Liturgical participation is the hallmark of the conciliar reform of Catholic worship. It’s not a surprise it figures so highly in BLS.
§ 31 § The church building fosters participation in the liturgy. Because liturgical actions by their nature are communal celebrations, they are celebrated with the presence and active participation of the Christian faithful whenever possible.(canon law 837 § 2) Such participation, both internal and external, is the faithful’s “right and duty by reason of their baptism.”(SC 14; also 1 Pt 2:9, cf. 2:4-5) The building itself can promote or hinder the “full, conscious, and active participation” of the faithful. Parishes making decisions about the design of a church must consider how the various aspects and choices they make will affect the ability of all the members to participate fully in liturgical celebrations.
Buildings indeed are aids or obstacles to participation. Acoustics are the primary consideration, probably even more important than overall design elements. If a church doesn’t sing and allow the people to easily sing, it remains gravely flawed, no matter how well it hews to the other four principles. Fortunately, there is good counsel awaiting those who are serious about acoustics.
Accessibility is also important, especially for communities with a number of older believers. It is also important to consider those whose movements or senses are impaired in some way. While ADA compliancy isn’t foisted on churches, ADA guidelines are still helpful for those genuinely concerned with all members.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.