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Meetings – an encounter with Christ

For this week’s liturgical post, some people have asked why – during Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter – we sometimes use Latin especially during the “Mass Parts” (Holy-Holy-Holy, Memorial Acclamation, Lamb of God). Why do we sometimes use Latin at certain parts of the Mass during these seasons and not at other times?

 

There is a common misconception in the Catholic Church that the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council sought to eliminate the use of the Latin language during the Holy Mass. The introduction of translations of the Holy Mass in peoples’ own languages has been of great benefit to the People of God. It has allowed them to understand the various prayers and rites of the Holy Mass. However, it was not the intention of the Second Vatican Council to see Latin entirely disappear from our Sunday Eucharistic celebration.

Sacrosanctum Consilium was the document from the Second Vatican Council which spoke about changes in the Holy Mass. It clearly states that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin Rites” (SC 36). Where it is most fitting to have Latin retained in the Holy Mass is in its various sung parts. This would include the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lamb of God, etc. By singing these parts of the Mass in Latin, we are showing the universality of our Church in reciting prayers in a language that is used by Catholics all over the world. Further information can be found on this post on my website.

Concerning a mundane topic, how about the topic of meetings? The Bible does not quite say,  “God so loved the world that He did not send a committee” but you get the point.  Coming together with other believers should be an energizing source of growth and evangelization. It can become something else entirely. Can we change that? John Bouocher from the Diocese of Trenton has some ideas:

First, go into the meeting with the idea that it is an “encounter with Jesus Christ” and an opportunity to further build the community of disciples.  If you are invited to attend, you have been given a sacred trust to help bring about a part of “The Kingdom” of Jesus Christ into your neighborhood. Resources should to be provided for. These help fulfill “The Mission” and ensure that meeting time is not squandered. It also ensures that nothing goes towards supporting the “false Gods” of parishioner pet projects or activities. Thus your talents and presence are very important.

 

What about a format? One parish found the following 4-part model helpful:

  1. Prayer (5-10 minutes) Move away from the quick and perfunctory “opening prayer” and move into something with more substance. Begin with 5 minutes of just silence. Try it. Initially, it will not be easy but groups find that, after a while, the quiet at the end of a busy day is welcome. Begin with a reading from Scripture. The prayer must be well planned however to be effective, however. If members of your team are really good that this, let them do it. Alternatively, each member can offer to prepare the prayer time each month.
  2. Study (5-10 minutes) You cannot give what you do not have. Disciples must have their faith fed if they are going to feed others. Pick a book and work through it over the course of several months. Or have someone responsible for sending out a reading, passage, article, etc.. beforehand to everyone as food for reflection. Have someone give a summary of what the study assignment was and then have them offer an initial comment to shift into the next part of the meeting …,
  3. Faith Discussion (10-15 minutes) – How does the passage relate to the parish situation? How does the passage relate to the team that is meeting? Does the passage speak to the personal experience of any of the team members? Don’t compromise the study and discussion, it’s important!. The Lord will provide guidance, insight and speak to the members of the team through this. This is like the lobby of the church building (aka “narthex”). It provides a “transitional moment and place” from the secular to the sacred – from the temporal to the transcendent. Caveat: have a rule that everybody does not have to share their ideas or thoughts. This is highly uncomfortable and unfair to true introverts. If people wish to remain silent (even all of the time) let them. Perhaps offer them an opportunity to give their thoughts and insights in writing ahead of time or come up with another way to glean wisdom from them. Insights from introverts are often very profound – and much needed. (Check out the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain)
  4. Business-At-Hand (50-60 minutes) People’s time needs to be respected and “stewarded” as well. John offers some suggestions. Mail an agenda ahead of time including what the “deliverables” of the meeting are. Share updates and information ahead of time and not during the meeting. What is the meeting (or its components) about? (Which parts of the meeting are about discussing an issue/problem? Which are about discussing alternatives including pros and cons? Which parts are about coming to and making a decision? Know how you are going to make decisions ahead of time to avoid hurt feelings. These are different tasks requiring different approaches). Start and end the meeting on time. Appoint a “leader” to keep the discussion focused and a “timekeeper” to constantly remind the team of the time every 10 or 15 minutes. If extra time is needed, vote to extend, but not more than 15-30 minutes. If more time is needed appoint a sub-group or put it in the “parking lot” for a further time. Delegate some to-do items to a sub-group.

 

This is just one suggested model. There are others and most are effective if you just pick one and stick with it. Over the past six years, the St. Monica Parish Staff has experimented with several models for meetings and communications. Some have worked. Quick, daily “stand-up meetings” for daily communications has been effective. Weekly staff lunch-meetings also fit our staff “culture.” We also incorporate 10 minutes of “lectio divina” scripture reflection at the beginning of the meeting. This is our way of integrating that “Encounter With Christ Through His Word” into our weekly meeting. Research, select and try out a model. Pray about it and see where the Lord leads you and your group.

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