From Liturgy to Action in the World

Sacrosanctum Concilium‘s call for revisions in liturgical rites and texts made it easier for the Church to recognize and engage the public nature of liturgy. It also empowered the worshipping faithful to take part in efforts to reform social, economic, cultural, and political systems of society. The latter emphasis is what Gaudium et spes brought to our understanding of what being a community and being involved in public worship implies for our life and actions in the world.

Bernard Evans, “Gaudium et spes Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”, in A Liturgical Companion to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Danielle A. Noe, ed. (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2016), p. 27. ISBN:978-1-61671-314-0.

The Liturgy in the Life of the Church

Whether the Council Fathers could foresee the impact of the reform of the liturgy on the life of the Church is impossible to know for certain. The liturgy is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church’s power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10). The Church’s effectiveness in teaching, evangelization, and charitable work finds its origin in the liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium goes on to explain that it is the liturgy that inspires, nourishes, and configures the faithful to go forth as witnesses in the world. The faithful depend on the liturgy for sustenance for their work in the world.. This is an important dimension of the Church’s relationship with the world explained more deeply in Gaudium et Spes. The Church brings to the world through her individual members an example and an instrument of healing and mercy, and those gifts are given to the faithful in part through the Sacred Liturgy.

The liturgy also expresses the nature of the Church with its structure, ministries, and parts. Through the encounter with Christ in the liturgy, the Church is built up to be what she is called to be. The nature of the Church is not only expressed – she also grows by her celebration of the sacraments. The liturgy, therefore, articulates and manifests what is expressed in Lumen Gentium.

Richard B. Hilgartner, “Sacrosanctum Concilium Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”, in A Liturgical Companion to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Danielle A. Noe, ed. (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2016), p. 6. ISBN: 978-1-61671-314-0.

The Inevitability of Liturgical Reform

Something interesting in a post on the PrayTellBlog today as part of its ongoing series of quotes from Pope Paul VI in preparation for his upcoming canonization.

Paul VI, asked by his philosopher friend Jean Guitton why he would not concede the 1962 missal to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers who rejected the liturgical reform:

Never. This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.

How things change…

General Audience Catechesis – 6 June

Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the sacrament of confirmation…

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Continuing our reflection on the Sacrament of Confirmation, we consider the effects that the gift of the Holy Spirit has matured in the Confirmed, leading them to become in their turn a gift for others. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. We recall that, when the Bishop gives us the anointing with oil, he says: “Receive the Holy Spirit that is given to you as gift.” That gift of the Holy Spirit enters in us and makes us fructify, because we can give it to others. Always receive to give: never receive and keep things inside, as if the soul were a warehouse. No: always receive to give. God’s graces are received to give them to others. This is a Christian’s life. Hence, it’s proper of the Holy Spirit to de-center us from our “I” to open us to the “we” of the community: receive to give. We are not at the center; we are instruments of that gift for others.

Completing in the baptized the resemblance to ChristConfirmation unites them more strongly as living members of the Mystical Body of the Church (Cf. Rite of Confirmation, n. 25).

The Church’s mission in the world proceeds through the contribution of all those that are part of it. Someone might think that there are bosses in the Church: the Pope, the Bishops, the priests and then there are the others. No, all of us are the Church! And we all have the responsibility to sanctify one another, to take care of others. All of us are the Church. Each one has his work in the Church, but we are all her. In fact, we must think of the Church as a living organism, made up of persons we know and with whom we walk, and not as an abstract and distant reality. We are the Church that walks; we, who today are in this Square are the Church. We: this is the Church.  Confirmation binds the universal Church, spread throughout the earth, involving actively, however, the Confirmed in the life of the particular Church to which they belong, with the Bishop at the head, who is a Successor of the Apostles. And because of this, the Bishop is the original minister of Confirmation (Cf. Lumen Gentium , 26), because he inserts the confirmed person in the Church. The fact that this Sacrament is ordinarily conferred, in the Latin Church, by the Bishop demonstrates that “its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ” [Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1313].

