V2-50th Anniversary II: “Full, Conscious, and Active”

Moderator’s note: Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, was promulgated on December 4, 1963. In commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of this revolutionary document, Pray Tell is running a series of daily posts this week. The first post in the series, on the liturgical movement by Katherine Harmon, was yesterday.

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Pet. 2:9, 4-5) have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit (SC 14).

What is “active participation,” and do we have it? It may be startling that we need to ask this question now, fifty years after the promulgation of Sacrosanctum concilium, especially given that this is the key term in what may be the most programmatic and widely approved article of the constitution. In fact, it’s really quite apt to begin with the question, and it might be necessary to end with it as well.

In the discussion that follows I will make reference to several talks given at this year’s Leuven Encounters in Systematic Theology, whose theme was “Mediating Mysteries, Understanding Liturgies.” It was a delightful international crowd with a great deal of excellent scholarship, much of which examined the concept of liturgical participation explicitly.

First, a note on the translation of this phrase in article 14. The translation on the Vatican website translates the desired participation as “fully conscious, and active participation,” but I have used Austin Flannery’s translation above, because it preserves the structure of the Latin, with three adjectives all modifying “participation”: “full, conscious, and active participation” (ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem). This translation gives plenam participationem the weight it deserves. Actuosam participationem also deserves a second glance; as Martin Stuflesser reminded us in a lecture entitled “The Many Meanings of ‘Active Participation’”, actuosus, -a, -um suggests a participation filled with act, a more robust meaning than the English word “active” might suggest.

The early Liturgical Movement was convinced that all that was needed for the liturgy to become the structure of a renewed and vibrant Christian body was a return to the primitive and pristine liturgies of the past. Historical research was often motivated by a desire to turn up the model liturgy of the golden age, but as the evidence of the past was examined more critically, that golden age appeared to evaporate. For example, Maxwell Johnson entertainingly and accurately summarizes the participation John Chrysostom describes in the fourth century, one star candidate for the Christian ideal period:

Although, like most preachers, John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407 CE) may have been inclined to exaggerate the extent of their irreverent conduct, there was surely some basis in reality when he accused members of the congregation in Constantinople of roaming around during the services (In Matt. hom. 19.7-9); of either ignoring the preacher (ibid., 32/33.6) or pushing and shoving to get nearer to hear him (In Joh. hom. 3.1), when not bored or downright exasperated with him (De sacerdotio 5.8); of talking, especially during readings, and of leaving before the liturgy was over. The women caused distractions by the way they decked themselves in finery, makeup, and jewelry (In Matt. hom. 73/74.3); young people spent their time laughing, joking, and talking (In Act. hom. 24.4); and the behavior between the sexes was apparently so bad that Chrysostom claimed that a wall was needed to keep men and women apart (In Matt. hom. 73/74.3) (Maxwell Johnson, Eucharistic Liturgies, p 63).

Even in the “golden age,” liturgical participation may not have been all it was cracked up to be. More than that, by the time the Second Vatican Council began, it was widely recognized that liturgical participation would require not only recovering living liturgy “in the books,” but also a living relationship between the liturgy and the assembly that celebrates it. Romano Guardini had already recognized that this provided a new paradigm for liturgy in his 1918 The Spirit of the Liturgy, where he wrote: “It is of paramount importance that the whole gathering should take an active share in the proceedings” (30, emphasis mine). In this he was following Pius X’s lead, but whereas Tra le Sollecitudini (1903) envisioned the laity’s role as singing along with the (recovered) chant and receiving communion more frequently, Guardini envisioned participating in the liturgy as a discipline that adopted certain modern habits of mind and counteracted others. The ensuing development of liturgical theology up to the council built up this understanding of liturgy, until in article 14, it coalesces in “full, conscious, and active participation.”

