“The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed;
at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church’s power flows”
-Vatican Council II
Some years ago, then Cardinal Ratzinger –now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI— said: “The Church stands or falls with the liturgy”. There is nothing more important than the liturgy, in which we encounter God himself. The Second Vatican Council said: “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, Article 10). This is true for the Church as a whole, and for each member and group within the Church. This is true, as well, for each parish. For us too, the liturgy is the source and summit of our life. Why? Because although there are many ways of doing good things and even of praying, only in the liturgy of the Church do we receive God’s grace through the sacraments; only in the liturgy do we encounter God personally, in a real and efficacious way.
That is why at St. Stephen we do our very best to have an uplifting liturgy, and as one body of Christ, we celebrate with reverence and joy. Through our involvement in various liturgical ministries and active participation in the liturgy, we are not just being nourished, but we are enabling ourselves to live out our baptism with Christ to its fullest.
The Ministry of the Liturgy Committee
By Kathy Lindel - former director of the Office for Worship of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
If we think of Sunday Mass as a sacred drama with two or three acts, several scenes, numerous props and a cast composed of presider, deacon, assembly, servers, lectors, eucharistic ministers, hospitality ministers and a choir, it is easy to see the reason for the rise and spread of parish liturgy committees since the Second Vatican Council. Someone has to plan and put all this together in accordance with the church’s norms and the people’s needs. But the church’s worship is not just a set of texts and rubrics. Liturgy committees exist principally to enhance the living experience of the people of God as they come together with a yearning to sustain the vision of a kingdom come in Jesus Christ. more…
Altar Servers are part of a very ancient tradition in the liturgical life of the church. Within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in accord with permission given by the Holy See, both men and women, young and old, may function as servers of Word and Sacrament. These Archdiocesan Guidelines are meant to benefit those responsible for implementing the Ministry of Server, providing helpful direction while allowing for appropriate pastoral discretion.
On the pastoral level it is most important that this ministry continue to be encouraged. Pastors should see to it that this ministry reflects the parish and that there is an appropriate balance of male and female servers. Pastors are reminded, especially in the recruitment and training of younger servers, that this ministry has in the past been a source of priestly and religious vocations. It could once more be the starting point for a young man to begin thinking about the priesthood, or a young woman to develop an interest and love for the religious life. more…
According to the ancient tradition and the teaching of the Church, the readings other than the Gospel are proclaimed by lay ministers called lectors. The practice of ordained ministers proclaiming these readings is improper (Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass #51). The use of two readers – one for each reading – is encouraged. The parish community should strive for enough trained lectors to fulfill this goal (Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass #52). more…
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion
When the size of the congregation, or the incapacity of the Bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other Bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, “the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., formally instituted acolytes or even some of the faithful who have been commissioned according to the prescribed rite. In case of necessity, the priest may also commission suitable members of the faithful for the occasion” (Norms #28; General Instruction of the Roman Missal #162, 284). more…
The ministry of ushers is the oldest lay ministry in the Catholic Church. The ushers of today are descended from a long line of people of God who have gone before them. During the time of Christ, the doorkeepers of the temple numbered in the hundreds and were the forerunners of today's ushers.
The more immediate predecessor of today's usher can be found in the clerical order of porter, instituted in the 3rd Century A.D. During those times, it was the duty of the porters or ushers to guard the door of the church against any intruders who might disturb the service. The porter’s duties were so important that they came to be included in the rite of ordination, where they were specified as: "to ring the bells, open the church and sacristy, to open the book for the preacher." In 1972 Pope Paul VI abolished the order of porter and this important task was given over to the laity.
While today's ushers don't ring bells or open the church, their primary duties and responsibilities include greeting and welcoming parishioners as they enter the church, help them to find seats, taking up the collection and wishing everyone a good day at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Celebration.
The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (n.112) speaks of the “ministerial” rather than incidental function of music. A 1972 document by the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, “Music in Catholic Worship,” speaks of the importance of singing acclamations, processional songs, responsorial psalms, and chants. It also highlights the importance of congregational song, rather than the past emphasis placed on chants by the priest.
The Liturgical Environment Ministry helps create a prayerful environment to draw the community into deeper awareness of God the creator. Liturgical environment ministers coordinate the floral and plant arrangements as well as other decorations of the church during the different liturgical seasons.