The Liturgy and Missionary Discipleship
Today’s newsletter deals with an important topic: the liturgy. More specifically, how does the liturgy help deepen and foster missionary disciples.
To flesh this out, I turned to a colleague, Joyce Donahue, who has served as associate director of the Office of Youth Formation at the Diocese of Joliet for more than 17 years and has had extensive parish and diocesan experience in liturgy, RCIA and catechesis.
She is the author of From Mass to Mission (children’s level), published by Liturgy Training Publications, and co-author of an upcoming First Eucharist preparation program from Liguori Publications. She has also presented at national and local events, including a talk at the Notre Dame Liturgy Symposium. She maintains the Liturgical Catechist website and Facebook page at https://theliturgicalcatechist.weebly.com/
In the audio above, she talks about three ways that there are intersections between the liturgy and missionary discipleship. Please click and listen when you can. It’s not long, just slightly over 10 minutes.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The word "liturgy" originally meant a "public work" or a "service in the name of/on behalf of the people." In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in "the work of God."5 Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church.
In the New Testament the word "liturgy" refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity.6 In all of these situations it is a question of the service of God and neighbor. In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image of her Lord, the one "leitourgos"; she shares in Christ's priesthood (worship), which is both prophetic (proclamation) and kingly (service of charity):
The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It involves the presentation of man's sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members. From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.
Liturgy as source of life
As the work of Christ liturgy is also an action of his Church. It makes the Church present and manifests her as the visible sign of the communion in Christ between God and men. It engages the faithful in the new life of the community and involves the "conscious, active, and fruitful participation" of everyone.
"The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church": it must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion. It can then produce its fruits in the lives of the faithful: new life in the Spirit, involvement in the mission of the Church, and service to her unity.
Prayer and liturgy
The liturgy is also a participation in Christ's own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal. Through the liturgy the inner man is rooted and grounded in "the great love with which [the Father] loved us" in his beloved Son. It is the same "marvelous work of God" that is lived and internalized by all prayer, "at all times in the Spirit."
Catechesis and liturgy
“The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows." It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God.
“If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”
— St. John Vianney
“We owe to God, in return, a more than ordinary thanksgiving for this ineffable gift. What shall we give to God that will be worthy of Him? His son Jesus. In offering His Son to Him, we give back to Him the gift He has given to us… and no gift could be more pleasing to him… Let us then, along with the priest, offer the Holy Sacrifice. Let us offer to the Eternal Father His Divine Son after having received Him at the holy banquet. But let us, through love, also offer ourselves with Him, that we may in everything do what His divine will shows us we should do. This is the most perfect present we could give to God.”
— Blessed Columba Marmion, OSB
“There is much momentum today for models of evangelization and catechesis that focus on small group or personal discipleship, so that individuals might be better accompanied through these thresholds. Rather than attempting to more generically teach a group of 20 or 200 at a time, the discipleship approach promotes a more personal and (in my opinion) more effective accompaniment through these thresholds. Such approaches are consistent with the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on ‘apprenticeship’ within sacramental preparation and mystagogy. Employing a discipleship model, liturgical catechesis then becomes an opportunity to be mentored by those who have experience in meeting and giving themselves to God in liturgy, receiving His grace and living a life in cooperation with this grace.”
— Dr. James Pauley, STD, is a professor of theology and catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville
The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since He wills to continue His witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.
For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Together with the offering of the Lord's body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.
— Lumen Gentium
From Mass to Mission: Understanding the Mass and Its Significance for Our Christian Life https://ltp.org/products/subject/SERFMM/from-mass-to-mission
Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life, by Timothy P. O’Malley https://www.osvcatholicbookstore.com/product/bored-again-catholic-how-the-mass-could-save-your-life
Liturgical Catechesis in the 21st Century: A School of Discipleship by James C. Pauley https://ltp.org/products/details/LCC/liturgical-catechesis-in-the-21st-century
Recording and handouts from presentation in the Diocese of Joliet, October 24, 2019, by Dr. James Pauley “Nurturing Sacramental Transformation Through Apprenticeship” https://www.dioceseofjoliet.org/reo/content1.php?secid=76