Monday, January 6, 2014
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
The synod challenges Catholics to reach a 10 percent increase in Sunday attendance for the 2016 Lenten Season. The parishes that efficiently nourish the spiritual life of their members will achieve this goal.
In order for parishioners to feel comfortable at a liturgical celebration, the first requirement is appropriate building acoustics and sound system. St. Paul said that faith comes from hearing (cf. Rom. 10:17). Hearing should be comfortable.
If we compare Sunday Mass to a banquet, the Liturgy of the Word is the first course. The ones responsible for that first part of worship should act appropriately but without becoming actors. Nothing should be faked. Everything should flow from a deep faith and a holy life. That doesn’t mean that vocal technique is not helpful. Readers should be trained to proclaim the readings with good projection and better diction. They should prepare the readings to be able to read them with meaning and good intonation, but without falling into theatrical recitation.
The priest is responsible for the main celebration, as well as the deacon, if he’s available. They proclaim, not just read, the Gospel of the day and preach the homily. A draft may be used for this but with the exception of very formal occasions, it is best not to read the homily. Reading is one thing, preaching is another. The liturgical texts of the day provide the theme. The homily should be brief and have substance. Beginning with a solid doctrinal base, it should go into practical applications for people’s present reality. A good homily requires a lot of advanced preparation and review. The preacher should speak in a variety of tones and illustrate the teaching with imagery and examples. He should lead people to focus on the Lord, and not bring attention to himself in a televangelistic way.
Good music also attracts parishioners. The sacred music ministry is important for Mass. The music should sound good, and it should be sacred, moving people to devotion, rather than reminding them of a disco.
The second part, and the main one of the celebration, is the Eucharistic Liturgy. Priests should make a great effort in saying the prayers as they appear in the missal. Additions, subtractions and mutations usually distract those who are praying. The Ordinary of the Mass has a variety of Introductory Rites, Prefaces and Eucharistic Prayers. Priests should take advantage of the diversity but they should also respect such venerable texts.
After Communion, there should be moments for silent prayer and thanksgiving, which may be supported by background music for meditation. Announcements should be few, brief, and mostly about events from the different ministries, not about finances.
However, there are times when the faithful should be reminded of their financial obligations — if they seem to forget that manna doesn’t fall from heaven anymore. If necessary, they should be taught practical points, such as appropriate dress for worship. They are not attending a gala, but neither are they attending an informal event. Reverence should be instilled. When dealing with God, it is alright to be familiar but not disrespectful.
Finally, Mass attendance will increase by more than 10 percent if clergy and laity celebrate it with devotion.