Saturday 16 February --- More than 150 people from various parishes across the Archdiocese of Melbourne gathered at the Catholic Leadership Centre to attend a seminar in preparation for the Season of Lent and Holy Week. The day included two keynote presentations and 10 workshops for participants to choose from that focused on scripture, prayer, music, service and outreach.
‘Fostering a unity of minds’
Entitled, ‘The Lenten Jesus: Discerning the Way’, the seminar began with an engaging keynote presentation from Professor Clare V. Johnson, director of the Centre for Liturgy at the Australian Catholic University. Clare’s presentation focused on liturgical music as ‘ecclesial glue’ to create a special bond within a parish community.
Drawing on both science and theology, Clare reminded participants that music quite naturally demands a neurological response from listeners and therefore when performed well, elicits a positive response from the congregation which further encourages active participation in the liturgy.
Eliciting such a positive response however, Clare reminded the crowd, relies on experienced cantors and choirs who are able to support their congregations’ participation, not stifle it by robbing form them their right to participate. This happens she said when the music turns into a performance rather than an invitation.
Clare said that for music to truly serve its purpose in the liturgy, it must be well-crafted, memorable, and enable God to break through to the hearts and minds of those singing along.
Enriching parish ministries
Participants then attended a series of workshops focused on deepening their understanding of scripture and the various liturgical ministries from liturgical planning, music, prayer and outreach.
Workshops included a ‘liturgy planning 101’ session with Tricia Murray, who led participants through a creative approach to planning for the seasons, drawing from the General Instructions of the Roman Missal and the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar. Fr Elio Capra presented a workshop on ‘RCIA: The period of purification and enlightenment’, exploring the origin of Lent as a period of purification and enlightenment to prepare the catechumens for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation.
Scripture-based workshops presented by Fr Chris Monaghan and Fr John Dupuche focused on unpacking the gospels during Lent and the Easter Vigil. Paul Taylor and Larissa Cairns presented a two-part workshop on selecting a music repertoire for the Season of Lent and Holy Week and Mary Ryan offered participants various on how to create contemplative communities. Deacon Jim Curtin presented this year’s Project Compassion resources, which for over 50 years has been a significant part of many parishes’ Lenten journey.
With less than a month to go before the end of the first phase of the Plenary Council preparations, participants were also offered the opportunity to participate in a listening and dialogue encounter during the seminar.
A map for the journey
Concluding the day, Cathy Jenkins, director of the Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation, led participants in a reflection on Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
Cathy opined that as we read the scriptures this Lent, it is Jesus who provides us with a clue about how we can negotiate our own times of wilderness. Particularly in the gospel for the fourth week of Lent (The parable of the prodigal son/forgiving father), the Lent pilgrimage invites us to consider the state of our hearts.
'At different stages of our lives, we may identify with different characters in this well-known story.'
But perhaps this story is a story about the state of the heart. At times our hearts are orientated towards wanting a good life—and seeking it without considering the cost. ... At times our hearts are full of love and we are able to forgive easily—even in the face of disappointment and embarrassment. The heart of the elder son is one many of us know well: this is the heart that smarts when we feel we have been unjustly treated or overlooked.
But the heart of God is the who is always ready to welcome us home … the heart of goodness, justice and mercy; the heart that constantly invites us to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.'
Cathy reminded participants that Jesus’ time in the wilderness offers us a pathway for our own Lenten pilgrimage. ‘Perhaps our wilderness times provide an opportunity for us to listen to the Word of God, to steadfastly trust in the Lord and to always view service as the best path. In other words, we follow the way Jesus lays out for us in his struggle with the evil spirit.’
She concluded by quoting Henri Nouwen who wrote that, 'To discern means first of all to listen to God, to pay attention to God’s active presence, and to obey God’s prompting, direction, leadings, and guidance.’
That is the invitation given to us this as we enter this Lenten period.