If we attempt to evaluate whether, 50 years after the promulgation of the Constitution, Catholic assemblies are fulfilling the promise of article 14, we may miss the point. Liturgical participation is a task never fully accomplished, as Stuflesser pointed out, and this fact was well known to the bishops at the council. Sacrosanctum concilium makes room for and acknowledges varying degrees and modes of participation for lay people, including the use of singing, listening to homily and readings, silence, and processions. The reform of the liturgical year and the lectionary clarified the structure so that the engagement of Catholics in these acts was more enabled to be “full, conscious, and active.” Yet we wish for better participation — across the ideological spectrum(s) we wish it. And we should! Liturgical participation is, in mystery, living in the crucified and risen Christ, and this is something we would expect to be subject to continued development in the lives of individuals and of communities.

Thomas Quartier, a Benedictine oblate from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, another presenter at LEST IX, pointed out that within the monastic context that marked much of the early Liturgical Movement, increased participation over time would have seemed most natural. After all, The Rule of Benedict connects interior and exterior modes of prayer almost breezily in its treatment of the omnipresence of God and the importance of the Liturgy of the Hours: “We believe that the divine presence is everywhere . . . . Let us therefore consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in sight of the Godhead and of His Angels, and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that our mind may be in harmony with our voice” (RB 19).

Quartier did a study of visitors to a Benedictine monastery in Germany, surveying them and classifying their modes of participation in the monastic liturgy as “passive,” “attentive,” and “active” according to their responses to survey questions. To his surprise, he found a spectrum with a decided preference for “active” and “attentive” styles of participation, even in a distant, Latin monastic liturgy attended by many irregular churchgoers. This preference was even more notable among older worshippers and regular worshippers than among younger and less frequent worshippers. It is hard to escape the conclusion that “full, active, and conscious participation” is the result of an iterative and lifelong embrace of liturgical experience, much of which may seem — at the moment — mundane. It does not describe a continuous state of peak emotional engagement, but an ongoing challenge.

How can we envision this challenge and imagine greater participation in the future? David Stosur of Cardinal Stritch University (LEST IX: “Narrative Signification and the Paschal Mystery: Liturgy, Participation, and Hermeneutics”) suggested understanding liturgical participation as an immersion into a narrative, which little by little comes to change our vision of the world. Using Paul Ricoeur, Stosur suggests that we come into each liturgical experience with a particular vision of the world, which we can call our liturgical prefiguration. The prefiguration will shape how a participant interprets the liturgical action. On the other hand, by entering into the liturgical action, by imitating, reading, and taking part in the narrative of the sacred story, the participant plays out the plot of the story. Stosur calls this configuration. When we follow it together, no matter how familiar it may seem, the sacred story unsettles some of our presuppositions, confirms others, and changes our world view. Because of this, participants come to identify thier own experience of time with the time of the sacred narrative, reading salvation history within their own lives. This is called refiguration, where the world is reshaped by the story, and it includes the ethical dimension of Christian life as well as spirituality. Significantly, each iteration of prefiguration, configuration, and refiguration constitutes a small change in the worldview of the participant, but over time, the fit between the Gospel and ordinary life becomes tighter and tighter.

The crucial idea that all these understandings of “full, conscious, and active participation” share is the notion that it is eschatological. In some respect, Christians have always lived in the crucified and risen Christ through the liturgy; in others, we have not yet attained the golden age of liturgical participation. To some extent, liturgical participation demands a certain amount of preparation; on the other hand, the liturgy itself teaches. Rather than asking whether we have full, conscious, and active participation, we should be asking, as Quartier does, what modes of participation in the liturgy we do see in the churches, and how we can enhance and deepen them. We should be asking what prefigurations are needed for participants to interpret our liturgies, and be asking them how they understand the liturgies they participate in. Most of all, perhaps, we should seek liturgical practices that encourage people to enter in, deeper and deeper, rather than being satisfied to accomplish the minimum. For such practices are “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.”


  1. My parish is right now conducting a survey of our parishioners about worship practices. The comments very often show an understanding of liturgy as theater–a cast of ministers puts on a production for the audience/congregation. Comments include that Mass should be more “fun,” that we should “find better singers,” and that “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” I still hear comments about which priest “says a good Mass.” In our consumer-driven society, is it even possible for people to understand themselves as active participants instead of passive spectators?

  2. Good question, Scott. It is, of course, possible – most of us know several people, and at least one assembly, that experience themselves as participants. (You probably don’t have to look beyond your desk chair to find one! ) We should think in terms of passing along this rich experience.

