Roche stresses reverent liturgies and good homilies
By Deborah Gyapong

Canadian Catholic News
BEAUPRÉ, Que. (CCN) — Reverent liturgical celebrations and good homilies play a key role in the church’s missionary rebirth, the secretary of the Congregation of Divine Worship told Canada’s bishops Sept. 15.

Describing the bishop as the “chief liturgist” in the diocese, Archbishop Arthur Roche said the liturgy is “the life-force of the entire community” and requires a bishop’s “continual attentiveness.”

“We must celebrate the liturgy properly,” Roche told the more than 80 bishops and eparchs who gathered here for the annual Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops plenary Sept. 15 - 19. 

Roche, who chaired ICEL for seven years during the preparation of a new English translation of the Roman Missal, said liturgical renewal and reform has already taken place, giving “rites that balance” Catholic tradition with “the needs of a modern church.”

He stressed “a correct and reverent celebration of the liturgy is one of the most powerful tools we have for bringing people to a deeper sense of personal conversion.”

What the liturgy does for the community is secondary to the worship of God, he said. “The priority of the worship of God needs to be utmost in the minds of those who celebrate the liturgy and in the minds of those who assist them.”

Roche also stressed that they must know they celebrate “the church’s liturgy, not their own.”

“The liturgy is something ‘bigger’ than any one of us, and where the church doesn’t ask us to be creative we ought not to presume to insert our own innovative preferences in what is, in reality, the prayer of the church and not that of a single community alone,” he said.

“When people come to a parish and find the liturgy celebrated correctly, with dignity, sensitivity, with beauty, solemnity and prayer, with a wise combination of music and silence, they are able to offer to God the adoration and thanks that is his due,” he said. But as the “source” and “summit” of the church’s life, as stated in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, it “gives us the energy to go out and to carry on doing the other vitally important things” in the church’s mission.

The liturgy properly celebrated “inspires people to live out their vocations with generosity and to be committed disciples and enthusiastic evangelists of Jesus,” he said. “This lies at the heart of the conversion that the pope so ardently wants to see as the fruit of our pastoral activity.”

The archbishop also stressed the importance of liturgical formation and a proper understanding of “participation” in the liturgy. “A sense of participation has so often been misconstrued to mean a sort of ‘activism,’ such that too many have come to embrace the idea that they must be ‘doing’ something in order to participate in the liturgy.”

“That’s not what the Father’s meant by ‘active participation,’ ” he said. “More than anything else, participation is internal, and is the fruit of understanding what is happening in the liturgy, and joining in that act with our whole mind and heart,” he said.

The homily is the one place in the liturgy where creativity and the celebrant’s individual personality can play a role, he said. “I am not thinking here of clownish entertainment, but rather of the kind of creativity that is driven by the constant desire to understand the circumstances in which people find themselves and to communicate the truths of the faith to them in ways that bring the Gospel to life in their own daily lives.”

“If our culture is ever to be renewed, it is the lay people who will achieve this, and an indispensable part of their formation is undoubtedly assisted by the homily,” he said.

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