This edition of "From the Principal's Desk" discusses the vital role the liturgy plays in academic life, along with suggestions for parents, written by Fr. Jonathan Loop, Principal of Immaculate Conception Academy.
When St. Benedict fled the decaying remains of ancient Rome, he unwittingly served as an instrument in the hands of God to lay the foundations of Christendom. He himself had little idea that the monastic life he re-ordered and popularized would nourish Christian societies throughout Europe. Our Lord, on the other hand, intended to draw innumerable souls and nations under His influence through the work of the sons of St. Benedict.
The center of the work of St. Benedict was undoubtedly the altar of the abbatial church, together with the “Opus Dei” which was conducted in its presence. This “Work of God,” also known as the liturgy, sanctified countless men and women who in turn Christianized the communities where they dwelt. Fathers and mothers can do no better than to follow his example as they strive to work with the grace of God to Christianize the children under their care.
St. Pius X, in his Motu Propio Tra la Sollicitudine, noted that the liturgy – or the public and solemn prayer of the Church – is the “foremost and indispensable font” of the Christian spirit. As Pius XII teaches in his encyclical Mediator Dei,
the sacred liturgy is the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father, as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the heavenly Father.
In other words, it is something much greater than our private devotions – such as the Rosary, holy though this prayer certainly is – since it is the worship which Jesus Christ offers to His Eternal Father. When we join ourselves to the liturgical prayer of the Church, we are making our own the prayer of Christ Himself.
This is why St. Pius X says that the liturgy is the “indispensable font” of the Christian spirit. As Dom Marmion, OSB, notes in his work Christ in His Mysteries,
We know that it is especially by the liturgy that the Church brings up the souls of her children in order to make them like unto Jesus . . . . If we let ourselves be guided by her, we shall infallibly come to know the mysteries of Jesus and above all enter into the thoughts and feelings of His Divine Heart.
As a result, if parents wish to ensure that their children grow up to be good Christians, it is necessary above all that mother and father communicate to them a deep understanding and fervent love of the public worship which the Church regularly offers to God through Our Lord Jesus Christ. This worship is accomplished primarily through the Mass and the Divine Office, but also throughout the course of the liturgical year, which is centered around the two great feasts of Christmas and Easter (we shall explore this in detail in another letter).
As ever, parents can only transmit what they themselves possess. Therefore, if they hope to help their children understand the glory of the liturgy and enkindle within their hearts a healthy love for it, both father and mother themselves must be models of devotion to the public prayer of the Church, not only on Sundays, but throughout the week, according to the manner possible according to their state in life. I have included below a few suggestions on how to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the liturgy.
Please be assured of my prayers, and permit me to ask your prayers for me!
In Christo Sacerdote et Maria,
- Fr. Jonathan Loop
Prioritize Sunday High Mass
A parent from a mission chapel noted recently to me: "We used to be those 'low Mass' folks, and the importance of the Mass is not the same. The High Mass is sooo much more rich. It’s good for the kids, [both on account of the] participation, and it’s great for discipline (it's actually good for the little ones to have to be still for an hour and a half). It also sends the message that High Mass is THE event of the day, versus the subliminal message of 'let’s just get this out of the way early.'"
Obviously, it is not always feasible to make it to High Mass on every Sunday - especially here at ICC - but it is still possible to impress upon your children the understanding that this is the Mass par excellence that is the very best thing to happen in their lives throughout the week.
Explain meaning of Mass & its parts
In addition to this, it is important for the parents to make time to teach their children what they are doing when attending Mass; namely, offering themselves as victims in union with Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to their Father in Heaven. The Mass is not an act of personal devotion intended to produce peace of soul or a sense of security. Parents also have the privilege to help their children become truly familiar with the main parts and individual prayers of the Mass. Thus, the main action of the Mass will become more clear, and the children will be able to pray all the more intelligently as they follow along in their missals
True sense of Holy Communion, which is a liturgical act
Too often, our boys appear to think it is an exercise in personal devotion which is supposed to make them feel pious, or in some unexplained way help them gain salvation. Holy Communion is, strictly speaking, a liturgical action; this means that when we receive Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are intimately united in the solemn and public worship which He is offering to His Father perpetually in Heaven. As a result, it entails a profound oblation of self to God, one which is meant to dominate every single aspect of our lives as Catholics.
Impart a love of the Divine Office.
Obviously, for most families, it is simply not possible to take part in the Divine Offices at the church on a regular basis, nor is this part of their duty, as it is for a priest. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to nourish a healthy love and respect for the prayer of the Church, since it is work of the Holy Ghost.
This can be done partly by making a point of taking your children when they are sufficiently old enough to Vespers (when available) or even to Compline perhaps once a month (or more, if your circumstances permit). This is THE night prayer of the Church, and it is meant to be the model of the evening prayers of the faithful.
This suggests another way to develop a love of the Divine Office, which is to draw inspiration from it for prayers at home. For example, the "Nunc Dimittis" from Compline, based on the words of Simeon when he held the Infant Jesus, can serve as a wonderful evening prayer for the family. One could also take the Hymn from Prime (or some other prayer from this office) as an inspiration for family morning prayers.
Incorporate saints’ feast days into family life
It often surprises me how thoroughly ignorant our boys are of the feast days throughout the calendar. Though we will discuss this more in detail in another letter, the liturgical calendar of the Church - which includes the feast days of the saints - is a powerful instrument in acquiring the Christian spirit and understanding one is part of the Communion of the saints. If the saints are never discussed, and their feasts are largely ignored, they become mere fictional characters - actually less than that, since our boys are often fascinated with the details of the lives of movie characters who are completely unreal.