Looking again at “active participation”

In Faith Magazine there is an article about active participation in the liturgy.  Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.


‘With hearts and hands and voices’
full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy

by Rita Thiron [Who is, I believe, in charge of the liturgy office for the Diocese of Lansing.]

On Dec.4, 1963, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the bishops of the world passed the first of 16 documents that would be promulgated by the Second Vatican Council. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was one of the four “constitutions” which defined vital issues of church teachings and practice.  [I believe the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible too.  But the Holy Spirit didn’t write the Bible.  The Holy Spirit was surely involved in the Council and also in conclaves, but to what degree all the decisions are guided is hard to say.  At the very least (though I don’t want to place improper limits) the Holy Spirit certainly guides us away from utter disasters.]

    This constitution called for a reform of the liturgy. It did not mandate innovations, [The Council Fathers actually imposed that no changes be made unless they were truely for the good of the people.] but restored ancient practices. [Sadly some of the things scholars thought were ancient practices weren’t actually true.] It urged that “the rites be revised carefully in light of sound tradition and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.” (SC 4)

    The constitution began with a theological review of the nature of liturgy and its role in the life of the church. (1-13) It called for the improved liturgical formation of the clergy and the faithful (15-19) and carefully detailed the principles which would guide the reform. (21-46) The chapters that followed gave specific norms for the reform of the Mass, the sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, the liturgical year, and more.

    And in all these important efforts, what was given highest priority? What was the goal to be considered before all else? It was the full, conscious and active participation of the people in the pews!

The church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations, called for by the very nature of the liturgy. Such a participation by the Christian people … is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

  In the reform and promotion of the liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else. For it is the primary and indispensible source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit …. (SC 14, …)

  Indeed, that phrase, “full, conscious and active participation,” appeared no less than 31 times in the Constitution on the Sacred LiturgyWhat does this phrase imply? The council envisioned that we would be participating in the liturgy with our whole mind, heart and bodies!

… Pastors must therefore realize that when the liturgy is celebrated something more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and lawful celebration; it is also their duty to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects. (11)

    For centuries, the faithful “attended” or “heard” Mass in Latin. They devoutly listened as the priest recited texts in Latin. Only in the early 20th century were personal missals published to provide translations. And language was not the only barrier to participation. Frequently, the architecture itself separated us from the altar by great distances or communion rails. Often, the faithful simultaneously prayed the rosary or other devotions while Mass was being celebrated and they hungered for familiar clues like the ringing of bells. 
How did the Second Vatican Council bring about our greater participation?
First, it encouraged “liturgical formation with zeal and patience.” (19) The bishops knew that we would better participate if we understood the depth of the mystery being celebrated, [I am glad for the reference to mystery, though I think we can’t really can’t understand the "depth of the mystery".  What we really need to understand is that there is mystery.] the structure of the Mass, and the richness of the traditions behind our current practices[Understanding…. That was not just promoted by the Second Vatican Council.  Those hand-missals were part of this, from the time of the Liturgical Movement.]

