By Jamie O’Brien
We simply cannot be faithful to the call from God unless we recognise that our deepest identity can only be found in our relationship with Christ, Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has said, in launching a new program focussing on liturgical formation and renewal.
Commencing with an introduction video from Archbishop Costelloe that was aired in parishes on the first weekend of Lent, the program aims to encourage the Perth Catholic community to awaken a renewed love for and awareness of the extraordinary gift we have in the Eucharist, in the Mass.
“It is God’s most precious gift to us through his Church: it is God’s gift of himself in Christ,” explained Archbishop Costelloe, in launching the program.
Leading implementation of the program as a Working Group is Episcopal Vicar for Education and Faith Formation, the Very Rev Fr Vincent Glynn, supported by Centre for Liturgy Director, Sr Kerry Willison RSM, Catholic Education Western Australia Director of Religious Education, Deacon Mark Powell, Director of the Centre for Faith Enrichment, Dr Marco Ceccarelli and Catechist Services Field Officer, Mildred Rego.
The program, explains Fr Vincent, responds to Archbishop Costelloe’s Pastoral Letter published in August 2022, which focuses on the centrality and importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and the Archdiocese.
This Pastoral Letter asked for a program of liturgical formation and renewal to take place in the Archdiocese.
The Archbishop asked, continued Fr Vincent, that we develop a process whereby all of us in the diocese might engage in a renewal of our liturgical practice, by engaging in a deeper study and reflection on the faith of the Church which is expressed in the Church’s liturgy.
“Archbishop Costelloe asked that at the heart of this program of renewal there should be a rediscovery of the richness of our Catholic faith in the Eucharist, including our belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ under the sacramental signs of bread and wine,” Fr Vincent said.
“This is also preceded by Pope Francis Apostolic Letter Desiderio Desideravi, (DD#27), in which he highlights the need for liturgical formation,” Fr Vincent continued.
During the five weeks of Lent, four short video messages (in addition to the Introduction from Archbishop Costelloe) speaking about What is Sacramentality, Why we Gather to celebrate Liturgy, Signs and Symbols in the Liturgy and What is Liturgy, were shown in our parish communities. The videos feature Fr Vincent Glynn, Sr Kerry Willison RSM and Mildred Rego.
Archbishop Costelloe says that it is important that the Perth Catholic community reflect on what it means to be a Christ-centred Church that is prayerful and Eucharistic.
“The gift of the Eucharist, like the gift of faith itself, comes to us from God who calls us into His Church through baptism and nourishes and strengthens this faith through our life within the Church,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“That God should choose us will always remain both an undeserved grace and a profound mystery,” he said.
Fr Vincent Glynn said after the Easter season there will be a focus on the celebration of the Eucharist.
“In particular Christ present in the community gathered, Christ present in the Word proclaimed, Christ present in the minister and especially Christ present in his body and blood,” Fr Glynn explained.
“This focus will culminate on the Feast of Corpus Christi,” he said.
Liturgical Formation and Renewal has been encouraged by publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Desiderio Desideravi, (“I have earnestly desired”), released 29 June 2022 on the feast of Sts Peter and Paul.
The title of the Holy Father’s Letter comes from Luke 22:15 when, before the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
In his letter, Pope Francis insisted that Catholics need to better understand the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and its goal of promoting the “full, conscious, active and fruitful celebration” of the Mass.
“With this letter I simply want to invite the whole church to rediscover, to safeguard and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration,” Pope Francis wrote.
“I want the beauty of the Christian celebration and its necessary consequences for the life of the church not to be spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet, by its being exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue.”
“The priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper that all may be one judges every one of our divisions around the bread broken, around the sacrament of mercy, the sign of unity, the bond of charity,” he said.
The Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter focused on encouraging Catholics to learn to recognise and be astounded by the great gift of the celebration of the Eucharist and how it is not simply a weekly “staging” of the Last Supper but truly allows people of all times and all places to encounter the crucified and risen Lord and to eat his body and drink his blood through the sacramental signs of bread and wine.
It is essential, writes Pope Francis, to recognise that the Mass does not belong to the priest or to any individual worshipper, but to Christ and his church.
“The liturgy does not say ‘I’ but ‘we,’ and any limitation on the breadth of this ‘we’ is always demonic,” he said.
The Burden of Christ is Light Image: Soichi Watanabe.
“The liturgy does not leave us alone to search out an individual supposed knowledge of the mystery of God. Rather, it takes us by the hand, together, as an assembly, to lead us deep within the mystery that the word and the sacramental signs reveal to us.”
“Consistent with all action of God,” he said, the liturgy leads people into the mystery using symbolic actions and signs.
The videos are available to watch via the Archdiocesan YouTube, Archdiocesan website and Centre for Liturgy website.