Liturgy…and Participation

A few weeks ago I was listening to KLOVE on the radio and they were talking about a recent survey that showed many young adults do not attend church anymore because they don’t find it engaging. The talk hosts were saying that they could understand how someone could go to a worship service and feel they are just being “talked at” during the sermon. They said that in some churches pastors are inviting their congregation to text or tweet questions or comments during the sermon and they get posted on a big screen during the service. 

It shocked me. I haven’t been to a protestant service since I was really young but I thought, “Really? We need to tweet things on a giant screen to bring people to one of our most sacred traditions and commandments to keep holy the Sabbath?”  And it made me proud to be Catholic, since the meaning of the word liturgy is “the participation of the people of God in the work of God” (CCC 1069). The Mass, by its very nature, is a conversation and a chance to be engaged instead of just being “talked at.”

We stand, sit, kneel, and sing together. The priest invites us into a dialogue as He opens with, “The Lord be with you” and we respond “And with your spirit.”  We sing/pray the Gloria, Holy Holy Holy, Lamb of God, etc.  We shake hands at the sign of peace. But most importantly, we go to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. God makes himself present at the altar, and we consume him into our own bodies, so that the two become one. If that’s not participation, than I don’t know what is. Sure, Catholic Masses aren’t usually known for their outstanding homilies or amazing vocalists, but that’s secondary to the point of our Mass, which is founded upon our active participation in communion with Christ and the Church.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says that liturgy “engages the faithful in the new life of the community and involves the conscious, active, and fruitful participation of everyone” (CCC 1071). Liturgy is an action of the Church, a participation in Christ’s own prayer, and the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed. (CCC 1071, 1073, 1074).  It sounds to me like if we think we are going to Church just to be talked at than we are doing something wrong. The words “engage”, “active”, and “participation” are right there in the teachings of the Catechism. 

As a mother of two young children, I know I don’t get to participate as fully as I would like to right now. But I am still engaged, following the readings, praying the responses and taking turns with my husband for a moment of reflection. Even though my little ones are distracting, I still receive the Eucharist and invite Jesus to become one with me and transform my daily life.

Listening to that conversation on the radio saddened me at the loss of so many disinterested people, but also overwhelmed me with loving feelings of our rich tradition of the Liturgy. I hope you can take a moment to feel renewed in your love for the Mass, too, and pray for those who have fallen away that they may return to the conversation and participation we have with God every Sunday.

Also, as a mom, I would love to hear other’s suggestions on how to participate in the liturgy with young children!

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