Good liturgy can spark conversion – archbishop

Archbishop Arthur Roche

Archbishop Arthur Roche

October 6, 2014

Reverent liturgical celebrations and good homilies play a key role in the Church's missionary rebirth, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship told Canada's bishops Sept. 15.

Describing the bishop as the "chief liturgist" in the diocese, Archbishop Arthur Roche said the liturgy is "the life-force of the entire community" and requires a bishop's "continual attentiveness."

"We must celebrate the liturgy properly," Roche told the more than 80 bishops and eparchs gathered for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops annual plenary Sept. 15-19 in Beaupré, Quebec.


"A correct and reverent celebration of the liturgy is one of the most powerful tools we have for bringing people to a deeper sense of personal conversion."

What the liturgy does for the community is secondary to the worship of God, he said, noting this priority must be uppermost in the minds of all who celebrate the liturgy or assist.

Roche also stressed that the liturgy is the Church's liturgy, not the liturgy of the celebrant.

"The liturgy is something 'bigger' than any one of us, and where the Church doesn't ask us to be creative we ought not to presume to insert our own innovative preferences in what is, in reality, the prayer of the Church and not that of a single community alone," he said.

"When people come to a parish and find the liturgy celebrated correctly, with dignity, sensitivity, with beauty, solemnity and prayer, with a wise combination of music and silence, they are able to offer to God the adoration and thanks that is his due," he said.

But as the source and summit of the Church's life, as stated in the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the liturgy "gives us the energy to go out and to carry on doing the other vitally important things" in the Church's mission.

The liturgy properly celebrated "inspires people to live out their vocations with generosity and to be committed disciples and enthusiastic evangelists of Jesus," he said.

The archbishop also stressed the importance of a proper understanding of "participation" in the liturgy.

"A sense of participation has so often been misconstrued to mean a sort of 'activism,' such that too many have come to embrace the idea that they must be 'doing' something in order to participate in the liturgy."


"More than anything else, participation is internal and is the fruit of understanding what is happening in the liturgy, and joining in that act with our whole mind and heart."

The homily is the one place in the liturgy where creativity and the celebrant's individual personality can play a role, he said.

"I am not thinking here of clownish entertainment, but rather of the kind of creativity that is driven by the constant desire to understand the circumstances in which people find themselves and to communicate the truths of the faith to them in ways that bring the Gospel to life in their own daily lives.

"If our culture is ever to be renewed, it is the lay people who will achieve this, and an indispensable part of their formation is undoubtedly assisted by the homily," he said.