Molly’s Post from April 15, 2013
The Vatican II document Sacrosanctam Conciliam gave us the catch-phrase “full, active, and conscious participation.” The Council was referring to actions within the liturgy, but I have found it to be a model for many ministries during my time in Teach Bhríde. It’s really all about presence. Regardless of what we do in our many ministries, and sometimes in spite of our busy-ness, what matters is presence.
We strive to be fully present: to be prepared, to be on time, to be focused on the task at hand – in other words, to “show up.” More importantly, we try to focus on the people we’re with, be they choir members, Passion Play cast members, 12-year-old Confirmation retreatants, parents, school kids, parish staff, the ACE community, parishioners, or indeed, the other members of Teach Bhríde. I am not always successful at being fully present. I, like many in my generation, am used to multitasking and running from one thing to the next. Over the last year and a half, though, I have had the opportunity to practice. One of my favorite aspects of Irish culture is tea. I don’t mean the beverage itself as much as the fellowship around it: people stop what they are doing, put aside work, and take a few minutes to catch up with each other. They are usually willing to do this at any given moment – stop, focus on the person, be fully present. It’s a switch from American culture where most people drink their caffeinated beverage of choice on their way from one thing to another, or schedule in coffee dates when it’s convenient. We can certainly bring the Irish practice of presence into our liturgies. We can learn to stop and focus on the persons of Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
We strive to be actively present. Between once-off events like the Notre Dame vs. Navy game, continuing ministries to choirs and schools, and new ministries like Advent Eucharistic Adoration services, RCIA, and the Passion Play, we have not been bored this year! We are good at “active.” We have trained in activity-juggling since high school. It is important that our parish sees us performing our “activities” in music and catechesis. Our involvement is a visible and audible sign that we care about them, about the Church, about God, and about our faith. We hope it also gives them permission to be actively involved themselves. I love the words of article 29: “Servers, lectors commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function.” If that were not true we would not be here in Teach Bhríde! But I think we must remember that what might look like our active presence does not really belong to us. We are blessed to participate in the Holy Spirit’s action.
We strive for conscious presence. This seems like a pre-requisite for the other two. After all, you can’t be fully present to anyone or actively present in a community if you aren’t consciously present. I think what the Council meant by “conscious” is catechized and aware. While our goal in all of our ministries is to provide scriptural, sacramental, liturgical, or musical catechesis, it’s the awareness that is most challenging. As we become aware of family situations, of deaths within the parish community, of past differences or underlying politics, we may realize that getting everyone on board with a new idea will be trickier than we thought. If we remain aware of the goals of a certain ministry, we may realize that the plans we had for its implementation simply won’t work, and our enthusiasm might be left stranded. Most importantly, if we are aware of our own histories, biases, agendas, inclinations, and quirks of personality and working style, and we share that awareness with our community members, we can better understand how to be present to each other. I’ve certainly grown in my understanding of community over the last two years. Conscious presence means intentional presence, even with the awareness of all the history and meaning of a given situation. That applies to the liturgy too. We show up knowing the Church’s history, the way it is perceived by the media, and knowing the history of our own relationship with the Church. We show up, hopefully, understanding the depth of meaning in the sacraments. We show up as we are, aware of our faults, and ask God and our community to forgive us and love us.