Liturgy Corner

Carmel Parish Bulletin articles from the Liturgy Committee

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Serving Others

Carmel Bulletin, 4 June 2017

You may have heard the saying:

You can please some people all of the time, or everyone some of the time, but you can never please everyone all the time.


Photo: Alphonsus Fok, © 321 Photography

Imagine, then, trying to consider the needs and desires of a parish community as diverse as ours when it comes together to celebrate the liturgy.  Pleasing everyone starts to become a monumental task!

Certainly it is important for those who prepare liturgical celebrations (such as liturgy committees, priests, musicians, sacristans, artists…) to consider what will draw people into prayer and shape and form them as disciples of Christ.  Trying to define a ‘typical parishioner’, however, and make choices to suit their particular tastes will result in a celebration that may appeal to some, but ultimately alienate others who don’t fit that mould.

While liturgical ministers have a responsibility to prepare and lead good liturgical celebrations, it is up to all of us to give a little as well.  Sacrificing some of what we ‘like’ during Mass so that everyone finds something that moves and engages them in the liturgy can be a challenge, but is ultimately an act of service where we seek to be mindful of the needs of others.


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Sprinkling with Holy Water

IMG_6354One way in which we mark the Easter Season in the celebration of the Sunday Mass at Wentworthville is by using the rite of sprinkling of holy water.  When it is celebrated, it takes the place of the usual Penitential Act in the Introductory Rites.

As the texts used for this rite make clear, sprinkling holy water is intended to remind us of our baptism.  Through baptism, we are freed from sin and share in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate particularly during this season.

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Saying Amen

Carmel Bulletin, 8 November 2015

It is the shortest response that we make at any time during the Mass.  It is the most common response.  It is also, I believe, the most important.

The word Amen is a word by which we give assent or affirmation to what has been said.  Often it is described as meaning “so be it”.

Priest leading the Collect Prayer

© Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

The response Amen allows the assembly to give its voice to its prayers that are led by the priest.  We confirm that we worship in the name of the Trinity.  We affirm our profession of faith.  The Eucharistic Prayer, with its praise, petition and thanksgiving, comes to its completion with the Great Amen; a response considered so important that it should be sung.

Receiving communion from the chalice

© Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

It is interesting, therefore, that some people seem reluctant to respond to the priest, deacon or Extraordinary Minister when they receive communion.  The declarations “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ” deserve our heartfelt response.  To say Amen is to declare our belief that we are receiving Christ himself.  Not only that, but as St Augustine once explained, we declare our belief that Christ is present within us, and that we say Amen to both what the Eucharist is, and what we are.

To say Amen when we receive communion is a powerful expression of our faith.  So don’t be afraid to speak up!  Say Amen.

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Church Renewal: The Baptismal Font and the Church Entrances

Carmel Bulletin, 20 September 2015

Church Renewal ProcessFr Paul is currently sharing with everyone the design concept for the renewal of our church.  One feature of this design is the provision of a new fixed, dignified space for the celebration of baptism.

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, 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.

 Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 14 (emphasis added)

Whenever we enter the church, we bless ourselves with holy water.  It reminds us of our baptism; a baptism that initiates us into the death and resurrection of Christ and into the Christian Church.  The liturgical celebrations of the Church are celebrated in the name of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Only those of us who are baptised can participate in them fully.

At our cathedral (St Patrick’s, Parramatta) the assembly enters through the narthex and arrives at the baptismal font. Here, people bless themselves with baptismal water before continuing into the cathedral

The blessing of ourselves with water becomes an even stronger and more obvious reminder of our baptism when we bless ourselves directly from the baptismal font.  We will be led directly to the proposed location of the baptismal font from whichever door we enter the church.  From here, we will bless ourselves with its water, reminding ourselves of our baptism; the same baptism by which we have not only the right, but the duty to participate in the public worship of the people of God.

You can read and view more about the design concept in the parish centre and at

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Welcome and Hospitality

Carmel Bulletin, 14 June 2015

Parish Vision StatementRecently, the pastoral council facilitated a parish forum that was focused on our parish vision that all families feel supported, connected and valued as they live and grow in their faith.  At that forum, some people recalled the practice of a former parish priest, Fr Laurie, who encouraged us to greet each other once we had gathered for Mass.

