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Life Arts    H3'ed 7/4/22

Pope Francis on Catholic Liturgical Formation (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Pope Francis Visits the United States Capitol
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) July 4, 2022: On June 29, 2022, Pope Francis issued his new apostolic letter on the liturgical formation of the people of God, titled in Latin Desiderio Desideravi (from the Latin version of Luke 22:15: "He said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer'" [NRSV]).

An English translation of the pope's new 2022 apostolic letter is available at the Vatican's website:

Click Here

In paragraph 1, Pope Francis says that he wrote this new apostolic letter to his fellow Roman Catholics "to share with you some reflections on the liturgy." He also says, "Even so, with this letter, I do not intend to treat the question in an exhaustive way. I simply desire to offer some prompts or cues for reflections that can aid in the contemplation of the beauty and truth of Christian celebration."

After paragraph 1, we find the first subheading: "The Liturgy: the 'today' of salvation history" [Questions: How is the Roman Catholic liturgy the 'Today' of salvation history? What is salvation history?].

In paragraph 2, Pope Francis says, "These words of Jesus [in Luke 22:15], with which the account of the Last Supper opens, are the crevice through which we are given the surprising possibility of intuiting the depth of the love of the persons of the Most Holy Trinity for us."

In paragraph 3, Pope Francis says that "every gift, to be gift, must have someone disposed to receive it." He also says that "the gift is entrusted to the Apostles so that it might be carried to every man and woman."

In paragraph 4, Pope Francis says, "No one had earned a place as that [Passover] Supper. All had been invited. Or better said: all had been drawn there by the burning desire that Jesus had to eat that Passover with them. He knows that he is the Lamb of that Passover meal; he knows that he is the Passover. This is the absolute newness, the originality of that Supper, the only truly new thing in history, which renders that Supper unique and for this reason, 'the Last Supper,' unrepeatable."

In paragraph 6, Pope Francis says that "every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us. For our part, the possible response - which is also the most demanding asceticism - is, as always, that surrender to this love, that letting ourselves be drawn by him. Indeed, every reception of communion of the Body and Blood of Christ was already desired by him in the Last Supper."

In paragraph 11, Pope Francis explains the creative way in which he reads and interprets the New Testament scriptures. "The salvific power of Jesus, his every word, his every gesture, glance, and feeling reaches us through the celebrations of the sacraments. I am Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man possessed by demons at Capernaum, the paralytic in the house of Peter, the sinful woman pardoned, the woman afflicted by hemorrhages, the daughter of Jairus, the blind man of Jericho, Zacchaeus, Lazarus, the thief and Peter both pardoned. The Lord Jesus who dies no more, who lives forever with the signs of his Passion continues to pardon us, to heal us, to save us with the power of the sacraments. It is the concrete way, by means of his incarnation, that he loves us."

It strikes me that the pope's creative way of interpreting key passages in the four canonical gospels is especially well-suited for meditation of certain key passages in the gospels. His way of proceeding to interpret certain gospel passages is subject-oriented, stressing the human person of both the gospel character and of the interpreter himself or herself, but without necessarily slipping into the kind of subjectivism that Pope Francis repeatedly rejects in his new 2022 apostolic letter. I am here drawing on the apt distinction between being "subject-oriented (not simply subjective)" that the American Jesuit Walter J. Ong makes in his book Hopkins, the Self, and God (University of Toronto Press, 1986, p. 95; but also see pp. 83 and 195), the published version of Ong's 1981 Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto.

Now, in paragraph 14, Pope Francis refers to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Roman Catholic Church and its famous document known in church parlance as Sacrosanctum Concilium. He refers to this crucial Vatican II document repeatedly in the remainder of his apostolic letter.

For a recent English translation of the document, also known as the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, see the book Vatican II: The Essential Texts, edited by Norman Tanner, S.J.; translated by Philip Endean, S.J. (Image, 2012, pp. 29-78).

Now, in paragraph 15, Pope Francis says of "the obedience of the Son" that the "measure of which is his death on the cross."

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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