The liturgy belongs to the entire Church, and in a special way to the faithful – not to a particular Diocese or parish, and certainly not to individual priests. As ministers of God, our priests keep up with the church through reading, studying and understanding all the documents related to helping the lay faithful with ongoing renewal. As it is God we worship, it is only right that we all play our part and together, priests and laity, offer resplendent worship to God alone. It is right that we do all this with understanding and excellence, and always in obedience to the Church. No one therefore takes it upon himself or herself to do with the liturgy as he or she pleases; liturgy does not exist for the sake of suiting one’s own preferences and opinions.
The Catholic Church has existed and will continue to exist with respect for the whole of Tradition, and this is not for the sake of simply keeping rules and regulations. The Catholic Church has been accused of legalism but that is not true. We love the Lord who built this Church and nothing can prevail against her. For the love of Christ then, we celebrate the Eucharist with all its beauty and sanctity. We desire that our Lord shines forth for all to see and to love. Hence, the liturgy is to be treated with importance.
Sometimes lay people make demands that put priests in a corner, and when that kind of situation happens it is a no-win situation for both parties. One sad thing that some lay people are quick to do, almost mindlessly, is to write nasty letters. The poor priests get no chance to explain or offer alternatives, if at all possible. Communication then breaks down and all suffer. On the other hand, there are also cases where the shepherds seem not to bother too much about any issues raised, and this too can cause some misunderstanding. We certainly need to work as one for the glory of God and not for our own interests. But again, we know that this is the Church, and we are all sinners in need of God’s help. How can we do our part?
Full participation certainly means that every member of the community has a part to play in the liturgy; and in this respect a great deal has been achieved. Most parishes have many different ministries and it is exciting when one considers that the young, the youth and the adults all have opportunities for full participation to build community. Whatever it is, the clergy and the laity have different functions and we are to respect the different roles assigned by Christ.
We come together in order to offer one great hymn of praise. We participate in gesture, word, song and service. We also maintain silence, remain still and listen to the readings, the homily and to prayers of the faithful so we may respond in agreement. We follow the prayers of the celebrant, the chants and the music of the liturgy. Not to do this is to be present in person but not in spirit.
Talking about the use of one’s voice, I remember a fairly long period of time in my life when I had some problems with my larynx. It seemed as if years of using my voice to teach had resulted in my voice box being affected somehow. It was diagnosed that I had a polyp and surgery was advised. For some six years I suffered somewhat and one of the most difficult trials was going to mass and not being to use my voice to sing or to respond to the prayers. I was like a dumb person and since I had to keep remaining silent when I really wanted to sing out loud, you can imagine the ordeal I had to endure.
Today, it would be hard to try and stop me from joining in the singing or prayers. My ordeal of keeping silent came to an end when I received healing at Fatima during the Jubilee Year. As an act of thanksgiving and upon the advice of a kind priest who listened patiently to my testimony, I offered the Lord my voice. For a start, I joined not only the choir as a cantor but also continued to serve as a lector. I am so grateful to be able to use my voice. Praise God!