Whenever the church gears itself for reformation, the first to be worked out for reform and the first to be affected by reform, is its life of prayer or the Liturgy. There are two reasons for this and both are connected with each other. First, it is because the Liturgy of the Church being the most familiar activity of the faithful and the activity where Christian life revolves, is the summation of all the official teachings and relevant theological reflections of the present, and the first to actualize it in its life. How we view ourselves as church, how we view the hierarchy in relation to the laity in the church, how we regard the world as a church, find its first expression in the Liturgy. Thus, if the church sees itself as the Church of the Poor, then the first part to be affected and the first to actualize such concept is the Liturgy.
Secondly, liturgy or our life of worship is central to our life as Christians. It is there that our life finds expression and is celebrated in symbols. We bring our lives in the liturgy and it is only by doing so that the celebration in symbols becomes meaningful. At the same time it is in the liturgy that our life as Christians is patterned, where we get the energy and the drive to live out in our daily lives what we celebrate through symbols. Thus, if the Church sees itself as Community of Disciples, it is the Liturgy which first expresses this concept both as fact and as an ideal to be worked out in our daily lives.
This is the first principle that underlies the gamut of the plan passed by the Commission on Worship. The life of worship or the celebration of the Liturgy is the most tangible and visible area of our Christian life. Thus, it is our personal belief that whatever advances we make in the field of the social apostolate, in education and in the various formations made by the parish, if these reforms or plans do not affect the life of worship of the people, everything becomes nil. The people will not believe us in our efforts. The people will not sense them. And everything will just turn out to be an exercise in futility. It is our hope then that the plans we made with its flaws and advances, should be viewed with this principle in mind.
After a series of education on pertinent documents of the church and after our First Parish Congress, the Parish Pastoral Council handed down to us a goal which states: “To launch a one year comprehensive program on Renewed Integral Evangelization in the Parish under the following thrusts: Formation, Worship/Liturgy, Service, Youth and Pastoral Structures.”
For the benefit of those who are not very familiar with the PCP II concept of Renewed Integral Evangelization, this concept connotes a renewal of the three areas of Christian life, namely - the renewal of catechetics/education, the renewal of the life of worship and the renewal of social apostolate. This wholistic renewal is a method/response to the challenge/goal set by PCP II which is to become a Community of Disciples by becoming first the Church of the Poor.
The renewal of the life of worship in the PCP II documents has two prevalent ideals: first, that our worship becomes life and our life becomes worship. The second follows the first: so that our liturgy or our life of worship may permeate our daily lives, it must be “informed, active, full, and communitarian.” It must be noted that all these are done in order to contribute to the formation of the overall goal which is to become a Community of Disciples by becoming the Church of the Poor, both of which are contained in the PCP II documents and in our parish vision-mission statements.
Thus with this in mind the Pastoral Council tasked us with the following: formulation of guidelines for the celebration of the sacraments; encourage active participation of parishioners in all liturgical celebration with proper decorum; improvement of physical arrangement of the cathedral conducive to worship and prayer; and lastly to emphasize the importance of the Eucharist in our devotions and to make them Christ-centered.
Establishing this background as our foundation we now present the plan.
I. SACRAMENTAL LIFE
1. Pre-sacramental Catechesis
To launch an on-going pre-sacramental catechesis on the sacrament of Confirmation. This would include a pre-sacramental catechesis for the candidate to be confirmed and a recollection for parents. Since the members viewed the Sacrament of Confirmation as a “re-affirmation of the faith received during baptism,” the catechesis would include a review/formation on the creed, the commandments and the life of prayer. This is to be given by age group. The Sacrament will be celebrated in the community as the culmination of the formation. Follow-up structures, like bible sharing, youth formation, or initiation to marriage groups are to be made so that the participants will maintain the initial fervor.
