Exploring the Ars Celebrandi

Claire Gilligan, M.A.

Freelance Writer, Copy Editor – Liturgy Training Publications, Magnificat

Contact Author


Have you ever seen that old Monty Python sketch, The Four Yorkshiremen?

It reminds me of long, leisurely gatherings with traditional-leaning Catholic friends. Dinner was perfectly lovely until somebody started talking about the liturgy, and before you know it liturgical abuses in the Novus Ordo have ballooned to the point of a Halloween Mass wherein Father was dressed as a clown and the Extraordinary Minister was dressed as a witch—yes, while distributing Communion.

I always figured, these people must be exaggerating. Or, at the very least, they’ve been pushed off the deep end, and there they’ve stayed, with little or no connection to the broader reality. It’s all well and good for them to want things just so, but what about those people whose faith lives are not automatically enriched by Latin and chant and incense and pretending we’re all still in the 1940s?

Besides, the memories of those who recall the years before Mass in English tell quite a different story. I’ve heard tell of altar boys who were expected to parrot responses without understanding their significance, of congregations who brought rosaries and prayer books to Mass in order to fill the time, of choirs warbling hymns so saccharine they make the cheesiest Praise and Worship music of our day sound like Ambrose.

Surely my friends in both these camps were laying it on a bit thick. Fortunately, I found a way to “check” what should be: the documents of Vatican II are readily available, including its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC). The beginning of the document was theory, good for meditations—laying the groundwork and whatnot—and the end had the practical considerations. It was nice to run across familiar buzzwords from the start:

The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy. (§14)

Because of the impact that this document—especially this paragraph—had on my parents, teachers, and pastors, I grew up knowing that my participation was important, that it was the Church’s responsibility and mine that I knew and understood what was happening at every Mass. As I continued on, noting interesting tidbits here and there, I found the following paragraph quite arresting:

Regulation of the liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church. . . . Therefore, no other person, not even if he is a priest, may on his own add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy. (§22)

Oh. Well that certainly doesn’t match my experience. It’s quite normal for most priests to ad lib here and there. And some parishes definitely add their own seasonal flourishes, maybe change up when or where people stand. I know the liturgy has options, so some of this is clearly allowed, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, or we’d have a free-for-all. Hmm. Perhaps this intense personalization of the liturgy is not what the Council envisioned after all?

Years later, after some study, I concluded that the evidence is clear: just as the liturgy is not what it should be when an uncatechized people are present merely as “strangers or silent spectators” (SC, §48), so too is a liturgy with unregulated local changes not what the Council asked for, nor what Holy Mother Church has ever directed. The Lord has entrusted the liturgy to us through the Church in a certain way for certain reasons, not just to enforce discipline but to draw us to Himself in a particular way.

Over the next year or so, I intend to offer a guide through the millennia from creation to eternity—with a focus on the 20th century—to see in various ages what the Church has asked for regarding liturgy and what we gave to God in that respect. With that background, I will venture to offer practical applications for several more months, so as to encapsulate the relevance of this history to today’s churchgoers.

Because every Catholic participates in the liturgy, every Catholic is a liturgist. A deeper understanding of the liturgy ought to be not only the purview of scholars, but an ordinary sharing in the patrimony of the Church. It is my hope, through these columns, to make that participation a little easier, a bit broader. I’d be honored if you’d join me for the ride.

Call Off the War: Let’s Put an End to Liturgical Politics

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Editor, Oblation:  Catechesis, Liturgy, and the New Evangelization

Editor, Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization

Contact Author

As a senior at the University of Notre Dame in 2003, I received permission to take a graduate course offered by Maxwell Johnson, entitled Liturgical History.  Here, for the first time, I came to see the possibility of treating liturgical prayer as an authentic site for theological inquiry.   Until then, my “study” of the liturgy was limited to a reading of the ordo before setting up for Mass as the sacristan of the undergraduate seminary.  Johnson’s course had me hooked.  I was fascinated by the development of liturgical texts and practices in light of an array of theological and cultural influences.  I began to see the liturgical context of all theological inquiry.   And I appropriated the vision of the 20th century liturgical renewal as I worked on a thesis with Max Johnson in the spring semester, seeking a deeper grasp of the historical, theological, and pastoral implications of The Liturgy of the Hours.

In the intervening years, my passion for liturgical studies has flourished all the more.  I immersed myself in both liturgical and sacramental theology and the patristic period, finding the subtle ways that liturgical prayer shaped the preaching, teaching, and theological inquiry of Augustine of Hippo.  I’ve grown fascinated with the appropriation of liturgical texts (and themes) in English literature and novels.   And my interest has increased, not simply out of a scholarly desire to “master” Augustinian thought, but because I sought a way to develop a liturgical mystagogy capable of transforming the lives of contemporary believers.   To seek a healing of our desires, our limited understanding of God, of the dis-ease with which we approach our bodies, of our failure to see vocation as a form of “liturgical” self-gift for the transfiguration of the world.

Yet, throughout my studies and now in my directorship at the Center of Liturgy, I have often found that liturgical prayer (rather than a site for genuine healing) has become simply another form of the culture wars that have embroiled both politics and the Church today.  I have attended conferences, where any mention of Benedict XVI or concerns about the de-sacralization of liturgical prayer have been greeted with suspicion and derision.  Simultaneously, I have encountered students (and professors at other liturgical conferences), who seem to at best tolerate the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.  The Notre Dame Center for Liturgy is often measured according to the same ideological standards.  Where are we in the liturgical wars?  Am I, as director, on the right or left?

