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Special Sundays - 13th September 2015
Several days of Special Commemorations designated as such by the Holy See and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have fallen recently or will occur in coming weeks: Vocations Awareness Week in early August, World Refugee and Migrant Sunday on 30th August, Child Protection Sunday today, and Social Justice Sunday in two weeks’ time. Parishes are bombarded with material for collections and causes on most Sundays of the year.
Numerous other “special” days or weeks occur during the year - Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, International Women’s Day, World AID’s Day, Domestic Violence Prevention Week, and so on – that have been determined by national or international secular bodies such as the United Nations or by traditional practice.
On top of all this is the Church’s Liturgical Calendar with its cycle of seasons and feasts.
How do people responsible for preparing liturgy in parishes know which of all these special causes are official Church celebrations and how do they incorporate them into the Sunday Mass?
The first step is to refer to the Ordo which sets out for each day of the year the feast or season which is celebrated on that day, lists the readings for the day and indicates any special texts or prayers that must be used in Masses on that day. The Ordo also includes the list of Holy See and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Special Commemorations.
Our Sunday worship cannot be divorced from daily life and the realities of the world, so special days or causes like those named above should certainly find a place in our prayers, but they do not determine the character of the celebration as official feasts and seasons do. Even worthy “special” days like Mother’s Day or Mission Sunday are not on the same level as feasts such as Pentecost or Christ the King when it comes to their place in the public worship of the Church.
As the first paragraph of the official document on the Church’s calendar says, “Each week on the day called the Lord’s Day the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. “ This is reiterated in the first paragraph of the 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies Domini: “Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s resurrection. It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christs victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of the ‘new creation’.”
If a particular theme or appeal overshadows the character of the Sunday Mass, or takes precedence over the prayers and readings, then a disservice is done both to the liturgy and the community.
There are several ways in which a special intention can be recognised whilst respecting the integrity of Sunday Eucharist. It may be referred to in the Introductory Rites or the homily, and be the subject of one or two petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful. There may be appropriate hymns which can be used in the liturgy. Information about special causes can be included in bulletin notices, handouts and displays.
While many of these themes or intentions may well be “worthy causes”, the Church assembles for Eucharist on Sunday to celebrate something much more profound and fundamental – the paschal mystery: the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.