    Second, they reminded us that liturgies are never private functions – they involve the whole body of the church, near and far, visible and invisible. (26) The liturgy is public and communal by its very nature, but it also concerns individual members in different orders and offices who exercise a variety of liturgical roles – bishops, priests, deacons, lectors, cantors and more. [for example, lay people in the congregation.]
    Third, the liturgical books themselves were reformed to promote active participation. The people were given more “speaking parts” and encouraged to take part in acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs. (30-31) Music, especially, allowed us to give fuller expression to our prayer.
    And the texts of these books were to be marked by “noble simplicity.” [A concept which lead to some real disasters when misapplied.] They were to be “short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; [Something else that was abused, since repetition is a key element of liturgical prayer.] they [were to be] written within the people’s power of comprehension and, as a rule, not require much explanation.” (34) Most importantly, the liturgical books were to be translated into the vernacular so that the people could pray in their own language, just as they had for centuries before Trent. These translations were to be approved by each country’s conference of bishops and the Holy See. [Interesting.  No citation for that.  The fact is that the Council required that Latin be maintained as the language of the liturgy while granting that in some instances some use of the vernacular could be helpful.  The Council also required, for the sake of active participation, that we retain Gregorian chant and that pastors make sure they flocks could both sing and speak in both Latin and their mother tongue. Cf. SC 54]
    Fourth, since we pray with our whole bodies, we participate fully, consciously and actively with postures and gestures. We kneel, we sit, we stand, we process, we bow our head, we make the sign of the cross. These common postures and gestures are a sign of our unity when we are gathered for the Sacred Liturgy – they both express and foster our intention and spiritual attitude. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 42) [Catholics did all those things before the Council as well.]
    Silence, too, is a means of participation. [I am glad silence was included.] In silence, we recollect our sins and gather our prayers in the Introductory Rites. In silence, we reflect on the readings. In silence (or in song), we reflect on the great gift of Holy Communion. (GIRM 45)
    We participate, too, simply by listening attentively to the readings and the prayers and then responding to them with “Thanks be to God” or “Amen” or other acclamations. [Again, the writer does very well to include this.  I would say that our first instance of active participation is through listening.  That includes listening to the sacred music which should really be settings of sacred texts of the Mass itself.]
    Too often, some will complain that they “don’t get much out of Mass.” The obvious response is “What did you put into it?” We never come to liturgy to be entertained, or worse yet, to judge the music or the homily. [Well… of course we are going to judge those things…. if we are actively participating and paying attention.  Am I wrong?] We are not there as strangers or silent spectators. [Nor were Catholics merely silent spectators before the Council.  And many who come to the newer form of Mass are just silent spectators.] We come together as a Christian community to encounter the living God.
    The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (48) best describes our participation. We are “instructed by God’s word and nourished at the table of the Lord’s body, we give thanks to God by offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him. We offer ourselves as well, through Christ the Mediator, so that we may be formed day by day into an ever more perfect unity with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.”

A good effort, all in all.  I was pleased that silence and listening were included.

One of the things I think we need to stress is that the rite itself is neither going to assure active participation nor block it.  Many who attend the older form of Holy Mass today participate far more deeply and actively than many who attend the Novus Ordo. 

We need a sound liturgical catechesis for both forms of Mass and we need a sound ars celebrandi of both forms as well.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Tradster says:

    I am certainly far from the first to point out that an awful lot of saints somehow made it to Heaven while deprived of a Mass with “full, conscious and active participation”.

  2. jaykay says:

    Tradster: I think they of course had full, conscious and active participation. That’s part of how they became saints. Except their full, conscious and active participation wasn’t in the in the format now commonly recognised as such?

  3. Tradster says:

    Yes, I was certainly referring to the term as commonly applied since VCII.

  4. asperges says:

    The “active participation,” so vaunted and oft-quoted, probably was often absent amongst many of the faithful at the old rite in the past, as we perceive that concept now. However the zeal of the reformers in the new rite made a fetish of outward participation to the point of irritation and absurdity.

    Paradoxically, now it is attendance at the EF (old rite) which demands a great deal more concentration, will and mental effort than in the new rite. This – the silence, the ritual, the gentle order of the liturgy, the sacred language – is what those who attend notice most need to deal with differently.

    In other words their participation is more actuose than ever it might have been in the 60s. There is a personal effort both in a definite will to attend a different (not normative) rite and to get the most out of it.

    This is what the Council Fathers hoped for: liturgical awareness and participation in it. The paradox (no apologies for this repetition) is that it took a rite so utterly unfitted, and now perceived and deeply flawed, to persuade and show us that what apparently needed reform actually fitted the bill better.

    One often only misses something when it is taken away.

  5. Andy Milam says:

    Fr. Z,

    Ms. Thiron says, “For centuries, the faithful “attended” or “heard” Mass in Latin. They devoutly listened as the priest recited texts in Latin. […] And language was not the only barrier to participation. […] Often, the faithful simultaneously prayed the rosary or other devotions while Mass was being celebrated and they hungered for familiar clues like the ringing of bells.”

