Liturgy Corner

Carmel Parish Bulletin articles from the Liturgy Committee

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Roles of the Sacristan: Preparing for Mass

Carmel Bulletin, 16 August 2015

The role of the sacristan, or of the group of volunteers who attend to the work of the sacristy, is an important ministry in any parish.  These ministers not only assist the priest, but support the entire assembly to participate fully, consciously and actively in liturgical celebrations.

The most typical responsibility of sacristans is to prepare what is required for the celebration on Mass.  In our parish, with Mass celebrated every day and five times on Sunday, a team of people take responsibility for different Masses.


The Lectionary for Mass contains the Scripture readings used at Mass

So that everything is in place to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word, sacristans will check to see that the Lectionary for Mass is open to the correct readings for the day and is left where the Minister of the Word can look over the texts before Mass.  They ensure that the commentary and commentator’s lectern are ready on Sundays, as well as the Book of Gospels.


The credence table prepared for the Mass of the Supper of the Lord on Holy Thursday

So that the Liturgy of the Eucharist can be celebrated, sacristans prepare the bread and wine and the sacred vessels such as chalices (cups) and patens (plates).  The credence table at the side of the sanctuary is prepared with purificators (linen cloths for wiping the chalices), the corporal (white cloth the bread and wine are placed on for the Eucharistic Prayer) the water cruet, the lavabo bowl (for the priest to wash his hands) and towel.

The missal and other texts the priest needs to refer to need to be prepared for the day.  Candles, incense and other requirements may also need to be prepared by the sacristan (servers may also assist).

As you can see, there is a lot of crucial “behind the scenes” work that sacristans do, even for the regular daily Mass.

Learn more about Preparing the Church for Mass, the vessels, linens and other items used at the Together at One Altar website


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We Pray

Carmel Bulletin, 16 February 2014

THE_LORD__S_PRAYER_by_navalatanjjnnLast year, we began to look at some of the things we do as a liturgical assembly when we gather together to celebrate the Mass.

It seems to go without saying that one of the things we would do, perhaps the thing that we do, is pray.

Our prayer in the Mass takes on particular forms, words and patterns that have been shaped over centuries.  There are times where we are invited to pray collectively, each of us giving our voice to the communal prayer of the Church.  There are times when the priest gives voice to our communal praise and thanksgiving; the Eucharistic Prayer being the best example.

There are other times when we call to mind our own prayers and intentions.  Such times include the collect prayers of the Mass when the priest invites us: “Let us pray”.  In the Prayer of the Faithful, after the intention is named by the minister, we take a moment to make own prayer, before we ask God to hear us.  It is these personal prayers that we, the faithful, make that are “The Prayer of the Faithful”.  Silence in the Mass is important for those moments of personal prayer and recollection.

Actions of the Assembly

Actions of the Assembly

Silence is also important for us to be open to God’s response to us.  Prayer is not a one-way communication from us to God.  It is a dialogue between the human and the divine.  We are fortunate in our parish to be able to learn from the Carmelite example, where silence and contemplation are so highly valued as a means of allowing us to speak to God, and for God to speak to us.

Photo credit: The Lord’s Prayer by navalatanjjnn

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We Listen

Actions of the Assembly

Actions of the Assembly

Carmel Bulletin, 17 November 2013

We believe that God speaks to us, his people, particularly in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass.  The scriptures provide a rich treasury of God’s continuing dialogue with us.  Not only did God speak to those people, at the time that the original texts were spoken or written, but God speaks to us still now.  The messages that the scriptures contain still bear meaning and relevance for us today.

Dialogue requires not just speaking, but listening as well.  We are called to listen during the celebration of the Eucharist, particularly when God speaks to us in the proclamation of the scriptures.

There is a difference between hearing and listening.  We may hear someone speaking to us, but are we attentive to what is being said?  Dictionary definitions of listen often refer to paying attention, to making some kind of effort when hearing something.  True listening is an active rather than passive activity.

St Benedict

St Benedict


Coat of Arms of Blessed John Henry Newman, with motto, "heart speaks to heart"

Coat of Arms of Blessed John Henry Newman, with motto, “heart speaks to heart”

St Benedict encouraged people to “listen and attend with the ear of your heart”.  This is a wonderful explanation of how we are called to listen in liturgical celebrations.  It reminds us that the word of God doesn’t exist simply to teach us, but to transform us.  Listening draws us into a deeper relationship with God, as reflected in Blessed John Henry (Cardinal) Newman’s motto, “Heart speaks to heart”.

