Bishop's Blog / Constitution Reflections Continued

By Joseph Strickland
Thursday, March 27, 2014

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~~II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that
fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is
demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian
people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people
(1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active
participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for
it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive
the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive
to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral

Yet it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this unless the
pastors themselves, in the first place, become thoroughly imbued with the spirit
and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it. A prime
need, therefore, is that attention be directed, first of all, to the liturgical
instruction of the clergy. Wherefore the sacred Council has decided to enact as

15. Professors who are appointed to teach liturgy in seminaries, religious
houses of study, and theological faculties must be properly trained for their
work in institutes which specialize in this subject.

16. The study of sacred liturgy is to be ranked among the compulsory and major
courses in seminaries and religious houses of studies; in theological faculties
it is to rank among the principal courses. It is to be taught under its
theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects. Moreover,
other professors, while striving to expound the mystery of Christ and the
history of salvation from the angle proper to each of their own subjects, must
nevertheless do so in a way which will clearly bring out the connection between
their subjects and the liturgy, as also the unity which underlies all priestly
training. This consideration is especially important for professors of dogmatic,
spiritual, and pastoral theology and for those of holy scripture.

17. In seminaries and houses of religious, clerics shall be given a liturgical
formation in their spiritual life. For this they will need proper direction, so
that they may be able to understand the sacred rites and take part in them
wholeheartedly; and they will also need personally to celebrate the sacred
mysteries, as well as popular devotions which are imbued with the spirit of the
liturgy. In addition they must learn how to observe the liturgical laws, so that
life in seminaries and houses of religious may be thoroughly influenced by the
spirit of the liturgy.

18. Priests, both secular and religious, who are already working in the Lord's
vineyard are to be helped by every suitable means to understand ever more fully
what it is that they are doing when they perform sacred rites; they are to be
aided to live the liturgical life and to share it with the faithful entrusted to
their care.

19. With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical
instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy
both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition,
their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will
be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries
of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also
by example.

20. Transmissions of the sacred rites by radio and television shall be done with
discretion and dignity, under the leadership and direction of a suitable person
appointed for this office by the bishops. This is especially important when the
service to be broadcast is the Mass.


Paragraph 14 is yet another example of the often quoted aspects of this
Constitution.  The reality that we still struggle with understanding what "full
and active participation" really means fifty years after we first received this
document is a reminder of the mystery we encounter in the liturgy.  We have
learned much in these fifty years but we can never say we have exhausted the
mystery.  Many attempts to implement this fully participation have ultimately
left us empty.  At times we may be tempted to "throw up our hands" in
frustration.  In my personal experience we seem to have learned more about what
this full and active participation is not rather than what it is.  I pray that
we can continue to return to these challenging and inspiring words, making every
attempt to make them real in the Church today.

This section continues by going into some detail regarding how priests should be
formed in the liturgical arts.  Probably the most important point the document
makes is that the priests of the Church must be the first to live and promote
this full and active participation.  I think we can all agree that if the priest
is not engaged at this level then extending this approach to the entire faithful
will always come up short.  Underlying the message of this section is the call
for all priests to fall ever more deeply in love with Christ and His Church.  As
this happens we open the door for the Holy Spirit to accomplish what we cannot.


Joseph Strickland

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was named the fourth bishop of Tyler in September of 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to being named bishop, he served a number of roles in the diocese, including vicar general, judicial vicar, and pastor of the Cathedral parish. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985.
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