In 2022 Pope Francis wrote to all Catholics urging us to a deeper appreciation of what we are about when we join in the prayer of the Church, and especially of the Sacraments.
In particular he challenged us about the way in which we participate in the liturgy, drawing the greatest benefit from the Lord and the grace he offers in this core activity of Christian life.
Pope Francis’ letter is called Desiderio Desideravi (‘I long with great longing…’). It can be read here.
In the letter Pope Francis makes reference to the century old teaching of Romano Guardini (a hugely influential teacher of spirituality, prayer and liturgy – much admired by Pope Emreritus Benedict).
Shortly after Vatican Council II Roman Guardini wrote to those who were involved in responding to the Council’s call for liturgical renewal, reminding that the Council called for something more than the renewal of liturgical rites. It can be read here.
That letter is much quoted, and mostly quite accessible. However some parts of it are a little obscure. The following link is to a well-known passage from Guardini’s classic ‘Sacred Signs’ is a much easier read – and offers a model for liturgical catechesis.
More recent writers have also offered prayerful reflections on liturgical actions. Their reflections can help us consider how we might pray these things that sometimes we just ‘do’.
Finally, some years ago the Bishops of England and Wales published Celebrating the Mass. Introducing the document Bishop Arthur Roche (now Cardinal Roche, and head of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) wrote:
In Pope John Paul’s Apostolic Letter, Spiritus et Sponsa, which marked the fortieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, he invites the whole Church to examine its conscience with regard to the place of the Liturgy in life of the Church. And in doing so to develop something of our inner disposition as well as discover the importance of our outward observance.
Celebrating the Mass will be of great assistance to both communities and individuals as we seek to respond to the challenge, always with us, of seeking how to celebrate the Mass more faithfully, reverently and fruitfully.
One important part of this document was its encouragment for us to attend to the quality of the symbols that we employ in the Liturgy – both symbolic actions and symbolic things. The relevant chapter can be read here.
Photograph (c) 2019, Allen Morris. Stained glass, St Alphonsus church, Glasgow.