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What does an engaged parish look like?
What makes for a parish that is vibrant, dynamic and fully animated by the Holy Spirit?
Much, of course, depends upon the vision and attitude of the pastor. His modus operandi is quite determinative, fortunately and unfortunately. Prescinding from that, what do we find in vital parishes that are fully engaged in the life of the church?
Several areas are key in an alive parish: its life of worship, the parish’s educational and formational activities, its social service and outreach efforts and its ecumenical contacts. In each of these areas one finds a warm, open and hospitable atmosphere that is obvious and felt in an animated parish.
In the Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, we find: “Mother church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. “The members of the assembly, therefore, should not be passive observers; they should be active, engaged in their proper and necessary roles in the celebration of Mass. They don’t just pray, pay and obey.
The Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity is a document that needs to be read and re-read. It is a constitutional document in which the world’s bishops declared:
The laity derive the right and duty with respect to their apostolate from their union with Christ their Head. Incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord himself.
They are not simply deputies of the pastor.
In its decree on the life and ministry of priests, the council stated:
Priests must sincerely acknowledge and promote the dignity of the laity and the role which is proper to them in the mission of the church. They should scrupulously honor that just freedom which is due to everyone in this earthly city. They should listen to the laity willingly, consider their wishes in a fraternal spirit, and recognize their experience and competence in the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be able to read the signs of the times.
Much more needs to be said on this topic; the work of the Second Vatican Council, particularly in the enlivening of parishes, is far from achieving the council’s vision. In truth, the work and the development of the council in this area have only just begun.
How about establishing a parish study group, one whose focus is on deepening your parish’s awareness of just what Vatican II’s vision was all about?
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? (Matthew 5:13-16)