Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bishop Vasa on Devotions and Active Participation in the Mass

I'm slowly getting back into my routine following the death of my mother. Thanks again for the many prayers and words of support.

I could have went scouring the news for something to blog on, but if you go to any number of popular blogs, you begin to see the news recycled over and again. I was in this grind and I am currently leaning towards finding interesting things like this, which are not as widely circulated.

Bishop Vasa of Baker, Oregon is one of several bishops whose websites I like to visit for articles written. It has been a good two months since I have done this. I found a great article by His Excellency, dated June 11, 2009. He looks back at how devotions like the Rosary were prayed during Mass, and he takes a closer look at devotions in general, and addresses attempts to dismiss or forbid them in the name of Vatican II.

Interior Participation is the Real Goal
by Bishop Robert Vasa

The Catholic Church incorporates into its liturgical practices a significant number of devotions. The most notable and traditional of these is the devotion known as exposition and benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. Others include stations of the cross, the recitation of litanies, recitation of the rosary, May crowning, statues and images of saints. One of the illegitimate interpretations of the liturgical adaptations of the 1960s was that such devotions were to be diminished and limited. The unfortunate interpretation seems to have arisen, in part, because of a previous overemphasis on devotional practices which sometimes eclipsed even the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One still occasionally hears the stories of Mass attendees reciting their rosaries throughout Mass or engaged in other private devotions while Mass was being celebrated. My own recollections include images of my grandparents reciting Czech prayers and the rosary during Mass. The modern liturgist cringes at the thought of such a perceived aberration. Yet, I know that my grandparents had a tremendously deep and rich devotion to the Eucharist and while they may have engaged in other devotions during the course of Holy Mass they were never far in thought from the Lord whose sacrifice they were also recalling.

Nevertheless, those spiritual activities which were classified as “devotions” were frowned upon, discouraged and even forbidden. This was done, in many instances, without a suitable catechesis and without a legitimate interpretation of what full and active participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice entailed. Full and active participation, which is the phrase from the liturgical documents, was often interpreted in an inappropriately superficial fashion to mean physical activity. Thus there was a great increase in “participation” through recitation of the Mass parts in English, reading the scriptures, leading the prayers of the faithful, and singing, but whether this actually led to a deepened “full and active participation” in the Holy Sacrifice on the part of the congregation as envisioned by the Council is certainly questionable. It is legitimate to wonder whether my grandparents were not just as fully and actively participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice even though their participation would have had all of the external appearances of great passivity. Our secular age certainly recognizes and praises “activity” and liturgical “activity” has been presumed to be the same as “active participation” and this is not necessarily so. In the training video for lectors and acolytes this active participation is divided into that activity which is from the neck down and that which is from the neck up. There has been a great increase in the neck down form of participation and this is not necessarily bad but the real goal is for greater “neck up” activity throughout the whole of the Holy Sacrifice on the part of all in the congregation. This is a much greater challenge.

Two things bring this topic to mind for me. The first is the more and more frequent reference to the future Roman Missal with its more careful, intentional and perhaps even more devotional translation. This new translation will most likely be available for liturgical use in the fall of 2010. There is a founded hope that this new work can help accomplish more completely the “full and active participation” intended by the Council. While it was the intent that this participation be interior as well as exterior, it is highly possible that the actual result was a replacement of the interior participation by the exterior participation. Since the interior looked to be more passive and the exterior more active a false sense of “greater participation” was generated. The second is the Year of the Priest which formally begins on Friday, June 19 with a holy hour, benediction and the recitation of the Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ Priest and Victim. Every deanery has been asked to sponsor such a holy hour and to gather in prayer for priests. Throughout the course of the Year of the Priest I hope that many such holy hours are sponsored and attended at both the parish and deanery levels. There will undoubtedly also be diocesan sponsored devotions once we are able to use our retreat center.

The more somber and dignified language of the new translation as well as beautifully ceremonial devotions have the potential of helping us lift minds and hearts to God and to Godly things a bit more effectively. Liturgy and devotions are concerned with both the mind and the heart. Beautiful, dignified language, while not always appealing to the mind, can and does appeal to the heart. The ceremony of solemn exposition and benediction may not appeal to the secular or practical mind but it appeals very strongly to and touches the heart. I think it enhances the possibility of a deeper interior participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where the host used for adoration is consecrated. Without the devotions we run the risk of losing our hearts. With an exaggerated emphasis on devotions we run the risk of undermining intellectual knowledge and understanding. Both are necessary. They complement one another.

I started out with a reference to the Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ Priest and Victim. This is a litany used by Pope John Paul II as a seminarian and it is both devotional and challenging. For us priests the series of petitions to which we answer, “Deliver us Jesus,” includes the following: “From the unworthy administration of the Church’s treasures; From the love of the world and its vanities; From the unworthy celebration of Your Mysteries; Through Your priestly spirit.” These are powerful petitions and they are also powerful reminders to us of how much we must rely on the Lord.

There are also prayers for priests: “That You would deign to provide Your people with pastors after Your own heart; That you would deign to fill them with the spirit of Your priesthood; That You would deign to give them gentleness in their ministry, resourcefulness in their actions and constancy in their prayer; That through them You would deign to promote the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament everywhere.” The good and holy response, which needs to be both interior and exterior: “We beseech You, hear us.”

Source: Interior participation is real goal

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!