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Musical Musings: Liturgy

'One Size Fits All' is False Advertising for Prayer in 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.

"One size fits all" is often a case of false advertising. In praying the liturgy, it is unrealistic to think that one kind of prayer fits all the parts equally. We pray differently at different times in any sacramental celebration. We have to know what is happening, so that we can adjust our prayer accordingly.

Every sacrament now has an introductory rite, a liturgy of the word, a liturgy of the sacrament, and a concluding rite. In each of these parts and even within them, we employ different kinds of prayer. At liturgy, then, we have to be ready to shift as the prayer shifts.

For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1346) tells us that the Mass "unfolds according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries.... The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Eucharist together form one single act of worship; the Eucharistic table set for us is the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of the Lord." The Catechism goes on to describe what it calls "the movement of the celebration" (#1348-55). Praying along with a "movement" or "the action of the Mass" is different from reciting the rosary, making a meditation, or saying one's night and morning prayers.

We might compare our individual prayer to driving a car along a straight road. Praying the liturgy is more like sailing a boat and adjusting the sail as the wind keeps changing. Both kinds of prayer get us to the same destination (God) but by different means. Each requires different skills. If we try to steer the boat the way we drive the car, or vice versa, we will not get very far.

It is important to study the parts of the Mass, so that we know what kind of prayer is required when.

 Back to Liturgy Index

Part II: The First Part of Mass

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