As we draw close to the Advent and Christmas seasons, parish staff may want to spend time reading and reflecting together on Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi (I have earnestly desired). In that letter, Pope Francis prompts parish leaders to form the faithful in the liturgy so that they might respond to God’s desire for them. The pope reminds us that our faith is lived out in an encounter with God in the liturgy. “Christian faith is either an encounter with Him alive, or it does not exist,” the Holy Father writes. He continues, “For us a vague memory of the Last Supper would do no good. We need to be present at that Supper, to be able to hear his voice, to eat his Body and to drink his Blood.”
In the article “Pope Francis: Form the Faithful to Meet God in the Liturgy,” Stephen S. Wilbricht, csc, encourages parishes to engage the faithful in mystagogy so that they become captivated by the signs and symbols of the liturgy. By inviting the faithful to contemplate elements and actions in the liturgy, parishes can assist parishioners in connecting to the symbolic language of the liturgy. That connection can draw them to surrender themselves to become the Body of Christ for the world.
A parish may be actively striving for unity in the assembly without realizing that they have let a culture go unnoticed. In “Praying as One with the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing: From Accommodation to Inculturation,” Audrey Seah stresses that providing access to the hearing experience of liturgy is only a step toward meeting the spiritual and social needs and desires of the deaf. Parish staff will want to read and discuss this article to broaden their understanding of deaf culture and ways for people who are deaf to participate and serve in the parish.
On the Epiphany of the Lord, the words “Your light has come” are proclaimed in the reading from Isaiah. In the Liturgical Spirituality essay “Through the Incarnation, a Light Shines in Our Darkness,” Genevieve L. Mougey examines ways that God speaks to us and guides us even when the path seems unclear. This essay may help pastoral ministers reflect on the places where they encounter light and darkness in their lives.
For eight days Christians focus on their joy that God sent his Son to dwell with us. To help parishioners understand the octave of Christmas, parishes can distribute and post to their website “An Octave of Days to Rejoice,” by Kathryn Ball-Boruff, and “Eight Days of Celebration Highlight God's Presence,” by Kathy Kuczka.
Finally, in “Parishes to Prepare for a New Translation for Adult Initiation,” Fr. Paul Turner reviews some of the changes in terms and the presence of inclusive language in the proposed revisions to the ritual book that will be called the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults. All of the parish staff will want to read this article for an understanding of the benefits of a revised translation of liturgical books.
May your preparations for the Advent and Christmas seasons be blessed.
Bishop Joseph N. Perry
Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago
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