, all directions and headings and any optional texts, which is not absolutely required to be said. Be sure to exclude things you usually say but are not required to be said.
What you have left are the minimum number of words for your rite.

For the presider, the second part of the exercise is to study and rehearse each word, phrase, and sentence of this minimal Mass text.

First, to whom are these words addressed? How does that answer affect where you look, your expression, your posture and gesture(s)?

Second, are these particular words declarative, imperative, or interrogative?

Third, do these words guide the service, proclaim or recall faith or Scripture, offer praise, seek forgiveness, give thanks, or make a petition?

Fourth, how does each word, phrase, and sentence relate to or differ from the ones preceding or following them?

Fifth, what else about these words should affect how one decides to say them?

Having studied the words of the service, and decided how one wants to say them, the presider must rehearse them, aloud, in the worship space, with or without helpful commenters. Remember, these are the well considered words of the church; they are not the presider's own words in the presider's own style. How one decides in quiet study to speak certain words will not always be comfortable in practice.

If you are a presider for Eucharist, consider the idea of using only the minimal number of words in addition to your preaching for a few weeks.

You can do this for Lent or Advent. You could do this for the beginning of Ordinary Time as part of a process of gradual parish liturgical renewal, with this reduction followed by a slow, thoughtful, and preached explanation of every tiny element added as time progresses.

Most Sunday services could benefit from both fewer words and better prepared words if the words of worship are not to get lost among all the words around them.