The Daily Christian: Liturgy Of The Word At Home

See the source imageI’m not a stickler for canon law, but I saw this citation in social media:

If participation in the Eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families. (1248.2)

I’m not a geek for law, but this directive seems sound to me. It doesn’t mention livestreaming or recording Masses. Given the seemlingly large number of canon law experts in the episcopacy (or at least there used to be), do you find it interesting that the word from the cathedra on down is watching Sunday Mass on tv?

In an expanded version of yesterday’s post on the daily Mass readings, let me suggest a real liturgy in this time of pandemic. An individual, couple, or family could go whole hog: all the songs, prayers, readings, intercessions of the Mass from beginning to end–just not sharing the Eucharist. What would that look like?

  • Song of Praise
  • Sign of the Cross
  • Penitential Rite (Confiteor, Lord Have Mercy, or even an expression of sorrow for wrongs committed since the last time, plus maybe forgiveness)
  • On Sundays, sing the Glory To God. On weekdays, maybe just a prayer of praise to the Trinity, like the Glory Be.
  • “Today’s Reading” (upper left) from the US bishops’ website.
  • Homily, rotated between parents and even children, or just an open discussion on the Scriptures.
  • Creed, Nicene or Apostles’
  • Intercessions
  • Lord’s Prayer
  • Sign of Peace
  • Prayer of Spiritual Communion
  • Song of Praise

I know, I know: a bishop or priest makes it feel more “official.” You can probably find some celebrity bishop or priest doing daily Mass for you, and their homily will be almost as good as what your first-born kid will come up with if you give her or him a day or two to research and reflect on something.

But I’ll be honest: watching it on television is not liturgy. It’s liturgy for the people on the other side of the video cam. But it’s not liturgy for us.

You can argue with me on that point, and we will have a good discussion on it. But I will still say it’s an impoverished experience, even compared to when you do go to MAss and you don’t receive Copmmunion.

Another reason for doing even a basic liturgy like this:

  • Alleluia
  • Gospel Reading
  • Our Father (Hail Mary, Glory Be)

… is that you get to own the prayer. The ritual is up to you; you have responsibility to actually put something together for yourself and your loved ones and be committed to it. You have to prepare a little bit. You can’t push the pause button on the recorded Mass, answer the pizza deliverer, go to the bathroom, or rewind to see something funny. You have to live the liturgy you celebrate.

Another point is the whole reason for a daily routine of faith/religion/spirituality/ whatever you call it. It’s a discipline. God makes a demand of you and you respond to the call to commitment. When we emerge from stay-at-home we will be healthier, stronger, more graced disciples. We will be formed by our choice of discipline. Being a daily disciplined disciple will put us in good stead in whatever normal we’ve landed in in the months and years ahead.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to The Daily Christian: Liturgy Of The Word At Home

  1. Liam says:

    I think fewer PIPs are interested in “liturgy” as a discipline of personal prayer than you or I may prefer to think.

    My own viewing of Mass on Sundays is definitely not “liturgy” from my end but it is a helpful adjunct to my daily personal “office” of prayer, which is an office entirely self-crafted over years of observing periodic promptings to add or let go of bits of this and that, and it is a form of contemplative prayer. Not all prayer is us doing or saying. Or us “meditating” – contemplative prayer is not congruent with centering or other types of meditative prayer (but it can include those).

    Mind you, I am not a fan of using broadcasting screens on church grounds to “deal with” overflow (or in mass gathering of people for that matter); my own view is it may be better to have multiple Masses with more effectively flocked groups of people than trying to get too unwieldy a flock “together”.

  2. Liam says:

    BTW, with regard to liturgy, have you considered how the celebration of Mass may need to evolve with a gradual unwinding of shelter in place advisories and orders? That is, with social distancing but without proximate singing (either by musicians or PIPs)?

  3. Todd says:

    I think you are correct on disinteresting liturgy. By and large, the parish experience is impoverished in the Catholic Church. When people experience poor liturgy week after week, they certainly are justified in asking, “Why would I want to do this at home?”

    On point #2, I certainly believe that Sunday Mass is multivalent for communities and individuals. Personal devotion is part of it. Legal obligation exists too. It is also a sign of what I would call “country club membership.” And even in liturgical poverty, some people still have a real experience of liturgy.

    For me, good liturgy goes beyond doing or saying, watching or performing. It involves a different track of human experience. It involves a subtle combination of ownership, intentionality, commitment, and community across a range of human expressions: feelings, thoughts, the senses. What convinced me were my formative years, 1978-1983. And honestly, I’ve never felt particularly successful in recreating that for others. Not beyond things like, “The liturgy was really great.” Maybe it was, for the person. But was it great like grace? Or was it great like personally enjoyable? Or was it great that the club meeting was palatable this week? It all makes me want to retire and live near a monastery.

    • Liam says:

      I believe that our culture grooms most people fundamentally from a very early age against developing a deeply rooted, perseverant “combination of ownership, intentionality, commitment, and community across a range of human expressions: feelings, thoughts, the senses”.

      Or at least I see little evidence that it assists such a development in any meaningful way.

  4. Martin Barry says:

    Thanks Todd. Here in the UK too we’ve had a relentless diet of priests live-streaming their private celebrations, and allowing us to spectate. I’ve found the experience to be fairly barren: a retreat of 50 years or more to the Low Mass. The honourable exception I’ve encountered has been Salford Cathedral, where the Bishop has been exemplary in his concern first and foremost for the remotely-gathered assembly, and by clever use of simple technological resources, the readers and singers have contributed from home. Nowhere else I’ve seen has matched up to that.

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