Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 32: Forms of Celebration, Part 5: Liturgy

As a parish liturgist, you know I pay careful attention to paragraphs when they speak of liturgy:

Attention to the actual celebration, (Cf Order of Penance, 17) with special reference to the importance of the word of God which is read, recalled and explained, when this is possible and suitable, to the faithful and with them, will help to give fresh life to the practice of the sacrament and prevent it from declining into a mere formality and routine.

There is a challenge in the way the Church approaches the Rite of Penance. The majority of its preparation involves catechesis, not liturgy. Passing tests as a matter of child achievement is often indeed a formality. Penance is a rite of passage. A minor one, but one marked by an annual routine in most parishes. Routine and formality are not bad things, but when a faith discipline lacks the touch of creative inspiration through the liturgy–its proclamation of the Word, its music, its ritual–the things that lift human perception beyond the mundane, our experience will be impoverished compared to what is possible.

The intent here is clear, that believers are raised to new experiences:

The penitent will be helped rather to discover that he or she is living a salvific event capable of inspiring fresh life and giving true peace of heart. This careful attention to the celebration will also lead the individual churches to arrange special times for the celebration of the sacrament. It will also be an incentive to teaching the faithful especially children and young people, to accustom themselves to keeping to these times except in cases of necessity, when the parish priest must always show a ready willingness to receive whoever comes to him.

What might those special times be? Weekly is certainly good. Seasonal, especially during Lent and Advent is also common in parishes–and good as well. Parish missions, retreats, and similar experiences are also to be considered.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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