A Christmas (Liturgy Committee) Story
A series based on a liturgy committee from the fictional parish of St Withburga from Tasmania's Brian Nichols and Cathy Murrowood.
Readers of Liturgy News may recall a series based on a liturgy committee from the fictional parish of St Withburga from Tasmania's Brian Nichols and Cathy Murrowood. It was a tongue-in-cheek exploration of issues facing parishes with some realistic pastoral wisdom. The following re-printed article focuses on the issues facing the committee as they prepare for Christmas. Enjoy!
Fawlty Powers: Don't Mention the Children!
'It's that mad time of year again,' said Lola Booker as she took her seat. 'I can't believe how quickly the year has gone; it seems like no time since we were preparing last year's Christmas Vigil Mass.'
'You're right,' Deirdre Fullon agreed; 'I haven't done a thing for Christmas yet. I promised my daughter I would make her two puddings, but I don't like her chances!'
Joe Hannibal called the committee to order. There was certainly something special about celebrating the Christmas Vigil family Mass. The church was always full to overflowing and there was an atmosphere of anticipation. But there were, to put it mildly, challenges. After the chaos of previous years it had been affectionately dubbed 'the Zoo'.
'Well,' piped Lola, 'it will be jam-packed with people who only manage to get themselves to Mass once a year.'
'True,' replied Vinny Minore, 'but we need to make the most of it. Let's make them feel really welcome and try to get them involved.'
'Did you hear that last year Fr O'Reilly at St Nottburga's had a go at the people by asking them where they all are for the rest of the year?' groaned Lola. 'Some people said they'd never go back.'
'I've been tempted,' Fr Nigel murmured under his breath, but then added aloud, 'We'll give them a good experience and leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit.'
'Trouble is,' said Joy, 'some of the kids have so little background in church that they keep waiting for Santa to jingle his way to the altar!'
'Well, why don't we get Santa to give out lollies at the end of Mass?' suggested Vinny. 'I've got access to a Santa suit.'
'You can't be serious,' snorted Joe. 'They'd be even more confused. They would end up thinking the Christmas story
was nothing but a silly fairy tale and the liturgy no more than putting on a costume."
'We do talk about the Christ-child as God's gift,' contributed Lola thoughtfully. 'And they will have a Christmas tree at the entrance to the church with our gifts for the poor of the parish.'
'I think we could work on the theme of the gift and giving,' said Hong Tan. 'Perhaps we could remind people that, when
we receive communion, we receive the gift of Christ himself, but I wouldn't trivialise it with a Santa lolly at the end'.
Fr Nigel remarked, 'Remember that even at Christmas time the Church celebrates the Paschal Mystery. We can't make
God's gift in Christ too small: baby Jesus grows into the Saviour who died, rose from the dead, and lives among us. But I think we can certainly develop the idea of gift-giving. It is something that children understand.'
'Does that come out in the readings? We always take the readings as our starting point,' said Joe Hannibal, his hands joined piously. They all dutifully opened their books.
'Get a load of all those names in the Gospel,' exclaimed Vinny. 'What are we going to do with that?'
'Wow! I'm glad I'm not a lector!' said Joy to Deirdre who nodded vigorously.
'There is a short version that leaves them out,' remarked Fr Nigel. 'Actually it is not necessary to use the texts for the Vigil. All these people are coming to celebrate Christmas, so we are allowed to use the texts for Midnight. That would give them the Christmas story.'
'I suppose the parish catechists have rehearsed the children for the Nativity tableau again,' asked Lola. This indeed seemed to be the case.
'The simpler the better,' offered Joe.
Deirdre Fullon was not convinced. 'It's the thing the children will remember and talk about. It won't replace the reading of the gospel, so let them enjoy it.'
'The shepherds' head-gear may need some careful attention,' warned Lola. 'Last year one poor child was wearing a tea towel covered in spaghetti bolognese stains.'
'Yes, and I saw one wearing a Christmas in July T-shirt!' lamented Fr Nigel.
Melody Wagner had been rather quiet for most of the meeting. The musicians always found 'the Zoo' quite a challenge. 'For music, it's difficult to resist the standard Christmas carols at this time of the year,' she said. 'They are familiar and everyone can join in, even those who don't go in for hymn-singing.'
'Will you use Away in a Manger?' asked Fr Nigel. 'It's awfully sentimental.'
'It's OK for children,' replied Melody, 'but we do need to think of the parents who come. They need some spiritual nourishment too. I think I will choose stronger carols. I am working with a small group of children who lead the singing and they are practicing a psalm too.'
'Just so long as you don't do Jingle Bells,' laughed Joy.
By Brian Nichols and Cathy Murrowood