Friday, February 01, 2008

Evangelizing for a new liturgical movement

We see various movements active within the Church today and the most successful (in terms of growth) are not shy about going out and evangelizing for their cause. That evangelical spirit, that spirit of the apostolate, is, I think, quite relevant in this regard. It is a key that I believe we need to ensure is at the forefront of a new liturgical movement.

I write about this because at times I believe there can be a complacency about this within traditional liturgical communities -- in which I am including both the usus antiquior and reform of the reform. Let me be clear, it is not absent but there is room for improvement. I believe at the grass-roots level there can be a tendency to either believe that good liturgy will speak for itself -- and therefore there is little else we need to do -- or there is a failure to consider this movement as an apostolate that we need to actively promote and pursue outside our own comfort zone -- or other times a failure to know how to do so.

To be fair, previously there was a much more oppressive climate, particularly in relation to the usus antiquior, but generally as regards traditional liturgics. To a great extent, this limited (actually or psychologically) the amount of "evangelical work" that could be accomplished and the way that it could be approached. Unlike other movements, there has not been the same freedom in this regard because of how highly politicized the matter was. In fact, when one considers the amount of work that been accomplished in the face of that, it is impressive. The problem is, the climate of the preceding few decades can continue to define habits and our modus operandi in the present day, even though the landscape has changed dramatically since the election of Benedict XVI. We must set ourselves to think anew about these issues for the time is now ripe for an even more active role.

How that might be manifest involves a few things. First off, it is indeed important that we celebrate the liturgy as well as possible in our local circumstances. We need to take great care in it, for if we do not why should we expect others to? An important aspect of the liturgical apostolate is having our own liturgical house in order. This manifests itself in various ways; from the quality of music, the care and beauty of the liturgical appointments, to the reverence and zeal we bring to the liturgy itself. Let us not rest satisfied with any kind of "making do", nor with what we have always done, but let us always seek to qualitatively improve and expand our horizons in all regards. Let us also, if we have such gifts, offer our service to the liturgy. Perhaps that means serving at the altar, singing in the choir, or offering our time in helping to maintain the vestments, vesture and sanctuary appointments. There are many possibilities.

This is fundamental, but there is more to it than this. We need people to look beyond the confines of the immediate liturgical act itself to that which surrounds it as well.

We need people who are active in promoting a sound doctrinal and liturgical formation, re-connecting the dots between doctrine and the liturgy of the Church. This will not happen ex nihilo. Rather, we need zealous, educated, well-catechized individuals who will actively recruit others to the new liturgical movement. We need individuals who will invite new people to our liturgies, welcoming them and encouraging them.

We also need organizers who can organize and attach to these places of liturgical life groups like that of Juventutem, targeted toward young adults, or who can establish (liturgically-aware) catechetical programs for families and other individuals. These sorts of things not only provide avenues for formation, they can also be ways for people to feel more attached to a movement. This can have a positive effect not only in keeping people involved in these communities, but also becoming a kind of catch that may draw others into it whose motivations may not at first be primarily liturgical in nature. Maybe they simply want a place of sound catechesis for their children, or perhaps they are young adults looking for the same. In a similar vein, establishing programs that would teach people about the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass, introducing them to Latin pronunciation and so on can also be effective ways to draw people in.

It also goes without saying that the organization of social gatherings is also useful, as is organizing special events such as pilgrimages (France provides a good model in this regard), speakers and conferences. Each of these have great value for reaching outward as well as reaching inward.

Let's not forget to advertise all of these things, whether formally or by word of mouth -- both would be ideal.

Of course, not all are called to serve in a liturgical capacity, nor are all organizers or apologists. So what can they do? Tell people about these apostolates. Invite them out. Teach them what you can about the liturgy of the Church. Point them to good, succinct resources on the sacred liturgy. Share your own experiences. In short, pique their interest through your own love of the liturgy, make them feel welcome and make yourself available to them to the best of your ability.

Some of these projects will take longer than others to establish in particular areas, but getting a start -- even a meagre start -- is the important thing. Whatever we can do in the here and now will assuredly be of help both now and in the long run.

Let's be thankful for what has been accomplished so far, set our goals higher yet and proceed with joy, zeal, confidence and conviction of heart and mind. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.

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