This form of liturgical politics is ultimately exhausting and detrimental to the flourishing of the Church.   Happily, the function of the liturgy as ideological marker is increasingly absent from the students who I teach.  I have an array of students, who prefer Eucharistic liturgies filled with polyphony and chant, incense ascending above the altar.   Likewise, I teach just as many undergraduates whose preferred liturgical style includes drums and harps and guitars.  Each of these groups kneel during the Eucharistic prayer (even if there are no kneelers) out of devotion to the sacrament, not as an opening volley to a liturgical tete-a-tete.  They participate in Eucharistic adoration as a way of renewing their own sense of Eucharistic gratitude, not because they have a private and individualistic sense of the sacrament.  They have often perfectly embodied the ideal of the Second Vatican Council that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ, which moves the Christian community toward a more authentic vision of love for the neighbor.  And the two sides, often enough, are actually friends.

Most importantly, they seek to understand the liturgical life of the Church as integral to vocation; to the concrete ways that they commit themselves to a form of self-gift in the world.  They do not spurn the world (though sometimes, they need to learn to talk about the relationship between faith and culture in a more sophisticated manner).   They do not reject the holiness of the ordinary:  of human sexuality, of meals cooked and enjoyed with friends, of happenstance conversations with friends.  Rather, they seek to offer up every aspect of their lives to the Father, and liturgical prayer is the privileged technology for this offering.

The problem with liturgical politics (and the liturgy wars) is that it gradually suffocates this spirit of prayer.  Ironically, it turns liturgical prayer (a participation, ever so brief, in the heavenly peace of the city) into an act of war.  We grow to suspect that the hymn chosen at a particular celebration of the Eucharist is intended to communicate some implicit ideological theme.   We hear chant and assume that the music director is dialing back the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.  We “use” the liturgy to institute our own ideas of what reform should look like, rather than celebrating liturgical prayer as an authentic encounter with the living God.

So what to do?   The end of liturgical politics will require a bit of ascesis on all our parts; a new discipline of charity, of self-gift.  I’ll admit on a personal level I prefer Eucharistic liturgies with incense and chant, the sound of the organ filling the sacred space.  But to be Catholic includes more than personal taste, even if that taste has been refined through liturgical study.   It involves understanding that beauty in liturgy is essential.  But beauty is found fundamentally in the action performed, in the ritual movement, in a heart lifted up to the Father as a gift of love.  When I attend a liturgy that does not “conform” to my preferred liturgical style), the proper response is one of self-gift not suspicion and demonization.  For the action that is performed is still the Eucharistic gift of love, the Eucharistic offering of self for the life of the world.   Those occupying the formal position of “liturgist” in a parish should have the same attitude in liturgical celebration.   The Catholic “liturgical” tent is wide, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with recognizing this fact, rather than forcing the same liturgical style on every member of a parish.

Simultaneously, it must be realized that the purpose of liturgical prayer is not strictly about us.  The root of liturgical politics is often a kind of self-worship.   It’s not about creating a beautiful experience for us to enjoy, an opportunity for us to celebrate our culture, an occasion for the Church to demonstrate herself as triumphant victor over secularity, and on and on.   Liturgical prayer is always an encounter with the Triune God, mediated through the Church.  An encounter that ideally results in the joining of our very humanity with the life of God.  Not simply a general sense of our humanity but the very particular narrative, which I bring to the liturgy that I attend.   The widower, who comes in sorrow, should discern in liturgical prayer an opportunity for an encounter with Christ just as much as the family of six perceives in liturgy a vibrant opportunity for prayer that is taken up into family life itself.  Liturgical politics “deforms” the liturgy, turns it into a sectarian exercise, where the only ones who are welcome are those who look, sound, and act like me.  The rite of the Church (and following the rubrics of said rite) are intended to protect this primary function of the liturgy, to keep it from becoming an expression of self instead of an encounter with Christ.

Putting an end to liturgical politics won’t be easy.  It will require authentic charity (and the presumption of good will) among bishops, clergy, liturgy committees and professional liturgists alike.  It will necessitate real dialogue, disagreement that does not disfigure one’s dialogue partner but is open to the possibility of a genuine encounter.  It will involve the examination of those half-truths, the partial narratives, that we have adopted to buttress our position.  Such charity is a “theological virtue”, one bestowed by God not through human effort alone.  And as Thomas Aquinas reminds us, the final end of the Eucharist (the res tantum) is union with the mystical body of Christ.  True and authentic, self-giving love, with all those who abide now in Christ.

Thus, in this year of faith, in this year in which we look more closely to the liturgical renewal brought about by the Second Vatican Council, let us also put an end to liturgical politics.  Not simply to be kind and tolerant to one another.  But because the real work of the Council remains undone:   to renew the vigor of the Church’s love for Christ, to manifest the brilliant charity of Christ within the modern (and now post-modern) world itself, and to offer the possibility of transforming every aspect of human culture into a gift of love.


Single Life as Sacrament

Jessica Mannen

MDiv. Candidate, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author


“Listen, my daughter, and understand; pay me careful heed.
Forget your people and your father’s house,
that the king might desire your beauty.
He is your lord; honor him, daughter of Tyre.
-Ps 45:11-13a

Ordained, religious, married, single. These are named as the “big four” vocations to which a Christian person can be called, the states of life in which all other vocations are lived out. As a single person, I wonder often about that fourth one. It seems at times to be treated as a waiting room, the state where everyone starts until blissfully called to their “real” vocation. As time goes on and I continue to be no less single, I find myself hoping that the single life—even an unconsecrated single life that anticipates another vocation—is in itself a vocation. I’m becoming increasingly interested in defining the single life as more than what it’s not—more than unmarried, unordained, unreligious.

Of course, everyone participates in the single life for some length of time. This may seem to cheapen this life or to make it less special. It is difficult to feel called to the single life when it’s the place from which people are called into other vocations. But even if we aren’t called to it in any permanent way, all its members are certainly called within the single life. This state of life may not be chosen but is, for many of us, a default. I have neither chosen it nor been chosen specially for it. Those of us who are single, though, and even those of us who struggle with that, can choose to live this life to its fullness. We need not wait for another vocation to begin living God’s call. The good we do as single people is good now, our striving to follow God is holy now. While it may be tempting to think that my life in God doesn’t really begin until some sacrament of mission marks the beginning of a chosen state of life, my life in God has begun. My sacrament of mission is my baptism, and the mission goes on daily.

