Editor’s note: Between now and the Archdiocesan Synod, June 7-8, the Catholic Herald will publish summaries, prepared by the Synod Preparatory Commission, of each of the eight background papers that will be discussed at the synod. The complete text of each paper, along with an introduction to the papers, “Discipleship: Our fundamental Catholic Identity,” written by Bishop Donald J. Hying, is available at tinyurl.com/synodbackground.

Cultural realities

  • Twenty-four percent of Catholics regularly participate in Sunday Eucharist – this has dropped steadily since Vatican II (2013 CARA, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, report).
  • Forty-five percent of adult Catholics never go to confession, 30 percent go less than once a year, 12 percent once a year, 12 percent several times a year and just 2 percent monthly (CARA-2008).
  • Some possible factors for these drop offs:

• sustained affluence has dulled spiritual hunger of God;
• amazing scientific developments have redirected expectations for human happiness;
• sexual revolution relativized the church’s teaching authority;
• changes in the liturgy after Vatican II led to many Catholics losing confidence in the church or a loss of awe and wonder of God’s holiness in their midst.

Reflection question

Given these cultural realities, how do we help people connect with the mystery and meaning of the Mass and sacraments?

Theological foundations

  • Liturgy is living out the mission of Christ and his church – “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19-20) and “Do this in memory of me” (1 Cor 11:24).
  • Liturgy is the ritual enactment of Christian life – it is not separate from the rest of life.
  • Beauty in the liturgy is found through poetic, figurative language and symbolic forms such as bread and wine, the altar, ordained presider, the assembly and Scripture.
  • In liturgy we receive God’s gift to us in Christ and become God’s gifts to others.
  • The liturgical assembly is a sacramental realization of the whole church.
  • Liturgy incorporates witness, service and worship – three major ways the church manifests her essential nature in the world.

Reflection questions

How can we better understand the true meaning of liturgy and more profoundly convey the beauty of it in our celebrations of the Mass and the sacraments?

Other issues and challenges

  • Key issues that need to be addressed to improve liturgy are: reflection by parishioners on their liturgical experiences, re-educating Catholics on the essential importance of regular Sunday Eucharist and more effective preaching

Reflection question

How do we go about addressing these three key issues related to liturgy?