Liturgical Ministry Has a Spiritual Side

Carmel Bulletin, 30 August 2015

Commentator at MassOften when we consider the skills and gifts that a parishioner brings to liturgical ministry, we think of very practical things.  Music ministers obviously need to be able to sing or play an instrument.  Ministers of the Word need to be able to project their voice and speak clearly.  Altar servers need to be observant, aware of what is happening around them, and able to act and respond calmly and quietly.

Such skills that we see our ministers demonstrate each week are what we might describe as “technical” skills.  They are what are required in order to fulfil the functional elements of their role.  These, however, are only one part of a minister’s skill set.

We also need to consider what we might describe as “spiritual” skills.  These may not be as clearly measurable, but are equally important in exercising one’s ministry fully.  Recently, our Liturgy Committee began considering how our parish ministers express hospitality; how they make people feel welcome and encourage prayer and participation within their role.  Other traits as well, such as reverence, prayerfulness, humility and gratitude can all be found in ministers whose contribution to our community is motivated not by self-interest, but by their faith, their love of God, and their desire to be of service to others.

This week our community lost someone who dedicated himself to liturgical ministry (to say nothing of the many other ways he served our parish) for decades.  Those of us who served with Brian Flynn learnt much from him.  He showed us all that good liturgical ministers need to be both technically skilled and spiritually grounded.  Our parish has been enriched by his remarkable contribution.  May he rest in peace.

Reverence

Carmel Bulletin, 15 February 2015

In time past, going to church looked different to what it does today.  Certainly a lot of that has to do with how the church looked and how the Mass was celebrated.  But it also has something to do with the “little things” that we do.

Dressing up in our “Sunday best” was just the beginning of a whole collection of gestures and actions that were considered signs of reverence for our God who we worship and who is present with us when we worship.

Photo © 2014, Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography
Photo © 2014, Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

Some people comment that such reverence is lost today, or at least not what it used to be.  Yet within our rituals, acts of reverence are still present and encouraged.  Genuflecting to the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle; bowing to the altar upon which Christ is made present, also to the Blessed Sacrament before we receive it; signing ourselves with the cross at the proclamation of the Gospel; the postures of standing and kneeling; observing periods of silence before, during and after Mass.  These are just some of the acts of reverence that we are asked to observe.

Now some people may rightly point out that observing such external acts of reverence doesn’t mean that a person is necessarily committing themselves to a reverent attitude or manner internally.  Only that person and God will ever know for certain.  That doesn’t mean, however, that they are irrelevant or unnecessary.

Parish Vision StatementMindful and well-informed encouragement of reverent actions from a young age helps to shape a reverent attitude.  Furthermore, movements, actions and visuals (for all, but especially for children) can instantaneously communicate a profound meaning that is often harder to successfully articulate in words.

Formation Workshop for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

Carmel Bulletin, 2 November 2014

Over the past week, thirty-four of our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion participated in the annual formation workshop.

Parishioners coming forward to receive communion
© Alphonsus Fok, 3.2.1 Photography

We reflected upon the participation on everybody in the liturgical celebration.  The Mass is the celebration of Christ and his Church – the Church present at this time and place, united in prayer and faith with the Church universal and those gone before us marked with the sign of faith.

The focus of this workshop was to consider some of the qualities that our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion possess.  Blessed (Pope) Paul VI, in his 1973 instruction, Immensae Caritatis, described those suitable for this ministry being people “whose good qualities… recommended them”.  We shared a number of qualities that are displayed by our ministers, and focused on four in particular:

  • Humility
  • Hospitality
  • Gratitude
  • Reverence

Parish Vision noticeboard in narthex - with reflections from formation workshopWe will discuss these qualities in greater detail in the coming weeks.  We also considered how these qualities, displayed and modelled by our ministers (and hopefully by all our parishioners), allow us to contribute in a small way to the realisation of our parish vision that all families feel connected, supported and valued as they live and grow in their faith.  That is why you will find some of our discussion recorded and displayed on our parish vision board in the narthex today.

19/7/09 – The Real Presence: Giving Due Reverence

Last time, I began to discuss the concern one correspondent raised of the seemingly diminishing sense of the “real presence”, that is, our belief that Christ is fully present in the bread and wine we consecrate at Mass, and thus consume as his body and blood. It is a belief that Catholics have held for many centuries, although different Christian Churches have different theological viewpoints and understandings. Some Christian Churches do not believe in Christ’s presence in the Eucharistic elements.

Bishop Manning has written on this topic many times, and has also noticed a change of attitude towards the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. A sense of the mystery of this great gift of Christ has been lost for many. As I said last time, I believe there are a number of factors that have contributed to this.

The first centres around the practices we teach our children from a young age around giving reverence to the Eucharist.

TabernacleWhenever we enter a church or a Blessed Sacrament Chapel where there is a tabernacle, we should genuflect towards it. We need to teach those learning about our faith about the lamp that burns alongside the tabernacle and its purpose of indicating the presence of Christ. During Mass, when we are next to receive communion, we should bow to acknowledge the presence of Christ in the Eucharist we are about to receive.

AltarWe also need to show appropriate reverence to the altar as the place where this mystery is realised. In churches where the tabernacle is in a separate Blessed Sacrament Chapel (as at Greystanes, Toongabbie, or Parramatta for example), the appropriate reverence upon entering the church is a bow to the altar. The altar should only be used for the celebration of the Eucharist, and only hold those things required for it. It is not merely a table where we rest things for the sake of convenience! When we celebrate the Eucharist, the altar is the centre around which we gather and is a key focal point, whereas the tabernacle would be a focal point at other times of personal prayer, devotion and adoration.