To prepare for the synod of synodality, the Vatican invites local churches to reflect on several themes, including “celebration”. If the Mass is the center of the life of the faithful, it is expressed in many ways and it is lived differently from one place to another, from one community to another.
This diversity, Father René-Luc is well aware of: either in his years spent within the Jour du Seigneur team, broadcasting the mass in France 2 on Sundays, or through his interventions as a preacher and founder of Cap Missio, the Montpellier diocesan mission school. for young people.
First part of the celebration: active listening
“Behind the word‘ to celebrate ’, I see the action of‘ worshiping God ’. Several dimensions then appear: one, vertical, which is to turn back to God; the other, communal, i.e. oriented to others around me. In fact, this worship given to God must be shared by many; alone, it’s prayer, it’s different. These dimensions are not a one-way street: they have to be experienced over and over again. There is what I have given to God and to my brothers, and what I have received from him and from them. So the celebration is a relationship!
The first issue is not to be passive before the celebration. This in my view is the main obstacle to the faithful. Even if the readings are of high quality, we prefer to listen passively, it enters one ear and exits the other. Today, unlike previous generations and in the time of Jesus, we no longer have a memory of hearing: we have to see, read so that it resonates with us, resonates … and stays in our minds.
I really like the experiences made in many places of sharing readings on Sunday… before, during the week, or during the celebration, in small groups of about ten people. At 10, we have time to listen to each other and speak; Jesus had 12 disciples, then “the 70” who followed him, and finally the 5,000. For good quality sharing, there shouldn’t be too much.
In Saint-Ignace, Paris, the Jesuits offered, during the “Messe qui faut son temps” on Sunday night, a moment before the publication of the Gospel to discuss Bible texts in small groups. In other places, parishioners gather on weekdays to discuss the Gospel at the upcoming Mass, some doing so only with family or friends. At Cap Missio, the missionary school I built, we also built an hour divine reading of the Gospel on Sunday.
This sharing that, depending on the location, lasts an hour or ten minutes can change everything: The Christian life no longer depends solely on the time of Sunday, but relies on another time that prepares us to live it in perfectly. If we share “whatever we want” with other lay people, we are less likely to be disappointed if the homily does not fit our expectations.
Second part: a necessary adaptation
If necessary, in this first half of the Sunday celebration hour, to be active in listening, we must enter into the second part which invites us to live in a vertical dimension with a certain adaptability. At this point, the texts of the Eucharistic prayer are almost always the same, almost repeated, to establish a connection beyond us. This eucharistic prayer is simple, it is completely self-sufficient: no need for introduction or commentary.
Another dimension: brotherhood
With attentive and active listening to the Word of God, the passive and vertical dimensions of the Eucharistic prayer, there is a third important dimension to any celebration: fraternal communion. The challenge here is basic: it’s a question of making sure the faithful are no longer an individual who arrives five minutes late and leaves even before the final song.
A few years ago, when I was still vicar, I put on a “tchin-tchin aperitif” after the Sunday celebration. I asked all participants to toast at least one person they did not know. The following Sunday, two elderly faithful came to me to thank me: he had systematically sat in the first row on the left for 20 years, and he was in the same row on the right, but they did not mention more than one nod.
Sometimes, unlike our Protestant brethren, we prioritize the dimension of worship over fraternity. But it returns to the heart of our concerns with initiatives to welcome the entrance to the church, care around the peace movement, attention to reinvesting this atrium in front of the church where the early Christians actually participated. food!
Parable of the clock, from one severe to another
All of this, in celebration, leads to the final dimension, the service of the poor and the mission. A good celebration does not forget to encourage sending those in need and thirsty to witness. We immediately see the “five requirements” of a pastoral transformation: a community formed by reading groups, living in a relationship with God during the liturgy, being sensitive to brotherhood and care for the poor and on the mission.
A celebration that embodies all of this can only be glamorous and brilliant, no matter what age the people who go there are. As evangelical pastor Rick Warren said, “The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart!” We have transformed an aggregate of the faithful, who come at the same time to the same place to participate. to a cult, to a fraternal group that wants to walk together, that wants to get to know each other and be strengthened in the faith.
Idyllic, isn’t it? However, I am not aware of the obstacles that inevitably arise: the disappointments, the failures, the difficulties of daily life in a parish, the desire for more, others, if not .. .I like to answer them by using what I call the “clock parable”. We all know those big clocks that sit on thrones in the fields and homes of old, tall and majestic, putting life into the sound of their huge pendulum, constantly spying from right to left.
In our society, in our lives, in our Church, we also continue to shake! For example, we go from a “very liturgical church” to “a social church” to go back to a “very liturgical” church again. We are from a clergy who show themselves supposedly to a clergy who are wiser to go back to a clergy who show themselves again …
In all topics, in all debates, we go from one side to the other. It seems that man, by nature, is attracted to excesses and has difficulty finding a happy medium. My consolation is that the day we can all be perfect in this happy medium, it’s the moment when the clock stops and, with it, life. These oscillations are also signs of life. I dream of a balanced Church, of a balance of myself! But I try very hard not to judge one or the other and learn from everyone how to put myself as close as possible to the happy medium.
On earth, a Church in operation
At the size of the Church of France, I am more optimistic. Through my ministry as a preacher, I travel almost every month to a new city, and even abroad. Before that, through television masses, I could concretely see the assemblies, the celebrations. I am amazed at our diversity in the church, in all the goodwill, in the many priests who are trying to change …
I saw, on the ground, a Church in action, and in the framing parts that I knew, I did not find myself in the face of “generals who would have been defeated in war” but of researcher groping while advancing. I am well aware of the limitations of this Church, I am not vain but I am in one hope: we are still alive, the pendulum continues. »