The Liturgical Books (Sept. 27)


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Theological Question

How is liturgy “contained” in the rituals of the church?
How is liturgy something more than the rituals of the church?


The goal of this session is for students to learn the basic structures of the liturgical books.


Students will learn the history of the ritual texts and discovering their purpose and design.


(after the class has been completed)

Idea starters

  1. How can the liturgy be the “same” throughout history and yet different every time we celebrate it?
  2. How does language both conceal and reveal God?
  3. Is there a difference between ritual speech and ordinary speech?

Evaluate your Sunday liturgy (in preparation for Oct. 4)

Read (in preparation for Oct. 4)

{These readings are for the Liturgy of the Word}

    {The Liturgy Documents, p. xi-xiii}

  • Introduction to the Order of Mass, 29-30, 33-34, 53, 56, 66-98
  • Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 24, 51-53
  • General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 28-29, 55-71, 309
  • Lectionary for Mass: Introduction, 6-10, 24, 44-48, 66-68
  • Fulfilled in Your Hearing, 1-7, 41-43, 47-48, 60-62, 112-115
  • OPTIONAL: Lectionary for Mass: Introduction, 73-91 
 Posted by at 6:25 pm
  • Yolanda C Garcia

    To function in our society, whether it’s obeying traffic signals, following rules and regulations at work or taking care of our health, there are numerous books to read and laws that one must follow or obey to achieve the right results. The Catholic Church is no different. I was truly amazed to see how many liturgical books that one parish has to have to run their parish efficiently, and must follow rituals handed down by the authority of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy. 400 documents in the past 50 years “that deal in whole or in part with the liturgy”? The Liturgy Documents, p. xvi. I was interested to learn that the documents contained in the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy hold their weight depending on how the Pope and College of Bishops speak; whether they are functioning to teach or speaking in their governance (law) capacity. To have these liturgical documents for our basis and understanding of our rituals will enhance my faith and understanding even more of why we practice our Christian faith the way we do. But, I still want to know what it means for some documents to be issued in the “form of bulls”. Const., p. xviii

  • Annette Mo

    Interesting homily…..the priest talked about us being resilient. In times of adversity, just when we think we are at the end of our rope, we find ourselves overcoming, and learning from this adversity. Through the liturgy of the Eucharist, we draw our strength, thus leading us to transform and grow. This affirmed for me the truth in what was discussed in class that although liturgy may be celebrated in the same way every time, and even if, we have the same people in the same ecclesial community, with the same songs, the experience of the liturgy will always be different. It all depends on our personal encounter with Christ. Where we are in our lives, what we are looking for, how we want the results to be, and most importantly how we open our hearts and minds and accept Christ and his teachings. It is Christ alone who makes us strong.

  • Carmen Macias

    At the beginning of class you asked us how do we feel when we attend mass? We all had different responses, depending on how we are feeling that morning, what will be happening during the liturgy. This morning before the liturgy, I arrived early to meditate and bring calmness to myself, I was lector one; I prepared for the reading, reviewed the prayers of the faithful. A parishoner came up to me and introduced herself to me and said that she enjoys when I proclaim the word of God, I thanked her and I became nervous, because that lets me know that I have her attention and she is listening, which makes me feel good, because I am able to rejoice in proclaiming the word.
    I was amazed of the different liturgy books that were brought in to share with the class last week, because it brought to our attention that we must be diligent in reviewing books before we can accept them. Also it brought some of our classmates eager to try a new avenue in their parish.

  • C Thornton

    It is interesting to realize that there are many sources of information on liturgy. But it is vital that we develop a clear understanding of which sources have the greatest “weight” or priority as core documents. While I have long appreciated reading about or experiencing different liturgical practices, in my role as a liturgist it is now critical that I know the basic, primary, authoritative, liturgical sources – and this has been a challenge for me over the last year. In my formation as a Pastoral Minister I did not have a strong, solid grounding in the core liturgical documents. I am not saying I never encountered them, but in retrospect I realize it was more a series of introductions rather than an “up close and personal” exploration. Fortunately, I was given a good overview of the assortment and scope of materials so that I have a reasonable sense of where to look for the information needed. My goal and desire now is to master basics.

  • Melby Sanchez

    This is the first time I have heard of this phrase: “Because we encounter the Divine presence every time we go to mass, we become different”; and it really fascinates me?. Last Sunday, I was the lector at St Elizabeth for the 11:00 am Mass. As lector, I was instructed to read the First Reading and the Prayers of the Faithful (Universal Prayer). I have just recently become involved in this ministry. It is interesting how I find myself appreciating the readings more now. I read the readings beforehand, and as I stand in front of the congregation, I feel that through the help of the Holy Spirit, I am able to proclaim the word of God meaningfully. And when we pray the Prayers of the Faithful, I feel like a family member to this community as together we pray for each other’s petitions. Through this experience and ministry, I encounter Christ. For me personally, at every Mass I am challenged to a personal conversion by the Word of God and the Eucharist I receive. It is an encounter that leads me to self-transformation to commit to change myself in order to change the world around me. This is the reason why the Liturgy is so beautiful and captivating, we experience God Himself.

  • Irene Dela Cruz

    It is amazing what we can learn in 2 hours. Last session, we have been introduced to different kinds of Liturgical books. I got a hold of the Book of Blessings and received a new insight. Oh how wonderful it is if I could just invite a priest to come my office and have my cubicle blessed. I already have this blessing of an interesting job, it would be nice to offer it back to Him and be reminded always to use that small space for His glory. I also browsed the Roman Missal and to the 4 elements of the Mass that we have already discussed, the Sacred silence was mentioned. It made me think of how often is Sacred silence called for during the Liturgy of the Mass? To the exhortation of the faithful to pray without ceasing, there is the Book of the Liturgy of the Hours. In this, Nick has inspired me. I figured what is the point of learning all these if I don’t apply it to my daily life? So I started the Morning, Midday and Evening prayers to my daily ritual. I wanted to draw nearer to God. I didn’t expect this sense of peace that stays with me even when things are not going my way.

    Last Saturday, I attended a wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony with a lovely flow to it. We did have a rehearsal the night prior so it was not a surprise. However, having leaned the importance of the 4 elements of the Liturgy, I do believe that more attention should have been placed in the Readings. Since this is a family affair, I understand that most of the time
    readers are not trained Lectors. This is when we truly need a Liturgical
    director who will put emphasis in all aspects of the Liturgy and make sure that
    the Word is proclaimed effectively. This is what is meant when we are asked during the Liturgy that our minds be attuned with our voices.

  • Barb Villano

    At Sunday’s Mass, I had double duty as Lector and Eucharistic Minister due to absences, and the celebrant was a visiting Priest. So, there was a little disorganization. I tried “stepping out” of my ministerial roles to attempt to see whether the congregation was being spiritually fed by the Mass today. The early missteps were distracting as the Priest was looking for help, and I was not hopeful this would turn out ok. I had the second reading from St. Paul, whom every Lector knows can be one tough read. However, today’s reading from Philipians was poetic and powerful, and easy for everyone to understand. The best part was Father’s homily tied in perfectly with it, quoting some key verses, challenging everyone to listen to St. Paul’s words and apply them to our everyday lives. This moment lent meaning to me of last week’s discussion about the Liturgy as “the font from which all the Church’s power flows.”

    Lou Villano

  • Lerma Simpson

    What I took with me from this previous session was that we each can have a personal relationship with liturgy. How our relationship grows or fails to grow over time partly depends on our knowledge of the person with whom we are in a relationship. As we get to know someone we are in a relationship with, we do our “research”. We find out what their interests are, their hobbies, their friends, their occupations, their educational level, their families, their likes and dislikes, and we get to know more about their personality as time evolves. During class we were introduced to various liturgical books and documents that gives us information on what we need and want to know about liturgy. I found it interesting that not all the books and documents are juridical in nature. Whether they are binding or not, it is important to know that these sources exist as tools to help us further our knowledge of and perspectives on liturgy. Furthermore, spending a significant amount of time with the individual with whom we are in a relationship allows us to experience firsthand who this person is, and our experiences can change each time we are with this person. There may be times when you find yourself falling madly in love with this person, then there can be times when you may say to yourself, “what did I ever see in this person”. And it is true that this happens with our own personal experiences with liturgy. For example, there were times when the homily or the music inspired and motivated me to deeper actions and thoughts on my faith. Then, there were times when there was something about the liturgy that just didn’t click, such as times when the homily was very long or times where the presider’s thoughts were not clear.

  • Annabel Tomacder-Ruiz

    No matter where we go around this nation or the world, we all follow the same practices or rules for liturgy. No matter what language mass is celebrated, one would know which part of the liturgy is occurring at any given moment. Liturgy is different each time attend mass. It depends on how I feel or what is going on in my life. There are days where I am so aware or in tune with what is going on during mass; I feel the Holy Spirit move me. There are times when other things cloud my mind, other thoughts or worries come to mind, and I’m just there. During those times, I
    know God is there even though I may not feel Him. Sometimes, I feel that the homily was
    directed at me and gives me encouragement or the answer I need. I’ve had an “aha” moment at liturgy yesterday. I’ve realized that liturgy helps me to be a better person- a more humble, giving person. I’m a work in progress. At yesterday’s mass, the priest shared a quote from C. S. Lewis that stood out to me. The quote is: “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking
    of yourself less.” That’s what I am striving for…to be Christ like.

  • Kurt Martin

    Doing the mass evaluation form was fascinating. It really made me look at mass through a new lens. I started to notice things a lot more such as is everyone really singing. I suppose I had never really made a conscious effort to look and document but it was interesting to see the results. It would put a lot of work on our liturgist (that’s assuming you even have one full-time), a pastor (because they aren’t ridiculously busy already) or a lei person but I think it would be extremely beneficial to sit down with this evaluation and actually go through themselves and fill it out. They should start using this form for liturgy committee, pastoral council, etc. If I could make one small change to the form I would have a reflection that goes along with it.Take the example above with singing. Ask they question Do they not like the song? Is it too hard for them to sing and follow along in? Do they simply just not like to sing? The reflection is not needed for the purposes of the homework but I think would be beneficial for the aforementioned councils, pastor, liturgist, etc. Other than this I think it will be interesting what people say come Wednesday. I look forward to the class’ responses. -Kurt

  • Ken Louie

    I love that the Liturgy is the Church’s prayer. I can see that each liturgy is different but the same in a familiar way as we all come back changed and hear the same form of the liturgy. I am grateful that all the liturgy documents are viewed in the light of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy as it provides a solid foundation to hold on to and form our common language and understanding. Our church did well in the parish liturgy evaluation. I have found that sometimes that when a reader is absent at Mass that another one fills in but may have not read the passage before Mass and I can sometimes tell in their reading. One idea to help is to have a handful of people prepare at home before Mass to fill in to read just in case. I did get the book Ceremonial of Bishops because it was discussed in class that it is the high standard for the liturgy.

  • Brigitte Chenevier-Donkers

    The liturgy has been the “same” throughout history as the structure
    is the same. We are following what the apostles have witnessed while they were
    side by side with Jesus. It was passed verbally until the liturgy structure was
    recorded by the popes. There is a beginning, a middle and an end.

    What is different is each time the participants
    are different, there are at specific place in their life and spirituality, the songs
    might be different and the homily will be unique to the priest. Since we have a
    three years rotation of the scriptures
    it makes it even more precious.

  • Tim Logan

    I feel very blessed to have read the reflections of my classmates. To be among such individuals who allow me to see through their eyes what Liturgy means to them from many different facets is revealing and reminds me that this is the essence of the Liturgy. Also reading something that I didn’t remember like: “Because we encounter the Divine presence every time we go to mass, we become different”; is like getting those “Aha” moments as another classmate said. We see in this small group what should happen in the body of Christ every time we celebrate mass. I like the idea of the survey being used by different ministries as a way of gauging what they do and how well it is received, especially the part of having a reflection. In the assignment readings it is very clear we are called to do our very best in any ministry we are involved in and as participates in the body of Christ. Thank you everyone for these insights! Tim

  • Annette Mo

    Unfortunately I wasn’t at my regular parish this weekend for the mass, but instead I was at a retreat center where we celebrated liturgy. It was a small group of retreatants of about 22. However I still reflected on how the liturgy was celebrated. I noticed not everybody joined in the signing throughout the mass. I don’t blame us, on the opening hymn, as it is a song nobody was familiar with except for one priest and a cantor retreatant. The other songs, it would have been okay, except the cantor retreatant (as beautiful as her voice was) was singing louder than anybody and everybody. I believe that when we’re in a community worship, we should be part of the community, even in singing, we do not have to have our voices in the rafters overpowering everybody else. The liturgy of the word was impromptu, volunteers came up and read the readings, the 1st reader did a great job, clear and loud. The second reader, had a clear, loud voice but made so many mistakes that the message was muddied. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we had a Deacon concelebrating with the presider. He tripped me up during communion. I was expecting him to be a minister of the blood of Christ (so I did not go up to be a minister), but instead he shared the body of Christ, thus somebody closer to the altar went up to be the second extraordinary minister of the Blood of Christ. I thought that deacons shared the blood of Christ (representing the sacrifice of the poor). I understand that this is not the normal parish Sunday mass, ordinarily I would have rated it below a 6 (based on our evaluation), but as it was, I think we did a decent job. What I realized from this assignment is that the mass (no matter where we are), is not a memorial of the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice unless the Church (us) itself is a participant in this celebration. As Kurt mentioned, it definitely is looking at mass through new lenses.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Tim. I’m glad you mentioned adaptation. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stresses that the liturgy needs to be inculturated for every region and adapted to the various places in which it is celebrated. This is a big shift from the preconciliar days when a strict uniformity in liturgical practice was seen as the ideal. There is always a struggle with knowing how far is too far in carrying out adaptations. But, as you said, liturgical reform cannot be a cookie cutter process.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Yolanda. Thanks for your thoughts. A “bull” is a formal decree from the pope. The most recent bull was Pope Francis’s announcement of the Year of Mercy. There are many different forms of communications from the pope. I don’t keep track of them all. Rather, I just try to read the content of each major message the pope sends out and try to understand how it applies to my life and the lives of our parishioners.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Annette. Thanks for your thoughtful reflection. I appreciate your insight about how we draw strength from the Eucharist. It is an encouraging truth in times like these.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Carmen. I’ve been a lector since I was in high school, and I still get nervous. It gives me some comfort to know that you do too. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Carol. I hope your experiences in this class will help you reach your goal. I do know that you will get a good exposure to the core liturgical documents. And I hope all of us in class together will grow in a deeper appreciation for how liturgy can change our communities. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Reina Hollero

    I am amazed by how many different Liturgical books we had last Wednesday. Honestly, I was not familiar with some of them. Nick asked everyone to pick a book and to share something that we know about it. I thought that it was a good idea to hear the information that everyone has to say about his or her selected book. Some of the books mentioned were Ordo books, the Liturgy of the Hour, The Prayer of the Faithful and its guidelines, and the The Book of blessings. The Ordo explained the guides that priest use in preparation for the Liturgy, such as which colors to wear for specific seasons. The Liturgy of the Hour provided information regarding the two major hours: the Morning prayer, which commemorated the resurrection, and the evening prayer, which commemorated the death of Jesus Christ. The Book of Blessings was a book, which supplied blessings that could be used for different occasions, such as buying a new car or house. I enjoyed listening about the different books that we have in the Church because it is interesting to know that there’s a book for everything. I thank Nick for sharing his knowledge to us about the different liturgical books and understanding that Liturgy is in the celebration itself.