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We Speak

Carmel Bulletin, 3 November 2013

Actions of the Assembly

Actions of the Assembly

The prayers that we pray during Mass give voice to our needs and concerns, our joys and sorrows, our praise and thanksgiving, our faith and belief.  Our words serve part of a dialogue, both between those of us gathered and participating in the celebration, and between us and God who dwells among us and listens to our needs.  We speak to petition, to praise, to affirm the prayers and actions of the whole assembly.

Our common prayers serve as a sign of our tradition.  Our prayers draw upon texts from, and make reference to, sacred Scripture.  Many of them have their origins in prayers first composed centuries earlier.  Through our prayer, we join with the generations of people who go before us, in heaven and on earth, who are marked with the sign of faith.

Our common prayers also serve as a sign of our unity as the people of God.  We speak with one voice, united not just with each other gathered together in this church, but in every church building throughout the Church.

The Mass: Sacrifice and Praise

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We Stand

Carmel Bulletin, 27 October 2013

Actions of the Assembly

Actions of the Assembly

We Catholics are often known for our tendency in liturgy to never adopt a single posture for too long.  We are, though, people who pray with our whole bodies, not just with words, and the postures we adopt at different times during the Mass are part of this.

Basilica of St Mary Major, Rome

Basilica of St Mary Major, Rome

For many centuries, our church buildings lacked any form of seating.  At most, there may have been some benches, or places around the perimeter of the space for those whose age or health prevented them from standing for the whole celebration.  It seems hard to believe now that standing for the whole celebration would be our regular practice.

Standing remains the posture that we adopt to pray.  We stand as the children of God.  While a sense of unworthiness may have been more common in later centuries, in earlier times there was a sound understanding and belief that God’s grace makes it possible for us to stand before the Lord and pray for our needs.

We also stand for the proclamation of the Gospel, reflecting the importance of this proclamation as the high point of the Liturgy of the Word, when Christ particularly speaks to us.  We are also stand as people ready to respond to what we have heard; the call of the Gospel.

The Mass: Sacrifice and Praise

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We Enter

Carmel Bulletin, 6 October 2013

[The] purpose [of the Introductory Rites] is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion…

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), article 46

Actions of the Assembly

Actions of the Assembly

When we begin to celebrate Mass, we have already made a deliberate choice to be there.  We have entered the church, engaging in one of the first actions of the assembly that participates in the celebration.

We come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.  Our motivations for coming can vary as well.  Sometimes we come with a true desire to celebrate.  At other times we come seeking hope, comfort, or a sense of belonging.  Some of us may feel like our faith is strong, while others may be struggling, looking for answers or seeking reassurance.

Yet despite this broad diversity, we come together, united by our faith in Jesus Christ.  Whether we get here early, or scrape in just in time (perhaps having furiously fed and dressed the kids, and bundled them into the car, hoping we’ll get a parking spot somewhere near the church), we share “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).  We remind ourselves of this when we bless ourselves with holy water; waters which we passed through at our initiation into the Church, passing like Christ from death to new life.

We come together as the Body of Christ in thanksgiving, to renew ourselves through the Eucharistic celebration that is the source and summit of our lives as Catholics.

At the end of this month, on the weekend of 26-27 October, we will celebrate Sunday Mass, guided by brief explanations of the various rites of the Mass and our role within them.  You can also learn more online now at

The Mass: sacrifice and praise

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It’s Not Just the Job of the People Up the Front

Carmel Bulletin, 29 October 2013

In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people of God’s own possession and a royal priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves. They should, moreover, take care to show this by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), article 95

When we come together to celebrate Mass, a number of people contribute to the celebration by serving in a ministerial role.  They may proclaim the Scriptures, lead the music or assist with the distribution of Communion.  Yet it is easy to forget that there is a much larger group of ministers participating each time we gather.

Actions of the Assembly

Actions of the Assembly

The assembly or congregation itself fulfils an important role.  “The celebration of the Eucharist is the action of Christ and of the Church” (GIRM 91, emphasis added), which involves every one of us.  Celebrating the Mass is not solely the task of the priest, or of those who serve the community in a particular way.  All of us are called to full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.

This requires some effort and understanding on our part.  We all need to understand what we are doing when we celebrate Mass, and commit ourselves to doing it well.

To help us all to understand this more fully, we have set aside a weekend at the end of next month when we will celebrate Sunday Mass, guided by brief explanations of the various rites of the Mass and our role within them.  While pausing for these explanations during Mass will seem unusual, we hope they will benefit us all and deepen our understanding.  More information will be provided in the coming weeks.