Friday, December 02, 2011

The Indispensable Role of the Family in the New Liturgical Movement

Two weeks ago, the Holy Father encouraged all within the Church to take up the prayer of the psalms and the Divine Office, and just yesterday the Pope highlighted that "the new evangelization is inseparable from the Christian family." Meanwhile on NLM, we spoke yesterday of an Orthodox Christian family who have taken up the singing of the Office as part of their family prayer, and a week and a half ago we spoke of some Advent customs such as the Advent wreath and Jesse Tree that could help draw the liturgical year into the home.

So then, how do all of these things intersect?

Well they intersect in various ways truth be told, but there is one way in particular which I wish to highlight and it ties into a theme we have been discussing on and off over the years: the domestic Church and living a liturgical life.

Some laity may feel a sense of helplessness when they consider the "shadows" (to use the imagery adopted by some within the Roman Curia) within the Church. Even if they do not feel utterly helpless, particularly when they consider the matter of the sacred liturgy they might feel they have little they can contribute -- other than perhaps a voice in the choir loft or an altar boy or two in the sanctuary. They might feel as though they have to ultimately sit back and wait for Rome or the clergy to hand the solution to them. But if someone were to think such, they really would be wrong, even drastically wrong.

Certainly Rome and the clergy have a very important part to play, but the new liturgical movement is not a matter only for the Holy Father, the Holy See or for clergy and religious to tend to. The new liturgical movement is a task to be taken up by all, and all indeed have a part to play. This includes the family. Indeed, not only does it include the family, I would daresay that the family has an absolutely critical and highly influential role.

If the new liturgical movement is to blossom and advance to its fullest possible extent it must be lived out not only within our parishes and institutions, it must also take root and be actualized within our homes; we must not only attempt to foster the liturgical life later on in life, we must plant that seed and water it within our children early in life. And indeed, since families are, as John Paul II said, "the seedbed of vocations," this early upbringing in the liturgical life, this liturgical formation will assuredly be of great import and influence with regard to our future priests and bishops as well. Indeed, if families do not instill this liturgical formation early on, we can hardly be surprised if the task seems all the slower and more arduous later on. In that regard, perhaps we can think of the family as not only the seedbed of vocations, but also a seedbed of the new liturgical movement.

Looking back to the 20th century Liturgical Movement this same point was made by Emerson Hynes in an article, "Before All Else" (Orate Fratres, March 21, 1943. Vol. XVII, no. 5). Therein he asked the question, "how important is the family in the liturgical movement"? He commented:

We recognize the force of the family in shaping the habits and character of children. We know too that neither faith nor ideas are inherited. They are instilled, and the family is the ordinary instrument through which this is accomplished... Because the family is such a basic and intimate society it is a most powerful unit for the preservation of a heritage. Before a movement can be permanently established it must have the support of families, it must become part of the family tradition. The liturgical movement will remain a movement and no more until such a time as it becomes a family heritage. For although the source of the liturgy is Christ through His Church and the proper custodians of it the priests through the parish, the flowering of the liturgy in the lives of the members will not be permanent until it becomes a part and parcel of Christian family life. In that sense, may we not speak of Christian families as the popular custodians of the liturgy, a subordinate but essential means to its strength and expansion?

So too should our answer to the question, "how important is the family in the new liturgical movement?" be that they have an absolutely indispensable part to play in advancing it, providing a spark and flame which will cast the necessary light which will help dispel the 'shadows'. But if that is to happen, families must take up the challenge now, "shaping the habits and character of [their] children" in a liturgical way, making it "part and parcel of Christian family life."

Let's get to work.

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