    First, it seems as this is a little contradictory. On the one hand she says that the people devoutly listened, then she immediately turns around and says that language is a barrier to participation.

    Mons. Schuler used to tell this story: Let us say that a pious Hindu attends Mass, takes part in the singing and even walks in a procession with great piety. In the same church is also a Catholic who is blind and deaf and who is unable to leave his chair; he can neither sing nor hear the readings nor walk in the procession. Which one has truly participated, the one who is very active, or the one who has confined himself solely to his thoughts of adoration? Obviously, it is the baptized Catholic who has exercised participatio actuosa despite his lack of external, physical movement. The Hindu even with his many actions has not been capable of it, since he lacks the baptismal character.

    It is my contention that Ms. Thiron, missed the point of that analogy. The phrase, “full, concious, and active paritcipation” is often times misused and often times abused, as a way to simply get more people involved, when really they should just be worshipping. Which is how the faithful REALLY participate in the Mass.

    And finally, she uses a lot of liturgical buzz words, but she doesn’t speak about how we worship at Mass and how through the liturgical action of the priest, as mediator; he offers up what we bring to the altar.

    I will give her some credit though. She does promote strongly and at several times, the proper concept of silence.

  6. wolfeken says:

    I would go well beyond the point that silence simple means waiting patiently to respond to something like a reading.

    Holy silence is about witnessing (praying at) a liturgical act without feeling the need to have a vocal part. It is not about the congregation. It is not an interactive play for children.

    Mass is a structured sacrifice. The priest offers it, with a deacon, subdeacon and acolytes. A schola sings for it. All are clerical roles, hence the acolytes and schola wearing the cassock and surplice.

    It’s hard to shut up in a me-me-me society, but Mass is a good place to start. No saint that I know of ever wrote about the need to make responses at Mass. Oremus.

  7. jaykay says:

    Asperges: Agree. Your comment makes me think about my great-grandmother’s “Catholic Manual of Devotion”, presented to her by her sister-in-law (as the beautiful inscription in copper-plate on the title page says) at Christmas 1899. It has the Mass in parallel translation as well as the psalms & many of the offices. They were lower middle-class Irish women who would not have been educated above primary standard. But they knew what (as we say in Ireland) “they were at”. Now that *was*, I believe, definitely active participation.

    Their memory is still very alive in the family. They, and many like them, were not mindless sheep, as seems to be the currently fashionable theory.

  8. Elly says:

    So were there any “uesless repititions” in the Mass before the Council or were they all important?


  9. The participation described in Sacrosanctum Concilium is the same written of in Tra La Sollecitudini, Divini Cultus, and De Musica Sacra before Vatican II, and in Musicam Sacram after Vatican II. Context, context, context!

    Her count of 31 instances of FCAP isn’t accurate… forms of the word “participate” in the Latin appear 28 times, but not every instance is one of “full, conscious, and active participation.”

  10. Magpie says:

    Father, you should write a book about all these things you deal with on your blog. The book would be aimed at priests, seminarians, and interested lay-people. It would have the Imprimatur. It would be a guidebook to the way forward.

  11. pjsandstrom says:

    For a number of centuries when Latin was not a common spoken or generally understood language by most lay people (and maybe even the clergy) they were present at the Mass, whether ‘read’ or ‘low’ Mass or ‘High/Solemn’ Mass. Holy Communion was a rare occurrence for lay folk (this was the reason for the Easter Communion rule at 4th Lateran Council) and even for non-clerical religious. Mass after Amalarius was presented as a sort of ‘spectacle’representing the Passion of the Christ. The most people had, until the invention of printing, was a group of prayers to say during Mass. Saints’ spirituality in general was not different than most folks — St. Francis de Sales, the Bishop and great Spiritual Writer saw reciting the rosary when he was presiding in Choir at Mass as the normal and pious thing to do. The first full translations of the Missal were the German Shott Missals at the end of the 19th Century. What ordinary people actually saw, or heard, or piously thought during the ordinary Sunday Mass well into the 20th century — is certainly not what most folks do since Vatican II. The most common piety was not ‘liturgical’ in any sense — it was rather a whole list of private devotions done ‘while the clergy were doing their business’. Realism requires that people realize that — and also what took place in ordinary parishes was, as it still is, quite different than what took place in the great Religious Houses. A good many people were ‘holy’ despite the liturgies they were present for, and certainly honestly not because of the liturgy. It is worth noting that the Jansenist piety — before it was ‘pushed into an ideological corner’, and made into a sort of cartoon by the Jesuits who countered with their Sacred Heart Devotions — was strongly liturgical with frequent Confession and Communion among their leading themes. And the Jansenists were condemned repeatedly, not only for their liturgical piety, but also for their strict morals, both of which were uncommon in the society they lived in.

  12. jaykay says:

    I think a reading of Prof. Eamonn Duffy’s “The Stripping of the Altars” might reveal a good deal of how conscious and active many peoples’ participation in the liturgy actually was back in the real old days?

  13. Athanasius says:

    so that the people could pray in their own language, just as they had for centuries before Trent.

    Uh…. before Trent no one in the Western world offered Mass in the vernacular, not even in the early Church. The Greek and Latin forms used were sacred and not everyday speech, and with the one exception of the Balkans nobody in Europe offered Mass in vernacular until the Protestants (just as no one faced the people until the Protestants), which again tells us something about the spirit of the New Liturgy.

  14. robtbrown says:


    Exactly. Her mistake is thinking that when the Church changed from Greek to Latin c 3rd century, Latin was the vernacular. In fact, it was the language of Empire–of govt and business. If the Church had done in 1965 what it had done 1500+ years earlier, English would have been mandated as the liturgical language throughout the West, incl France, Italy, Germany, Spain and South America

  15. UncleBlobb says:

    Thank you Fr. Z. for your rational fisking of this and many other articles. I would love very much to have a Quaeritur answered in depth by you sometime about what was really “wrong” with and in need of “reform” in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass anyway? I keep liking and loving the EF the more I go to it and learn about it. And I would seriously appreciate any advice you could give or a link back to something I’m sure you’ve already covered a million times that will help me quit being so bitter and angry about many things in the Church’s liturgy. But that would require another entry, and would turn this into a rabbit hole…. :) (“Get my own blog” comes to mind for some reason….)

  16. Cavaliere says:

    In other words their participation is more actuose than ever it might have been in the 60s.

    During a discussion on this subject the other day a priest friend said that the word ‘actuose’ in Latin actually is better rendered as “actual” than active. It seems that would make better sense and get us away from the idea that participation is merely some form of motion or physical movement. Perhaps someone could verify this.

  17. JMody says:

    So when the faithful grew up hearing Mass only in Latin all their lives, they never really understood it? Let us recall that in the days before the rise of the nation-state (let’s say, 1650/end of Thirty-Years’ War), if people could read and write AT ALL is was likely Latin. I offer as proof comments made by Swedish colleagues of mine who wanted to know why we call their renowned warrior king the funny name “Gustavus Adolphus” instead of his name, Gustav II Adolf — because that’s how it was written, even by him in correspondence.

    And when faithful were separated from an altar that was behind a communion rail and rose above their floor level, did they feel dissed and left out — REALLY? Or did they get the idea the architect was trying to convey — that the altar was closer to heaven, and we ALL have a lot more than an ornate rail between us and heaven? Gee, why do Greek and Russian Orthodox even go to Mass at all, since they usually encase the altar behind a screen as the Holy of Holies was screened to all but the high priest? Gee, come to think of it, why did the Jewish Israelites even put up with it?

    I’m thinking of Bugs Bunny’s “maroon” right now …

  18. JMody says:

    AND – AND the author is so busy dissing those who “assisted” at Mass that she forgot to include the immortal words of Paul VI – from the November 26th 1969 general audience introducing the new thing/novelty/new rite:

    “It is intended to interest each one of those present, to draw them out of their customary personal devotions or their usual torpor.”

