LITURGY MATTERS: There's an art to celebrating liturgy

As our COVID restrictions ease and we learn to live in the ‘new normal’ parishes are faced with dusting off and renewing our celebration of liturgy, especially Sunday Mass.

I often hear people say something like, ‘It feels as if the wheels have fallen off’ or ‘We’ve forgotten how to do what was so natural before COVID”. In many ways COVID is giving us a unique opportunity to review and renew the way we celebrate liturgy and exercise liturgical ministry.

In diocesan liturgical ministry we are endeavouring to renew ourselves by engaging in some good reading and reflecting on that together. There has been a good flow of recent publications from both Australian and international liturgical theologians. They are short, pithy books that are very readable and lend themselves to conversation.         

Today I have invited Fr Andrew Doohan to review Ars Celebrandi by Paul Turner. While Andrew indicates the immediate target for this book is ordained presiders, it is a book for all of us because the liturgy is ours. Together we are the celebrants. I have read this book and found it so insightful. Andrew has captured the essence of it in his review as follows.     

Book Review: Ars Celebrandi: Celebrating and Concelebrating Mass by Paul Turner

This is a book that every Catholic priest should read and read often!

Drawing on his extensive knowledge and experience in the preparation of liturgical texts, Fr Paul Turner guides the reader through what the rubrical requirements of the Mass currently are. This is not done to ‘catch people out’ but, rather, to ensure that priests are aware of what they are doing when they preside or concelebrate the Mass. It is, as the title suggests, about developing the ars celebrandi (tr. art of celebrating) that presiders are called to acquire and nourish throughout their ministerial lives.

Ars Celebrandi is not simply about knowledge. It is an art form, something that comes not only from a knowledge of the contents of the liturgical books but also from reflecting on the practice of presiding. It is a never-ending process so that the enactment of liturgy becomes what the Church believes it to be, the source and summit of the Christian life.

Personally, my first read of this text highlighted things that I had overlooked, forgotten, or misapplied. I am already attempting to adjust my presiding so that I more closely align my practice with that which is expected. More importantly, I am attempting to do it all more intentionally so that my presiding doesn’t simply become a rote repetition but a deliberate act each and every time I approach that awesome responsibility.

This is a book I will read again and again and again… simply because that is why it was written, and I will never stop developing my ars celebrandi. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Back to Louise

I love the title of the book. The celebration of the liturgy and the exercising of liturgical ministry is indeed an art. It is something beautiful that draws us into an encounter with Christ in the Paschal Mystery. Being a member of the worshipping assembly at Mass is also an art. I need to dust off and renew my full, conscious and active participation. This book helped me reflect on that.

Andrew and I both recommend this book to parish communities. Perhaps a ‘Liturgical Book Club’ might be something some would be interested in.

COVID has given us all a wonderful opportunity to dust off and renew our liturgical celebrations and ministries. If the Liturgy Office or Council can be of assistance to you, please contact me.    


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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

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

Fr Andrew Doohan Image
Fr Andrew Doohan

Administrator Catholic parishes of Dungog and Gresford and Master of Ceremonies.