Desiderio Desideravi 36: Who Celebrates

In the generation or two after Vatican II some Catholics, especially priests, objected to the term “celebrant” being applied to the lay people in the liturgical assembly. That was more about poor theology and maybe a bit of self-esteem issues. Of course, it does touch on perhaps two separate definitions of the term. No one doubts the role of the priest. Nobody mainstream anyway. Pope Francis sets us straight, if we need it, with a good perspective. Ordained ministers are leaders. The Church as a whole, clergy and laity together, celebrate Mass.

36. I think of the regular rhythm of our assemblies that come together to celebrate the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day, Sunday after Sunday, Easter after Easter, at particular moments in the life of each single person and of the communities, in all the different ages of life. Ordained ministers carry out a pastoral action of the first importance when they take the baptized faithful by the hand to lead them into the repeated experience of the Paschal Mystery. Let us always remember that it is the Church, the Body of Christ, that is the celebrating subject and not just the priest.

Why formation of priests and deacons is vital:

The kind of knowledge that comes from study is just the first step to be able to enter into the mystery celebrated. Obviously, to be able to lead their brothers and sisters, the ministers who preside in the assembly must know the way, know it from having studied it on the map of their theological studies but also from having frequented the liturgy in actual practice of an experience of living faith, nourished by prayer — and certainly not just as an obligation to be fulfilled.

Maybe many clerics outside the monastery treat the Liturgy of the Hours as an obligation. Praying the liturgy daily, even solo, and even just the hinge hours, allows for a deep plunge into the rhythms of the Church. It’s less a magical thing and more one of encountering the Lord and allowing oneself to be formed by Psalms, Scripture, and prayers.

On the day of his ordination every priest hears the bishop say to him: “Understand what you will do, imitate what you will celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.” [De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum (1990) p. 95: «Agnosce quod ages, imitare quod tractabis, et vitam tuam mysterio dominicæ crucis conforma»]

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

About catholicsensibility

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