I think that in the single life it is tempting to feel excluded from the joys of the other vocations. After all, there are beautiful theologies of marriage and of vowed celibacy in the Church’s history, but very little is said about single people. This may be in part because the single life as we know it, with its independence in choosing a spouse and the extended time period it may cover, is a fairly modern phenomenon. But it also may keep those of us who find ourselves in this extended single life from feeling included in the life of the Church. The purpose of the other vocations within the Church’s life, however, is not to exclude people from their particular joys but to invite people into their particular calls. The vowed celibacy of both ordained and religious life serves as “a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return” (CCC, §1619). It is a sign for all of Christ’s body, and calls all into looking wholeheartedly toward the Kingdom. Marriage serves as “the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and the Church” (CCC, §1617). It reminds all in the Church of Christ’s love, and calls all Christians to the self-giving love embodied by spouses. The complementarity of these vocations may seem imply that the single life doesn’t have a place in this scheme. My hope, though, is that single life also has some part to play, some particular aspect of Christian life into which it invites others.

I am coming to believe that the particular call of the single life is one of radical openness. The process of discernment is an exhausting one, and dating is somewhat cruel; it involves being evaluated and rejected, and evaluating and rejecting others, until, finally, some well-timed evaluation leads to mutual acceptance. In between these cycles are waiting periods where there is no potential future spouse, and these periods may be marked by a deep loneliness and even a sense of forsakenness. This cycle of dating and waiting make up a very particular kind of openness to God’s will. It is tempting at times to withdraw from the cycle altogether; thoughts may become cynical and hearts hardened. Single people are called, then, to maintain a stance of openness that is difficult to maintain. Perhaps in doing so, we can invite others, and especially others whose lives seem more settled, into the deep openness before God that is asked of all believers.

Single people join the rest of the Church, then, in taking Mary as our model. I think of her in the moments before the Annunciation. Although she never could have expected what was about to happen, her life was already a lived fiat, and so she was prepared to give her “Yes” when called to an unthinkable task. The Proto-Evangelium of James tells us that Mary in her young life was a weaver of veils for the Temple. Even before receiving her big call to be the Mother of God, she was involved in sacred work. I often think of the single life as a sort of extended Advent, a constant waiting in (hopefully) joyful hope. We say with Mary, “let it be done unto me,” without knowing the referent of the pronoun “it.” We don’t get to know to what or to whom we’re saying “Yes,” but we strive to say “Yes” anyway.

This is not to say that those who are not single don’t take part in a radical openness to God. They do, just as single people take part in looking forward to heaven and in self-giving love. But there is a particularity about the single person’s openness that I hope can serve as a sign for the rest of the Body of Christ. Naming this may or may not help ease the pain of being single. The Cross is present in every Christian state of life. The openness of the single life often involves pain, loneliness, and feelings of rejection. But perhaps by acknowledging the contribution of single people to the Body of Christ, we can choose to live this life fully, for however long it lasts.

Inklings of a New Evangelization: Secondary Worlds and Primary Truths

Miriam Marston

Assistant Director of Theology Programs, Theological Institute for the New Evangelization

St. John’s Seminary, Boston, MA

Contact Author

Other columns in series:

The Beacons Are Lit

Of Myths and Maps

Inside the Song

A Word on Wonder

A Word on Tooks

Originally conceived as a lecture presentation at the University of St. Andrews in 1939, J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” was published in 1947, and remains a cornerstone piece in the study of literary fiction.  Indeed, we cannot proceed much further in this series without spending a little more time reflecting on this essay.  He devotes the second half of the essay to the four elements of the successful fairy-story: fantasy, recovery, escape and consolation.  In this column, I will focus on the first two: fantasy and recovery.

We begin with a few terms.  Tolkien refers to the imagination as that faculty of conceiving and forming mental images of things not actually present.  For instance, I am not a terribly good cook, so I’ve had to become very skilled at imagining a well-prepared meal which is simply bursting with flavor, when I am in fact eating a bland mix of boring and unfashionable vegetables.  Trust me, that takes a lot of imagination. Then we have Art, which Tolkien defines as the operative link between the imagination and the manifest result, the subcreation.  Fantasy, then, would be the art of creating another world – a secondary world.

As indicated in earlier posts, fantasy (according to Tolkien) is a natural human activity which corresponds to our being made in the image of a Maker.  We should not be surprised, then, when so many of us feel inspired to share or write down stories – there is no escaping this deep desire to participate in the creative process.  Unfortunately, the term “fantasy” has been caught up and entangled in some fairly unrelated terms and trends (everything from wacky daydreams to violent video games to various shades of modern Gnosticism).  It is worth remembering that good fantasy will always be ordered to creation – it should never seek to stunt or destroy.  Nor should it un-realize – in the sense of making things noticeably less real.  That is not the function of fantasy, although it has a history of being associated with all things flighty and absurd.  Likewise, the genre of fairy-stories has been unfairly reduced to mean tales revolving around very small (and often mischievous) people, when, in fact, Tolkien reminds us that fairy-stories are usually about your average Joe stumbling into the world of faerie, an experience which makes him a little less average, but quite a bit more Joe.

A good fairytale, Tolkien emphasizes, should tell us something true about our own world.  If we look at some of the common elements of fairy stories: magic rings, wicked stepmothers, arbitrary prohibitions (such as, you shall not step on the far bank of the river at noon, or else your true love will turn in to a zucchini), we start to become acquainted with certain sets of norms which govern this or that world.  True, it might be an odd set of norms (i.e. the customary effects of magic rings or spells), but it is important to note that the world still subscribes to defined laws, and we can tell when certain characters deviate from these laws. There is a natural order to that world, even if it strikes us as particularly supernatural.  At the same time, our intuitive acknowledgement of the natural order implies that there must be elements that we can recognize in this secondary world, or else it wouldn’t touch that nerve of understanding, which moves us to tears or laughter or anger.  This means, incidentally, that the mere suspension of disbelief doesn’t work if you really want to engage with a story.  The temporary toleration of a story is quite a different thing than really meeting the world of that story on its own terms, and allowing those realities which are, on some level, true, and letting them wash over you.