2. Funeral Mass
a. That the existing program for funerals be further enhanced, the guidelines properly disseminated and implemented. This includes the home visitation made by the Commission on Worship in the Barangay to pray for the dead using the psalm prayers disseminated by the parish, explain the existing guidelines for the funeral mass and to encourage and even lead the prayers at the grave. The prayers which are disseminated are communitarian and biblical.
b. The Parish will be required to say one mass in the homes of the departed during the wake regardless whether they are poor or rich. The family are then encouraged to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for the funeral mass. This is one way of closing in the obvious discrimination whenever masses are celebrated in the homes of the bereaved and this is also one way of reaching out to the so called “unchurched” whose only time for going to church is in the funerals. During this visitation, the members of the parish councils are encouraged to visit the family of the bereaved so as to get them acquainted with the people they serve.
c. That a common funeral mass will be held weekly for poor parishioners who could not afford to pay the arancel. Again this is to emphasize the values defined by the church of the poor and communal celebrations which our usual practice of private funerals do not advance.
d. That there will no longer be “private” masses held in Mausoleums during November 2, but instead a Requiem Mass will be celebrated for all the faithful departed in the cemetery to be attended by our parishioners.
3. Sacrament of Matrimony
a. Establish guidelines for the celebration of the sacrament which will create a more prayerful celebration, which is simple, active and communitarian. Efforts should be made to include in the guidelines the simplicity in dress, and in the preparations in the church which every sacrament demands so as to make it truly prayerful. An explanation of the rites and these guidelines will become part of the pre-cana seminar.
b. That there will be a communal Wedding ceremony (not more than three couples for each celebration) which is both simple and prayerful. It will be celebrated in a solemn manner. This is again done to encourage wedding celebrations in common and provide a venue where our poor parishioners could avail of the sacraments without worrying so much about financial considerations. A simple church decoration will be provided for free.
4. Sacrament of the Sick:
a. That once a year, a communal celebration of the sacraments of the sick, reconciliation and viatico publiko will be held in every barangay for the aged and the sick. Afterwards the Eucharisitic Ministers of each barangay will bring communion to the sick every Sunday.
b. That there will be a formation of the Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Sick for every barangay.
5. Education on the Sacraments, on the signs and symbols used in the mass and in the other sacraments, and formation with regards to the proper decorum in the church are to be continued, made systematic and consistent in the short introductions in the mass and in Candle Light.
1. That there will be a complete re-orientation and re-organization of the existing ministries - Lay Eucharistic Ministry, Lectors, Commentators, Ushers, Music Ministry and Altar Servers.
2. A coordinator in charge will be assigned for each Sunday mass. He/she will facilitate the celebration of the mass assigned to their group by coordinating the functions of the different ministries.
3. That there will be an on-going spiritual renewal and growth program for the ministries through a weekly faith sharing and quarterly education/formation.
4. After the re-orientation and re-organization of the different ministries, the different ministries are tasked to present guidelines which will help actualize the various decrees on the Liturgy in our Parish.
III. OFFICE: That an office for the Commission on Worship be established with a library for the use of lectors and commentators and those who wish to enhance their knowledge on the liturgy and the bible.
IV. DEVOTIONS: That family prayers with the urna of Our Lady of Candles would be launched in every barangay. In its first stage the group for one urna would be composed of fifteen households who would receive it twice monthly. They will pray in its presence as a family. And weekly there would be a gathering of the household heads to pray with the bible and share their faith-life with one another. This first group would be organized into a cell group in the barangay in preparation for BEC.
All other programs of the commission not mentioned in this plan are to be continued and are now in the process of documentation
All these plans are our feeble attempt to consolidate into action what we have learned so far in our readings of the documents of Vatican II, the documents of PCP II and on our reflection of our parish vision-mission statements. As one would notice there is a continuous insistence in the plan on communal celebrations rather on prayer celebrations which are somewhat exclusive, limited or celebrations which does not advance and even obstruct this ideal. (We have in part attempted to diminish any practice still leaning towards a privatistic outlook and practice of our liturgy.) By its very nature liturgy is a communitarian celebration, and all other prayer celebrations should lead towards celebration in the community. This is so because we believe that there is a deeper bond which binds us together, a bonding more thicker than blood or of friendship. And this bond is the fraternity in the faith. It is a fact which must be continually celebrated in the liturgy, and an ideal which our liturgies must instill in the minds of our parishioners, to be worked for until we one day fulfill that dream when we become a community of disciples.
There is also a quiet insistence to dismantle any vistages of discrimination in our church services. Again, this is based on the belief advanced by PCP II that we could not become a community of Disciples unless there is a favorable tilt or a preferential option for the poor who compose a larger segment of our parish. It is our hope then that at the very least our life of worship would contribute greatly to the insistence of PCP II that we first become a church of the poor in order that we could reach our dream of becoming a community of disciples.