Epiphany means “manifestation”, that moment when we suddenly understand something that previously was hidden from us. Christmas is about the Incarnation, the coming down of the Son of God to become human, one of us. Epiphany is the showing of the Christ Child’s divinity, which is beginning to manifest itself in the world.
The Solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1
All Hallows’ Day, the Solemnity of All Saints, or All Saints’ Day is a celebration of all Catholic saints held on November 1 each year. “On this solemnity, we recall the holy men and women who, having completed their earthly journeys, now live forever with God. These saints, though not canonized, offer us models of abiding faith and love of God and neighbour” (Essential Guide to Seasons and Saints, 109).
The Church teaches that by imitating the virtues lived by the saints, the saints brings us closer to Christ. When we ask the saints to pray for us, we ask them to join their wills with the will of God and intercede for us here on earth. This is the Communion of Saints which we profess every Sunday in the Creed. (Source: USCCB)
Some resources for celebrating All Saints Day with your family:
Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed
(All Souls Day) - Nov2
All Souls’ Day, also known as “The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed” is observed on Tuesday, Nov. 2 this year. This is when we remember people who were more like us – the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory or in process. The faithful on earth can assist these purgatorial souls in attaining heaven through prayer, good work and the offering of Mass. At Mass on All Souls’ Day, we pray that through Christ’s loving mercy, God’s “departed servants…may be granted pardon and peace, and be brought to the joy of God’s eternal home. All Souls Day is an especially rich cultural experience for Hispanic/Latino Catholics, who call it “Día de los Muertos” or “The Day of the Dead.”
Some resources for commemorating All Souls Day with your family:
God is with us; who are we accompanying?
On Trinity Sunday, we often hear homilies about the theological mystery of the Trinity, but this year, perhaps we could focus on the theological miracle: that the three persons of God have promised to be with us to the end of time.
We have been promised that the Triune God will never leave us. Just as Jesus came to earth to reveal this to us, we are asked to be ambassadors of this kind of love in the world. Who knows God’s constant presence because you show up for them consistently? Your family and friends? Your community and neighbours? What about the sick and the suffering, the neglected and needy, the addicted and the poor? How are we bearing witness to the Triune God’s constant and faithful presence as an act of faith in the Blessed Trinity?*
May others know God’s enduring love because we have borne witness to it so well.
(excerpt from National Pastoral Initiative for Life and the Family, May 2021).
"The celebration of the XXIX World Day of the Sick on 11 February 2021, the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, is an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities. We think in particular of those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic." ~ Pope Francis.
The theme of this year’s message is “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers" (Mt 23:8), which encourages a trust-based relationship with the sick and the nurturing of integral human healing. Please find here some resources for the World Day of the Sick (Feb. 11) this year:
Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD)
We would also like to direct your attention to the updated Bill C-7 webpage, and ask that you continue to pray and voice your concern on MAiD. "May our Lord both inspire and bring to accomplishment our efforts to embrace and protect the suffering and vulnerable, and to honour and uphold our rights and freedoms." ~ AB & NWT Bishops See webpage
Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio Aperuit illis published on September 30, 2019 establishes that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 24, 2021) is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.
Pope Francis has declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God “that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride” (Aperuit Illis, 2). In 2022 the Sunday of the Word of God falls on January 23.
Here are five liturgical suggestions for making the most of this universal invitation from the Pontiff.
Focus on the centrality of the Bible for Christians. In the Gospel, Jesus quotes what we heard in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. The word of the prophet is the foundation for his teaching and the call of the first disciples. In the second reading Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus did not send him to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel and that “it is the power of God”.
2. Bless Ministers of the Word
Following the Homily, invite ministers of the Word to stand (e.g. lectors, psalmists, leaders in RCIA, liturgy of the word for children, and scripture study). Bless them with hands extended:
Blessed are you, Lord God,
Source of all light and all goodness,
you sent your Son, your living Word,
to reveal to humanity the mystery of your love.
Look with mercy upon these women and men who proclaim your word
and lead your people closer to your teaching.
Bless X them in their ministry
so that they may be nourished by your Word,
be transformed by it and faithfully announce it
to their brothers and sisters in your Church.
We praise and thank you, Father,
in the name of Jesus your Son,
and in the love of your Holy Spirit,
God of glory for ever and ever.
Adapted from the blessing of lectors in Celebrations of Installation and Recognition, copyright Concacan Inc.,2005. All rights reserved.
3. Universal Prayer
Introduction to the petitions:
Dear sisters and brothers,
nourished and formed by God’s Word
let us bring our needs and petitions before Him.
In addition to the petitions you have prepared for today, include some for the Word of God to come to life in your community, for example:
Prayer at the end of the petitions:
Grant, O God, that our lives be marked by your living word.
Hear these, our prayers,
and help us to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord.
4. Eucharistic Prayer
You might use Eucharistic Prayer III for Various Needs and Occasions (Jesus the Way to the Father). Its Preface focuses on Christ as the “Word” of God. Roman Missal p.764ff.
5. Enthroning the Bible (For use in homes, schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups)
The faithful have shown reverence to the bible as the inspired word of God since ancient times. The enthronement of an open bible has often served as a symbolic invitation to delve into the sacred text as the source of our spiritual life. You might use this short ritual from the American Bible Society to enthrone the Bible at home, in schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups.
6. More Resources
Date: May 26, 2020
Catholics will be allowed to take their first steps back to church for Mass in June under new guidelines issued by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Alberta.
The Guidelines for the Reintroduction of the Public Celebration of Holy Mass were developed by a task force the Bishops established under the direction of Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton and Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary. The document follows the recent release of the Alberta government’s Guidance for Places of Public Worship as part of Stage 1 of the provincial relaunch strategy, as well as consultations with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and other experts.
Parishes that have made the necessary preparations will be able to begin offering weekday masses on Monday, June 1, the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church; and Sunday masses as of June 7, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In order to protect the health of parishioners, volunteers, staff and clergy, the Bishops have set a detailed list of conditions that must be met before congregants can safely be invited back to Mass. These include:
Congregants will be able to receive Holy Communion in the form of the consecrated bread, but there will be no distribution of consecrated wine. Communicants will need to wear a mask to approach for Holy Communion, as will the priest when he is distributing it.
During this first stage, singing during Mass will not be allowed, as this activity has been shown to spread respiratory droplets that can infect others with the COVID-19 coronavirus. And any socializing after Mass will have to take place outside, still observing the physical distancing protocol.
The guidelines will apply broadly to the Archdiocese of Edmonton, Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan, Diocese of Calgary, and Diocese of St. Paul. Some particulars will vary in each diocese, so parishes should consult the guidelines for their own diocese.
Parish priests will be busy in the coming days preparing for the return of congregants in small numbers. However, since parishes vary greatly in terms of facilities and resources, it is likely that not all will be able to resume public masses in the first week of June. Parishioners are encouraged to check their parish website for local information.
It has been two months since public celebrations of the Mass were cancelled in Alberta. The full reinstatement of public masses will take place gradually, in parallel with the provincial relaunch strategy.
“The return of our people to the Eucharist after all this time will be a moment of great joy for both priests and parishioners, but there is still a long way to go,” said Archbishop Smith. “We will need to demonstrate that we have succeeded in providing a safe environment for Mass with small groups before we can proceed to the next stage and open masses to larger groups. For that reason, we ask once more for your patience, understanding, and prayers as we take these first steps forward.”
Date: May 15, 2020
The Catholic Bishops of Alberta remain committed to the gradual reinstatement of public celebrations of the Mass and welcome the recent release of the Guidance for Places of Public Worship document as part of the provincial government’s relaunch strategy. These guidelines are being carefully considered by the task force that the Bishops have established under the direction of Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton and Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary.
The task force is drafting for the Bishops a set of directives for the gradual reintroduction of Masses in public. The Bishops will present these to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. The proposed directives will take into consideration the information that will be received from the Telephone Town Hall with the Premier and the Chief Medical Officer scheduled for Thursday, May 21. No date will be set for the resumption of public liturgies in our Catholic churches and institutions until the Bishops are satisfied that their own directives can be fully and properly implemented.
Any announcement of the date for the gradual reintroduction will be made at least five days before the first scheduled Mass. Parishes by then will have received diocesan guidelines which help ensure the safety of everyone.
“It is critical that we understand the risks and take steps in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through prudent planning,” said Bishop McGrattan. “The health and safety of our parishioners, priests, and church staff are of utmost importance. Each and every life is a precious gift from God, and we are called to do everything in our power to protect them. This has been a tremendous sacrifice on the part of the faithful who strongly desire to celebrate the Eucharist in their parish communities. We are grateful for their cooperation, their patient endurance, and especially for their prayers.”
Date: May 6, 2020
In preparation for the lifting of some restrictions on gatherings in public places in Alberta, the Catholic Bishops of Alberta are working to develop a plan for the eventual reinstatement of public celebrations of the Mass. The Bishops have established a task force under the direction of Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton and Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary. The mandate of this task force is to discern when and how this gradual reinstatement will be initiated. Their consideration will continue to be informed by the advice of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the provincial government’s staged COVID-19 recovery plan.
“We are acutely aware of our parishioners’ fervent desire to return to the Eucharist, and we share their concern,” said Archbishop Smith. “Our careful discernment now will ensure that when the time comes, we will be ready to begin inviting the faithful back to the churches they miss so much. We are extremely grateful to all those who have made great sacrifices in the common effort to protect our brothers and sisters by preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
The consecration of Canada to Our Lady will enrich our faith, allow a more abundant outpouring of God’s spiritual and temporal gifts on us, and enable us even more to fulfill our calling and mission. Ultimately, consecration to Mary, which springs from a more fervent, more committed, and more sustained life of prayer and devotion in which the Blessed Mother plays a unique and loving role, points and leads to a renewed spirit and understanding of family, Church, and the need for societal engagement. To find more catechesis on Marian Consecration and why we consecrate Canada to Our Lady, please read the document "Consecrating Canada to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Insights for Adult Catechesis."
Join us in prayer: Bishop McGrattan will consecrate the Diocese of Calgary to Mary, Mother of the Church, on Friday, May 1, seeking her maternal protection during the Coronavirus pandemic. To assist dioceses with the consecration, the CCCB will provide a prayer for use during the solemn act of entrustment. It can likewise be incorporated into family or individual prayer at home and used by other groups and faith communities.
Bishop McGrattan will celebrating the following liturgies on Friday, May 1, 2020:
Play YouTube Playlist for Good Friday
Play YouTube Playlist for Holy Saturday
Play YouTube Playlist for Easter Sunday
Do you know that the proper Sequence is obligatory on Easter and Pentecost Sunday? It is to be sung following the second reading. The Gospel Acclamation follows the Sequence as usual. The sequence can be sung by the cantor, by the choir, or by the entire assembly. The CCCB encourages the participation of the assembly. The Easter sequence may be sung on every day of the Easter Octave including especially the Second Sunday of Easter.
Handy links for Parish music ministers and cantors:
The ritual of blessing homes in January is connected to the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Epiphany means “manifestation”, that moment when we suddenly understand something that previously was hidden from us. The antiphon for the Gospel Canticle at Evening Prayer illustrates the three events associated with the feast.
Three mysteries mark this holy day:
Christmas is about the Incarnation, the coming down of the Son of God to become human, one of us. Epiphany is the showing of the Christ Child’s divinity, which is beginning to manifest itself in the world.
The tradition of blessing doorways is inspired by the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, who followed the star to a manger in Bethlehem where the Messiah was made manifest for them in the person of a newborn child. The Magi showed great hospitality when they came to honour the Messiah. The blessing of our own doorway reminds us to welcome strangers and travellers into our midst as though each were Jesus himself. Incidentally, the tradition of carolling is also associated with the journey of the Magi and is a suitable way of announcing the manifestation of the Christ Child in song.
Here is a simple prayer service to use at home when blessing the doorway. Or download it as PDF here.
Gather everyone in a convenient place and make the sign of the Cross.
Leader: The Magi followed a star to find God in a tiny child. Let us imitate them in seeking the Saviour manifest in our world. R/: Amen.
If you have a crêche, move the magi to the scene.
To bless the doorway, write over the doorway with chalk the first two digits of the year, the initials of each of the Magi, and the last digits of the year, e.g. 20 + C + M + B + 14. The initials correspond to the first letter of each word in the simple prayer, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Christ bless this house. You may wish to say these words as you mark the doorway.
Lord Jesus, in your humble state you welcomed kings and shepherds alike. May all who pass through this doorway — poor or rich, suffering or rejoicing, stranger or friend — be welcomed as the King Himself. Grant peace to this house and to the house of our hearts that we may seek and find you in everyone we meet. You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. R/: Amen.
In 2020 the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord falls on Sunday and takes precedence over the Sunday in Ordinary Time. As such, we have to pay special attention to the ritual and musical requirements of the celebration. It will require some preparation and planning but is worth the effort. Younger members of your congregation especially will be touched by the ancient actions and symbolism.
The connection of this feast with candles comes from the eighth century and led to the feast being called “Candlemas”. The procession with lighted candles and blessing of candles to take home will help parishioners to see Christ as the light of the world in the world of their own lives.
Although Christmas season officially ended at the Baptism of the Lord, this celebration is an extension of the Christmas mystery of the Incarnation. Just as the Blessed Virgin spent 40 days contemplating the Divine Fruit of her womb before going to the temple to fulfil the Law, we also explore and live out the fruit of the Incarnation in the period of Ordinary Time leading up to February 2nd. The feast points back to Christmas and leads forward to Easter.
The Introductory Rites
There are two forms for the Introductory Rites: the Procession and the Solemn Entrance. The ritual is the same except that in the first, everyone gathers outside the church for the blessing while in the second the place of blessing is in the church, people are in the pews, and the procession is simply with the ministers to the altar. The Roman Missal gives detailed instructions. Adjusting for inside or outside the church, the introductory rites look like this:
The introductory rites of this celebration invite the use of simple chant. While the candles are being lit, the short antiphon Behold/Ecce dominus is sung. It is followed by a short dialogue with the priest that can be sung. The procession begins with the prescribed antiphon, A light for revelation with two verses or another appropriate chant. The Latin antiphon is also provided and could be used with the English verses. There are also Latin verses but theses need to be taken from the Graduale Romanum.
This chant is the Canticle of Simeon known from Night Prayer of The Liturgy of the Hours. Its use in this celebration is a way of introducing the congregation to this Scriptural Canticle. The choir might also consider a different setting of the Canticle of Simeon. The Entrance Chant follows the prescribed antiphon.
1. Download a pdf of the music
2. Listen to the Behold/Ecce dominus
3. Listen to A light for A light for revelation/Lumen ad revelationem
Inspired by the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the Church celebrates on the same day those who have consecrated themselves to the Lord with World Day of Consecrated Life. Please include a petition for those discerning the priesthood and religious life.
With the disappearance of decorated Christmas trees from bay windows and the appearance of dried up evergreen trees free of ornaments, tinsel and lights now lying on our curbs we can easily perceive an atmospheric change in focus. However, Liturgically, Christmas ends with the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on Sunday, January 12.
So, even if your Christmas trees have come down and decorations have been returned to storage, we invite you to consider keeping out the Christmas crèche a while longer and placing it in a prominent place in your home where you can gather with family and pray.
You may light a candle (mindful of everyone’s safety) and pray these words…
“O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practising the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ”
Did you know that the Vatican has their life-size nativity scene up until February 2?
Just as the Blessed Virgin spent 40 days contemplating the Divine Fruit of her womb before going to the temple to fulfil the Law, we also can ponder, explore, and live out the fruit of the Incarnation in the period of Ordinary Time leading up to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2. While this feast day is not part of the Christmas season, it is a feast that points back to Christmas and leads us forward to Easter.
And so, building on the #I Am Blessed campaign, we invite you and your family to keep in mind the words of Pope Francis: “The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman” Pope Francis, Admirabile Signum.
Close to the celebration of Christmas, after the Nativity scene has been set up, gather around to bless and praise God for sending his Son, Jesus. Here is a blessing prayer you can use at home with your family:
Sing a Christmas hymn or carol.
Leader: Glory to God in the highest.
(R/.) And peace to God’s people on earth.
Leader: Let us listen to these words of Scripture.
A reader proclaims one of these readings from Holy Scripture:
Leader: Let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who was born for our salvation. Our response to each intention is “Glory to God in the highest.”
(R/.) Glory to God in the highest.
Leader: Eternal Word, you have scattered the darkness of sin and death. (R/.)
Word made flesh, you have made us children of God most high. (R/.)
Incarnate Son, you have united heaven and earth. (R/.)
Lord Jesus, you are the revelation of God’s love. (R/.)
Eternal Son, you are the light of the nations. (R/.)
Emmanuel, you are fullness of God’s glory. (R/.)
Son of God, you were born of Mary with Joseph as your protector. (R/.)
Bread of life, you were laid in a humble manger. (R/.)
Son of David, the shepherds came to worship you. (R/.)
Light of the world, the Magi brought you gifts. (R/.)
Prayer of Praise
Leader: Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
you have sent your Son
as the promised Saviour of the world
so that he might share with us your divine life.
Bless us as we prepare this crib,
and let it be a reminder of the Lord Jesus,
who was born of the Virgin Mary in the City of David.
Grant that we may always serve you in faith
as did the angels,
praise you for your saving deeds
as did the shepherds,
and surround you with the warmth of our love,
as did the animals of the stable.
Glory and praise to you, eternal God,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever.
Conclude by singing a Christmas hymn or carol.
From Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family.
Ottawa: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004.
"To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Lk. 2:11)
You are invited to spend the Christmas season with Our Lord Jesus Christ with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. Check out the Mass times for the Christmas Season in parishes throughout the Diocese of Calgary. Click here.
While shops, television, and radio are filling our ears with Christmas music during the “holiday season”, for Catholics most of the worldly festivity does not take place during Christmas at all. It falls rather, during the liturgical season of Advent.
Unlike the red and green of the secular season, the liturgical colour of Advent is violet – the colour of a penitential season. We use candlelight to soften, not eviscerate, the darkness to invite prayer and introspection. We cease singing the Gloria and our hymns reflect the twofold character of Advent.
One of the most popular Advent hymns is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. The text of this hymn originates with the medieval O Antiphons, one of which is prayed each day in Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours and as the verse for the Alleluia verse of the Gospel Acclamation in the Mass from December 17 – 23.
The O Antiphons introduce us to several names given to the Messiah in the Old Testament. Each of the seven antiphons has three parts:
O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation.
O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
O Radix Jesse
O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all people;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
O Clavis David
O Key of David,
O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Rex Gentium
O King of all the nations,
the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man,
come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
O Emmanuel (“God is with us”)
king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people,
come and set us free, Lord our God.
The domestic custom of the Advent wreath draws attention to the light that Christ brings as Christmas approaches and emboldens us to bear witness to that light in the world. With an Advent wreath at home, we can keep our focus on Christ by reading a passage of Scripture or saying an Advent prayer each evening as they light the candle(s).
Learn about the history and symbolism of the Advent Wreath.
Blessing the Advent Wreath at Home
All make the sign of the cross as the leader says:
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
(R/.) Who made heaven and earth.
Then the Scripture, Isaiah 9: (lines 1-2 and 5-6) or Isaiah 63 (lines 16-17 & 19) or Isaiah 64 (lines 2-7) is read:
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
R/. Thanks be to God.
With hands joined, the leader says:
Lord our God, we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
Lord God, let your blessing come upon us as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The blessing may conclude with a verse from “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
O come, desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of humankind;
bid ev’ry sad division cease and be thyself our Prince of peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Prayer taken from the Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers
Prayers for Advent Candle Lighting
All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever. ~AMEN.
God of power and mercy open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. ~AMEN.
Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through Christ our Lord. ~AMEN.
Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. ~AMEN.
Prayers taken from A Prayer Book of Catholic Devotions
Advent Calendar resources
Four years ago my mother had a stroke. Now she has vascular dementia. It is not exactly the same as Alzheimer’s. There is a tendency to lump all dementia together as Alzheimer’s, but there are actually several kinds of memory loss. Vascular dementia distinguishes itself because its progress is neither predictable nor consistent. Cognitive changes occur in steps. There are plateaus where the person’s memory holds steady followed by sudden changes. During each plateau I accustom myself until a new step occurs, inviting a new grief.
Most difficult for me has been the loss of abilities that, to my mind, most clearly identify my mother. For example, my mother can no longer remember how to bake the German cakes, which for decades have marked the seasons of our family life – Schwartzwälderkirchtorte on my birthday, Sachertorte on my father’s. These cakes symbolized her love for us. What happens to my mother’s love now that the symbol of that love is gone? Loss of memory can feel like the loss of a person, a death before death. In fact, the social worker assigned to help me calls it ‘ambiguous grief’ because the losses occur repeatedly without finality.
Recently, I attended a liturgical congress for which the theme was anamnesis or liturgical remembering. My earlier reflections on memory had to do with the memorization of liturgical texts and how the things we remember become part of us and identify us with certain cultures and communities. I found myself wondering: if my mother no longer remembers the things that identified her, who and whose is she?
One of the papers at the conference, given by Rev. Prof. Liam Tracey (OSM), was about worship in the age of dementia. Tracey referred to the practical theology of John Swinton, who proposes that we are not what we remember rather, God remembers us. Although it may be satisfying to use memory to construct our own identity and to connect with others, Tracey explained that God’s memory is not a neurological act; we are not as we think. One of the things experts say is that when you visit people with dementia you have to enter into their reality. While I tend to identify my mother in relation to how I remember her, a spirituality of dementia invites me to consider instead how God remembers.
When we recall God’s saving deeds in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, we fulfil Christ’s command to “do this in memory of me.” This anamnesis is distinct from non-liturgical recollection in that it actually makes the past events of salvation present again. It is not our individual memory of what God did for us in Jesus Christ, but God’s memory given to us in the liturgy that continues to save us. Although I grieve the changes in my mother’s cognition, her being is not ultimately determined by what she can remember. Losing memory does not have to mean a loss of identity because, for Christians, it is God who remembers.
Written by Dr. Simone Brosig, Liturgy Consultant / Director, Diocese of Calgary
Singing the Exsultet during the Easter Vigil? Check out the resources below:
What do burst pipes and penmanship have to do with being chosen by God? There are two things I remember about my first Rite of Election as a catechumen. The first is the sound of rushing water at St. Mary’s Cathedral as the backdrop to the celebration. The Rite of Election normally takes place at the start of Lent, the period of the liturgical year that helps Christians prepare to reaffirm their baptismal promises at Easter. In this particular year, the sound of the water came from a pipe in the Cathedral that had burst due to cold weather! No doubt it was memorable for the Cathedral staff, but for me, it was a poignant foreshadowing of the baptism I was preparing to undertake at Easter as a member of the elect, one chosen by God to receive the sacraments of initiation. The second thing that I remember is inscribing my name in the book of the elect, in the rite of enrollment of names. These two things are the namesake of this liturgy, the Rite of Election and Enrolment of Names.
Rite of Election
The Rite of Election is about being chosen by God to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this ritual, the Church chooses those who have the dispositions that make them fit to take part in the sacraments of initiation. Before the Rite of Election the priests, deacons, catechists, godparents, and the entire community arrive at a judgement about the catechumens’ formation and progress in the Christian life. In the liturgy, they present the catechumens by name to the bishop and the entire assembly and give testimony about the catechumens’ readiness. The catechumens then express personally their intention to receive the sacraments of initiation and live as missionary disciples.
Enrolment of Names
With these testimonies, the bishop accepts the judgement of the Church and invites the catechumens to offer their names for enrolment. One by one the catechumens inscribe their names as a pledge of fidelity in the book that lists those who have been chosen for initiation: the Book of the Elect. Once the catechumens have inscribed their names, the bishop declares the Church’s approval of the catechumens saying: I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil. From this day until they receive the sacraments of initiation those who were catechumens are now called “the elect”. Historically they have also been called competentes or co-petitioners because together, they are asking for the sacraments and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They have also been referred to as illuminandi, those who will be enlightened, because in their baptism they will be filled with the light of faith.
Holy Season of Lent
The period between the Rite of Election and the Easter Vigil is known as the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. It is to be a time of intense spiritual preparation for the elect. The time for catechesis has ended, so the elect now join with the entire Christian community in fruitfully employing the Lenten season to prepare for Easter. The readings, music, and prayers for the Rite of Election are generally taken from the First Sunday of Lent. The bishop urges the godparents and the entire community to be an example and support for the elect during this time and then they are surrounded by prayer before being dismissed to “set out with us on the road that leads to the glory of Easter.”
The Grace of Baptism
As for those already baptized who are planning to make a profession of faith and/or complete their initiation at the Easter Vigil, they have already been made ready for discipleship through the dignity and grace of their baptism. These Christians have already been chosen or elected; they cannot be chosen again. Becoming Catholic is an expression of God’s choice and a choice of the individual, but it is not a new choice by God. The community of faith recognizes their desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and take their place at the Lord’s table. At this time, they affirm their readiness to more fully express their election by God that took place at their baptism. Then, with the whole Christian community, they join in uniting themselves more closely to Christ and coming to know in a deeper way the power of his resurrection in us during this holy season of Lent.
Written by Dr. Simone Brosig, Liturgy Consultant / Director
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers