Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Advent Light

Each year, with all the Christmas hype in stores and in the media, Advent, quiet and unobtrusive, seems to just sneak in the back door. For the most part, only the liturgically attuned notice its presence. Of course, the back door is often where friends come in, and Advent, the coming, never arrives empty-handed.

This year, its gift is sure to shine. For those of us who attend Mass regularly, the changes we’ve revved up for are finally taking off, precisely on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27. Included are the Order of the Mass—the parts that don’t change—as well as all the prayers that do from Sunday to Sunday. In community we've been learning the chant to match. I have neither the desire nor the competence to expound in this blog on the pros or cons of the changes (aren’t you blessed!) but I will say that, in spite of my only average enthusiasm for yet another change, I like a lot of what I’m seeing and hearing. More importantly, I’m seizing this opportunity to renew my insight into, and love for, the Eucharist celebrated, received and adored.

I’m finding some great helps along the way. Even before the changes were announced over a year ago, Sister Anne Flanagan,* one of our sisters in Chicago, was making an in-depth, personal study of the Liturgy. So it was natural that she would then layer on a detailed study of the texts, once it became clear what exactly was coming down the pike. Sister Leonora Wilson, our provincial superior, welcomed her to Boston to give us an overview of her findings. Much of what she shared with us is now available on our Web site at Liturgy Essentials/Explain It to Me at This free content explores the changes, including the history behind them, and connects us all with resources for adults and children, especially the new St. Paul Missals.

There, I also discovered From the Pews, a blog by Jamie Stuart Wolfe, assistant children’s editor at Pauline Books & Media. It features “Mass Minutes,” one-minute forays into the liturgy, like “Chant Anxiety,” “Translating ‘And with your spirit,’” and more. In addition, Pews offers suggestions on how to make the Mass parts intelligible for kids.

Lastly, It’s a Part of Life summarizes each prayer and part of the Eucharistic Celebration in a few sentences each, often connecting it with daily life. Memorized, they make good sound bite answers to spontaneous questions that don’t require intricate theological reasoning.

The jewel, though, is the iMassExplained app for the iPhone or iPad, just released on Monday. It’s much more than a workshop on the changes. Besides putting the new words at our fingertips, with a click, it offers explanations of those highlighted words. Additional information deepens understanding of what we do at Mass and why. Finally, we hear from the Popes as they reflect on the importance of the Mass and what it can mean for everyday life.

At the princely sum of 99¢, I would download it—if I had an iPhone. Some people already have done just that. Maggie Palmer from Marble Falls, TX, writes, “It is so easy to follow. The explanations that are available when you click on the highlighted text are very helpful.” How many places can you get so much for so little?

Besides the St. Paul Missals, the runaway title has been The Mass Explained for Kids. It was published just six weeks ago and with 20,000 copies sold, it’s already in its fourth printing. A fax blast advertising the book to parishes will go out soon. I helped out at a parish PBM book and media exhibit last weekend at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Quincy, MA—home of John and Abigail Adams. Interest was lively, to say the least, as it has been in the other venues where we’ve held similar displays over the past few weeks. Juan Villegas, sales associate at our Chicago PBM Center, reports that, especially after a review of the title appeared in the Catholic New World, response also from schools has been phenomenal. His comment—“It’s for kids, but it’s really good for adults, too”—is echoed across the country.

And we’re not done. We’re privileged to offer another Web series, that will have a longer shelf life than those made for the moment, invaluable as they are. And this is where we’re going to need a little help from you. Msgr. Steven Lopes, an American teaching at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and working at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has prepared with us five webinars of five minutes each on the Trinitarian dimension of the Eucharist in several parts of the revised liturgy. As esoteric as that sounds, his pastoral approach is made both for the non-theologians among us and the more seasoned. He wants to reach people in the pews who come to Mass on Sunday and want a good reason to come back next week.

His presentations will be interwoven with liturgical footage and photos, then followed by a three- or four-minute PowerPoint meditation, to make the experience both instructive and prayerful. As you can imagine, this will take extensive editing, so we foresee being able to release one per month until March 2012. Freely accessible at, it will be able to continue being used indefinitely by RCIA leaders, pastors, catechists, and anyone who wants to grow.

Since it will be free content on our site, there will be no source of income for us to recoup expenses. So if you would like to contribute securely online toward the $1,789.00 production cost, click on the red Donate Now button at top right, and in the comment section on the donation page, type “webinar.”

As we gather around the “table of the Word and of Christ’s body” in these weeks and months of transition, you will be very much a part of our community. We know you take us there, too, and we’re grateful.
*Sr. Anne is the techie behind FSP-Chicago’s Theology of the Body online study group, a guest blogger for the Chicago Tribune and a member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Photo credits: Phivan Ngoc Nguyen, Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting these links! I'm clicking over to check them out now.


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