As previously announced, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a three-year, nationwide Eucharistic Revival intended to restore devotion to the Eucharist and to renew Eucharistic worship. This Revival began on June 19, 2022, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, at which time dioceses were encouraged to organize Eucharistic processions and opportunities for Eucharistic adoration throughout the coming year. The second phase of the Revival, which will take place from June 11, 2023-July 17, 2024, is focused on fostering Eucharistic devotion at the parish level. This initiative will culminate with the gathering of Catholics from throughout the country at a National Eucharistic Congress, to take place in Indianapolis, Indiana, from July 17-21, 2024.
The USCCB has recently made available a “Parish Leader’s Playbook” for the forthcoming Year of Parish Revival. This resource offers a series of themes for parishes to consider when planning initiatives, programs, and events that highlight the Eucharist during the coming year, including: reinvigorating worship, creating moments of personal encounter, engaging in robust formation, and sending Catholics forth as missionaries.
With regard to liturgical matters, the USCCB has drawn attention to the “art of celebrating” [ars celebrandi] the liturgy as a means of reinvigorating Eucharistic worship. As Pope Francis has recently reminded the Church in his apostolic letter Desiderio Desideravi (48-60), the “art of celebrating” the liturgy well is not only the concern of priests, deacons, or lay liturgical ministers, but of the entire community, bearing in mind that all members of the parish are called to celebrate and be formed by the celebration of liturgy.
Under the leadership of the pastor, parishes are asked during the year ahead to give special attention to the various elements that make up their liturgical worship, including:
- fidelity to the texts and rubrics of the Church
- a prayerful understanding of the liturgical texts, feasts, and seasons throughout the year
- a reverent sense that the minister and assembly are ordered in such a way that they draw more abundant fruits from the Eucharistic celebration, and
- a proper preparation for celebrating the liturgy (“Leaders Playbook,” 10).
Parishes may find it particularly helpful to engage in this process of liturgical self-assessment now that the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. In some cases, liturgical practices that were instituted on a provisional basis during the time of the pandemic (e.g., keeping holy water fonts empty, refraining from distributing the Precious Blood at Mass, not observing a procession with the gifts at Sunday Mass, temporary suspension of choirs, etc.) are no longer needed or appropriate. With this in mind, pastors, assisting clergy, parish lay leaders and staff, and parish councils may wish to consider using this “Year of Parish Revival” to examine the various aspects of the liturgical life of their parish and discern which areas which are in need of review or special attention. In this effort, the following kinds of considerations may serve as a starting point for discussion:
- The number of Masses scheduled is based on actual need.
- The Lectionary, Gospel Book, and Missal are in good condition and are suitable for the celebration of the liturgy. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM], 349)
- The vessels for the Eucharist are of good quality, made for liturgical use, not easily broken (i.e., not made from glass, earthenware, or clay), and blessed before use. (GIRM, 329; Redemptionis Sacramentum [RS], 117 and 118)
- Liturgical vesture is of good quality and worn appropriately. (GIRM, 335-347; RS, 122-128)
- Vestments are properly stored and regularly cleaned.
- The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a chapel that is noble, prominent, and suitable for prayer. (GIRM, 314-316; RS, 130)
- The liturgical environment is clean and well cared for. (GIRM, 289, 292, 293)
- The liturgical environment is enhanced by appropriate decoration in the sanctuary area, the assembly area, and outside the church building. (GIRM, 289, 292, 293; Built of Living Stones [BLS], 122-129)
- The lighting and sound systems are adequate and fully functional. (BLS, 221-225; 228-233)
- The ambo, altar, baptismal font, and presider’s chair are designed and placed appropriately. (GIRM, 288-318; BLS, 56-69)
- There are enough programs/hymnals provided for all members of the assembly.