I have written here previously about the timing and meaning of the Rite of Peace at Mass, and about hospitality at Mass.  What the reflections of those who were present raised, however, was the obvious need for hospitality as part of our liturgical ministry to each other, and as a part of extending welcome and support to those who, for whatever reason, find themselves at our church even though they are not a regular participant in our celebrations.

One of the strategies that the pastoral council has identified from the feedback given at the forum is to extend welcome to new parishioners and to all who come to worship.  Over the coming months, the Liturgy Committee will begin to look at this in greater depth, examining what genuine welcome and hospitality look like in the context of the liturgy and ministry, and what steps we can take to strengthen this aspect of our parish life.

Of course, however, that doesn’t leave everyone else off the hook!  The vision is not the pastoral council vision, or the liturgy committee vision, but the parish vision.  It is still up to every one of us to work together to make people feel like they can truly belong to our faith community.

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He Descended Into Hell

Carmel Bulletin, 10 May 2015

At Masses during the Lent and Easter seasons, we pray the Apostles’ Creed instead of the usual Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.  This is recommended in the Missal as it is the ancient baptismal creed of the Roman Church, and these seasons are very much focused on baptism; through the initiation of adults and the renewal of our own baptismal commitment.

When the English translation of the Missal was revised, the line “he descended to the dead” in the Apostles’ Creed changed to “he descended into hell”.  It can still seem strange to us to say it.

On reflection, I would suggest that many of us found this difficult (at least at first) because of the image that first comes to mind when we think of “hell”.  Pictures of some scary, fiery place, home to “the devil” and eternal damnation prevail in within popular culture.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, looking towards the Dome of the Rock

In Jerusalem, many graves are located close to the outside of the wall of the old city, in anticipation in Jewish tradition of the coming of the Messiah who will raise the dead from their graves.

Yet the word “hell” (Sheol in Hebrew, or Hades in Greek) has traditionally held a broader meaning, referring also to the place where just people who died awaited their Redeemer and thus their entry into heaven (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 633).  According to Jewish tradition, this is yet to happen.  We believe, however, that Christ the Redeemer entered into this realm of the dead, proclaiming the Good News and leading them to their eternal reward through his death and resurrection.

St Paul speaks of this in the excerpt that we will hear as the Second Reading next Sunday (the Solemnity of the Ascension):

It was said that he would:

When he ascended to the height, he captured prisoners, he gave gifts to men.

When it says, ‘he ascended’, what can it mean if not that he descended right down to the lower regions of the earth?  (Ephesians 4:8-9)

Read more about the Creeds in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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Celebrating With Children

Carmel Bulletin, 15 March 2015

The Eucharistic Prayer celebrated at Mass according to pre-Vatican II ritesSixty years ago, Catholics generally understood that there were two types of Mass – high and low.  One had lots of singing, the other didn’t.  “High Mass” was intended for more solemn occasions.  Both were in Latin, however, and so were equally difficult to understand for most parishioners in the pews (perhaps having a missal with an English translation made things a little easier).

Some people might remember being a child at this time and trying to understand what was being said and what was going on.  Given the challenge it was for most adults, I can only imagine as a teacher how challenging it was for children!

Fortunately, the Church recognised at the Second Vatican Council and in the liturgical developments that followed that more needed to be done to help children understand what they were participating in.

The Sign of Peace

Photo © 2014, Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

The Church must show special concern for baptised children who have yet to be fully initiated through the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist as well as for children who have only recently been admitted to Holy Communion.

Directory for Masses with Children, no. 1

The Directory for Masses with Children, published after the Council, sought to propose adaptations based on the need to help children understand the liturgy, while maintaining the integrity of the rites that are celebrated.

… It cannot therefore be expected of the liturgy that everything must always be intelligible to [children]. Nonetheless, we may fear spiritual harm if over the years children repeatedly experience in the Church things that are barely comprehensible…

Directory for Masses with Children, no. 2

Consequently, parishes and schools nowadays provide a greater range of opportunities for students to participate in the liturgy in ways that are better suited to their level of development and understanding.