Thursday, December 11, 2008

liturgy done poorly

To celebrate mass is to do liturgy. Liturgy is a prescribed, ritualistic, prayer form. Usually, liturgy is very old or has roots in centuries old action.

I just did a communal penance. This is a relatively new liturgy, having been basically created at the Second Vatican Council as an alternative to what most people would call confession or individual penance and reconciliation. You have readings and music and then have an individual time to confess to a priest.

The problem with what just happened was that it was awful. Some places had a start time of 7:00 and other 7:30 so we went with the 7:30 start time. I forgot to tell the priests of the differing start times so they all showed up at 7:00. Ugh. And a congregation of about 12 were here then too. I thought about starting and just having the folks who came at 7:30 just get in line when they got there but that didn't seem to make sense. The 7:30 time was on several places. And then I just did the communal part poorly. I forgot the act of contrition and our father, for instance. I decided to "try something new"...at least new for us...of having people leave after having confessed their sins and doing their penance.

So, I started promptly at 7:30 and apologized for the time confusion. We read the readings and I preached. Then, I should have had them quietly reflect on the examination of conscience before praying the Act of Contrition and Our Father together. After that, I would have had the individual part of the ritual. Instead, after the homilet (very short reflection on the readings) I skipped the Act of Contrition (aka, the matter of the sacrament!) and the Our Father and went right to the individual penance. I realized it when the first confessor came forward to me. There was, however, no going back and not chance to do what we had forgotten since they left immediately after.

The good thing was that I had a homily prepared about not taking too seriously the rough spots of life, not getting so upset that we lose perspective. I even used that in one of the two apologies I gave. I made a mistake. It was the worst liturgy I've celebrated since becoming a priest. In a year, I'll have forgotten it. Heck, in a month I'll have forgotten it. But, the forgiveness that happened in the midst of it, the love people felt because of God, THAT will hopefully be remembered forever.

1 comment:

Adoro said...

Father, I recently was part of arranging a communal penance service. 2 of them, actually. The first was for First Recon's, the second, for religious ed students. This latter was was individual confessions only, and at the end, I ended up going, too. (Hadn't planned to, just "knew" I should...long story). Anyway, the priest didn't ask me to pray the Act of Contrition, and didn't give me a penance. After he absolved me, I remained where I was and asked for a penance. And I said the Act on my own.

I have a dear friend who is a priest, and he pointed out that sometimes they forget these parts, especially when it's a communal-type service (even without the service).

Nothing you did invalidated it. Myself...when I was part of two services, but not participating, I couldn't help but be STRUCK by the presence of Grace to which I was a mere witness. I think that's what drove me to Confession in the second one...besides needing that Grace myself!

I don't know about you...but I probably learn more from my errors than anything I do correctly.