- The bread and wine used for the Eucharist truly have the appearance of food and are made of appropriate material. (GIRM, 320-322; RS, 48)
- Enough bread and wine is prepared for the faithful to receive Communion consecrated at the same Mass. (GIRM, 85; RS, 49)
- There is an atmosphere of prayer and silence before Mass, both in the church and in the sacristy. (GIRM, 45)
- The configuration of the church invites full, active, and conscious participation of the faithful, conveys the image of the gathered assembly, and facilitates the liturgical action. (GIRM, 288 and 294; BLS, 49-53)
- The church is fully accessible to those with special needs. (BLS, 42)
- Through liturgical catechesis, the assembly has become conscious that they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy people God has made His own. (Sacrosanctum concilium [SC], 14; RS, 36)
- Through liturgical catechesis, the assembly is aware that, by virtue of their baptism, it is their right and duty to participate in liturgical celebrations. (SC, 14; RS, 37)
- Through liturgical catechesis, the assembly understands that they are called to offer themselves as a living and holy sacrifice of praise through prayer and worship. (RS, 37)
- Through liturgical catechesis, the assembly sees their participation in the Eucharist as not only sharing in a sacred meal, but also participating in the sacrifice of Christ. (RS, 38)
- The faithful are encouraged to participate in the liturgy through acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and canticles, as well as actions or movements and gestures. (SC, 30; RS, 39)
- The assembly willingly participates by actively listening, singing wholeheartedly, and being present to the action of the liturgy. (SC, 14 and 30)
- The assembly understands and appreciates that active participation includes an observance of sacred silence. (GIRM, 45; RS, 39)
- The liturgy is properly adapted to the needs of the faithful, respecting cultural and ethnic traditions which are appropriate within liturgical celebrations. (SC, 37-40; RS, 39)
- The faithful understand that, at the liturgy, they are not to participate “as strangers or silent spectators,” but conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full involvement. (SC, 48)
- Efforts have been made to instill in the faithful a sense of deep wonder before the greatness of the mystery of faith that is the Eucharist. (RS, 40)
- Liturgical ministries appropriate to the laity (e.g., lectors, music ministry, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, ushers, sacristans, altar servers) are distributed among a number of trained liturgical lay ministers. (GIRM, 97; RS, 43)
- The liturgical ministers reflect the assembly in age, gender, and ethnic background.
- Except in cases of necessity, liturgical ministers normally exercise only one ministry at a given liturgy. (SC, 28; RS, 44)
- All liturgical ministers have received liturgical formation and are properly trained to perform their ministry. (SC, 29; RS, 46)
- Liturgical ministers are “deeply imbued with the spirit of the liturgy,” and perform their office with “sincere devotion and decorum demanded by so exulted a ministry.” (SC, 29)
- There is a sense of prayer and reverence among the liturgical ministers.
- By exercising their ministry, liturgical ministers seek to enhance the full and active participation of the faithful.
- Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are asked to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion only in cases of genuine necessity.
- Priests and deacons are imbued with the spirit of the liturgy and exercise their liturgical role with sincerity, decorum, dignity, humility, and devotion. (SC, 14 and 17, GIRM, 93)
- Priests and deacons strive to deepen their own liturgical knowledge and grow in developing a proper ars celebrandi. (SC, 16 and 17; RS, 33)
- The liturgical music is truly sacred music, reflecting the Word of God, and being drawn principally from Scriptural or liturgical texts. (RS, 57)
- The liturgical music serves the unique feasts and seasons of the liturgical year. (Sing to the Lord [STTL], 112)
- The liturgical music fosters the participation of the gathered assembly. (STTL, 122)
- The music is performed competently. (STTL, 50)
- The choir members understand their role as ministers who both support the assembly’s singing and perform more technically challenging compositions drawn from the treasury of sacred music. (STTL, 28-33)
- There is a well-prepared cantor who encourages, but neither overpowers nor takes the place of the singing of the congregation. (STTL, 33-40)
- The liturgical music lifts the hearts of the faithful to offer praise and thanksgiving to God. (GIRM, 39)
- In choosing of the parts actually to be sung, preference is given to those that are of greater importance especially to those which are to be sung by the priest or the deacon or a reader, with the people replying, or by the priest and people together. (GIRM, 40)
- The repertoire of liturgical music includes a variety of styles and forms which can enrich the celebration of the liturgy, while recognizing and reflecting the importance of Gregorian Chant as the model for all sacred music. (STTL, 67-85)
- The organ is given “pride of place” amongst the musical instruments used in the liturgy, is regularly maintained, and is played by musicians who have received adequate training in the unique demands of this instrument. (GIRM, 393)
- Other instruments used in the liturgy are truly “apt for sacred use or can be rendered apt.” (GIRM, 393)
In considering these aspects of their liturgical practices, parish communities can fittingly respond to the USCCB’s invitation to reflect on the “source and summit” of their life, which is the daily celebration of the Church’s liturgies (SC, 10). While an encouragement to focus on the art of celebrating parish liturgies is being proposed at this time as part of the National Eucharistic Revival, it bears noting that a regular and sustained appraisal of these matters can serve as an ongoing point of renewal of parish life, keeping in mind the words of Pope Francis: “We are required every day to rediscover the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration” (Desiderio Desideravi, 21).