Topic of the Congregation for Divine Worship Plenary Session

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments is holding a plenary session in February 2019, as Pray Tell reported.  Pray Tell has learned that the proposed topic for this plenary session is:

The Liturgical Formation of the People of God.

It’s a rich topic with many aspects, and the treatment of it might extend in several possible directions.

The wording of the topic suggests a  commitment to the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized that the church is the entire “People of God.” As the Vatican’s International Theological Commission affirmed in 1984,

‘One can say, indeed, that the expression “people of God” has come to stand for the ecclesiology of the Council.”

As for “liturgical formation,” it is, and no doubt always will be, an urgent imperative. It is a timely topic especially a half century after the Second Vatican Council

The CDW plenary session is taking place nearly exactly fifty years after the release in 1969 of the rite of Mass reformed according to the wishes of the Second Vatican Council. And while the reformed rites have been implemented everywhere, no one could honestly claim that the rites have been fully appropriated and internalized by the entire Church. We are not yet a ritual people who live for and live from the rites, who see the rites as our own action, as the expression and the cause of our deepest beliefs and convictions. The liturgy is not yet the communal school of prayer it is meant to be.

This isn’t to cast blame on anyone. It is simply to note that fully inculturating the rites, building up a church formed by the rites, is a monumental task – much more monumental, one senses, than the Council fathers realized.

On the one hand, there is our checkered history of 1000+ years of highly clericalized liturgy which was hardly an act of the entire people of God. A traditional distortion this deeply rooted is not turned around overnight. (And readmitting the celebration of the unreformed “Tridentine” liturgy which does not reflect the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council tends to impede us from the necessary work of figuring out how to celebrate the reformed rites more adequately.)

On the other hand, the work of appropriating the reformed rites is taking place within the highly challenging context of rapidly advancing secularism. Very strong social currents make it difficult for us to “perform the liturgical act,” as Romano Guardini famously put it. And for those given to the lazy habit of confusing correlation and causation, the liturgical reform is held responsible for those social trends which would have been at work quite apart from anything the church did or didn’t do the last half century.

Pope Francis has said that we have implemented half of the Second Vatican Council and now must implement the other half. I oftentimes think that this applies especially to the liturgical reform. We have the rites – now we have to learn what to do with them.

Liturgical formation of the people of God – it’s an extremely important topic. I’m delighted that it is the topic of the CDW’s plenary session.

What aspects of the topic would you like to see treated? Where do you hope the discussion goes?






  1. One of the barriers to formation of the faithful for active participation is our culture’s obsession with entertainment. Every free moment of our day is filled with recorded music and video. We no longer make music, we consume it. The same might be said of recited prayers and ritual actions. We can’t easily leave this at the door of church-when people arrive, they expect either implicitly or explicitly to sit back and watch the show. I frequently remind my fellow parishioners that we go to church to DO something, not just to WATCH something. Many of them, again and again, seem surprised to hear this.

  2. In addition to entertainment there is also a long-standing acceptance of being serviced. This cuts across many church ministries as well as aspects of society. Parents delegate faith formation to a school or religious educators. They delegate sports to community programs and camps. People want their oil changed, taxes prepared, coffee brewed, fast food fried, amazon products delivered, etc..

    The good news is that people still enjoy community projects and find meaning in them. Give people ownership of liturgy in any way possible. Put quality into preaching, music, and welcome. That’s a lifelong project.

    1. Up to 55 years ago we were expected to watch the show, even if not to just sit back. Nothing to say, and nothing to do but sit, stand, kneel, and bow (except at the collection).
      Parishes were usually run on the same lines. Pay up, pray up, and shut up.

  3. I do not think what we have is “Mass reformed according to the wishes of the Second Vatican Council”. Consider the bishop of my diocese. In 1959 archbishop Heenan comissioned a new Cathedral – – clearly not he was not a liturgical stick-in-the-mud. But he detested what the Concilium had produced, and feared that it would seriously damage the Church.
    For myself I do think the OF provides a good platform for reform, and is an improvement, in many respects, on the EF. The fact that the idiocy of having a choice of Eucharistic Acclamations without any inbuilt means of informing people which they should say, and that this has persisted all these years, shows we have not got the right procedures for ongoing development.

  4. “The liturgy is not yet the communal school of prayer it is meant to be.“

    What does this mean? How do we learn to pray from the liturgy? what do we learn to pray?

    I teach with rcia, and I have been using the Our Father to explain prayer and liturgy for several years. It is always with the hope that the Lord will teach us to pray, because I am no expert. I have learned some things, but it would help if others could suggest what we should be learning about prayer.

  5. If the topic is going to be “The Liturgical Formation of the People of God”, I hope the organizers will remember that the opening rubrics for the Order of the Mass are “Populo Congregato”.
    I have had the privilege of heading up the Liturgical Commission here in Nagoya, Japan for the past six years and not just with respect to the Eucharist, but as far as possible with respect to all liturgical celebrations, we return to those words, and keep them in mind for anything we upload on our HP or any workshop we arrange.

  6. Liturgical formation is a lifelong process. Too often it has been construed as formation for particular ministries, and then only as the “how-to” part of those ministries. But it needs to be rooted in ongoing formation in baptismal spirituality that can be fostered by consistent mystagogical preaching so that the whole people of God can claim our role that is “[our] right and duty by reason of [our] baptism”. The General Introduction to the Rite of Baptism actually offers about 23 different descriptions of baptism that offer opportunities for rich reflection on weekends, for instance, when baptism is regularly celebrated within Sunday Eucharist. For particular ministries, two essential elements of formation, building on that baptismal foundation, are formation (1) in the theology of that particular ministry, and (2) in its spirituality.

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