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Friday, 31 May 2024 13:50

Liturgical Ministry Seminar — Present in His Presence

“Pope Francis is challenging us to rediscover Jesus’ presence with us when we celebrate the Liturgy,” says Professor Clare Johnson, Director of the ACU Centre for Liturgy. 

“Our only access to true encounter with Christ is through a community that authentically celebrates in his name ... We are all called to perform our ministry with our whole selves as best we can, in God’s presence, as if Jesus were really present – which he is. Sometimes I think we forget this,” said Prof. Johnson in her keynote address at a recent Sandhurst Liturgical Ministry Seminar at St Kilian’s last week.

Speaking on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on the Liturgical Formation of the People of God, Desiderio Desideravi (2022), Prof. Johnson emphasised the reciprocal relationship between formation for the Liturgy and formation by the Liturgy. The more we invest in the celebration of the Liturgy, the more we are able to feel God’s presence and be transformed and enriched by the liturgy. “We are in the presence of God, and we must be present to allow God to work in us,” she said.

This idea of celebrating the liturgy fruitfully is an idea which came from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), one of the Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, said Prof. Johnson.

“Pope Francis’ Letter is very much in alignment with the constitutional document; he wants us to be true to that document and to implement it,” said Prof. Johnson recommending that Seminar participants read Desiderio Desideravi alongside Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Referring to Sacrosanctum Concilium [10], Prof. Johnson summarised what it means to celebrate the Liturgy fruitfully:

“We will be one in holiness; we will hold fast in our lives to what we have grasped by our faith; we will be drawn into the compelling love of Christ; and set fire by it; we will have grace poured forth upon us; we will be sanctified in Christ; and we will give Glory to God.”

She then quoted section 11 verbatim, emphasising the importance of active engagement:

“But in order that the Liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace less they receive it in vain [28]. Pastors of souls must therefore realise that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part, fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite and enriched by its effects.” [SS 11}

It is for this reason, and on the request of Sandhurst Clergy, that Liturgical Ministry Seminars have been held in Shepparton, Wangaratta and most recently, in Bendigo. At the seminars participants have enjoyed opportunities to deepen their understanding of the liturgical practice, to better understand the scripture, prayers, rituals and symbols.

At the seminar in Bendigo, Prof. Johnson explained that Pope Francis chose to set his teachings in Desiderio Desideravi against the background of the Last Supper, which is of course, the origin of the Eucharist that we celebrate today. However, Pope Francis looks at this in a unique way, zooming in on Jesus’ invitation. “It’s our role to be present to receive the gift of himself which Christ still offers us today. We need to be fully present to receive this gift which God has given us,” explained Prof. Johnson. “We need to be open to seek; to hear; to experience Christ; and to continue to accept his offer every time … We are called to change into better versions of ourselves, transformed by the influence of Christ in us to which we are exposed.”

“In essence, the Liturgy comprises Jesus’ invitation, our response and God’s persistence,” said Prof. Johnson.

Prof. Johnson identified five ways in which Christ continues to be present to us in the liturgy:

• In the consecrated bread and wine of the eucharist
• In the ordained presider who stands in Jesus’ place to lead our prayer
• In the proclamation of the Word of God; when we hear God speak to us, Christ is present.
• In the celebration of each of the Sacraments – it is Christ who baptises us, Christ who confirms, Christ who forgives, Christ who ordains. A priest is a channel of the power of Christ.
• Prayer and the song of the Assembly. “Singing in union is the best form of praise; when we raise the roof with singing, our spirits lift, that is the spirit of Christ,” said Prof. Johnson.

After Prof. Johnson’s keynote, seminar participants had the opportunity to ask questions and engage in dialogue before taking part in one of three workshops.

Liturgy Seminar 2
Ministry of the Word, led by Dr Chris Cotter

LiturgialMinistry 1 450Ministry of Liturgical Music, led by Dr Paul Taylor

Liturgy Seminar 3Ministry of Holy Communion, led by Lyn Breen

Prof. Johnson reminded participants that formation for Liturgy never ends and that we need to keep learning. Liturgy constantly evolves because human beings are continuously evolving. The key thing to remember is that the Church is the Body of Christ, and it manifests when we celebrate together, listening to the Word, praying, praising, giving thanks and raising the roof with our voices!