Liturgy Series Part 1

How we pray shapes
what we believe

By Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Scripture tells us that if you want to know what you really treasure, just follow the trail to your heart. Where you commit your heart — that's where your treasure lies. I've seen it a hundred times: When a young man finds the woman he loves, he'll do anything to be around her. He'll change his speech, his wardrobe, his posture, his behavior, even the way he looks at the world, because he can't be happy without her.

And there's a lesson in that for all of us: What we love eventually shapes who we are, what we do and how we live. If it doesn't, the love isn't genuine. That applies to the love between men and women. It also applies to the love between human beings and God. If we say that we love

God, then our actions — including our worship — will show it.

That's why Sunday Mass is never just an obligation, any more than the love expressed between spouses is an obligation. "Every good marriage," a friend once told me, "has passion, friendship, reverence, respect, sorrow and joy." The liturgy isn't so very different.

Eucharist, after all, means "thanksgiving," and every celebration of the liturgy is a song of communion with and gratitude to the God who loves us. The liturgy is the means God gives us to express our love to Him in return. Therefore, if we really love God, nothing is more important than the liturgy, and that's why Vatican II described the eucharistic liturgy as "the source and summit" of our life in faith.

Now in the real world of daydreams, crying babies and wandering homilies, the beauty of Sunday Mass may not always be so obvious, and we can easily miss the point of how we worship and why. But recovering a right sense of worship — not just in the way we participate in the Mass, but in our celebration of all the sacraments — is vital.

As the old Latin saying goes, lex orandi, lex credendi. In other words, how we pray shapes how and what we believe. Right worship feeds right faith, and right faith leads us closer to God. Wrong worship, of course, leads in a different direction. This is why any discussion of changing the liturgy is usually so long and so animated.

In March of this year, the Holy Father promulgated a new edition of the Roman Missal for the celebration of the Mass. This is one of the most important — and one of the best — developments in the liturgical life of the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Studied and followed consistently, the new Roman Missal has wonderful potential for recovering both the beauty and power of Catholic worship. We don't yet have an official English edition of the text, but we do have a "General Instruction" (the GIRM) to guide us in applying what's new and different about the Missal's content.

My responsibility as archbishop is to ensure that this new abundance of good information about the Mass is welcomed in all our parishes. With that end in mind, I'm beginning this week a series of columns here in the Register. My goal is not just to explain the elements of the Mass, or the diversity of our roles within the Eucharist, or why we do certain actions like kneeling, standing or singing. All of these things are important, of course. But my real goal is to reawaken in all of our hearts a love for worshiping God together as one faithful Church. I hope you'll join me.

The archbishop will continue this series on a regular basis throughout the coming year.