Throughout the year, we present an article in the bulletin each week on a variety of topics, written by a member of our Parish staff on a rotating basis.
by Orin Johnson
We all make mistakes from time to time, and the liturgy is no exception. Sometimes they arise from misunderstandings or a lack of preparation, sometimes they are brought about by factors outside our (or anyone’s control), and sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them! Particularly regarding these last sorts of mistakes, they can be a powerful reminder that liturgy is both a divine action and simultaneously the “work of the people” – a very human liturgy, simply, isn’t human if it isn’t without mistakes.
My mother died 15 years ago on March 17, which most of us know as St. Patrick’s Day. In 2008, March 17 also happened to be Monday of Holy Week, which meant I celebrated the Triduum that year back home at St. Dionysius Church in Tyler, Minnesota. Tyler is in the New Ulm diocese, which is a rural, mission diocese. The church’s pastor at the time, Fr. Sam, was from Guatemala originally, and to this day continues to serve in various parishes of the diocese, well-liked wherever he is assigned. At the time of my mother’s funeral, he had been speaking English for only three years. Given that fact, his command of the language, a difficult one for many who have reason to learn it as a second language, was extraordinary – but not perfect.
The first glimpse of his occasional lapses with his newly-learned language occurred on Good Friday, as he was voicing the words of Jesus in the proclamation of the Passion. Simon Peter, early in John’s telling of the passion, had just cut of Malchus’s ear, during Jesus’s arrest. I’m not sure if Peter’s scabbard had fallen off in all the ruckus, but Jesus, through Fr. Sam, calmly but sternly told Peter to “…put the sword into the cupboard, shall I not drink the cup the Father gave me?” (John 18:11; NABRE, nearly)
Due to the rites of Holy Week, the vigil service for my mother wasn’t until Easter Sunday night. Probably with very little time to prepare, this missionary pastor ably led us through the service. He arose to proclaim the Gospel, familiar to us all, and in a calm-but-stern voice warned us: “Be prepared. ‘Jesus told his disciples: Guard your lions and light your lamps…’” (Luke 12:35; NABRE, nearly)
While Fr. Sam had good reason to misspeak, to make mistakes, the Gospel today warns us to be as ready as we can for the second coming of Christ into our midst, to not make the conscious mistakes of being complacent or unprepared. The invitation to the banquet may come at any moment! Have we girded ourselves appropriately for the feast? May our human mistakes at liturgy be reminders of that same readiness we are called to, and a reminder that the liturgy is truly where the human meets the divine.