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Local priest discusses liturgy in How We Worship

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Friday, February 26, 2010

By Mary Caffrey Knapke

DAYTON DEANERY — While the dictionary describes liturgy as “a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship,” Father Lawrence E. Mick reminds his readers that there is a even deeper meaning than this in the Catholic Mass.

“The liturgy is also a gift to us from God,” he writes. “The liturgy offers us the opportunity to encounter the living God in our midst.”


 
In his new book, How We Worship: The Eucharist, the Sacraments, and the Hours, Father Mick explores the liturgy’s meaning and historical context, its components and its importance in Catholic life.
 

 Father Lawrence E. Mick
Father Lawrence E. Mick (Courtesy photo)

He said he hopes the book will help readers find “their understanding of the liturgy enriched and therefore their ability to enter into it deepened as well. I think the more that people give themselves over to the liturgy and what it asks of us, the more spiritually enriching it becomes for them, as well as for the people around them. I think the liturgy is a tremendous treasure chest of spiritual riches, and I think we have not mined it very well. I think you can reflect upon and learn about the liturgy for the rest of your life and not exhaust it.”
 
Father Mick said How We Worship serves as one offering in liturgical education, whether the reader is new to the faith or has been practicing for a lifetime. Each chapter ends with “Joe’s Journey” and “Mary’s Journey,” fictional anecdotes that apply the ideas in the chapter to each character’s experience in the church.
 
“Joe” is a catechumen, while “Mary” is a lifelong Catholic. In addition, discussion questions help the individual reader reflect on the material, or they may provide guidance for parish groups that are reading and discussing the book. Resources for further reading are also included at the end of each chapter.
 
“One of the reasons for the book is I think we have not yet enabled most people in the pew to benefit as fully as they could from the riches that the liturgy contains. The Second Vatican Council talks about it as the source and summit of the Christian life and says it’s the fundamental basis for the development of the Christian spirit. I don’t know that many people know how that’s supposed to happen or how to make it happen for themselves. So, much of the goal of the book is to lay out how the liturgy leads us into a deeper identity as a member of Christ’s body and deeper into the life of the Trinity,” he said.
 
In particular, Father Mick said, liturgical education will benefit all Catholics in preparation for the forthcoming implementation of the revised edition of the Roman Missal, which includes updated translations of existing prayers within the Mass. “If all we do is tell people what new words they have to say, we’re missing the boat. We really need to invite people to a much more solid catechesis about the liturgy itself, so that they can understand it better, understand their role in it better, and therefore benefit from it more deeply. So the goal of the book is to provide that kind of basis,” he said.
 
“I hope that people, as they deepen their understanding of the liturgy, also deepen their participation, and that deepens their spiritual life which then motivates them to live it out,” he added. “If we really open ourselves to the word of God, if we really open ourselves to encountering Christ speaking to us in the word, if we open ourselves to the experience of sharing Christ’s sacrifice, we’re not going to walk out of there the same way that we walked in. That’s the whole point.”

Father Mick grew up in Hamilton and attended St. Gregory’s Seminary in Cin­cinnati and was ordained in 1972. After spending a summer studying graduate-level math, he then began to study the liturgy. He felt it would be more useful in parish life and found that “it really was an integrating study of all the stuff we were learning in the seminary — church history and theology and morality and church sacraments,” he said. “It seemed to me that this was a rich resource for the Catholic people.”

He earned a master’s degree in liturgical studies from the University of Notre Dame and has worked in the Cincinnati archdiocese throughout his priesthood, serving in a variety of roles. For the past 18 years, he has worked primarily as a speaker and writer. He also conducts training workshops for lectors.
 
In addition to approximately 1,400 published articles, How We Worship is Father Mick’s 21st book. It is available at Catholic bookstores and online at www.liguori.org or www.amazon.com.

Mary Caffrey Knapke can be reached at mary@maryknapke.com.

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