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Musical Musings: Liturgy

Facing the 'Battle' of Prayer in the Liturgy

by Fr. Paul Schmidt

Part I: Introduction

Father Paul Schmidt has served as the priest personnel director for the Diocese of Oakland, California, and also as diocesan director of religious education and as pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Concord. He holds a master's of divinity degree from St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park and a master's degree in English from California State University, Hayward. He was a columnist for The Catholic Voice, the Oakland diocesan newspaper, for many years. Father Schmidt is author of the book Buried Treasures: A Guide to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

This article, which has appeared in The Voice (Oakland), is reprinted from The Catholic Herald, the newspaper for the Diocese of Sacramento, with the kind permission of Julie Sly, Editor.

"I don't get anything out of the Mass." "I can't pray with all that noise going on." "The hymns are dull, the sermon is boring, and I leave empty." "I get more out of a walk in the mountains than an hour in church."

Many of us have heard these complaints--or expressed them ourselves. Many people feel that something is missing from Sunday worship.

A life of prayer in general is not easy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes a whole article to what it calls "The Battle of Prayer" (#2725-58). Saints like John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila wrote in detail about the trials of persevering in prayer. Father Eugene Boylan wrote a modern classic on the same subject called Difficulties in Mental Prayer.

These sources do not deal in detail with the difficulties of praying liturgically. This [and other articles here] will attempt to fill that gap.

Individual private prayer is only one kind of prayer. Liturgy is a different kind of prayer. Just as there are obstacles to making a good meditation or saying one's prayers devoutly, there are obstacles to achieving that "full, active, and conscious participation" in the liturgy which the Second Vatican Council envisioned. Some of these obstacles, of course, are the same as those which impede individual prayer. But others are particular to the liturgy, which is always communal prayer.

It is difficult to pray liturgically. It is difficult to make the liturgy happen to begin with. But it is much more difficult to pray while carrying out the liturgical celebration.

  Back to Liturgy Index

Part II: What makes liturgical prayer different? 

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