We can conclude, therefore, that fantasy is not altogether foreign or alien to our human sensibilities.  If it were, I don’t believe we would have much interest in it to begin with.  Rather, the secondary world is made out of the primary world – things that we’ve known, places we’ve seen, tools that we’ve used, materials that we’ve touched or smelled.  Every sub-creator draws from Reality, which allows the secondary world to achieve what Tolkien famously called the “inner consistency of reality.”  According to this principle, a child can learn a great deal about truth through the medium of a fairy story; at the very least, she can learn that truth is Something deep and abiding and real.   And definitely not something you want to mess with too much, lest you end up on the wrong end of a magical curse.

“It was in fairy-stories that I first divined the potency of the words, and the wonder of the things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine.”

Though Tolkien doesn’t explicitly say it, this last pair of words sounds rather less random than the others.  He was a faithful Catholic who had a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.  Now, if the modest realities of bread and wine were already saturated with significance in his mind, then I would speculate that it wouldn’t have been a tremendous leap to believe that Christ is really, truly present in the consecrated bread and wine.  It is simply a matter of more wonder on top of wonder, meaning upon meaning.  And in this instance of bread and wine, their significance has been exquisitely perfected through the sacrifice of Christ.

This leads us to another of Tolkien’s four elements of the fairy-story, and it is something  we touched on earlier, when I spoke of basking in the re-discovered wonders around us (for instance, the mention of a green sun makes us think that much harder about the yellowness of our own sun): recovery.  If we start to look at and evaluate the primary world from within the secondary world, some wild and marvelous ideas might start springing up in our minds.  Of course, what is really happening is that we are seeing as we were meant to see, before our vision became cluttered with to-do lists, congested social networks, and, admittedly, some unhealthy expressions of our egos.

To take an example: when I saw the first of the Lord of the Rings films in the theatre, I walked away with a fervent, almost desperate desire to be an elf.  Naturally, I knew I would never be one, but that’s hardly the point.  I suddenly found myself looking at my world from within the world of the elves, and I started to notice what I was missing: a kind of serenity that seemed to cling to the elves like a palpable aura, their wisdom about the past, their courage in battle, etc.  Over the last eleven years, I’m very happy to report that I’ve moved away from wanting to be an elf to wanting to be a full member of the human race.  This is good, as it has steered me closer to the vision and design of the “primary world.”  Also, I do not think pointy ears would suit me.

Tolkien proposes that immersing ourselves in a secondary world allows us to “clean our windows,” so that we can see clearly, and thus free ourselves from the possessiveness which comes from the appropriation of the familiar.  Do we not see this transparency in the holy men and women we know?  They demonstrate a strange and beautiful detachment from the material realm, a quality which shines forth in their uncanny ability to merely shrug their shoulders in an act of gentle defiance against the fleeting fancies of this world.  They belong entirely to God, and their air of holy indifference is just another expression of how profoundly attuned they actually are to the realities around them.

“The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you.”
On Fairy-Stories

A Few (More) Good Men and Women

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

The Church has many reasons to celebrate, but this week, there are seven new ones: on October 21, Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven men and women saints at a ceremony in Rome attended by more than 80,000 people from across the world. What struck me about this particular group of men and women is how diverse they are: although some of them are from the same time period or the same geographic region, each life story is a unique, beautiful example of how God’s grace can make even the most seemingly ordinary person an extraordinary witness to the Good News of Christ. Here are brief(ish) biographies of each of our seven new heroes and heroines in the faith. May the examples of these, our brothers and sisters in Christ, inspire us all to seek and follow the unique path of holiness that God has designed for each of us.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, known affectionately as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York. Her mother, an Algonquin, was a Christian; her father, an Iroquois, was not. Both parents and her brother died of smallpox when Kateri was only four; she herself suffered facial scarring and impaired vision from the disease, which generally weakened her health for the rest of her life. Kateri’s uncle, a member of the Mohawk tribe, took her in after her parents died. As a child, she encountered the teachings of Jesuit missionaries and decided to become a Christian when she was eighteen years old. Baptized at the age of twenty, Kateri subsequently suffered persecution from her tribe, who ostracized her so intently that she left for a Jesuit mission located south of present-day Montreal, where she lived among other Christian converts until her death at the age of 24. Known for her purity, Kateri vowed a life of virginity and penance. She is the first Native American to be canonized a saint, and the patroness of ecologists and environmentalists, as well as those who have lost their parents and those ridiculed for their piety. Her feast day is July 14.

St. Marianne Cope was born in Germany in 1838; her family emigrated to upstate New York in 1839 and became American citizens in the 1850s. Upon completing 8th grade, she went to work at a factory to support her eight younger siblings and her invalid father. She continued to work until her siblings were old enough to care for themselves, and entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1862, a year after her father died. After professing her vows in 1863, Sr. Marianne taught and served as principal for several schools in New York. A gifted administrator, Sr. Marianne assisted in the establishment of two hospitals noted for providing medical care regardless of race or religion. By 1883, she had become mother general of her congregation. That year, Mother Marianne received a request from Hawaii for someone who could administrate the hospitals and educate people there who were afflicted with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy. Mother Marianne accepted the challenge before her and moved to Hawaii with six of her fellow sisters. In 1884, she met Fr. Damien (also a saint), and when he was diagnosed with Hansen’s in 1886, Mother Marianne ensured that he received compassionate treatment. Following his death in 1889, she was chosen to be Fr. Damien’s successor as the administrator of Boy’s Home, a facility at Kalawao that provided care for patients with Hansen’s. She remained in Hawaii for the rest of her life, establishing and expanding facilities for the care of the sick and the outcast. She died in 1918, and is the patroness of outcasts, those afflicted with leprosy, as well as those with HIV/AIDS. Her feast day is January 23.

St. Pedro Calungsod was born around 1654; his exact birthplace is unknown, and few historical details of his childhood exist. What is known, however, is that he encountered Jesuit missionaries and was baptized Christian. Calungsod excelled as a catechist and altar server, and around the age of 14, he accompanied the Jesuits to the Ladrones Islands in order to assist their mission of evangelization. The missionaries converted many of the local natives to Christianity, but they began to encounter hostility when rumors began circulating that the missionaries were responsible for the illnesses and deaths of several infants in the villages. In 1672, Calungsod and his companion, Diego Luis de San Vitores (now beatified), arrived at the village of Tumon, Guam. They learned that the wife of the chief had given birth to a daughter, and they went to baptize her, but encountered fierce opposition from the chief himself. The chief left the village to recruit help in killing the missionaries, and during his absence, Calungsod and San Vitores baptized the baby girl with the consent of her mother, also a Christian. When the chief returned, he was enraged. He attacked and killed both Calungsod and San Vitores with spears. Calungsod was only 17 years old. He is now invoked as the patron of Filipino youth, catechists, and altar servers, and his feast day is April 2.

St. Jacques Berthieu was born in 1838 in France to devout Christian parents. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1864, and after spending nine years as a diocesan priest, he obtained permission from his bishop to enter the Jesuit order in 1873. Two years later, his request to become a missionary was granted, and he arrived at Madagascar in December of 1875. For the remaining 21 years of his life he traveled around Madagascar and the surrounding islands, serving as a missionary to various territories in the midst of two consecutive wars, suffering exile and difficult living conditions. By 1895 a peace treaty had been signed; however, a local rebellion spread to various parts of Madagascar, in which the rebels claimed that the recent devastation of the war had really been caused because they had abandoned ancestor worship for the ways of the foreigners. Berthieu refused to abandon his flock to preserve his own life, and by 1896, the rebellion had made its way to his mission. He was captured by the rebels, who demanded that he renounce his faith upon pain of death. Berthieu refused, and was shot and killed by the rebel forces. He is the first martyr of Madagascar to be canonized a saint, and his feast day is June 8.

St. Giovanni Battista Piamarta was born to a poor family in Brescia, Italy, in 1841. His mother died when he was but nine years old, and his adolescence was made difficult by the presence of various gangs in the town. He sought refuge in the Church by entering the diocesan seminary, and was ordained a priest in 1865.  Fr. Piamarta’s ministry was marked by a special concern for young people who struggled to live good lives amidst the harsh living and working conditions of Brescia. He founded several organizations to assist the youth spiritually and professionally, offering religious catechesis as well as training in various technical skills. In 1900, Fr. Piamarta established the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth in order to assist him in his apostolate. Today, the Congregation is found in Europe, Africa, and South America, where its members minister to the poor and the unemployed. Fr. Piamarta died in 1913 after spending his life in service of the underprivileged. He is the patron of those seeking employment, and his feast is April 26.

St. Carmen Sallés y Barangueras was born in 1848 in Barcelona, Spain. She was the second of ten children, and her parents were devout Catholics. In 1858, the same year in which St. Bernadette Subirous received her miraculous visions of the Blessed Mother, Carmen and her family went on pilgrimage to Montserrat, where Carmen received her First Communion. During that journey, the ten-year-old Carmen, whose devotion to Our Lady had been strengthened by the events at Lourdes, vowed to devote her life to Jesus through Mary, and became convinced that God was calling her to religious life. Upon returning to Spain, Carmen asked her parents to release her from a betrothal to a young Spaniard. They granted permission, and she entered the order of the Adores Sisters, whose mission was to serve young women who were former prostitutes or criminals by providing shelter and education. Sr. Carmen worked with such women for 22 years, helping them rediscover their dignity by treating them with love and compassion. In 1892, Sr. Carmen founded the order of Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching. Throughout her life she was an advocate for women, defending their dignity and insisting upon their equal treatment with that of men. She died in Madrid in 1911. Her feast is July 25.

St. Anna Schäffer was born in 1882 in Bavaria. From an early age she exhibited a devout piety, and felt called to life as a missionary sister. She set about trying to earn the dowry necessary to pursue her religious vocation; however, in February 1901, while working as a laundress, she slipped into a boiling vat of lye, which significantly scalded both of her legs to above the knee. Treatment proved ineffective, and in May 1902, she was released from the hospital, forced to spend the rest of her life as a bed-ridden invalid, while her injuries continued to cause her daily pain. After struggling against her condition, she resigned herself to accept her sufferings with joy, offering them in imitation of Christ’s sufferings on the Cross. She wrote letters to all who sought spiritual advice or consolation in suffering. In 1910, she experienced what she called “dreams,” visions of St. Francis and of the Lord. Later that year, she received the stigmata, although she prayed that the visible wounds be hidden so that she might suffer in secret. In 1923, her legs became completely paralyzed and her spinal cord stiffened due to rectal cancer; nevertheless, she continued to write and to pray. In 1925, she fell from her bed, injuring her brain, which resulted in the loss of her voice. For the last five weeks of her life she suffered silently, continuing her practice of intense prayer and devotion to the Eucharist. She died in 1925, and the anniversary of her passing, October 5, is now her feast day.

In his seminal work Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.” In the stories of these seven men and women – laypersons, clergy, religious, missionaries, invalids, youth, elderly – we see our own stories. More importantly, we see the story of Christ reflected and refracted as light through a prism, shining with a brilliance that is unique to them and yet universal to all of us, for we are all called to holiness. We are all called to embody the Gospel with the same single-hearted fidelity shown by these men and women in the daily joys and struggles of their lives.  May they be our companions on the journey of faith, spurring us on to faithful witness, so that we might one day join their company, “Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven.”
All you holy men and women, pray for us.

A Year of Faith, A Lifetime of Fidelity

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It also marks the beginning of the Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict XVI by his apostolic letter Porta Fidei (2011, cited throughout except where otherwise noted). The Year of Faith will last from today until November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, and its beginning coincides with the convocation of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. The theme for the Synod is “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of Christian Faith,” and according to Benedict XVI, the Year of Faith and the Synod will provide “good [opportunities] to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith” (§4).

While the appropriate, even poetic timing of the Year of Faith may seem obvious, the actual reason for it may not. Why a Year of Faith? Benedict XVI speaks of the “crisis of faith” facing today’s Christians, and states that believers everywhere must “rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ” (§2). He encourages Christians throughout the world to make a concerted effort throughout the coming year to embrace anew the faith “handed down by the Church” (§3), and provides several suggestions on how to do so.

The Year of Faith is intended as an opportunity for the renewal of the Church; as such, the Pope states, it is “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world” (§6). Without conversion, growth cannot occur. Conversion must be the first step on the journey of faith, for when conversion takes place, we acknowledge our need for and dependence on God, our failure to live as God has called us to live, and our desire to embody the Gospel more fully in our daily lives. As the old adage goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” and it is conversion that is the heart’s first step, the first response to the love first offered by God. Benedict XVI states that:

“Many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world…. Human reason…bears within itself a demand for ‘what is perennially valid and lasting.’ This demand constitutes a permanent summons, indelibly written into the human heart, to set out to find the One whom we would not be seeking had he not already set out to meet us. To this encounter, faith invites us and it opens us in fullness.” (§10)

Once the heart responds to the indelible summons to seek that which is Real and lasting, the journey of faith has begun; the threshold of the “door of faith” has been crossed, and “to enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime” (§1). In order to assist us on this journey, the Church has bestowed many riches to serve as guides, drawing us into a more intimate communion with God the Father in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

A word that appears again and again in various forms throughout Benedict XVI’s letter is “intensify.” He states that “reflection on the faith will have to be intensified” (§8), that the Year of Faith is “a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist” (§9), and that “the Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity” (§14). Thus, the Year of Faith is an opportunity to reflect, celebrate, and witness with greater fervor for the renewal of our souls and of the Church.

To reflect on the faith, Christians have a plethora of guides, the first and foremost of which is Sacred Scripture itself. By reading and pondering over Scripture, especially the Gospels, we encounter the person of Christ and are reminded that Christianity is not simply to profess a specific set of doctrines; rather, it is belief in the person of Jesus, the Word of God who became man, suffered, died, rose, sent the Holy Spirit, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.

Another guide for reflecting on the faith is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Benedict XVI calls “a precious and indispensable tool” that, “from Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries…provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith” (§11).

The prospect of reading the Bible and the Catechism cover-to-cover is daunting to even the most devout Christian; however, there are resources available which break down both books into manageable excerpts so that one could actually finish them both in 365 days. Committing 30 minutes or so each day to reflecting on Sacred Scripture and the Church teachings delineated in the Catechism could be a beautiful way to embark on the Year of Faith.

To celebrate the faith, Christians are called to turn to the liturgical life of the Church. The sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, express the faith we profess as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. One could choose to mark the Year of Faith by more intentionally and more frequently participating in the celebration of the Eucharist.

In the liturgical celebration, Christ is present in the assembly, in the person of the minister, in the Word proclaimed, and “most of all in the eucharistic species” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, §7). By participating in the Eucharistic celebration with greater frequency and fervor, Christians will come to know the Christ they encounter there more intimately, thereby strengthening their ability to bring His Gospel to the world.

Mental knowledge and even liturgical celebration are not the only components of a life of faith. As Benedict XVI states, “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act…. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes” (PF, §10). What we believe must impact how we live. As St. James wrote, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead…. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (Jas 2:17, 18b) Benedict XVI elaborates on this by stating, “It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life” (§14). We bear witness to our faith in Christ by becoming His presence in the world and by bringing His love to our brothers and sisters in need. One could pursue a journey through the Year of Faith by walking in solidarity with the poor, the lonely, and the oppressed.

In the opening section of Porta Fidei, Benedict XVI reminds us that “the ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church…. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime” (§1). The journey we begin with renewed vigor as we welcome the Year of Faith today must not end when we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King on November 24, 2013. It must continue for the rest of our lives.

May our relationship with Christ and His Church be made stronger throughout the coming year through reflection, celebration, and witness. May we step across the threshold of the open door of faith, confident that the God who draws us onward in our earthly pilgrimage will open our hearts to encounter Him more fully this year and throughout our lives. To conclude with the words of the Pope: “May this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love” (§15).

The Spiritual Formation of the Choir

Steven C. Warner

University of Notre Dame Folk Choir

Contact Author

Steven C. Warner joined the Office of Campus Ministry staff at the University of Notre Dame in 1979. In 1980, he established the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir, an ensemble that has grown over the past 31 years to include approximately 50 undergraduate vocalists and instrumentalists. Under his direction, the Folk Choir has recorded several albums and toured nationally and internationally, especially in Ireland, where they have shared the stage with The Chieftains and Anúna.
Steve is also a prolific composer of liturgical music, and in 2008, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians named him Pastoral Musician of the Year.
In this three-part video series, he discusses the integral role spiritual formation occupies in the life of the Folk Choir, and offers insights on how church choir directors might cultivate a spirit of faith and ministry, moving beyond mere musical performance for their own ensembles.

The Spirituality of the Lay Ecclesial Minister – Part 3

Daniel Whitehouse

MDiv. Candidate, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

This series of articles is geared toward developing an understanding of the lay ecclesial minister in terms of spirituality. The first article discussed the participation of the lay faithful in the threefold mission of Christ as priest, prophet, and king; the second clarified the secular nature of the vocation to lay ministry. This final installment will build on the foundations laid in the first two articles, exploring what comprises the spirituality of one called to the vocation of lay ecclesial minister.

Previous articles in this series:
The Spirituality of the Lay Ecclesial Minister – Part 1
The Spirituality of the Lay Ecclesial Minister – Part 2

According to United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), those called to serve the Church in a lay ministerial capacity are characterized by: “authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local Church; leadership in a particular area of ministry; close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons; [and] preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them.”[1] While a hard and fast definition is difficult—if not impossible—to set forth at this time, these four indicators help to shape our perception of which particular positions belong to this broader category of lay ecclesial ministry. The USCCB speaks of the spirituality of the lay ecclesial minister thus: “by their baptismal incorporation in to the Body of Christ, lay persons are also equipped with gifts and graces to build up the Church from within, in cooperation with the hierarchy and under its direction.”[2] But this expression of the lay faithful’s ministry within the Church is not to the detriment of ordained ministry, in fact, the two do not and cannot conflict. The ecclesial documents continually demonstrate the legitimacy of lay ministry in the Church, rooted in the baptismal incorporation into Christ’s threefold mission. Even when a layperson is doing ministry in the Church, it is ordered to the one mission of Christ and expressed in the secular ministry of the laity to allow Christ’s light to illumine and transform all of society. This being the case, can we speak of anything unique to the lay ecclesial minister? Are there any aspects of spirituality distinct to this role?

Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, a document on lay ecclesial ministry released by the USCCB, provides a laundry list of elements for the spiritual formation of the lay ecclesial minister including: discipleship and intimacy with Christ, reverence for the Word of God, liturgical and sacramental grounding, an incarnational spirituality of presence, a paschal spirituality of love, an awareness of sin, a willingness to suffer, Marian devotion, affection for the Church, Eucharistic devotion, and an ecumenical spirit.[3] However, the document also affirms “lay ecclesial ministry has no single spirituality; … there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray.”[4] All this to say that nothing listed above is essentially unique to the lay ecclesial minister beyond what is hoped for all the lay faithful. The specific gift of lay ecclesial ministers to the Church is that they share a similar place in the world with those to whom they minister. As Sr. Janet Ruffing affirms, lay ecclesial ministers, “in their public role of ministry … exert a certain exemplary role in the community that in turn helps others to recognize their callings and gifts and live them more deeply both at home and in the community to which they are called.”[5] Therefore, we have seen that in the categories of lay and ecclesial the lay ecclesial minister does not differ from the mature adult Christian properly understood. To a very large degree, the spirituality of the lay ecclesial minister is based upon his or her own personality, particular vocation, and progress in the spiritual life; but is there more to say about the qualifier ‘ministry’?

Sr. Juliana Casey, reflecting on lay ecclesial ministry, suggests that there is a certain appropriation of ministerial identity that will occur for the lay ecclesial minister. She posits a transition, namely, “a job becomes ministry … ministry demands a great deal more from a person … the perspective of ministry changes everything.”[6] The ‘perspective of ministry’ is radically different than that of a ‘perspective of occupation.’ Ministry is a lived-reality or lifestyle, while an occupation is more restricted in terms of both time and commitment. The difficulty for the lay ecclesial minister is that ministerial identity is not ontological as it is in the ordained ministry.  William Johnston reinforces this point and notes that “Co-Workers [in the Vineyard] intentionally does not develop a spirituality specific for lay ecclesial ministers; the other formation documents, in contrast, call for cultivation of a distinctively priestly or diaconal spirituality, grounded first in baptism and then further in sacramental ordination.”[7] Why could this be? Because the type of ministry to which the layperson is called is different from the ordained ministry, the lay ecclesial minister has to live into the reality of ministry in a uniquely lay manner. Sr. Ruffing states, “[a]s ministers grow in grace, they begin to recognize that they represent God, mediate God’s grace, love, and compassion.”[8] The lived experience testifies, “ministers become ministers over a lifetime.”[9] The disposition of ministry and the appropriation of a ministerial identity is a process that takes time and, at this time, remains unclear—as some authors have affirmed.[10]

It is also important to bear in mind that the call to ministry is, for the layperson, a tertiary call, a reality that must be reckoned.  While holiness is the “prime and fundamental vocation of all the faithful,”[11] the state of one’s life, or particular vocation, is second. For the ordained minister, this means that the state of life and ministerial identity are held in unity by the ontological change effected by the sacrament of orders. Therefore, it is appropriate to speak about a priestly or diaconal identity. For the layperson, holiness can be lived out in single or married states but there is no ontological ‘ministerial’ change occurring in these expressions of vocation. The call to lay ecclesial ministry comes as a tertiary vocation in terms of priority, even if it is not so in temporal sequence, and it could be for any period of time. As Christifideles Laici affirms, “lay spirituality should take its particular character from the circumstances of one’s state in life (married and family life, celibacy, widowhood), from one’s state of health and from one’s professional and social activity.”[12] This seems to be an unavoidably ordered list: first particular vocation, then ability (health), then professional and social activity. This aspect of lay spirituality makes the ministerial identity of the lay ecclesial minister somewhat ambiguous and, as a matter of necessity, more fluid than ordained ministry. As Bishop Howard J. Hubbard states, “just as it took several centuries for the order of bishop, presbyter, and deacon to become defined fully, it would seem that the present effort to define ecclesial lay ministry, while needed and appropriate, should remain tentative.”[13]

This series of articles has demonstrated that lay ecclesial ministry is not the abandonment of the proper lay character for something other, but rather “a manifestation of the dignity and responsibility of the laity who are called to be full sharers in the life and mission of the Church.”[14] Lay ecclesial ministry is a genuine manifestation of the lay spirituality and apostolate applied to the inner life of the Church for the purpose of fulfilling her one mission: to orient the world to Christ. For this reason, the spirituality of lay ecclesial ministers is dependent first and foremost on the personal spirituality of those laypersons based in their baptismal incorporation into Christ’s threefold mission as well as their particular state in life; however, the extent to which the ‘ministerial identity’ is integrated into the life and work of the layperson will inevitably color in their spirituality. This integration of a ministerial identity with the lay apostolate, while not objectively definable, is the unique witness and gift of lay ecclesial ministry in and to the Church. As Co-Workers in the Vineyard affirms, “the multiple demands of family and community responsibility may occasionally challenge some lay ecclesial ministers … however, when daily life is lived intentionally and reflectively in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is a school of holiness.”[15]

[1] USCCB, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry (CWVL) (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2006), 10.