    When I teach present and future ministers, I encourage them to think in terms of short and long term goals for assembly participation. “What can I get them to actually sing this Lent?” is an important short term goal, but the whole ministry team should also be focused on developing the assembly’s capacities, confidence, and sense that they are needed. This is a (very) long term goal, and, as I suggested, we shouldn’t be surprised if it never seems to be fully successful, but it is possible to develop a deeply participatory liturgical sensibility.

  3. During high school prior to Vatican II, full conscious and active participation mean using my Latin-English Missal at Mass and praying the Divine Office in English. It was a very intellectual bookish participation.

    In the 1970s and 1980s full conscious and active participation for me meant doing what the priest, ministers and the rest of the people at Mass wanted me to do. I no long brought a book to Church. Most of these Masses and their music and homilies were mediocre and boring. This did not bother me much. I just assumed my liturgical tastes were more elitist than other people. Most importantly, the Divine Office remained as the center of my life.

    In the Nineties things changed when I accidently found my favorite parish about 25 minutes away which has a fine liturgy. So the Mass could now be the highpoint of the Weeks Divine Office rather than its nadir. At home an increasing large and diverse music collection accompanied the Divine Office.

    However, my nearby much larger parish had many programs to offer even if it had relatively mediocre liturgy. Over the last 20 years I have divided my Mass going between the two parishes, going to the local parish when involved in its programs and going to the more distant but better liturgy parish otherwise. So full, conscious and active participation developed a social and a cultural dimension orthogonal to each other. A third dimension the local Orthodox parish allowed a high cultural experience of liturgy in a small group.

    In recent years, several things have begun to alter the pattern of the last twenty years. The sung Eucharist Prayers of my favorite parish have led me to always sing the EP mentally even if the priest does not. The mental book is much like my Latin-English missal. I gave up on learning most of the prayers of new Missal, or finding them in a book. I have decided to let the other people say them for me. (After all I often sing the hymns when many of them don’t). My use of a walking stick has led me to a choreography of standing, sitting (and no kneeling) which is often out of sync with what others are doing. So my full, conscious and active participation is increasing something that I do parallel and related but not the same as what other people are doing.

    Finally with my decreased mobility (I don’t go out in the rain or snow) my full, conscious and active participation has increasing become virtual. I often participate in the two live broadcasts of the Notre Dame 10:00 am and 11:45 am Masses. Of course I also follow the Roman LOH more now that DivineOffice.org exists. So my liturgical life like my life in general has increasing become full, conscious and active participation in the web.

  4. Jack Rakosky, please tell us more about what is so attractive at your “favorite parish.” Why is it so attractive and full, active and conscious?

    1. @Marc Bergeron – comment #5:
      When you ask why is my favorite parish so full, active and conscious, I wonder if you missed the purpose of my comment.

      My comment reflects my understanding of what in my own life I would characterize as full, conscious and active participation. That depended in part upon what was available generally in the different decades of my life, what I found specifically at those times, and a general trajectory of my own development.

      In the 50’s I was limited by the Latin Mass. However as a very bookish individual I used a Latin-English Missal,I discovered the English Divine Office, and read Gueranger’s Liturgical Year when I visited a library. Gueranger’s volumes pretty much encouraged what I was doing, an intellectual, meditative approach to the Mass and Office. Very full, active and conscious in terms of what was available at the time.

      By the time the English liturgy came into being I had developed beyond being a bookish intellectual being influenced by JohnXXIII Pacem in Terris, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, MLK and the Civil Rights Movement. So Folk Masses fit right in where I was in terms of full, conscious and active participation. I saw this as being much in accord with Virgil Michel and Dorothy Day’s thoughts about liturgy and social justice.

      As Civil Rights and anti-War movement faded into history in the 1970s, liturgy became pretty boring. However in the 1980s I became a member of a mostly voluntary pastoral staff. The diversity of spirituality in my fellow pastoral staff members (Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, etc.) became the social dimension of my full, active and conscious participation. Fortunately the parish had a good organist who played songs that the people liked and knew. So some good congregational hymn singing revived the cultural dimension of my participation.

