LITURGY MATTERS: Perpetual Day of Remembrance on 15 September

The Diocesan Liturgy Council met on Wednesday last week. One of the main items on our agenda was the Perpetual Day of Remembrance which Bishop Bill declared in 2017. This week’s Liturgy Matters seeks to till the ground, inviting us all to think about what such remembering and celebration asks of us as a faith community.  

The diocese’s history of child sexual abuse, its cover up and the way it continues to impact on the lives of some of those directly and indirectly affected is confronting and should challenge each one of us. Remembering is important in assisting us to do everything possible to ensure such abuse does not happen again.

The day will be marked in a variety of ways. Survivors and their families, friends and supporters are working on these plans. Hopefully we will all stand together and participate in whatever events take place.

What the faith community brings to this day is prayer. And so the Diocesan Liturgy Council’s part is to consider how we, the Church, will mark this day with prayer and liturgy. We are in uncharted waters. And so at last week’s meeting we started to reflect on what the Church’s liturgical wisdom offers our discernment.

‘Remembering’ is at the heart of Catholic liturgy and life. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, we gather in every liturgy to remember the Paschal Mystery – God’s love poured out for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Spirit who is with us always. This is a special type of remembering. We call it anamnesis. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Paschal – dying and rising – Mystery is there for us to participate in, fully, consciously and actively. We gather to offer ourselves to God with Jesus by participating in Jesus’ dying and rising. Liturgy is not for wimps or the faint-hearted. This liturgical remembering is meant to embed us in the life of God; to enlarge us and empower us to live as disciples day in and day out. Our ‘Amen’ to ‘The Body of Christ’ at Mass is an ‘Amen’ to living as the Body of Christ every day. How are we to do this in response to the Perpetual Day of Remembrance?

Whatever liturgical celebration ultimately marks this day, it will seek to shine the light of the Paschal Mystery on the darkness of the story of historical sexual abuse in this diocese. What is dying and needs to die? What do we hope for? Where is the new life that is emerging in this darkness? What is the gospel inviting us to commit to in this space? How do we celebrate this with love, integrity and meaning? We are thinking about all these things and more.

I said earlier that this Liturgy Matters seeks to start tilling the ground by inviting us all to think about what our response to the Perpetual Day of Remembrance might be.  

If ‘remembering’ is central to Christian faith, then we, the People of God, are the people who recognise the importance of remembering the story of sexual abuse. We are not the people who say, ‘We just need to forget it and move on.’

If we are the baptised, the confirmed, the ones who gather to eat from the one loaf and drink from the one cup, then with St Paul we are the people who believe that when ‘one member suffers in the body of Christ which is the Church, all the members suffer with that member’ (1 Cor 12:26). We are the people who know our standing place is with our sisters and brothers who have suffered and are suffering. We are not the people who say, ‘I didn’t do it, it’s got nothing to do with me,’ or ‘That’s only for those who were abused. I don’t need to be part of that.’

If we are the people ‘enlightened by Christ’ then we are the people who shine the light of Christ into this dark place. If we are the people into whose hearts the love of God has been poured by the Holy Spirit, then we are the people who pour the love of God into the hearts of others.

Joining ourselves to the paschal mystery of Christ every Sunday demands that we join ourselves to the dying and rising of Jesus wherever we see it happening in our world. The diocesan Perpetual Day of Remembrance marks one place where Jesus’ dying and rising continues today. If liturgy is not for wimps and the faint-hearted, neither are discipleship and Christian life.

Liturgy matters. This one is no exception.

When the invitation comes to gather to mark the Perpetual Day of Remembrance on September 15, 2019, what will be your response? As an individual? As a parish? As a school?  Everyone matters. Everyone is needed.  Together we shine the light of Christ. Start tilling the ground where you are!

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.