    They were slackers – the Pope himself said so.

  19. Andy Milam says:

    As a point of clarification, it is not actuose. It is actuosa. As in participatio actuosa (actual participation), referring to full, concious and active participation, as opposed to participatio activa (active {external} participation), referring to the participatory actions such as standing, sitting, responding and the like.

  20. The Cobbler says:

    For what it’s worth: as a Catholic raised in the Novus Ordo, I’m still trying to figure out why “active participation” amounts to singing along with the choir director even if the song’s in bad taste.

    “It is intended to interest each one of those present, to draw them out of their customary personal devotions or their usual torpor.”
    Something I don’t quite follow about this — wasn’t the Novus Ordo in part supposed to help the Mass be more personal? In which case, why would we prefer a personalish Mass over Mass with personal devotion thrown in? Not saying I grant the argument in the first place, just saying I’ve heard it. Are those who suggest we’re to make the Mass personal out of step with Paul VI as much as with Benedict XVI?

  21. Speaking as a member of the Diocese of Lansing, I can say quite confidently that what she says above with regards to silence is non-existent in the liturgies she organizes for Bishop Boyea. I read this article online a little over a month ago and laughed when I read the part about not “judging” the music since she is notoriously bad in her music selections. Simply put, she really seems to like Marty Haugen (sp?). I’m just thankful the new Blessed John XXIII Community won’t have her to deal with, bishop present or not.

  22. Re: “doing other things while Mass is going on”

    Um… praying, or doing things, in parallel as well as in unison is one of the great principles of the Church. There’s nothing wrong with it.

    For example:

    The servers do various things around the altar, while the priest is doing something else and the people are kneeling or sitting.

    Everybody else is sitting down, but the reader gets up and goes to the ambo and does stuff up there, and then comes back.

    A communion hymn is sung, while some people are receiving Communion and some are giving Communion to them.

    The choir is singing something, while the priest is praying something.

    The choir can sing things that the priest also says to himself, but at offsets from each other.

    So… it’s not at all obvious that you’re somehow “not paying attention to Mass” if you’re carrying out your own part. It would seem that quietly saying the Rosary wouldn’t be necessarily separate, if people loudly singing non-Mass texts instead of the propers isn’t separate. I mean, they’re all private devotional texts approved by the Church, so what’s the legal, or even theological, diff?

    (Actually, under the “alius cantus aptus” rules of the OF, I think the choir could sing the entire Rosary at Mass, as long as they didn’t sing it during the actual Eucharistic prayers. I think you could even have the choir sing in parallel to the homily, if you wanted to; but somehow, priests never want the people to participate in the Mass to that extent!) :)

    (I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to sing the entire Rosary during Mass, mind you.)

  23. teomatteo says:

    For centuries, the faithful “attended” or “heard” Mass in Latin. They devoutly listened as the priest recited texts in Latin. Only in the early 20th century were personal missals published to provide translations.

    When I read this some time ago (i’m in the Lansing, MI diocese) i found that statement curious. Did the author imply with the quotation marks that the faithful showed up for mass and then just sat/knelt there and heard some mumble jumble then left? It wasnt until the translations i.e. missal(s) came along did they understand what was being re-presented to the Father? Her statement just struck me as ‘thank goodness we are so much more beyond that primitive ritual’ Yikes, there i go using the quotation thingies….

  24. Henry Edwards says:

    Cavaliere: I’m no Latinist, but on a simple dictionary basis, the SC phrase participatio actuosa could be translated as either actual or active participation.

    However, possible ambiguities like this are resolved by context. The context here is the use of the term participatio actuosa in the liturgical movement of the first half of the 20th century. When I believe it continued to mean what Pope Pius X meant when he introduced the term in 1903. Namely, “actually” participating in the Mass–rather than merely listening passively to it (not to imply that all listening is necessarily passive)–by chanting the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc. This sense was reiterated by Pius XI and arguably broadened by Pius XII to include the dialogue responses, etc.