      In the 1990s I accidently discovered “my favorite parish” which has a sung EP, good homilies by a scripture scholar and very good congregational singing. At the same time “my local parish” which has none of those has many good programs which I have not only participated in but also helped to run. The local parish became the social dimension and the favorite parish the cultural dimension of my full, conscious and active participation.

      And now advancing age and the internet are bringing even more developments

      As Father Kavanaugh says above the meaning of full, conscious and active participation varies greatly among members of a parish.

      Francis also has some appropriate words in his exhortation:

      231. There also exists a constant tension between ideas and realities. Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric. So a third principle comes into play: realities are greater than ideas

      The realities of full, conscious and active participation are greater than our ideas about the subject.

  5. What is “active participation”? It is the launching point for a life of virtue. It is the spark meant to ignite the faithful to step out into the deep with the grace of the Lord to support them when they are tempted at home, at work, at school to give into the seductions of materialism and consumerism. It is the foundation on which a married couple and a family build the domestic Church and raise children who are kind and generous.

    Active participation while in the pew is idiosyncratic. Mr. X, with his booming baritone, sings lustily and supports those around him who, otherwise, might not sing at all. Mrs. Y, with her mantilla and oh-so quiet responses, is always the one to crochet a baby blanket for newborns in the parish. Ms. Z, who is present most Sundays, nevertheless supports almost single handedly the parish’s pro-life commission with generous donations.

  6. Italian theologian Andrea Grillo makes a contribution to this discussion in his Beyond Pius V: Conflicting Interpretations of the Liturgical Reform (just published by Liturgical Press). He considers the difference between the understanding of participation that is presumed in Pius XII’s Mediator Dei (1947) and Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium. (He also points out that the understanding of participation that is presumed in Benedict XVI’s Redemptionis Sacramentum is more in line with that of MD than SC.)

    Grillo argues that the original intention of the liturgical reform was that the people of the church might truly be formed by the rites in which they participated. When it was realized that reforming the rites themselves would help this happen more effectively, we reformed the liturgy. But, he says, we forgot why we reformed the liturgy and so never really got back to allowing the rites to reform the church. He advocates a return to the original intention of the liturgical reform, now that the much-need reform of the liturgy has happened.

  7. What does it mean to say that the participation must be “conscious”? That it should go beyond automatic gestures and other movements? If so, what does that mean? Are there different sorts of consciousness involved in this participation? Hearing? Speaking? Singing? Silent prayer together with the others present? If the latter, how does one pray silently with others?

    I don’t remember the translations I’ve read before including the word “conscious”. Hmm. I wondering what the bishops were thinking of and why they put it in.

  8. […] e quo spiritum vere christianum fideles hauriant […] SC 14 [my ellipses]

    […] “from which the faithful might drink the true Christian spirit deeply” […]


    I often wonder what the verb haurire means both alone and in context. What aspect of active participation are the faithful supposed to drink deeply? Is participation in the responses and the singing of hymns alone a satisfactory antidote to spiritual and sacramental dehydration?

    I often leave Mass dehydrated from the frequent use of hymns to obscure the possibility for the spoken word. I have spoken often about my lament of the loss of joy and wonder in the prosody of spoken prayer. And yet, the few times when the beauty of the spoken word itself can be accentuated, it is left aside for hymnody.

    And yet, I am convinced in some way that prosody has little or no meaning to most people. Perhaps when Pope Francis noted in Evangelii Gaudium that no liturgy is the property of a few, he meant that evangelization must reach out to most people, even if some are alienated or searching for another “drink”. Perhaps it is fair to say, in the vein of Pope Francis, that charity dictates that spiritual sustinence is found not in what a person wishes for him or herself, but rather for the community. In this respect, I have quite a long travel ahead.

  9. I would only bring up that some EF devotees (e.g., Daniel Van Slyke, Michael Foley) are claiming that the phrase is actually to be translated “full, conscious and actual,” not “active.” The Latin word is one which, these folks claim, has been mistranslated and thus misconstrued. They see a real difference between active and actual participation. Just saying.

