The Holy Doors in the basilicas of Rome and in the dioceses of the world will be closed on November 13 and the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica on November 20, the Feast of Christ the King, the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy.But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. What might parishes do around this time to mark the end of the Year of Jubilee but also to proclaim that the spirit of mercy continues?I suggest scheduling a non-sacramental Penitential Service. According to the Rite of Penance:“Penitential services are gatherings of the people of God to hear God’s word as an invitation to conversion and renewal of life and as the message of our liberation from sin through Christ’s death and resurrection.”
“Penitential celebrations are beneficial in fostering the spirit and virtue of penance among individuals and communities; they also help in preparing for a more fruitful celebration of the sacrament of penance.”
“Penitential services are very helpful in promoting conversion of life and purification of heart.”
Penitential Services are different from the three Rites of Reconciliation (totally individual, communal with individual confession, fully communal) in that they are not sacramental and it is important that participants are made aware of this.
So why hold a Penitential Services instead of, say, the Second Rite of Reconciliation?
The answer lies in this very fact, i.e., that it is not sacramental. This means that it is a liturgy which may be celebrated by unbaptised (the Rite of Penance says that Penitential Services should be celebrated by catechumens to help during their conversion), by candidates for reception into the Catholic Church, by members of other Churches and by all people of good will.
What does a Penitential Service look like? Helpfully, the Rite of Penance offers several examples at the back of the book. There are models provided for use during Lent and Advent but those under the heading “Common Penitential Celebrations” would be best to use for a service at the end of November. There are six examples: Sin and Conversion, The son returns to the father, The Beatitudes, one for Children, one for Young People and one for the Sick. Of course, these are models meaning that they should be adapted to the specific conditions and needs of each community.
Those with access to Liturgy Brisbane’s electronic resource LabOra Worship will find these sample Penitential Services by going to Resources/ Rituals (Documents)/ Rite of Penance.
At the end of last year I suggested that the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy might motivate parish liturgy committees to ponder questions such as: Do we have a ministry of hospitality to welcome everyone to baptisms, funerals and other services as well as Sunday Mass? Are people given on arrival a parish bulletin and hymnbook or service sheet if needed? What impact does our music, proclamation of readings, preaching and presiding have on the “outsider”?
It’s not too late to do some reflecting and acting!
“Liturgy Lines” are short 500-word essays on liturgical topics written by Elizabeth Harrington, Liturgy Brisbane’s education officer. They have been published every week in The Catholic Leader since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 Elizabeth Harrington, Archdiocese of Brisbane