[2] Ibid, 12.

[3] Ibid, 39-41.

[4] Ibid, 39.

[5] Janet K. Ruffing RSM. “Formation of Lay Ecclesial Ministers: Rooted in a Genuine Lay and Ecclesial Spirituality,” Reflections on Renewal: Lay Ecclesial Ministry and the Church. Ed. D. M. Eschenauer and H. D. Horell, 139-150 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011), 143.

[6] Juliana Casey, IHM, “Formation for Lay Ministry: Learnings from Religious Life,” Lay Ecclesial Ministry: Pathways Toward the Future. Ed. Z. Fox, 143-155 (New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2010), 149. [Emphasis added.]

[7] William H. Johnston, “Lay Ecclesial Ministry in Theological and Relational Context: A Study of Ministry Formation Documents” Catholic Identity and the Laity. Ed. T. Muldoon, 220-238 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009), 223.

[8] Ruffing, 144.

[9] Ibid.

[10] See Johnston, 224, and Howard J. Hubbard, “Reflections on the Experience of Lay Ecclesial Ministry,” Together in God’s Service: Toward a Theology of Lay Ecclesial Ministry, 168-183 (Washington, DC: USCCB, 1998), 181-2.

[11] Pope John Paul II, “Christifideles Laici” (CL). 30 December 1988, Papal Archive, The Holy See. <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html>, 16.

[12] Ibid, 56.

[13] Hubbard, “Reflections on the Experience of Lay Ecclesial Ministry,” 182.

[14] Hagstrom, “The Secular Character of the Vocation and Mission of the Laity,” 172.

[15] CWVL, 38.

Angels, Humanity, and the Liturgy

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of the Guardian Angels. On September 29, the Church honored Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael with the feast of the Archangels. With two celebrations of these celestial beings in such close proximity to one another in the liturgical calendar, one can’t help but ponder the nature of the relationship between human beings and angels and how it impacts the relationship both have with God the Creator, particularly as that relationship is expressed in liturgical celebration.

With an overwhelming presence of angels in images and statues ranging from medieval icons to Precious Moments figurines, there is an inherent danger that we will become desensitized to the way the Church truly views angels, and our understanding of their role in creation will become a watered-down, saccharine reduction — a caricature of these purely spiritual beings so awe-inspiring that their first words to humans are almost always, “Do not be afraid.” Perhaps this watering-down has already taken place to an extent; in which case, today’s feast provides us with a perfect opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with who angels are and what God created angels to do.

We’ve all heard about angels since the time of childhood. These strange, wonderful creatures have been endowed in popular devotional culture with an almost magical quality as beings who not only desire our well-being and safety, but can also somehow bring it about in their role as our personal, invisible bodyguards. 
We recall the simple Guardian Angel Prayer:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love entrusts me here,
Ever this day*
, be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

* or night, if recited at day’s end

The prayer is sweet, lyrical, and lovely, and undoubtedly has been a source of comfort for many a frightened child. Not only do angels protect us from ourselves and others, they provide companionship and insight in times of loneliness and confusion. However, their role throughout salvation history has been far beyond that of a mere protector or life coach.

This prayer, while perfect for children learning about their own guardian angels, in no way encapsulates the entire beauty of the angelic mission. Even the word “angel” can sometimes be understood strictly as a being of serene beauty, purity, patience, and compassion. While angels do possess these qualities, the definition is a thin one. The Catechism, citing St. Augustine, thickens up our understanding: “ ‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit,’ from what they do, ‘angel.’ With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God” (CCC, §329). The Catechism goes on to state, “Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan” (CCC, §332). One of the most vivid examples of this in Scripture takes place on the night of Christ’s birth: the multitude of heavenly hosts proclaims to the humble shepherds (after first telling them not to be afraid) that the light of salvation has dawned upon earth. By announcing the Good News thus, the angels are also evangelists, and their message continues to resound on earth every time we sing at the Sunday Mass: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” (Lk 2:14)

If angels are messengers to humanity, then they are ministers to Christ, through whom and for whom they were created. Angels appear following Christ’s temptation in the desert, and perhaps most poignantly, when His sweat poured out like drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane. They served the Incarnate God “with their whole beings,” and continue to do so now on behalf of the Church by participating in her liturgical life, offering praise and thanksgiving alongside the human family every time the Mass is celebrated.

Every Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer concludes in similar language. To offer a summarizing paraphrase of the various formulae: humanity offers praise to God in the company of the angels and saints as together we proclaim, Holy, Holy, Holy! Together we proclaim; not just together as a gathered assembly, or even together as the Church celebrating Mass throughout the world. Together means that we enter into the eternal liturgy taking place before God, surrounded by myriads upon myriads of angelic hosts, crying out in wonder and adoration. The angels participate with us in the liturgical life of the Church, and the words of the Roman Canon testify to this in a most beautiful way. After the Consecration, the Priest prays: “In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.”

Finally, the Church invokes the protective intercession of angels every time she commits a soul to God at its passing from this life: “May the angels lead you into Paradise….” As the Catechism affirms, “From its beginning until death human life is surrounded by [the] watchful care and intercession [of angels.] ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him into life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God” (§336, citing St. Basil). The challenge to the human family is to be open to these messengers of God, to trust in their protection and intercession, and to offer fitting praise alongside them every time we lift our voices in the celebration of the Eucharist.