    On this basis, it seems to me that, in plain language, participatio actuosa meant participating in the prayers of the liturgy and not (for instance) doing other things or carrying things around during the liturgy.

    Indeed, thinking of the dictum to “sing the</b? Mass” rather than merely to “sing at</b? Mass”, I personally would argue that congregational singing of the almost universal 4-hymn sandwich is not participatio actuosa in the liturgy, but an example of doing something else during the liturgy. Actually (so so speak) I understand that doing away with the 4-hymn sandwich (in favor of Gregorian chant of ordinary and propers) was one of the participatio actuosa goals of Vatican II.

  25. Andy Milam says:


    I would have you read this article about participation. I think that it will help you to solidify your argument.



  26. Martial Artist says:

    Fr. Z,

    Overall I agree with your summary assessment of the author’s article. I would offer two observations:

    First, in regard to “judging” the homily. If, by saying “of course we are going to judge” them, you mean with respect to the homily that we are going to attempt to measure our own behavior against what is preached, then I would agree with you. Likewise, if you mean that we are going to measure what is preached and our understanding of what it requires of us against the teachings of Holy Mother Church, that is to see whether (a) the homily is concordant with the magisterium and that our lives are then also in concordance therewith, I would again agree. I think I might have a problem with judging the homily in other senses.

    With regard to the music, I do always judge it on the basis of several criteria–foremost for me are (a) whether a particular hymn furthers (i.e., supports) or distracts from the reading(s) and homily or the particular feast day being celebrated, and (b) whether the music is an aid to my worship of God and to opening myself to be transported to a state of being in which I can experience the mysteries of God and the Eucharist, or if it is a hindrance to that worship and experience of mystery.

    Unfortunately for me, the music (especially hymnody) in most American Catholic parishes is for me more of a barrier than a help. On the other hand, I have the good fortune to be in a parish where the music, particularly for major feasts and for two of the five Sunday Masses (10:30 and noon) is well selected from the musical patrimony of the Church prior to the past 50-100 years, including Gregorian chant for the Introit and Mass Propers. And we don’t use the standard OCP hymnal during those Masses, but rather the GIA Worship II edition. The Haugenesque faux-popular stuff that I have encountered in other parishes over the years is, for me, an obstruction to worship. Now if I could get more of my parishioners to read and consider Jeffrey Tucker’s Sing Like a Catholic.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  27. chironomo says:

    For all of the ink spent writing about FCAP and touting the glories of SC for freeing the faithful from their Latin-induced stupor, there seems to be precious little “participating” actually happening in most celebrations of the liturgy. A dozen Methodists can sing louder than a Cathedral full of Catholics in most situations, and saying the rosary during Mass has been mostly replaced by reading the bulletin during Mass. If we did an honest and comprehensive assessment (and it will never happen) of the success of FCAP, it would be shown to be the overwhelming failure that has truly been.

  28. Henry Edwards says:

    Thanks, Andy, this is really an outstanding article by the great Fr. Richard Schuler, which I would recommend as “must reading” to everyone who wants to know what was actually meant at Vatican II by participatio actuosa. I had seen the quotes from Pius X and Pius XII, but the one from Pius XI is especially good:

    Pope Pius XI in his apostolic constitution, Divini cultus, wrote in 1928, that the restoration of Gregorian chant for the use of the people would provide the means whereby “the faithful may participate in divine worship more actively.” Such participation was to be achieved both by singing and by an appreciation of the beauty of the liturgy which stirs the heart of the worshiper, who thereby enters into the sacred mysteries.

    These quotes add up to a clear case that the concept of “active participation” that underlay Sacrosanctum Concilium was quite unlike that which has prevailed since the Council. Thus the concept of participatio actuosa was itself hijacked in the post-Vatican II years.

  29. Andy Milam says:

    You’re welcome Henry.

