During COVID-19, do we watch the Church, or be the Church?

In many parts of the world now, including our own Diocese, the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it something that we have never experienced before in our lives – the complete suspension of liturgical celebrations in our church buildings, including the Eucharist.

The digital world that we live in has made it much easier than in the past for our parish organisations to support communities through this isolation. Websites and social media platforms now abound with prayers, material about making a spiritual communion, and live-streamed Masses, all in a very genuine and noble endeavour to meet the spiritual needs of Catholics.

There is no doubt that viewing Mass in these times, when going to Mass is impossible, can be a good thing. If not, Pope Francis wouldn’t be broadcasting the Masses he’s celebrating around the world. Yet if that is all we do, are we doing all we can to fulfil our responsibility as Catholics?

The Second Vatican Council taught clearly that the participation of all in liturgical celebrations was essential:

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.

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…

Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 14 (emphasis added)

We are called, through baptism, to be more than observers of liturgical celebrations led by the priest, whether they are on a screen, or whether we’re sitting in the pews. We are called to be full and active participants in liturgy that we celebrate together, in union with Christ:

Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 7 (emphasis added)

So how do we continue to celebrate and honour Sunday, the Lord’s Day, in our homes while we cannot participate in our parish Eucharistic celebrations? The answer lies in remembering that we are nourished by Christ’s presence in the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy.

As a parish, we are producing and sharing a resource to enable families to participate in a Sunday Celebration of the Word of God in their homes. Similar to celebrations that may occur in parishes without a priest, the proclamation and reflection on the Sunday biblical readings is central to the ritual. To help break open the word, these celebrations now include a video recorded homily from one of our priests.

Our Carmelite province of Australia and Timor Leste also has a resource page with a Celebration of the Word and resources to meditate on the scriptures through the ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina (Divine Reading).

Another way we can celebrate Sunday, and in fact the sanctity of every day, is by praying Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church. These are the key celebrations within the daily liturgical prayer called the Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office. While well-known and prayed by priests and religious brothers and sisters, it is a form of prayer, grounded firmly in the scriptures (particularly the psalms) that we are all called to participate in. Our resource page has a link to a Liturgy of the Hours resource for these times of isolation from Diana Macalintal at Liturgy.life, as well as the texts for the Divine Office from the website Universalis.

Again, it’s not a bad thing to watch Mass when you cannot go to Mass. It’s fair to say, though, that it never feels quite the same as being there. Lately, we’ve seen sporting events without crowds and television shows without their usual studio audiences, and it feels weird. The lack of ‘participants’ is discomforting.

So please, take advantage of the ways the internet can keep us connected with our parish communities and the wider Church (there are live stream links on our resource page as well). But don’t forget that that Church is, in fact, every single one of us. And while we can’t share the same church building right now, we’re still called to, and can, make Christ present amongst us through prayer and the proclamation of God’s word. For as Christ himself reminded us, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

None Equals Thee

OLMC Statue landscape 2Sometimes people of other faith traditions think that we worship Mary.  While they can clearly see that Mary holds a special place in our faith, all our worship is directed toward God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Collect Prayer for our celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminds us of this:

All gracious God,
may the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother and Queen of Carmel, protect us,
and bring us to your holy Mountain, Christ our Lord…

(Carmelite Lectionary)

Mary is certainly the most blessed of all women, and a person without equal.  As our mother and sister in faith, she intercedes for us, and leads us to the divine mystery in which we believe.  This echoes through a number of the prayer texts we use on our feast day today.

While we certainly honour Mary at different times throughout the liturgical year, the liturgy is still focused on giving thanks to God for the Paschal Mystery – the life, death and resurrection of Christ in which Mary played a crucial role.  It is why, for example, that prayers to Mary (such as the Hail Mary) don’t form part of the proper texts for Mass.  It is also why Marian devotions, such as the rosary, or private prayers at the Marian Shrine, have their own time and place.

So as we give thanks for Mary’s patronage and protection, let us remember her first and foremost as a woman with deep faith who embraced the will of God.  Let us pray that by her prayers and example, our faith and love will become like hers.

1/4/12 – Easter Sunday Evening Prayer

The Easter Triduum begins on Holy Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  The liturgical celebration of the Triduum continues with the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday and reaches its high point with the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening.

The liturgical celebration of the Easter Triduum then continues with the Easter Sunday Masses and reaches its formal conclusion with the celebration of Evening Prayer on Sunday.  For the first time this year, we invite everyone to celebrate Evening Prayer as a parish on Easter Sunday.

Evening Prayer (or Vespers) is part of the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office as it’s also known.  Its key aspects include the praying of psalms, listening to the proclamation of a passage of scripture, and interceding for the needs of the Church and the world.  Once something that was rarely prayed outside of religious communities and clergy, this traditional way of prayerfully marking the passage of time is something the whole Church is called to rediscover.

We encourage you all to come along on Easter Sunday at 6:00 pm and pray with us to conclude what is a great day of celebration for all of us who hold firm in the hope in the resurrection.

18/11/07 – Approaching Advent

We are now only two weeks away from the Season of Advent.  This is the time when we particularly focus on preparing for the celebration of Christ’s coming among us at Christmas, as well as preparing for his promised return at the end of time.  I’d like to take a moment now to let you know of two things happening this Advent season.

The first is our Friday Evening Prayer in the spirit of Taizé.  Many of you may already know of the unique music of the Taizé community that will infuse our evening prayer.  Through Fr. Paul’s initiative we celebrated evening prayer this way last Advent, and many came and found it a nourishing spiritual experience.  Evening Prayer will be held on Fridays 7, 14 and 21 December, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

The second applies specifically to our Ministers of the Word.  During the Lent and Easter seasons we held a weekly readers’ preparation for those people rostered as readers for the following Sunday’s Masses.  Those who came found this a beneficial exercise, and the participation of ministers was evident in excellent proclamation at Mass.  Being another important season in our Church calendar, these preparation sessions will occur again for the Advent season on Wednesdays from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.  From next weekend we will publish a reminder in Carmel for those rostered to read the next weekend, and therefore need to join us for the preparation session.

Finally, my sincere thanks again to those who gathered and shared their ideas at our parish meeting on Wednesday.  It was a very worthwhile gathering.  I’ll say more about this next week.

3/6/07 – The Sign of the Cross

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

It’s the simplest and most common prayer of the Christian Church.  It is usually accompanied by an action – the sign of the cross.

Yet the implications of this prayer are quite profound.  Think about it – we pray that everything we do is done in the name of the triune God; God who is Father, Son and Spirit.

So the Sign of the Cross is not a prayer to be hurried.  Stop and think sometimes as you make the Sign of the Cross.  This prayer and its action is a symbol at the core of our faith.  It was the sign with which our newest catechumen, Shelley, was marked with last Sunday as she was accepted into preparation for baptism, confirmation and eucharist.  When a baby is brought into the Church, they are named and then welcomed by the Church with the Sign of the Cross.  So the first thing we as a community do ritually to those joining us is mark them with the Sign of the Cross.  Everything we ever do from that point forward is done in the name of the trinity.