    1. @Lee Bacchi – comment #11:
      Lee, the reform of the liturgy, as conceived by the Council fathers right from the start, included far more direct and active involvement of the faithful in the liturgical rites. I would think this prominent fact suggests that what the Council fathers had in mind with was “active” participation (as an important element of “actual” participation).

    2. @Lee Bacchi – comment #11:
      Many of the TLM devotees miss SC 30, which seems to define the extent of participation as something external and falling within the rubrics, as well as something fostered in silence.

      The active vs actual is an invented protest, and an outlier in terms of liturgical theology. Not to mention practice.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #13:
        Many devotees of the OF seem to miss it too, which is probably why the “active vs. actual protest” came about in the first place. “Actual” at least communicates the idea of a deeper understanding of what one is doing, rather than parroting responses.

        FCAP is a principle of Vatican II that can apply to any liturgical rite. The EF is perfectly capable of fostering it, and the OF is only perceived as easier because it is allowed in vernacular. I find myself participating more in the EF and observing more in the OF, now that I’ve had years of experience with both. However, I have been to some EFs where I didn’t feel like a participant (“silent” Low Mass ) and OFs where I was.

      2. @Jack Wayne – comment #14:
        The difference for the people in the pews, Jack, is moving past a culture of passivity in Roman Catholicism. The modern Roman Rite is built on the premise that the people will engage the liturgy in its rubrics, as well as the spiritual and pastoral elements, including preparation. The great flaw in the 1570/1962 Missal is that there is no role for the laity. They are irrelevant.

        The attempt to retrench and suggest that a quality artistic or rubrical performance is superior to a half-hearted one by the assembly is a bit too pessimistic for my taste.

        Are there instances where the two rites overlap? Sure. Some Division II athletic teams are better than Division I. One can lament cheering for a sad sack D-I school or cheer higher relative accomplishments of one’s school that competes on a different level.

        I think many people have an affinity for the TLM. I can respect that. But the TLM isn’t built to work for what Roman Catholicism needs today. It’s participation, but it’s a lot more than that.

      3. @Todd Flowerday – comment #15:
        Then it is a largely intangible quality you speak of, rather than an objective one. The role of the laity in the EF is the same as for the OF, regardless of whether or not it is spelled out in rubrics the people themselves never see. There may have been a culture of passivity prior to Vatican II, but if poor practice is reason enough to say a liturgy isn’t up to the task then the OF should have been retired decades ago. That the OF is so intensely geared towards fostering FCAP and yet succeeds at fostering it only mildly better than the EF (which makes no effort at all), says a lot.

        And who said anything about artistic quality and rubrical performance being superior to a half-hearted assembly? That has nothing to do with anything I wrote, nor does it have anything to do with what I have seen and heard from those who advocate for the EF. I advocate for exterior and interior participation – participation with understanding. Some Ef folks do not like vocal participation by the assembly, but they are more and more becoming a minority.

      4. @Jack Wayne – comment #17:
        You say: “but if poor practice is reason enough to say a liturgy isn’t up to the task then the OF should have been retired decades ago. That the OF is so intensely geared towards fostering FCAP and yet succeeds at fostering it only mildly better than the EF (which makes no effort at all), says a lot.”

        What a far fetched opinion based upon what? Documentation please – esp. that FCAP is *only mildly better than the EF*.

        Any number of *logical fallacies* with this statement – talk about exaggeration to make a point!

      5. @Bill deHaas – comment #18:
        Based on experience. One can form opinions based on experience.

        The OF has had all the Church’s resources thrown behind it for years. It is the liturgical equivalent of a beloved multi million dollar sports team with all the best trainers, equipment, and facilities, yet people still talk about hearing the priest say Mass and treating it like a performance as Comment #1 shows. Go to a typical EF Missa Cantata and you’ll often find the level of participation on par with a decent OF, regardless of there being no rubrics for the laity and very little support from the Church.

      6. @Todd Flowerday – comment #15:

        The great flaw in the 1570/1962 Missal is that there is no role for the laity. They are irrelevant.

        One fellow student and I would often talk about ritual and practice. The fact that he is a Buddhist is irrelevant, as ritual life displays striking similarities across beliefs and cultures.

        My friend once remarked that various branches of the physical sciences (physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, etc.) actually have converged and perhaps shall converge even further into a set of more unified formulas. My friend is convinced that further convergences are not only possible but inevitable.

        Some perspectives on the liturgical movement conceive of participating at Mass as a series of discrete activities. Passive observation must give way to vocal assent and singing. “Passivity” and “activity” are thus measured according to the frequencies of a vibrating larynx. But, just as thermodynamics is now recognized as a science subsumed within physics, could not a studied quiet and physical inactivity merely be one turn of the prism away from of a vocal and physically expressive active participation? Could passivity and activity change merely by turning the kaleidoscope an eighth of an inch?

        And yet, some persons who study liturgy and its practical applications are intent on the categorization of liturgical behaviors. Some behaviors, such verbal and kinesthetic movements, are prioritized and prized over the mind burning behind motionless limbs and lips. When will the valorization of verbal and kinesthetic action cease? Perhaps categorization cannot cease, for the consideration of all behaviors as one nearly infinite spectrum would require changes to a liturgical project henceforth not infrequently predicated on a notion that some expressions of prayer are inherently better suited to the edification and spiritual benefit of persons.

      7. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #19:
        Thanks for the reply, Jordan. I don’t prioritize externals. Externals are a start to the journey to grace. Externals are an invitation. Externals are also urged by the rubrics of the Missal.

        Externals were the preoccupation of the 1570/1962 Missal. They remain something of a preoccupation today in some ways. They no more gave evidence of a holy priest than a robust Catholic singer in the pews today gives evidence of a holy baptized person.

        My main concern is that the laity not get sidelined by neo-priestly castes of singers, choirs, servers, and other “performers.”

  10. When in some countries there is only about 5% of Catholics even bothering to go the Mass and in the USA between 15% to 25%, all this concern about “active” or “actual” participation in the Mass seems horribly dated, 1960’s sort of stuff. Pope Francis realizes that active and actual participation means Catholics need to be re-evangelized in the new evangelization. His lengthy Apostolic Exhortation said very little about the Mass and how well people participate in terms of the things described here, but more so in terms of getting people to Mass, to actually be there, and good homilies and liturgies that are beautiful.
    Maybe evangelization is what the focus needs to be on rather than trying to get the minority at Mass to fit into the various opinions on just exactly what is and isn’t “active or actual” participation. One thing is clear, when upwards to 95% of Catholics don’t attend Mass, there is not active or actual participation in the Church and her mission to the world.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #16:
      Dated? I would agree, though perhaps for the opposite reason. I think the reform2 effort at reclaiming a smaller purer church indeed requires some re-evangelization.

      I think you can claim there’s a manufactured variety of opinions, but the actual meme isn’t very intelligent, perceptive, or helpful.

      Jack, I think your misdiagnosis is comical.

    2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #16:
      When in some countries there is only about 5% of Catholics even bothering to go the Mass and in the USA between 15% to 25%, all this concern about “active” or “actual” participation in the Mass seems horribly dated, 1960′s sort of stuff.
      His lengthy Apostolic Exhortation said very little about the Mass

      Actually the Exhortation said something very interesting, He classifies the targets of Evangelization into three groups:

      In first place, we can mention the area of ordinary pastoral ministry, which is “animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful who regularly take part in community worship and gather on the Lord’s day to be nourished by his word and by the bread of eternal life”.[11] In this category we can also include those members of faithful who preserve a deep and sincere faith, expressing it in different ways, but seldom taking part in worship (bolding mine).

      A second area is that of “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism”,[12] who lack a meaningful relationship to the Church and no longer experience the consolation born of faith.

      Lastly, we cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him.

      Going to Mass weekly or almost weekly is a very American Protestant definition of the faith largely based upon the need of churches in our country to have people show up regularly with their physical and monetary support. The Catholic Church in the USA had to respond in kind, and therefore pushed Catholic attendance rates in the early part of the twentieth century probably to their record levels anywhere except for a few countries like Ireland and Poland which were under similar external pressures.

      Catholicism with its educational institutions, health and social institutions, religious orders, confraternities, shrines, and popular piety of home shrines has always had other locations to help maintain “a deep and sincere faith” including in some long term Catholic countries most of the culture of the country.

      Many sociologists have remarked that Catholicism functions more like an ethnicity since Catholics in the USA have often identified themselves as Catholic while not attending Church, whereas Protestants often equate their religious identity with their membership in a specific congregation and attendance at its worship services.

      Unfortunately this overemphasis on Sunday worship as an indicator of “religiosity”, fostered by the need to get people to contribute (and aided by sociologists as an easy indicator) has educated our people to decide they are no longer religious saying they are “spiritual but not religious” and answering “None” to their religious affiliations. In many cases, I think that people did not change their behavior or beliefs but decided to accept how other people labeled them.

      Daily Prayer which is well over 50% among many groups including Catholics may be a far better indicator of religiosity; of course it does not bring money into the coffers. My suggested evangelization sign outside our churches “If you pray daily, come worship with us this weekend!”

  11. In my experience, FCAP has changed the way people think of church. Because of the NO, the faithful think of themselves as essential to the offering of Mass. And essential to the mission of the church. Prior to the VII reforms the church’s “mission” referred to what Maryknollers and the Holy Ghost fathers did abroad. Now at least church goers know that it somehow involves how they live their lives in the world. In parts of the country where liturgy is celebrated with good music, well prayed and unhurried prayers, periods of silence, great readers, and decent preaching, attendance is closer to 35%. But that represents a much higher percentage of people who do more than just cry “Lord, Lord”. Thank you, Lord for SC and all its marvelous fruits!

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehilh – comment #26:
      Jack, I don’t understand your questions. Did one of your comments go into moderation? That happens every so often, especially when there is a link in the comment, but other times the system just does that and I don’t know why. Or are you referring to something else?

  12. ‘Going to Mass weekly or almost weekly is a very American Protestant definition of the faith largely based upon the need of churches in our country to have people show up regularly with their physical and monetary support. The Catholic Church in the USA had to respond in kind, and therefore pushed Catholic attendance rates in the early part of the twentieth century probably to their record levels anywhere except for a few countries like Ireland and Poland which were under similar external pressures.’

    So my fore-fathers in Europe would not have and were not encouraged to go to Mass weekly before they came to America? Interesting.

    1. @John Kohanski – comment #25:
      They probably were, but it likely wasn’t considered the identity marker it was in America for countries that were overwhelmingly or officially Catholic. The survival of the Church wouldn’t have depended on people showing up and contributing.

  13. To the best of my knowledge, few people received Communion on a weekly basis prior to the Vatican II reforms. Today, most people do. Whether or not you approve of the practice, I think this represents increased participation.

      1. @Lee Bacchi – comment #35:
        I was just a kid then, so my experience was very limited and memory somewhat foggy – but I know that my own father rarely went to Communion back then, and only after going to Confession the night before. I’m guessing that the practice of frequent reception of Communion goes back to Pius XII, but that that message didn’t penetrate all corners of the Church.

  14. Must active, conscious participation be limited to vocal participation?

    Might non-spoken but communal prayer be possible? I’m thinking of the kneeling before and after Communion that was the rule in the pre-VII rite. It seems to me that kneeling, bowing the head and placing the hands in the prayer gesture can be an exterior symbol of worship, and when all assume this position together it seems to me that that symbol is active and often deeply conscious.

  15. Barry Hudock : @Lee Bacchi – comment #11: Lee, the reform of the liturgy, as conceived by the Council fathers right from the start, included far more direct and active involvement of the faithful in the liturgical rites. I would think this prominent fact suggests that what the Council fathers had in mind with was “active” participation (as an important element of “actual” participation).

    Please understand — I don’t agree with the TLM interpretation of the phrase, just brought it up for the sake of discussion.

  16. Barry Hudock : @Lee Bacchi – comment #11: Lee, the reform of the liturgy, as conceived by the Council fathers right from the start, included far more direct and active involvement of the faithful in the liturgical rites. I would think this prominent fact suggests that what the Council fathers had in mind with was “active” participation (as an important element of “actual” participation).

    See my reply to Barry above. I was just pointing out the latest “spin” that the EF and TLM folks are putting on the phrase.

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