    As an aside, that was THE article that started me down the road to tradition. I lived with Monsignor Schuler for several years in the mid to late 1990s. Before living with him I was a run of the mill Novus Bozo addict. He and I had a long talk in his office one day and he asked me to reach behind and pull open the second drawer of his filing cabinet. He had me pull out THAT article which he wrote in 1987! 1987! You can only imagine the questions it provoked in me and the rest, as they say, is history.

    So, I would say this…understanding participatio actuosa v. participatio activa is first when it comes to how we should worship during the liturgical action. Everything else comes after that.

  30. Cavaliere says:

    Henry and Andy, thank you for the information.

  31. robtbrown says:

    Has anyone mentioned that JRatzinger pointed out that versus populum celebration undermines participatio actuosa?

  32. Andy Milam says:


    Not in this thread, but have at it….

  33. robtbrown says:

    Not in this thread, but have at it….
    Comment by Andy Milam

    OK. JRatzinger pointed out that versus populum celebration undermines participatio actuosa?

  34. Andy Milam says:

    I think that there is an interesting take on this from Michael P. Foley, who is an assitant professor of Patristics from Baylor Univeristy.

    He says in a recent article, “Pius XI contrasts [in Divini Cultus, 1928] being “detached and silent” not with loudness or some other externally quantifiable sign, but with being filled with the liturgy’s splendor. The opposite of liturgical inactivity is not, as some might expect, the external activity of voice or movement, but the internal wonder born of experiencing beauty; and if the externals are to be encouraged, it is for the sake of vivifying the internal.”

    The point he is making is this. That participatio actuosa isn’t just being active and making the action your prayer. The point is that FIRST, one has to stop, consider his prayer, actually pray, then make the responses. For even if one makes the actions his prayers, it isn’t enough, becuase the internal aspect of the prayer being offered isn’t happening. To use the “new-ish” concept, one cannot worship properly at Mass, unless his soul is engaged with his action. And the soul has to engage FIRST.

    Foley goes on to say, “Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei (1947) articulates a similar understanding. Pius XII commends “active and individual participation” through which “the members of the Mystical Body . . . become daily more like to their divine Head.” He too warns the faithful not to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice “in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with…earnestness and concentration.” Note again the emphasis on mental presence. […]Pius XII’s encyclical is the first to give us the full Latin term for active participation: actuosa participatio. Again, note the wording: When translating the Italian partecipazione attiva into Latin, the normative language of the universal Church, the pope could have chosen activa as the adjective — but he did not. He speaks instead of actuosa participatio, which is better translated into English as “actual participation” (and here I must express my profound gratitude to Dr. Daniel Van Slyke for this insight).”

    Again, even as this idea of particpatio actuosa is being developed, it is clear that there is a distinction between mere activity and true worship. As Foley points out, Pope Pius XII could have used activa, but he did not. He used actuosa, for in Latin, there are more precise words than in English. The term actuosa means something more internal.

    My final point, Foley expounds, “Vatican II wanted to see the congregation involved in the responses and singing (see no. 30), but it did so for the sake of this internal, actual participation, not as an end unto itself. Vatican II did not abolish papal teachings on actual participation; it presupposed them.”

    It presupposed them. This then begs the question, why was it so muddied? The answer seems easy enough, but in reality, it isn’t. The answer is that the CONTROLLING bodies within the various bishop’s councils were in lock-step. It is they who are to blame. Yes, the bishops are culpable, because in the end, they knew better and I daresay most know better today, but the idea of creating a new vision for the liturgical action trumped everything and in haste, the Spirit of Vatican II flew out the windows when they “let the fresh air in.”

    We must work to get our pastors to buy into the proper attitudes AND FOLLOW THROUGH!!!! We MUST become the leaders that take over. We have to understand that worshipping is the role of the faithful in the pew. Serving is reserved to those at the altar and the priest is the mediator of our worhsip. This is the paradigm and this is where we have to lead our pastors. They cannot make changes until they understand AND embrace this.

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