And this ecclesial incorporation is well signified by the sign of peace that concludes the rite of Confirmation. In fact, the Bishop says to every confirmed <person>: “Peace be with you.” Recalling Christ’s greeting to the disciples on the evening of Easter, full of the Holy Spirit (Cf. John  20:19-23) – we heard –, these words shed light on a gesture that “demonstrates ecclesial communion with the Bishop and with all the faithful” (Cf. CCC, 1301). In Confirmation, we receive the Holy Spirit and peace, that peace that we must give to others. But let us think: each one think of his own parish community, for instance. There is the ceremony of Confirmation, and then we give each other peace: the Bishop gives it to the Confirmed person and then, in the Mass, we exchange peace among ourselves. This signifies harmony, it signifies charity between us <and> it signifies peace. But then what happens? We go out and start talking about others,  “skinning” others. We start to gossip, and gossip is war. This will not do! If we have received the sign of peace with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we must be men and women of peace and not destroy, with our tongue, the peace made by the Spirit. Poor Holy Spirit – the work He has with us, with this habit of gossiping! Think well: gossip isn’t a work of the Holy Spirit; it’s not a work of the unity of the Church. Gossip destroys what God does. But please, let’s stop gossiping!

Confirmation is received only once, however, the spiritual dynamism aroused by the holy unction is persevering in time. We will never end fulfilling the mandate to spread the good fragrance of a holy life, inspired by the fascinating simplicity of the Gospel. No one receives Confirmation just for himself, but to cooperate in the spiritual growth of others. Only thus, by opening ourselves and going out of ourselves to encounter brothers can we truly grow and not just delude ourselves of doing so. All that we receive as gift from God must in fact be given – the gift is to be given —  so that it’s fruitful, and not buried instead out of egoistical fears, as the parable of the talents teaches (Cf. Matthew 25:14-30). Also the seed, when we have the seed in hand, it’s not to put it there, in a cabinet and leave it there: it’s to sow it. We must give the gift of the Holy Spirit to the community.

I exhort the Confirmed not to “cage” the Holy Spirit, not to resist the Wind that blows to push them to walk in freedom, and not suffocate the burning Fire of charity that leads to consuming one’s life for God and for brothers. May the Holy Spirit grant all of us the apostolic courage to communicate the Gospel, with work and words, to all those we meet on our way. With works and words, but with good words, those that build. Not the words of gossip, which destroy. Please, when you leave the church think that the peace received is to be given to others, not to be destroyed with gossip. Don’t forget this.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT,

General Audience Catechesis – 30 May

Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the sacrament of confirmation…

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Continuing with the argument of Confirmation or Cresima, today I wish to shed light on the “profound connection of this Sacrament, with the whole of Christian Initiation (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 71).

Before receiving the spiritual anointing, which confirms and reinforces the grace of Baptism, the Confirmation candidates are called to renew the promises made one day by parents and godparents. Now it’s they themselves who profess the faith of the Church, ready to answer “I believe,” to the questions the Bishop asks them; ready, in particular, to believe “in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and gives life, and who today, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, is conferred in a special way on [them], as already on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost: (Rite of Confirmation, n. 26).

Because the coming of the Spirit requires hearts recollected in prayer (Cf. Acts 1:14), after the silent prayer of the community, the Bishop, extending his hands on the Confirmation candidates, implores God to infuse in them His Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. The Spirit is one (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4) but, coming to us, He brings with Him a wealth of gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and holy fear (Cf. Rite of Confirmation, nn. 28-29). We heard the passage of the Bible with these gifts that the Spirit brings. According to the prophet Isaiah (11:2), these are the seven virtues of the Spirit effused on the Messiah for the fulfilment of His mission. Saint Paul also describes the abundant fruit of the Spirit, who is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The one Spirit distributes and multiplies gifts that enrich the one Church: He is the Author of diversity, but at the same time, the Creator of unity. So the Spirit gives all these riches, which are different but at the same time He creates harmony, namely, the unity of all these spiritual riches, which we Christians have. By tradition attested by the Apostles, the Spirit, who completes the grace of Baptism, is communicated through the imposition of hands (Cf. Acts 8:15-17; 19:5-6; Hebrews 6:2). To this biblical gesture <and> to experience better the effusion of the Spirit that pervades all those that receive him, was soon added an anointing with fragrant oil, called chrism, which has remained in use up to today, both in the East as well as the West [Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC) 1289].