  • Yolanda C Garcia

    Hi Nick. Thanks for the reply. It is such a strange name for a formal decree from the pope. Learned something new today.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Melby. Thanks for your beautiful reflection. Liturgy does transform us every time we celebrate it. For me, that is a source of hope. No matter what our situation is in life, we are healed and made whole in the liturgy.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Irene. I’m so happy to hear you are praying the hours! And that it has given you a sense of peace. What a blessing. I also resonate with your increased attention to the elements of the liturgy. Once you become conscious of that, you sort of always see it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Lou. I am often surprised by the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our missteps. Your description of last Sunday’s liturgy is just one more example. I also liked your comment about trying to “step out” of your role to see if the assembly was being spiritually fed. Hopefully, more liturgical leaders will follow your example. Great reflection.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Lerma. I’ve had similar experiences. On any given Sunday, a liturgy can be great or it can be flat and unclear. I think the goal for liturgical leaders is to continue working toward the best experience possible for the parish and know that sometimes we will be less than our best. I like your focus on our relationship with Jesus. If we keep focused on that relationship, liturgy will always improve.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Annabel. I am grateful for your thoughtful reflection about the effects of liturgy. It is amazing how powerful liturgy can be, even when we don’t “feel” it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Kurt. Adding a reflection is an interesting idea. Using a form like this one does, indeed, help us to notice things more in the liturgy. The downside (at least for me) is that it can take me out of the sense of prayer in the liturgy. But, on the other hand, if by observing the liturgy more closely, we can improve it, that adds to the sense of prayer. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Ken. I like that you are noticing ways to spot potential problems in the liturgy and think up solutions for them. That’s a good role for liturgical leaders. If we are doing our job well, the members of the assembly never really notice that we have done anything. It’s only when things go wrong that they start to wonder if anyone is paying attention. Good thoughts.

  • Frank Nguyen

    As I involve with several music ministry teams in various parishes in
    the bay area, some choir directors don’t want to have the congregation
    to sing at Masses, saying that the people singing will mess up their
    harmony. It’s hard to change their mind as I am only a sound guy and not
    as a member of their choirs. But actively participation in the liturgy
    is my main goal to provide free service to these liturgical events, so I
    was not happy when the song lyrics were not projected to the screens.
    Now I can show them the article # 30 from the Constitution on the Sacred

    Being a lector, I try to chant the Responsorial Psalm
    during daily Masses. At first, the congregation was not familiar with
    chanting, but now I can hear the responses chanted well. We also sing a
    song as recessional hymn together.

  • Nick Wagner

    HI Brigitte. I appreciate your observation that the participants are different each time we celebrate the liturgy. That is so true. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  • Nick Wagner

    Bonus points for responding to your classmates’ comments Tim! Nice job.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Annette. Retreat Masses are hard because everyone is out of their usual element. You did a great job of capturing how the participation of the assembly was hindered. When we can notice things like you pointed out, it helps us take steps to improve the liturgy in the future. Thanks for your good observations.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Reina. There are even more books than what we had there. But I think we had all the major ones. I think in another couple of decades everything will be on tablets or phones. We’ll still have the same number (or more) of “books”, but it won’t look so impressive or overwhelming.

  • Nick Wagner

    Wow, Frank, I’d never heard that choirs were actually trying to prevent the assembly from signing! Oh, mercy. I hope you are able to help them have a better understanding of their role of service to the liturgy. And props to you for chanting the responsorial psalm! Thanks for sharing your reflection.