Dom Alcuin Reid celebrates sacred liturgy's participatory call
KELLER — One attendee of Dom Alcuin Reid's Nov. 20 appearance at Keller's St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church summed up Reid's presentation as “an important reminder of what we need to be doing.”
Dom Reid, a liturgical scholar and Benedictine monk, is the founding prior of the Monastere Saint-Benoit in the Diocese of Frejus-Toulon, France. Reid, during several Texas stops, discussed praying the sacred liturgy. The title “dom” is traditionally applied to monks of the Benedictine and Cistercian orders.
Delivering the homily during Mass before his presentation, Reid stressed the “crucial necessity” of acting post haste upon the opportunities God gives.
“Not tomorrow, and not never,” Reid said. “For that is what's expected of us. Nothing less. Let us take these opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God.”
Sacred liturgy, Reid explained, is the “official public ritual worship of the Church, the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and the font from which all her power flows.”
Pope St. Pius X, during the Second Vatican Council, declared participation in the liturgy primary and indispensable.”
“Primary and indispensable are strong words,” Reid said. “They admit of little exception. They underline the fact that if we want to imbibe the true Christian spirit, a conscious and real engagement in the liturgical rites is simply not an option. Rather, it is a necessity.”
Liturgy includes the rites of all the Church's sacraments and more, Reid said. It is also important to note the Catholic liturgy celebrated is that of the Church, as opposed to one from a particular parish or community. Engaging in the latter — “liturgy lite” as Reid calls it — brings risk of “spiritual malnutrition of Christ's faithful and diseasing the Body of Christ.”
Liturgy, though it has its own language, is not merely words, Reid said. Active participation is required.
“In our word-saturated society we have, perhaps, forgotten that the liturgy is primarily an action, not a discourse,” Reid said. “For it is not really what is said in a liturgical rite that is important; rather, it is what is done that is crucial.”
What occurs in the liturgy is done by Christ, not us, Reid said, although we, by right of our Baptism, are able to participate.
“It is what is done by Almighty God that matters,” Reid said. “Something happens in the liturgy which is not of our making. The liturgy is first and foremost Christ acting in the world today through the rites of His Church. Because of this, through this, we are able to share in His saving acts. In short, the sacred liturgy is Christ's saving action in our world today.”
Christian life suffers when the faithful are passive, disengaged, or “looking more at our watches than toward God,” rather than consciously engaging in the liturgy, Reid said.
Praying the liturgy requires preparation, participation, and prayerful contemplation, Reid said.
“At some stage before the celebration of a liturgical rite take some quality time to focus on what is about to happen,” Reid said of preparation.
Participation involves commitment, he said. “Our minds and hearts must be utterly immersed in and engaged with what is happening so that our souls and our bodies can delight in and be strengthened by the refreshment and nourishment that is set before us.”
Subsequent contemplation helps ensure that what occurred is not left behind once we exit the church.
“[Someone] should be able to take something away that will help them ponder, to think about and to nourish their Christian faith and life,” Reid said. “This is the process of the digestion of the riches of which [one has] partaken in the liturgical feast.”
Those steps resonated with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner Buddy Cressionnie. “Because sometimes in our daily lives we get caught up and get too busy.
“And he talked about how it's an action,” Cressionnie said. “[Liturgy is] not just something where we go to be entertained.”
Cressionnie's wife, Elaine Cressionnie, agreed.
“We're not here to be passive, but to participate,” she said. “That's the piece that I often overlook.”
St. Elizabeth Music Director Oneyda Padierna, who has visited Reid's monastery in France, played a role in Reid's Texas visit.
“People are hungry here and we need these kind of liturgical talks,” Padierna said. “We need to fall in love with liturgy.”
Reid said the receptiveness and vibrant parish communities he encountered in Texas thrilled him.
Reid is also raising donations for restoration of the monastery, an “ancient set of buildings” — including an 11th century Romanesque chapel — buildings which were in Church use until the French Revolution.