The oil — chrism — is a therapeutic and cosmetic substance that, entering the tissues of the body, medicates the wounds and perfumes the members; because of these qualities it was assumed by biblical and liturgical symbolism to express the action of the Spirit, who consecrates and permeates the baptized person, embellishing him with charisms. The Sacrament is conferred through the anointing of the chrism on the forehead, carried out by the Bishop with the imposition of the hand and through the words: “Receive the seal of the Holy Spirit, which is given to you as gift.” The Holy Spirit is the invisible lavished gift and the chrism is His visible seal.

Receiving on his forehead the sign of the cross with the fragrant oil, the Confirmed <person> receives therefore an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which configures him more perfectly to Christ and gives him the grace to spread his “good fragrance” among men (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15).

We listen again to Saint Ambrose’s invitation to the newly Confirmed: “Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal [. . . ] Guard what you have received, God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your heart” (De Mysteriis 7, 42: CSEL 73, 106; Cf. CCC, 1303). The Spirit is an unmerited gift, to be received with gratitude, making room for His inexhaustible creativity. It’s a gift to guard with care, to second with docility, allowing oneself to be moulded, as wax, by His fiery charity, “to reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, 23).

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT,

General Audience Catechesis – 23 May

Having completed his catechetical series on the sacrament of baptism last week, Pope Francis has moved on to the sacrament of confirmation…

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

After the catecheses on Baptism, these days that follow the Solemnity of Pentecost invite us to reflect on the witness that the Spirit arouses in the baptized, putting their life in movement, opening it to the good of others. Jesus entrusted a great mission to His disciples: “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world” (Cf. Matthew 5:13-16). They are images that make us think of our behaviour, because the lack or excess of salt makes food unpleasant, just as the lack and or excess of light impedes our seeing. He who can truly render us salt that gives flavour and preserves from corruption, and light that illuminates the world is only the Spirit of Christ! And this is the gift we receive in the Sacrament of Confirmation or Cresima, on which I wish to pause and reflect with you. It’s called “Confirmation” because it confirms Baptism and reinforces its grace (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1289); as also “Cresima” from the fact that we receive the Spirit through the anointing with “chrism” — oil mixed with fragrance consecrated by the Bishop –, term that refers to “Christ,” the Anointed of the Holy Spirit.

The first step is to be reborn to divine life in Baptism; one must then behave as children of God, namely, to be conformed to Christ, who works in the Holy Church, letting oneself be involved in His mission in the world. The anointing of the Holy Spirit provides for this: “without His strength, nothing is in man” (Cf. Sequence of Pentecost). We can do nothing without the strength of the Holy Spirit: it is the Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward; just as the whole life of Jesus was animated by the Spirit, so also the life of the Church and of every member of hers is under the guidance of the same Spirit. Conceived of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit, Jesus undertakes His mission after, coming out of the water of the Jordan. He is consecrated by the Spirit, who descends and remains upon Him (Cf. Mark 1:10; John 1:32). He declares it explicitly in the synagogue of Nazareth: it’s beautiful how Jesus presents himself, what is Jesus’ identity card in the synagogue of Nazareth! Let us listen to how He does it: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). Jesus presents himself in the synagogue of his village as the Anointed, He who was anointed by the Spirit. Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit and is the source of the Spirit promised by the Father (Cf. John 15:26; Luke 24:49) Acts 1:8; 2:33). In reality, on the evening of Easter the Risen One breathes on His disciples saying to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22); and on the day of Pentecost the strength of the Spirit descends on the Apostles in an extraordinary way (Cf. Acts 2:1-4), as we know.

The “Breath” of the Risen Christ fills the lungs of the Church with life; and in fact the mouths of the disciples, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” open to proclaim to all the mighty works of God (Cf. Acts 2:1-11).

Pentecost — which we celebrated last Sunday — is for the Church what the anointing of the Spirit, received at the Jordan, was for Christ, that is, the missionary impulse to consume one’s life for the sanctification of men, to the glory of God. If the Spirit operates in every Sacrament, He does so in a special way in Confirmation that “the faithful receive as Gift of the Holy Spirit” (Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Divinae Consortium Naturae). And in the moment of carrying out the anointing, the Bishop says this word: “Receive the Holy Spirit that was given to you as gift”: the Holy Spirit is the great gift of God. And all of us have the Spirit within. The Spirit is in our heart, in our soul. And the Spirit guides us in life so that we become right salt and right light for men.

If in Baptism it’s the Holy Spirit that immerses us in Christ, in Confirmation it’s Christ that fills us with His Spirit, consecrating us His witnesses, participants in the same principle of life and of mission, according to the celestial Father’s plan. The witness rendered by the Confirmed manifests the reception of the Spirit and docility to His creative inspiration. I wonder: how is it seen that we have received the Gift of the Spirit? <It is seen> if we carry out the works of the Spirit, if we pronounce words taught by the Spirit (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13). Christian witness consists in doing only and all that the Spirit of Christ asks us, granting us the strength to carry it out.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT,

General Audience Catechesis – 16 May

Pope Francis concludes his catechesis on the sacrament of Baptism…

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we conclude the series of catecheses on Baptism. The spiritual effects of this Sacrament, invisible to the eyes but operative in the heart of one who has become a new creature, are made explicit by the consignment of the white robe and of the lighted candle. After the cleansing of regeneration, capable of recreating man according to God, in true holiness (Cf. Ephesians 4:24), it seemed natural, since the first centuries, to put on the newly baptized a new white robe similar to the splendour of the life obtained in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. While the white robe expresses symbolically what has happened in the Sacrament, it proclaims the condition of those transfigured in divine glory.

Saint Paul recalls what it means to put on Christ, explaining what are the virtues that the baptized must cultivate: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).

The ritual handing over of the flame drawn from the Easter candle also recalls the effect of Baptism: “Receive the light of Christ,” says the priest. These words remind us that we are not the light but that Jesus Christ is the light (John 1:9; 12:46), who, risen from the dead, has overcome the darkness of evil. We are called to receive His splendour! As the flame of the Easter candle gives light to individual candles, so the charity of the Risen Lord inflames the hearts of the baptized, filling them with light and warmth. And because of this, from the first centuries Baptism was also called “illumination,” and one who was baptized was called ”illuminated.”

This is in fact the Christian vocation: “to walk always as children of light, persevering in the faith” (Cf. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, n. 226; John 12:36).

When it comes to children, it’s the task of parents, together with the godfathers and godmothers, to take care to nourish the flame of the baptismal grace of their little ones, helping them to persevere in the faith (Cf. Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 73). “A Christian education is a right of children; it tends to guide them gradually to know God’s plan in Christ: thus they will be able to ratify personally the faith in which they were baptized “ (Ibid., Introduction, 3).The living presence of Christ, to guard, defend and expand in us, is the lamp that lights our steps, light that orients our choices, flame that warms hearts in going to encounter the Lord, making us capable of helping one who journeys with us up to inseparable communion with Him. That day, says again Revelation, “night shall be no more, and we won’t need the light of a lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light, and we shall reign for ever and ever” (Cf. 22:5)

The celebration of Baptism concludes with the Our Father prayer, proper to the community of the children of God. In fact, the children reborn in Baptism will receive the fullness of the gift of the Spirit in Confirmation and they will take part in the Eucharist, learning what it means to turn to God calling Him “Father.”

At the end of these catecheses on Baptism, I repeat to each one of you the invitation, which in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate I expressed thus“Let the grace of your Baptism fructify in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God and, to this end, choose Him, choose God always anew. Do not be discouraged, because you have the strength of the Holy Spirit so that it’s possible and, at bottom, holiness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23)” (n. 15).

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT,