Special prayers for peace in the Holy Land

The Executive Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is proposing to the Bishops of Canada that celebrations of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday include special prayers for peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.

Suggestions for Good Friday 2011 have been prepared in English and French. The texts are provided in Word (to make any possible adaptations easier) as well as in PDF (formatted as a two-fold pamphlet to be printed on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper). These can be downloaded, adapted and used free of charge by dioceses, parishes, religious communities or other not-for-profit organizations.

Prayer for China by Pope Benedict XVI

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”,
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

The Eucharist and Silence

Laurence Freeman OSB
Excerpts from Lecture at The School of Prayer
Archdiocese of Melbourne
20th April 2005

A group of rabbinical students were once arguing about the meaning of a biblical text. They appealed to their teacher who told them to show him the page. “What do you see here?” he asked. “The words we are discussing,” they replied. “These black marks on the page,” the old rabbi said, “contain half the meaning of the passage. The other half is in the white spaces between the words.” This is the margin of silence around any page. It is also the necessary pause between breaths, the stillness between thoughts, the rest between bouts of activity.

For a growing number of people today the Eucharist is a ritual whose significance is and has long been hemorrhaging. Let me share with you what I recently heard during a retreat I was giving in Sydney. A pastoral assistant from a parish in New South Wales told me that the priest there has actually done what Pope John Paul II asked priests to do and what the Guidelines of the new edition of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal reinforce. He has restored liturgical silence to the worship of his parish. I was surprised, not at this per se, but by the degree. They have silences after the readings, five minutes after the homily and fifteen minutes at communion. I asked how the people responded and was told that nobody has walked out and many are expressing their approval. I don’t, however, want to reduce this subject to the number of minutes of silence – and for good reason.

There are many kinds of Eucharistic celebration and the discretion of the celebrant is crucial. But, I think it is significant that an ordinary Sunday parish congregation can be introduced to this degree of silence and enjoy it. It may be as surprising to some as the fact that children respond well to meditation – times of silent prayer without words or images. They do it and they like to do it and they ask for more. 

Meister Eckart typically said that ‘there is nothing so much like God as silence.’ Mother Teresa, who insisted on the centrality of two hours of silent prayer for the life of her apostolic sisters, typically said that ‘silence is God speaking to us.’  Each of these sayings illustrates a way of understanding the meaning of silence.

Why is God so like silence? Eckart doesn’t say God likes silence or likes silent worshippers but that God is like silence. St Benedict has two words we translate as silence: quies and silentium. Quies is quiet, physical silence, an absence of noise – not banging doors, not scraping chairs, not coughing or unwrapping sweet papers. It is the quies we expect good parents to train their children in, a physical self-restraint and modesty that respects the presence of other people. Quies makes the world habitable and civil. It is often grossly lacking in urban modern culture where music invades elevators and there is rarely a moment or place where we are not in range of manmade noise. There are now expensive headphones that people wear, not to listen to music but to block out noise. Silentium, however, is not an absence of noise but a state of mind and an attitude of consciousness turned towards others or to God. It is attention. When someone comes to see a priest or counselor to share a problem or grief, the priest knows that what he must above all give is his attention. There may not be a solution to the problem and most of our hopefully helpful words glide off the back of grief as failed platitudes. To listen deeply, to give oneself in the act of attention is in fact not to judge, or fix or condemn but to love. Seen this way there is indeed nothing so much like God as silence because God is love.

Liturgy – like all ways of prayer – is essentially about attention. At the Eucharist we train our attention towards God through the gift of self that Jesus made historically and makes continuously through the Spirit both in our hearts and on the altar. Although our attention may wander, looking at new faces in the congregation or browsing the bulletin, the attention of Jesus directed to us never wavers and does not even condemn or dislike us for our distractedness. Though we are unfaithful, he remains faithful because he cannot betray himself. This, at least to the believer, is the inexpressible mystery of the Eucharist and the ultimately irresistible and sweet attraction of the real presence.

Silence is work, the work of loving attention and its fruit is a heart filled with thanksgiving. This connects Meister Eckart’s idea of silence with Mother Teresa’s. Silence which is like God as nothing else is also God speaking to us. When we pay attention to God we soon realize that God is paying attention to us. Indeed it is God’s attention to us that allows us to pay attention to God. It is God who strikes the first spark of good will in us, according to Cassian who debated with Augustine about free will. But then we have to play our part. As St John says, This is what love really is: not that we have loved God but that he loved us. We love because he loved us first. When we celebrate the Eucharist we are in fact taking the first step to being caught up in the divine life. In the silence of the Eucharist we taste and enter the silence of the Father from whom the Word eternally springs. In Rubliev’s icon of the Trinity the three persons are gathered around the Eucharist.

This is the mystical dimension of the Eucharist that for many Sunday worshippers is the main spiritual food for their week and daily work. Every effort should, therefore, be made to ensure that this rare and precious moment is enjoyed to the fullest degree. The way in which the Eucharist is celebrated is all-important in allowing time and creating the space for its inner mystery to be manifested.

Prescribed silences cannot be made compulsory and still be expected to work spiritually. As long as the fundamental approach to the Eucharist is conditioned by legalism or excessive control it will seem that Eucharist and silence are incompatible. Silent moments or extended periods of silence will seem impractical, pretentious and artificial; or an imposition on a congregation who are good enough to come in the first place and who should not be subjected to something unfamiliar which lengthens their hour in church. The silences in the Eucharist must rather spring from the experience of the mystical depth being explored by the whole community. But like the whole Eucharist itself, these silences need to be guided by the celebrant in collaboration with the liturgical leadership of the community. Clearly it is in the seminary that the contemplative dimension of prayer needs to be nurtured if future celebrants are to have this feel for liturgical silence.

Priests are often fearful or suspicious of silence on the altar. Fear of silence in the Eucharist generally affects the celebrant more than the congregation. Is it that when he opens his eyes after a long silence he may find the church empty?  Is it the fear of losing control? Fear of silence is often a fear of absence, of the void we dread, the growing terror of nothing to think about. Or, is it also perhaps that our theological and liturgical training have not prepared us for the other half, the mystical half of the Eucharist?

Silence restores and recognizes this missing contemplative dimension. Silence refreshes language, restores precision and meaning especially to oft-quoted, familiar texts. Without silence even sacred words can become noise, babble. Silence in the Eucharist does not threaten emptiness or denote absence but exposes presence and invites responsiveness.

The places in the Eucharist where silences are especially useful and enhancing have already been identified. Many celebrants begin with a few moments of silence in the sacristy with the acolytes and lectors before processing in. Whenever the celebrant calls the community to pray, Let us pray demands a moment of silence before the words of the Collect are spoken to collect the unspoken prays of the whole people. The penitential rite then invites people to reflect interiorly so that they can prepare to experience the Eucharist as a healing and forgiving celebration in their imperfect lives. The readings especially call for silent pauses, before the responsorial psalm or the gospel acclamation rush us on. Often where silence is observed during the Liturgy of the Word it will also encourage a brief spoken commentary on a difficult or obscure passage that may otherwise escape the cognitive faculties of the congregation and sometimes the celebrant altogether.  Readings must be proclaimed with preparation and devout attention and meditative silence that enable the Word of God to touch people’s minds and hearts. (Mane Nobiscum Domine)

Catholic preachers are generally very self-conscious about the length of homilies, unlike protestant ministers who are often expected to give the people their money’s worth in terms of length and passion of delivery. The more modulated style of most Catholic preaching makes an ensuing period of silent reflection even more appropriate. It treats the congregation with the respect of assuming that they have listened intelligently and would like time to think about it even if they are not allowed to respond yet.

The breaking of the bread, the fraction of the host is a mystical moment of great sacredness and a moment of silence during this is natural. But the most significant and necessary time for silence in the Eucharist is of course after Communion. If the whole Eucharist is the culmen et fons of the church surely this moment is its mystical epicenter. Yet it is generally glossed over without a moment of silence except that occurring between songs or the purification of the vessels. This may be the stage where the celebrant is getting nervous about keeping people too long, the children may be getting restless and another congregation may be gathering outside. Now above all we need to remember that silence is not merely the absence of noise but the spirit of loving attention. I have sat in a prolonged silence after communion at Sunday mass in our monastery parish in suburban London while a chorus of wailing babies, restless toddlers and invisible stagehands were making noise. It did not materially affect the silence. The parents and others appreciated it and many, if not all, of the children became quieter. And when we concluded with the Post-Communion prayer there was a sense of thankfulness and refreshment not relief that we were finished. The celebrant has to hold his nerve at the beginning of such silences and of course to prepare the congregation for them. It is a significant period of silence not a quick pause that is needed. It can be helpful to have a prescribed time and to mark the beginning and the end of it by ringing a gong or chime.

Silence in the Eucharist does not, as some might fear, privatize the liturgy. This often happened in the Tridentine rite. People felt something very mysterious and sacred was happening but it did not personally involve them so they said their prayers while the priest got on with his role. Silence as a liturgical experience, by contrast, draws the community closer together and unifies their attention so that together in mind and heart they can hear the word and share in the mystery. St Ignatius of Antioch said that if we cannot understand the silence of Christ we will not be able to understand his words either. We can only understand his silence by being silent ourselves. In doing so together we experience the mystery of silence building community.

To conclude, I would like to recall a significant phrase of Pope John Paul. Having emphasized the importance of silence in the Eucharist he explains that it is not a self-contained artificial silence. We need to progress from the experience of liturgical silence to the “spirituality of silence” – to life’s contemplative dimension. St Francis once urged his followers to preach the gospel on all occasions and to everyone they met. When absolutely necessary, he added, use words. He meant, I think, not just silence but the silent or implicit witness of one’s life.

The link between the Eucharist and the way we live is crucial to any understanding or experience of its meaning and value. If we celebrate the Eucharist only as an ecclesial obligation or as a folksy get together it will have little influence upon better conforming our lives to the Gospel. Unless we have come together at a deep level in its celebration the closing words “Go in peace” will mean we go in pieces, just as we probably arrived. Silence allows the full meaning of the Eucharist at its deepest, post-verbal levels of sacramental efficacy, to unfold in our lives. This means that we will know that having shared the fruits of the earth symbolically together we can better serve the Kingdom of justice in our lives and work. We all took the same amount of bread and wine. There was enough to go round for everybody – if the sacristan did his job properly. Therefore if our lives are to be Eucharistic should we not work for the just distribution of wealth, the relief of the oppressed and care for the marginalized? The mystical depth of the Eucharist has direct political implications. Were not Thomas a Becket and Oscar Romero assassinated at the silent moment of consecration? Pope John Paul’s last public teaching and blessing from his Vatican window was silent.

So the implications of silence in the Eucharist take us to the heart of our faith and to the cutting edge of contemporary evangelization. It is not just about what happens at Mass times. It is about expressing what is real at the core of our being and in the fabric of our daily life and work. This I think must be why Pope John Paul linked the experience of liturgical silence to the contemplative renewal of the church. In a world increasingly fractured and frazzled by noise and stress, he recognized the necessity for the church to draw on its deepest contemplative traditions and to teach from these ways of contemplative prayer. It is vital to rediscover the value of silence, he said. John Main, who died in 1982, saw this too: the greatest challenge to modern people, he said, is to rediscover the value and meaning of silence. John Main in his writings on the Eucharist also saw that for modern people, recovering the contemplative dimension of prayer is necessary for experiencing the full meaning of the sacraments.

The teaching of contemplative prayer at the parish and diocesan level is a natural and perhaps inevitable corollary to liturgical silence. We have to start somewhere – with silence after communion or with meditation groups in the parish. The church being a living Body with a spiritual life, her pastors don’t have to be too preoccupied with systems analysis. They simply have to pray and encourage people to pray ever more deeply. It may be more daring in our time to apply this to the religious education and spiritual formation of children and young people.

A living silence after the readings, homily and communion will arouse or, better perhaps, identify the deeper hunger that is at the heart of our church and our world. Learning to pray at the contemplative level will teach us to live better in the spirit, because the way we pray is the way we live and the way we pray is the way we celebrate the Eucharist. This hunger for contemplation, then, is our greatest hope. It is vital to rediscover the value of silence.

Sunday Celebration of the Word and Hours: Its Genesis and its Principles

This document is available for dowloading in pdf format.


From the very beginning Christians gathered on Sunday. All four Gospels (Mt 28.1; Mk 16.2; Lk 24.1; Jn 20.6) and the Acts of the Apostles (20.6‑12) describe the life and practice of the first Christians. They insist on the importance to them of the first day of the week, the day the Risen Lord bas revealed to his disciples. From the Resurrection day itself (Jn 20.19; Lk 24.33), Christ’s disciples have kept Sunday as a day to gather.

The first centuries of Christianity witness to the constancy of this practice. At the beginning of the second century, the Didache prescribed: "On the . . . Day of the Lord, come together and break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure." In the same period, the governor of Bithynia in present-day Turkey noted of the Christians of his region that "it was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and to recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a God." Similarly, the Christian writer Justin in his Apology, a work written about 150 A.D., said that on Sundays Christians, whether they lived in the towns or in the countryside, gathered for worship in one place.

Linked from the beginning to the Resurrection, the Sunday assembly was a standard feature not only of the apostolic age, but also of the centuries which followed. Christians would accept martyrdom rather than forsake common Sunday worship: "We ought to be together," wrote one early Christian. "We cannot live without the Lord’s meal; it is more important for us than life itself." Prior to the time of the Emperor Constantine, when Sunday was not yet a day of rest, Christians would gather for the breaking of the bread before taking up their daily work. In Canada, our own ancestors showed the same fidelity to Sunday worship. Especially in less populous areas, and even to relatively recently times, lay people frequently led the local community in Sunday prayer in situations where Mass might be celebrated only quarterly or even twice a year.

As these examples indicate, Christians have always considered the Sunday assembly indispensable. There they experienced both the encounter with the Risen Lord and the need of his active and life‑giving presence until his return in glory. For this reason the Church law has always affirmed the vital necessity of the Sunday assembly, which anticipates the heavenly liturgy, that new world in which God’s people will be gathered and of which they have a part even now.

The traditional, primary, and normative Sunday gathering of the baptized is the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Church’s life, which Christ commanded us to do in his memory.  In the Eucharist, in celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection, Christians truly encounter Christ in a form of dialogue that includes listening, silence, contemplation as well as intercession, praise, and thanksgiving. In this holy exchange, God’s people leave themselves open to God’s tender care. They recall and re‑live the victory of God’s wondrous deeds and steadfast love as they are nourished at "the table of God’s Word and of Christ’s body." (GIRM, 8)  When Christians cannot be nourished at the table of Christ’s Body, however, they can still be nourished at the table of His Word.

Vatican II

This twofold reference to both Word and Sacrament is important.  Consequently, the Second Vatican Council restored to the Word of God and to the Liturgy of the Word that same importance it held during the first centuries of the Church.  It recognized that the readings from the Old Testament, from the Gospels, and from the other New Testament writings, together spread before the people of God a marvelous feast, breaking open for them the mystery of salvation in its entire splendor. It recognized also that the proclamation of the Word, together with the assembly, the priest, and the sacrament of the Eucharist itself was one of the forms of Christ’s real presence to his people.  Including also the singing of the Psalm which echoes the first reading, the acclamation to Christ present in the Word, the homily which brings word and life together, and the intercessions which spring forth from our listening, the liturgy of the Word forms a key moment in the dialogue between God and the gathered Church.

It is out of this new recognition of the importance of the Word of God that the present form of Sunday Celebrations of the Word and Hours has emerged.  In pre-Vatican II days I fairly frequently formed part of a Sunday gathering in the absence of a priest, but it was the Rosary, and not the Word, that was central to our celebration in that period.  Vatican II’s restatement of the importance of the Word of God changed all that.

Four important factors

While Sunday gatherings of the assembly without a priest are by no means something new, and in fact have a long tradition, since Vatican II four new factors have made them a far more prominent feature of Church life.  The first factor is, of course, the shortage of priests. In our situation this has been coupled with the demographic decline of the rural parish. In 1950, 61% of Canada’s population lived in cities; by 2005, this had become 81% and is growing steadily. With fewer priests, the decline of rural population in both North America and Europe has led to a dramatic increase in the frequency of Sunday worship when no priest can be present. In mission countries conversely the shortage of priests has often been coupled with a huge growth in the Catholic population, which again means that in many rural mission situations also the assembly must gather without a priest and without the Eucharist.

A crucial second factor is that for the first time in its history the universal Church effectively institutionalized this development of the Sunday gathering of the faithful in the absence of a priest. Several documents were central to this process. The practice seems first to have been given recognition in the liturgy constitution of Vatican II, which included a general provision that bible services should be encouraged, including on Sundays and holydays. It went on to say: "They are particularly recommended when no priest is available; when this is the case a deacon or some other person authorized by the bishop is to preside over the celebration."  (SC, 35. 4) 

Paragraph 37 of the instruction Inter Oecumenici (1964), formally codified this practice, and in effect made it obligatory: "In places without a priest and where none is available for the celebration of Mass on Sundays and holydays of obligation, a sacred celebration of the word of God with a deacon or even a properly appointed layperson presiding, shall be arranged, at the discretion of the local ordinary." This paragraph also included a brief outline of the order of celebration. 

Canon 1248 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law of 1983 further codified this practice, although it watered down the language somewhat. It provided: "If it is impossible to assist at a eucharistic celebration, either because no sacred minister is available or for some other grave reason, the faithful are strongly recommended to take part in a liturgy of the word, if there be such in the parish church or some other sacred place, which is celebrated in accordance with the provisions laid down by the diocesan bishop; or to spend an appropriate time in prayer, whether personally or as a family or, as occasion presents, in a group of families."

Finally this process of institutionalization became complete when the Directory of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1988.  The Directory did two important things; it codified the recognition of such Sunday celebrations, providing detailed conditions as to how and when they should take place, and it provided also concrete norms for the celebrations themselves, although it did not actually provide a detailed ritual.  This document, which is very important to a proper understanding of all such Sunday celebrations, is contained in full at the very beginning of the Canadian ritual book.

If two important factors in recent times are the shortage of priests and the consequent institutionalization of Sunday celebrations when priests are absent, a third factor, closely related to the second, is that the form of such Sunday worship has now taken on the fixed character of a liturgical celebration of the word.  This was suggested by Vatican II, outlined in Inter Oecumenici, "strongly recommended" by Canon 1248, and provided for in the Directory. Even before the Directory, Inter Oecumenici had already provided a broad form for this.  It said that the plan of such a celebration would be "almost the same as that of the liturgy of the Word at Mass."  It would include a homily, either prepared by a deacon, or prepared by the bishop or pastor and read by a lay person, and would end with general intercessions and the Lord’s Prayer.  Even as early as 1964, then, before the close of Vatican II, we can find Sunday celebrations defined as celebrations of the Word.

Locally in Canada, various diocesan, regional and national initiatives implemented these general provisions.  I believe that the Diocese of Labrador City-Shefferville, under Bishop Peter Sutton, was one of the first in our country to make use of such celebrations on a widespread scale.  The experience there and a survey of practices both in Canada and throughout the world was the foundation of the preparation in 1981 of a formal ritual by Father Len Sullivan of Regina, a former director of the National Office, as a project of the Western Liturgical Conference.  This ritual, commonly known as the "Red Book", became an early standard for many dioceses both in Canada and the United States.  Other dioceses sometimes issued their own rituals adapted from this.  If there was any criticism of this ritual, however, it was that it appeared to be not so much a ritual for a liturgy of the Word in itself, as a modified ritual for the Eucharist with the particular eucharistic elements omitted.

Actually, it was here in the Diocese of St. George’s that a more focused form of a genuine Sunday liturgy of the Word was prepared in 1992.  This introduced the central element of the procession and enthronement of the Word after the gathering rites, and it included also a whole variety of prayers of praise that were largely drawn from the Scriptures and were thus more appropriate to a celebration of the Word than earlier forms of praise, which were often adapted from a eucharistic context.  It was the St. George’s ritual, considerably expanded by the National Office under Father John Hibbard, which became the model and basis for the Canadian ritual, Sunday Celebrations of the Word and Hours issued by the CCCB in 1995.  As the title indicates, this also included the form of the liturgical hours of Morning or Evening Prayer as an appropriate alternative form of the celebration of the Word, since they are almost totally based on the Scriptures.

And so we have the shortage of priests, the institutionalization of Sunday gatherings of the faithful, the development of a specific rite for the celebration of the Word as three major factors leading us to where we are today.  The fourth factor, which is of equal importance, is the new provision, confirmed by the Papal instruction Immensae caritatis of 1973, that allowed the laity to distribute communion in various circumstances apart from the celebration of Mass.  This meant that communion could take place in such circumstances on a regular basis even when the Eucharist is not celebrated.  Though communion is not a part of the Sunday celebration of the Word as such, and whether it should or should not be added is a matter for real debate, when it has been added to such celebrations, it must be noted that this has had the significant effect of making them far more acceptable to parishioners, and probably far more widespread, especially in light of the fact that the worshipping populations of the communities in which Sunday celebrations take place are often much older than average.

Not a mini-Eucharist

In certain areas, then, due to the lack of priests, communities are unable regularly to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist. When they continue to gather on that day, they are not thereby any less responsive to the call of the Risen Christ, but their assembly is not lived out in its fullest form, which is the Eucharist. It is for this reason that we can, in a more particular way, speak, as is very common in French, of "Sunday Celebrations of the Word in anticipation of the Eucharist." This should not suggest that these are not authentic liturgi­cal celebrations nor should it obscure the truth that every other liturgy finds its completion only in the Eucharist. At the same time it must be recognized that while such celebrations look forward to the day when the Eucharist will again be celebrated within the community, they also flow from the Eucharist and that they are the worship of a community which has been sustained by it. In this con­text, the particular designation "in anticipation of the Eucharist" recognizes the hope of the assembly that it may once more, and soon, celebrate in all its fullness "the mystery of faith."

Looking at it from this perspective, the rich character of a Sunday celebration of the Word which anticipates a future eucharistic celebration should not lead us to overlook its limitations in contrast with the celebration of the Eucharist itself.  Even with the distribution of communion, it is not the Eucharist, for it does not make present the fullness of Christ’s saving action.  Deacons or lay persons who lead it are not ordained to act in the person of Christ the head of the Body, as the priest or bishop does in the offering of the Eucharist, and thus one of the important modes of Christ’s presence is absent. Other persons are thus unable to do, in Christ’s memory, what He did ‑ all those things brought together for us in the liturgy of the Eucharist ‑ to take bread and cup, and having given thanks to God in blessing, to break the bread and offer the cup that those assembled might receive of them.  We must never lose sight of the fact that even if at a Sunday celebration the eucharistic sacrament is shared, we are not celebrating the Eucharist. For the Eucharist is not only sacramental communion with Christ’s body but the memorial and the renewing of Christ’s Paschal sacrifice, thereby enabling the Church to make present anew Christ’s gift of himself to the Father and to be one with him in his action.

Obviously something so new to most of the Church can easily lead to misunderstanding. Some would wonder whether this practice was not a significant move from our tradition as a Eucharistic Church toward a Church of the Word.  Others would question whether by having other Sunday celebrations "in parallel" to the Mass, the Eucharist and the priesthood are not thereby devalued. For those mere directly involved, there can be further areas of confusion. Although Catholics may readily under­stand that such celebrations and the Eucharist are "tech­nically" different, they may have difficulty in appreciating the effective difference when what is for them the fullest mode of participation in the Eucharist, that is, the recep­tion of communion, takes place in both. In terms of min­istries, there is always a danger that the ordained priest­hood, when it is not actively involved in the day‑tot‑day pastoring of the community, may be perceived as an intru­sion in terms of the lay ministries in place. The reverse, too, is possible. Finally, there can be confusion about the status of communities: are those which are unable to cele­brate regularly the Sunday Eucharist somehow second-class to those which do? It is because the possibilities for misunderstanding are so present in this situation that the greatest care must be taken in its implementation.

A true celebration of the Word

The Canadian ritual for Sunday celebrations which has developed in these circumstances is not an adapted form of Mass, but an authentic celebration of the Word of God, with its own proper features.  It is characterized by an enthronement of God’s Word, the full use of the Sunday readings and psalm, a homily that reflects upon the Word, intercessions that arise from having heard it, and a great prayer of praise to God in thanksgiving that comes normally from the Scriptures.  This Sunday celebration of the Word is truly liturgy. It celebrates and makes present the saving action of Christ the Head among his people, and gives strength to the work of his Body, the Church. Gathered on that day when the Church throughout the world keeps memory of the Risen Lord, the faithful of a particular community proclaim the Father’s glory, through the Son, in the communion of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, a particular assembly that gath­ers to celebrate God’s Word always celebrates this liturgy in union with the Church universal.  The assembly shows its veneration for the Word of God, the same kind of veneration, the Church teaches, that is due to the Body of the Lord, for in both cases it is Christ himself who is venerated. In the proclamation and hearing of the Word of God Christ becomes truly present to his people, for the Church teaches clearly that Christ is present in his Word, since it is always He himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church.  Thus, even without communion, the presence of Christ is realized in both the assembly that celebrates and the Word that is proclaimed.

A community celebration

Even as we accept that Sunday liturgies celebrated when the Eucharist cannot take place are never the ideal, we must recognize also their positive effects. One has to acknowledge that they maintain and build up the community as the body of Christ and that they encourage the development of the co-responsibility of the laity within the Church. They contribute to the formation of the laity, and to their active participation in a variety of ministries and services, some of which go beyond the Sunday assembly. They enrich the prayer life of the community, and they bring to the gathered assembly the presence of Christ speaking through the word. In fact, by gathering to hear and reflect upon the same word of God that is proclaimed universally, the community renews its own communion in Christ, is connected to the larger parish and diocesan community, and is united to the Church throughout the world. Even more to the point, a community unable to celebrate the Eucharist is still enabled, as part of the body of the risen Christ, to gather in the Spirit to offer its own Sunday worship and praise to God.

The rite for Sunday celebrations of the Word calls forth not only the ministry of lay presiding, but a whole variety of ministries within the community.  The so called "Red Book" was actually entitled "A Ritual for Lay Presiders," but this was an unfortunate error, a little like calling the Missal "A Ritual for Priests."  In fact, Sunday celebrations require an even greater variety of lay ministries than might otherwise be the case. Obviously the important liturgical ministries of hospi­tality, proclaiming the Word, cantor, choir and music leader, communion, acolyte, environment, etc., are still needed.  For Sunday celebrations of the Word, however, some will be called to new min­istries: the coordination of other ministries, the leadership of the liturgical assembly, and the preaching God’s Word, all three of which are ministries that can be separated, and need not be exercised by the one person. In all these individual ministries the faithful are often helped to rediscover the priestly character of their baptism, which endows them with a mission to acclaim throughout the world the pres­ence of the living God. From the teamwork which is essential to a community preparing such liturgies can flow a whole new sense of the whole celebrating community as the primary subject of worship:  the Body of Christ, united by Him and animated by his presence and yet with its variety of persons and gifts.

Assessing the Community’s Need

Of the questions that arise with regard to Sunday celebrations of the word perhaps the most general is when they should take place and when should they not. Because of the enormous variety of situations the answer to this question may not always be clear-cut. For this reason, both the Code of Canon Law and the Directory recognize the broad authority of the diocesan bishop to regulate this matter, and to decide in just what circumstances Sunday celebrations without a priest should take place. However the operative principle is both simple and clear: Sunday celebrations of the word can, and should, take place in any case where for a group of the faithful "participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible" (Canon 1248 §2). As the Directory points out, and as the letter of John Paul II on the Lord’s Day eloquently re-states, "the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life." The Sunday celebration of the Word is never an alternative, in any real sense of that word, to the Sunday Eucharist. The former should take place only in circumstances where for good reasons the Eucharist cannot be celebrated, or where individuals cannot participate in Sunday Eucharist.  Because particular situations can be very complex, the Church regards the bishop’s judgment in this matter as both necessary and decisive.

However while the principle is simple and straightforward, the reasons that might influence the bishop’s judgment can cover a wide range of circumstances. The degree to which a community is isolated is an obvious consideration, along with the difficulty of transportation, and economic considerations such as whether people have their own vehicles and what are the costs involved.  In Canada, weather and geography can be real factors. So too can entirely different things like the general age and health of the group in question. The physical impossibility of people being able to get to mass nearby is clearly a valid reason, as for example in the case of prisoners, the hospitalized, and members of the armed forces who must remain on base. Language might also be a consideration in some circumstances. So must be the temporary absence of the clergy because of illness, vacation, or other good reasons. But almost none of these criteria is absolute, and usually they must be carefully weighed in combination with one another. What is called for here is a genuinely pastoral and prudent judgment that recognizes the real situations where people cannot, in practical terms, participate in the Sunday Eucharist, while never detracting from the ideal that participation in the Sunday Eucharist is central to the life of the Church and its members.

While for obvious reasons the celebration of Sunday liturgies of the word most often will be justified in rural areas involving large distances and scattered populations, even in the urban core there are situations where such celebrations can be warranted.  Prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and senior citizens complexes are cases in point. If a significant group of people cannot get out to take part in the Eucharist, and it is impossible for priests to celebrate Sunday Eucharist in these institutions, then the circumstances for Sunday celebrations of the Word would clearly seem to exist. The case for their approval in such instances would not be diminished by the fact, for example, that they had Mass on a weekday, or by the fact that a communion minister could bring communion on Sundays to the individuals in such situations. Even when there are other celebrations on weekdays, people still have a right and a duty to take part in Sunday worship and to hear proclaimed in their midst each Sunday the word of God in the Sunday readings. Moreover, when communion is distributed apart from Mass, it is the Church’s clear preference, especially on Sunday, that the faithful be gathered in groups in which they can be nurtured by the riches of the Sunday scriptures. Where possible, communion of the sick and others in similar circumstances will most fittingly take place within this context.

On the other hand, the indiscriminate use of Sunday celebrations of the Word in situations for which they are clearly not intended is a real disservice to the Church. Their use, for example, when a priest in an urban or suburban context is on holidays must be carefully considered.  In drawing up a policy to address this situation, the bishop will certainly want to examine a whole range of facts, such as the time period involved, the possibility of clerical supply, distance, transportation, the age, economic circumstances, mobility and language of the community, the availability and times of mass elsewhere, and the capacity of other churches to accommodate larger numbers. But while all of these factors may need to be taken into account and weighed carefully, the automatic use of Sunday celebrations of the Word when a priest is absent from an urban parish should not be assumed.

It is sometimes said that the parish community should be kept together as a Sunday worshipping community. This is clearly true, and obviously an important value, but it is rarely likely to be an absolute. It must be weighed against the equally clear, and even more important, value of the centrality of the Sunday Eucharist for the life of the Church. It certainly is far less than absolute when many members of the same parish may already be very mobile in their choice of masses. Given a shortage of priests for supply, however, reciprocal arrangements among a cluster of parishes, with parishioners of a particular parish being formally hosted and welcomed by a neighbouring parish while their own pastor is unavoidably absent, may be a good solution in many situations. Ideally they would be able to return the same hospitality during the absence of the priest from a neighbouring parish. With some real preparation, and provided that things like distance, transportation, language, and space are not major problems, such arrangements can have the very positive effect of building communion and reducing unacceptable rivalries.


Whatever may be the considerations relative to Sunday worship, nothing in the relevant documents justifies applying to weekdays the liturgical provisions regarding the absence of a priest on Sunday. This would be the case for urban and rural areas equally. The Directory, for example, quite clearly envisages only the situation of Sunday, where people would otherwise be deprived of the opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s Day liturgically. The Directory‘s provisions for Sunday are based on the assumption of a real and serious need, not on convenience. Again it should be said that what is of paramount importance here is that the celebration of the Word is not presented, nor does it come to be regarded, as an alternative to the Eucharist. On weekdays in urban areas, daily Mass is usually readily available in nearby parishes. If it is not, or if for any reason there is a need to provide a liturgical service other than the Eucharist on weekdays, Morning or Evening Prayer will always be fitting, whether the situation is urban or rural. Indeed, the daily parish Liturgy of the Hours is fully appropriate even when the Eucharist is celebrated.

Communion or Not

A further major question often arising from the more widespread use of Sunday celebrations of the Word concerns the distribution of communion. Indeed, this has been a matter of much debate. Neither the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican II nor the Code of Canon Law makes reference to communion, but only to liturgies of the Word. The instruction Inter Oecumenici in 1964 outlined an order of service that certainly did not include communion, but then there were no provisions allowing the laity to act as extraordinary ministers. Nevertheless, the Directory of 1988, which came after the provision for lay ministers, encouraged communion, although it does not make it in any way obligatory. The Canadian ritual book has a section that provides for communion, while rightly not including communion as an integral part of a liturgy of the Word.

Nevertheless, at least in places where Sunday celebrations of the Word regularly take place, the sensus fidelium often seems to demand communion. There are positive reasons for this. First of all, of course, communion provides a sense of "familiarity," especially for the many older Catholics who often form a significant portion of congregations in rural areas. Second, it provides a link to the Catholic eucharistic tradition and to the Sunday Eucharist celebrated elsewhere throughout the world. And finally, it comes from a sense that Catholics in areas where the Eucharist cannot be celebrated, especially if these are more remote, are no less deprived of communion through no fault of their own than are their fellow Catholics confined to hospitals, nursing homes and other similar situations.

Certainly, communion can be both a legitimate and proper component of such Sunday worship. If other views question its place, presumably they do so because the addition of communion clearly has an effect on people’s long-term perception of such services. In other words, we must ask whether the regular provision of communion as part of the liturgies of the Word- which were initially proposed by the Council and by Canon Law without mention of communion-effectively create, over time, an alternative to the Sunday Eucharist. To ask this question is really to recognize the centrality of communion to the Catholic tradition and to the Catholic psyche. In other words, is communion being used to fabricate a novel kind of Catholicism that finds its centre apart from the Eucharist?

While to raise this question is clearly reasonable-indeed, it is something those responsible for the sacramental discipline of the Church must evaluate over time-to raise it in such a way as to challenge the deep and valid convictions of those in the pews will almost certainly be unproductive. What may be more fruitful would be to seek to deepen people’s understanding of eucharistic communion. For in the truest sense there is never communion "outside mass" or "apart from mass." Unfortunately we simply lack other language. However ultimately these commonly used terms are misleading. Eucharistic communion is always and inextricably linked to the eucharistic sacrifice. Indeed, this is recognized in the Church’s document entitled Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass, which states very clearly: "The celebration of the Eucharist in the sacrifice of the Mass is the true origin and purpose of the worship shown to the Eucharist outside Mass. The principal reason for reserving the sacrament after Mass is to unite, through sacramental communion, the faithful unable to participate in the Mass, especially the sick and the aged, with Christ and the offering of his sacrifice."

Of course eucharistic communion is about receiving the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is also about being received by him, being made one with him and being given a part in that great paschal action by which he is raised from death to new life. Communion is also about "epiclesis": the Holy Spirit is invoked upon those who share the sacramental body of the Lord to transform them into the one body of Christ, and to bring them into communion with one another. Communion is about our communion with our God; for even here on earth sacramental communion brings us into the divine life itself. Thus communion can never be static or passive. It is always a participation in the eucharistic sacrifice, in the Pasch of our salvation, it is always another mighty deed of God on our behalf, and it is always our own surrender to God and to others in Jesus Christ. To share communion is to enter into and to be linked to the celebration of the Eucharist. In that sense, the communion rite, whenever it takes place, is always the extension of the communion rite of the Eucharist itself.

It is notable that today many parishes explicitly indicate in some fashion that ministers are taking communion to the sick and shut-ins to enable them to share in the eucharistic sacrifice. The converse of this is precisely the sense that must be developed when people participate in communion during a Sunday celebration of the Word. They should understand that their act of communion is not just the receiving of something, even something as important as the body of Christ, but it is an action that links them to the table of the Lord and to the great saving action of Jesus Christ celebrated and made present in the Eucharist. Actually, it is encouraging to see that many communities who frequently have Sunday celebrations of the Word take real care when they do celebrate the Eucharist to emphasize those elements of the communion rite that most convey its inherent connection to the eucharistic sacrifice: communion under both forms; a proper celebration of the breaking of the bread; the use, as the Church prescribes, only of the sacred species consecrated at that celebration.

Awareness of the connection between communion at a Sunday celebration of the word and participation in the eucharistic action is clearly something to be fostered. So too is whatever creates a yearning for the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. In more general terms, it will be always helpful to emphasize the connection between this celebration, this community, and the Sunday eucharistic worship of the wider Church. Initially some people feared that Sunday celebrations of the word might come to be mistaken for a Eucharist with a lay presider. It is true that there were occasional references to "Sister’s mass," and perhaps in the early years prayers were sometimes used that were difficult to distinguish from the eucharistic prayers of the Missal. Today, especially with the evolution of the ritual forms, there is little danger of this. If anything, it seems that parishioners are able to make a very clear distinction between the two. Indeed, the most common complaint is that parishioners who feel less bound by the general precept to keep holy the Lord’s Day than by the legal obligation to take part in the Mass, do not attend Sunday worship in their communities when the Eucharist is not celebrated.

Long Term Effects

If there is a major problem today it may be that communities who over the long term can celebrate the Eucharist only occasionally and for whom in practical terms the Sunday celebration of the Word is the norm and not the exception will come to view the latter as "normal." A related difficulty may have to do with the all-too-ready use of such services as an alternative to Mass, sometimes in circumstances far removed from those intended in the Church’s documents.  Such celebrations can never be introduced only as a matter of convenience. In one unfortunate turn of phrase, the Directory says: "it is imperative that the faithful be taught to see the substitutional character of these celebrations." The context indicates, however, that it is precisely the opposite that is intended. The Directory wants Catholics to know that such services, although they meet a real pastoral need in some circumstances, are never a substitute for the Eucharist. Despite the best of catechesis, however, regular practice could deliver a different message.

Sunday celebrations of the Word can be a wonderful source of grace and blessing, but they are never the ideal. Provided that major concerns are adequately addressed, however, they will continue to fill a real pastoral need in a positive way. In Canada at least, the need for them is historical. In some areas at least, this need goes back for centuries, by far preceding the current priest shortage. To change that traditional situation would probably involve significant changes in the way priests are provided for small and isolated rural communities, if not in the discipline of the Church. The absence of a priest and the need for Sunday worship in such situations is nothing new to rural Canada. What is new is that the traditional need is now being met in an untraditional way. In a relatively short period, Sunday celebrations of the Word have met with general acceptance, and they have been productive of real good. But they are likely to be with us for some time to come, and because of that, whatever the good and valid reasons for them, the Church will have to consider their long-term effects.

In conclusion I would like to reflect on some insightful remarks on this issue made to the bishops of central France by Pope Paul VI even as early as 1977:

You are faced also with the issue of Sunday assemblies without a priest in rural areas. There the village forms a kind of natural unity, both social and religious, that it would be dangerous to give up or to scatter. We understand the sense of this very well and the advantages that can be gained for the participants’ exercise of responsibility and the village’s vitality. Today’s preference is for communities that keep their human dimension, provided they have sufficient resources, are alive, and are not ghettos. We therefore say to you: proceed judiciously, but without multiplying this type of Sunday assembly, as though it were the ideal solution and the last chance! … Furthermore, the goal must always be celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass, the only true actualization of the Lord’s paschal mystery.

I can only add that these same challenges seem destined to face the Church for some time to come.

Prayers for the Canadian Forces

Prayers for Canadian Forces is offered as a resource for possible use by communities and individuals when there is occasion to pray publicly for those who serve our nation, especially in security and peace keeping missions. It provides: (1) Scripture Readings on the Imperative for Peace, for use in Prayer Services; (2) Prayers of the Faithful or General Intercessions, which may be used at Mass or in other liturgical celebrations; (3) Prayers, to be used in various circumstances, either individually or in groups. This resource has been issued with the approval of Most Reverend Donald Thériault, Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Canada, and in part is based on materials made available by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Scripture Readings on the Imperative for Peace” />
1. Scripture Readings on the Imperative for Peace

From the Old Testament:

Genesis 13.6-9;
Numbers 6.24-26;
Psalm 34.15;
Psalm 85.7-13;
Psalm 122;
Isaiah 2.2-4;
Micah 4.1-5;
Proverbs 3.13-18.

From the New Testament:

Matthew 5.1-11, 21-24, 43-44;
Luke 6.32, 35-36;
John 17.20-21;
Romans 14.19;
Ephesians 2.13-14; 6.12-17;
Hebrews 12.14.

Prayer of the Faithful (general Intercessions)” />
2. Prayer of the Faithful (general Intercessions)

Prayer of the Faithful I

Invitation to Prayer:
My brothers and sisters,
conscious of the dangers our troops face,
let us implore from God their safety,
the precious gift of peace and the pursuit of reconciliation.

One or more of the following petitions may be added to the Prayer of the Faithful:

A) For the Canadian Armed Forces:

– For those who are serving this country,
abroad or at home, by land, by sea, or in the air;
for their mission to bring peace and security in other lands;
and for God's protection from all perils and injury,
we pray to the Lord.

– For the Canadian Armed Forces and all peacekeepers;
and for wisdom and justice as they carry out their duty
for God and country, we pray to the Lord.

– For the Canadian troops and all peacekeepers;
for the people they strive to protect;
and for God's care upon all who serve,
we pray to the Lord.

– For peace with justice throughout the world and in our own land;
for those engaged in military action;
and for the safety of the personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces,
we pray to the Lord.

– For those engaged in military service;
for those who combat war and violence daily,
and risk their lives that our world may know peace,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all Canadian soldiers;
for those who risk their lives for the good of others;
and for all who serve the common interest of our country,
we pray to the Lord.

– For the Canadian Armed Forces;
for the military personnel who have gone overseas,
and for all who long for their safe return,
we pray to the Lord.

B) For Their Families:

– For those in the service of our country and of peace;
for their families and children at home;
and for God's strength and assistance in this time of separation,
we pray to the Lord.

– For families separated from their loved ones in the military;
and for the strength they need to face this time of isolation and uncertainty,
we pray to the Lord.

– For families who have lost loved ones in war or conflict;
and for God's consolation for those who mourn,
we pray to the Lord.

C) For Those Who Support Them:

– For the Church and all military chaplains,
for preachers and counsellors,
and for all who bring guidance and support to our troops and their families,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all who support our troops in this time of trial;
for doctors, nurses and care-givers;
and for all who need to see the face of a loving God,
we pray to the Lord.

– For those who aid the process of recovery for all wounded troops;
for counsellors and chaplains,
and for all volunteers who continue to help them and their families,
we pray to the Lord.

D) For Victims of War:

– For all prisoners and combatants;
for victims of conflict or oppression;
and for God's mercy upon all who suffer,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all victims of war or terrorism;
for refugees who seek safety and shelter;
and for the families of the Canadian Armed Forces who have lost a loved one,
we pray to the Lord.

– For those whose trust in God has been shaken by war or world events;
and for all victims of war or terrorism,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all who engage in terrorism,
blinded by the pride and the desire for vengeance,
we pray to the Lord.

– For those who walk in the midst of trouble,
and those victimized by the wrath of others,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all whose lives are invaded or marked by evil,
and those who fail to forgive,
unable to communicate to others the mercy granted by God,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all those whose lives are touched by war or terror:
for aid-workers in war-torn countries;
and for refugees and citizens of nations under attack,
we pray to the Lord.

E) For Government Leaders:

– For wisdom, compassion and peace within our government and nation,
for a recognition of the dignity of every human person;
and for the safety of all Canadian peace-keepers,
we pray to the Lord.

– For leaders of nations and peoples,
as they work to implement lasting and just solutions to war, hunger and poverty,
we pray to the Lord.

– For our troops engaged with higher authorities,
in searching for the common good and security of people,
we pray to the Lord.

F) For All Oppressors and Enemies:

– For those whose lives give birth to evil;
for those who pervert the truth and turn to violence,
and for all people who seek the ways of justice and peace,
we pray to the Lord.

– For those who walk in darkness;
for  those who subvert the truth of God's love;
and for all who seek the light of understanding and tolerance,
we pray to the Lord.

– For those who believe that violence is a means to a better world
or a way to equality or justice,
and for those who seek revenge for injustice,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all who, by love and mercy,
make visible God's Kingdom,
we pray to the Lord.

Closing Prayer:
Lord our God,
hear our prayers for peace
and grant that your Spirit
will move in the hearts of all people
to work for an end of violence.
May our prayers and works of penance
unite us with those who are deprived of liberty,
with all who pursue the cause of justice and peace,
and with those separated from their homes and families.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Lord God,
according to your law of love
we wish to love sincerely all who oppress us.
Help us to follow the commandments 
of your new covenant,
that by returning good for the evil done us,
we may learn to bear the ill-will of others 
out of love for you.
Grant this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Other prayers may be used from the Roman Missal (Sacramentary), from the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions: For Peace and Justice; In Time of War or Civil Disturbance, …

Prayer of the Faithful II
for Deployed Military and Department of National Defence Personnel

One or more of the following petitions may be added to the Prayer of the Faithful:

Invitation to Prayer:
My brothers and sisters,
let us pray for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces
and for all who are involved in the service of Canada at home or abroad.

R. Lord, hear our prayer.
Another appropriate response may be used.

A) For the Canadian Armed Forces:

– For the members of the Canadian Armed Forces;
for those who serve with them:
that the Lord may preserve them from all harm,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all of our military and Department of National Defence personnel
deployed throughout the world:
that they may discharge their duties with honour and dignity
as they labour to bring peace and comfort in places torn by war or disaster,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all military personnel deployed throughout the world,
in particular, those deployed from here:
that the Lord will guide and protect them in the fulfillment of their duties,
so that through their actions, peace may be achieved,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all military and peacekeepers:
that, even in war, all may remain ever mindful to defend all human rights,
especially for the most vulnerable,
we pray to the Lord.

B) For Their Families:

– For the families, relatives and friends of our military personnel:
that their concerns and anxieties may be relieved,
we pray to the Lord.*

– For the families of men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces;
for those who serve with them to cope with daily challenges
in the absence of their loved ones:
that the Lord may help them all,
we pray to the Lord.*

– For the families and friends of our deployed military
and Department of National Defence personnel:
that they may be comforted by the Holy Spirit during their time of separation
and be filled with joy when their loved ones return,
we pray to the Lord.

– For the families and friends of those who are deployed:
that the Lord may grant them strength and perseverance
in their separation from them
and bring them the fullness of joy when their loved ones return,
we pray to the Lord.

C) For Those Who Support Them:

– For the chaplains and the Military Ordinariate;
for all ministers of various faith communities who serve the Canadian Armed Forces:
may they experience God's favour in their service,
we pray to the Lord.

– For all who support our troops in this time of trial;
for doctors, nurses and care-givers;
and for all who need to see the face of a loving God,
we pray to the Lord.

D) For Victims of War:

– For the members of the Department of National Defence community
who have been killed for the cause of peace:
that their deaths may not be in vain,
that they may be gathered into God's kingdom,
and that their afflicted families and friends
will experience the solace and strength of the Holy Spirit,
we pray to the Lord.

E) For Nations and Government Leaders:

– For the Governor General, the Prime Minister and our political and military leaders:
that they may tirelessly seek peaceful settlements to international disputes,
we pray to the Lord.*

– For all nations:
that they may be preserved from violence or terrorism,
we pray to the Lord.*

– For the nations of the world:
that they may come to work together in harmony and peace for the good of all,
we pray to the Lord.*

F) For All Oppressors and Oppressed:

– For all men and women involved in conflict areas:
that all hearts may be moved to pursue justice and peace,
we pray to the Lord.*

– For all oppressors and all oppressed:
that violence may be overcome by peace;
that weapons of destruction be transformed into tools of justice;
and that hatred give way to mutual charity,
we pray to the Lord.*

Closing prayer
You order all things in wisdom, O God,
and your loving care embraces our lives and our work.
Look with kindness on the members of the Canadian Armed Forces
[and those who serve with them].
Give them courage, hope and strength.
Strengthen their resolve to promote peace and security in every land
and enlighten their minds with the Gospel values.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Or, when a death has occurred:

God of our salvation,
we honour those who died
in defence of country and freedom.
Grant them eternal rest
and peace to us who keep faith with them.
Lead us to abhor the violence and hatred of war
and imitate the example of your Son,
who peacefully gave his life
to be our peace and reconciliation
and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Prayers” />
3. Prayers

Prayers in a Time of War or Conflict

1. For the Military

All-powerful and ever-living God,
when your servant David [facing Goliath]
was to defend your people [against the Philistine army],
you assisted him
and you kept him safe through all his journeys,
while leading your people in difficult times.
Protect the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Be their constant companion and their strength in battle,
and their refuge in every adversity.
Guide them, O Lord, that they may return home in safety.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.*

2. Prayer of a Spouse for a Military Member

God of power and might,
at every moment and in every place
you are near to those who call upon your name in faith.
In marriage you have blessed us with a share in your divine love.
Look upon my husband/wife and keep him/her in your safekeeping,
no matter where the road may lead.
And after his/her tour of duty,
bring him/her safely home to his/her loved ones.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.*

3. Prayer of a Son or Daughter for a Parent

Loving God,
you watch over each and every one of your children.
Hear my prayer for my father/mother.
Be his/her constant companion.
Protect him/her no matter where he/she goes,
and bring him/her safely and quickly home to his/her loved ones.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.*

4. Prayer of a Parent for a Military Member

Father all-powerful and ever-loving God,
from before we were born,
your love has nurtured and sustained us.
Hear my prayer for N., my son/daughter.
Keep him/her safe in areas of conflict
and faithful to you, day in and day out.
Bring him/her safely home to his/her loved ones.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.*

5. For Those who Await a Member's Return

God of all goodness,
look with love on those who wait
for the safe return of their loved ones
who serve in the armed forces of their country.
In faith and hope, we turn to you for comfort.
Grant that we may trust in your mercy
and send an angel to sustain us as we await their safe return.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.*

6. For Government Leaders

O God,
whose providence orders all things
and whose governance guides their progress,
look with kindness on the leaders of this nation;
as they gather, fill them with the spirit of your wisdom,
so that their decisions may accord with your will,
fostering peace and the common good.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.**


Almighty and eternal God,
whose hand upholds the rights and aspirations of all,
guide those in authority,
that people everywhere on earth
may enjoy prosperity, freedom of worship,
and the security of being.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.**

7. For the Safety of Service Men and Women

Almighty and eternal God,
those who take refuge in you will rejoice
and will ever sing for joy.
Protect these service men and women
as they discharge their duties.
Cover them with favour as with a shield
and keep them safe from all evil and harm.
May the power of your love bring them home in safety,
that with all who love them,
they may ever praise you for your loving care.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.* (cf. Ps 5.11-12)

8. For our Oppressors and Enemies

Jesus, Prince of Peace,
you have asked us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit,
may all people learn to work together
for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.
To you be glory and honour for ever and ever.*


O God,
whose great commandment enjoins us
to show true love even to those who afflict us,
grant that we may fulfill the law of Christ
by returning good for evil
and by bearing one another's burdens.
We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.**


O God,
who alone can judge rightly
the motives of the human heart,
hear us as we pray
for those at whose hands we suffer
and for those who would do us harm.
Turn them from the path of oppression and cruelty,
and deliver us from the desire of vengeance.
Break the cycle of evil which entraps us all,
that together we may give thanks
in the peace of your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.**

9. For Strength in Time of Trial

Lord God,
we turn to you in all our troubles
and praise you in all our joys.
Hear our prayer this day and see our need,
as we humbly ask your protection
for all our men and women in military service.
Give them the strength and courage
that flows from your Spirit
to defend with honour, dignity and devotion,
the rights of all who are imperiled
by injustice and evil.
Send them your support
and let them experience it
in the generosity and support of others.
Glory and praise to you, God of mercy,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

See: Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family (CCCB – Concacan Inc., Ottawa 2004) page 139.


To set the earth ablaze, O God,
your Son was sacrificed on the Cross
and from his cup of suffering
you called the Church to drink.
Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus
and give us strength in time of trial
to run the race that lies before us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

10. For Those who Survived Combat

Lord God, we give you thanks
for the lives of those who survived the atrocities of war,
and especially for our soldiers who have returned home.
Keep them in your merciful love.
Heal them from their wounds:
being either physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual injuries.
Give them your strength and wisdom.
May their lives be for us
a living testimony of justice and peace in our world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

11. For Victims of Violence

O God,
in your silence every anguished cry is heard;
each person is created in your image,
all peoples are precious in your sight.
Receive into your peace the victims of persecution
and hear the lament of those who mourn their killing.
Keep their memory always before us
and rid every heart of violence and vengeance,
that hatred may be banished from the face of the earth
and the family of nations brought together in peace.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.**

Or, in time of death and difficulty:

In our fear and doubt, we turn to you, O God,
and seek your presence.
Welcome those who were killed into your loving embrace,
and give them eternal peace.
Comfort the families of those who lost loved ones,
and give them strength.
Be with those who have suffered pain,
and grant them healing.
Guide those who care for the injured,
and be their strength.
Lead our country through this grief,
and comfort us in the knowledge of your love.
Bring justice to those responsible for this terror,
and give them conversion of heart.
Do not abandon your people in their time of need.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

12. For Deceased Veterans

O God,
by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest,
look kindly on our departed veterans who gave their lives
in the service of their country.
Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son
they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom
and rejoice in you with your saints forever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.*

13. For Refugees and Exiles

Lord God,
to whom no one is a stranger
and from whose loving care no one is ever distant,
look with compassion on refugees and exiles,
on displaced persons and abandoned children.
Restore them to family and home
and fill our hearts with your own kindness
toward the outcast and the needy.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.**

14. For Social Justice

God ever just,
you who hear the cry of the poor,
you scatter the proud in the thoughts of their hearts
and let the oppressed go free.
Give us, we pray, a new heart.
Change indifference to compassion,
and let the desires of those with abundance
make place for the needs of those who are poor.
Turn our feet on the way of the Gospel,
that peace may triumph over discord
and our justice mirror your own.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.** alt.


By your will, O God,
all peoples have a common origin
and have been called to form a single family.
Fill the hearts of all with the fire of your love
and enkindle in them a desire for true human progress,
that through your rich gifts
each person may be brought to fulfillment,
all division overcome,
and justice and equity firmly rooted in society.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.**

15. For Human Rights

God of justice,
you adorned the human race
with a marvellous diversity,
and you clothed each of its members
with a dignity
that may never be diminished.
Instill in us respect for that dignity,
care for each other,
by doing to our neighbours
as we would have them do to us.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.** alt.

Prayers for Use by Members of the Canadian Armed Forces

1. For Families and Friends Left At Home

O God, protector of all people and nations,
protect my family and friends at home
from the violence and evil of others.
Keep them safe from the weapons of hate and destruction
and guard them against the deeds of evildoers.
Grant them your protection and care
in tranquility and peace.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.*

2. In Areas of Conflict

God of power and mercy,
maker and love of peace,
to know you is to live,
and to serve you is to reign.
Through the intercession of Saint Michael, the archangel,
be our protection in areas of conflict and against all evil.
Help me [us] to overcome war and violence
and to establish your law of love and justice.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.*

3. For Hope in the Midst of Destruction

God of mercy,
you know the secrets of all human hearts,
for you know who is just and you forgive the repentant sinner.
Hear my prayer in the midst of destruction;
give me patience and hope,
so that under your protection and with you as my guide,
I may one day be reunited with my family and friends
in peace, tranquility, and love.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.*

4. Prayer to be used by Officers in Command

God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
hear my prayer for those under my command.
Grant that I may bring the spirit of Christ
to all my efforts and orders
as I exercise my authority over those entrusted to my care.
Inform my judgment with your Holy Spirit
so that I may make decisions
in conformity with your law and for the common good.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.*

5. For Fellow Combatants

Lord God,
remember Christ your Son who is peace itself
and who has washed away our hatred with His blood.
Because you love all men and women,
look with mercy on all who are involved in conflicts.
Banish the violence and evil within all combatants
so that one day, we may all deserve to be
called your sons and your daughters.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.*

6. For the Innocent Victims of War

Lord God,
your own Son was delivered into the hands of the wicked,
yet he prayed for his persecutors
and overcame hatred with the blood of the Cross.
Relieve the sufferings of the innocent victims of war;
grant them peace of mind, healing of body,
and a renewed faith in your protection and care.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.*

7. For Refugees and Victims of War

Lord God,
no one is a stranger to you
and no one is ever far from your loving care.
In your kindness, watch over refugees and victims of war,
those separated from their loved ones,
young people who are lost,
and those who have left home or who have run away from home.
Bring them back safely to the place where they long to be
and help us always to show your kindness
to strangers and to all in need.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.*

January 1,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
World Day for Peace

Queen of Peace, pray for us!
To you we turn our gaze with stronger trepidation,
to you we hasten back with more insistent trust
in these times scarred by a multitude of doubts and fears
for the present and future destiny of our planet.
To you, the first-fruits of humanity redeemed by Christ,
set free at last from the slavery of evil and sin,
we raise together our heartfelt, trusting plea:
listen to the cry of pain of the war victims,
of the victims of the many forms of violence
that bathe the earth in blood.
Dispel the shadows of sorrow and of loneliness,
of hatred and of revenge.
Open to forgiveness the minds and hearts of all!

Queen of Peace, pray for us!
Mother of mercy and of hope
obtain for the men and women of the third millennium the precious gift of peace;
peace in hearts and families, in communities and among peoples;
peace above all for those nations where people fight and die every day.
Obtain that every human being
of every race and culture
may encounter and accept Jesus,
who came down to earth in the mystery of Christmas [the Incarnation]
to give "his" peace to us.
O Mary, Queen of Peace,
give us Christ, the world's true Peace!
John Paul II (2003)***

November 11

1. Saint Martin of Tours, bishop
Patron of the Military Ordinariate of Canada

O God,
the life and death of the holy bishop Martin
proclaimed your glory;
renew in our hearts the wonders of your grace,
so that neither death nor life may separate us
from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.**

2. Remembrance Day

Scripture Reading

    From the Book of Wisdom (3.1-8)

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them for ever.


Loving God,
have mercy on your people,
and open our hearts to peace and love.
Reward all who have died for our country,
and grant that Canada and all nations
may continue to work for justice and peace.
Bless us in our service,
and help us to follow your Son, Jesus Christ,
who is our Saviour and our Lord
for ever and ever.


Blessed are those who have died in the Lord;
let them rest from their labours
for their good deeds go with them. (See Revelation 14.13)

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace.


We bow our heads in prayer,
and pray to God for peace.

All pause for a moment of silent prayer.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
have mercy on all the world.
Pour the Spirit of peace into the hearts of all,
and help us to become peacemakers
eager to work for harmony and love
between individuals, everywhere.
Grant this through the same Christ our Lord.
See: Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family (CCCB – Concacan Inc., Ottawa 2004) page 108.

* From A Prayer for Troops, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Altered and reproduced with permission.

** Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. (ICEL); excerpts from the English translation of The Sacramentary © 1997, ICEL. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

*** John Paul II, excerpt from "Tribute to the Statue of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piazza di Spagna" (December 8, 2003). Reproduced with permission.

Scripture readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Our Year of Prayer

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Praise and prayer: Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and our brother, is our high priest. He offers praise and glory to the Father, and prays for all creation. Throughout the year, we join Christ in offering our praise and prayer to God. Days and seasons help us to remember God’s love and saving gifts to all.

The Lord’s Day

From the early years of the Christian Church, Sunday has been called the Lord’s Day. It is the day when God calls us together to offer our worship, especially in the Eucharist. Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week, and this is the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on the apostles. Sunday is the day when Christians assemble to worship the God of heaven and earth.

Celebrating the mystery of Christ: We still come together each Sunday to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ-his dying and rising seen as God’s great saving action. Our heavenly Father sent Jesus to save us. Jesus obeyed, even to dying for us on the cross. God raised Jesus from the dead and proclaimed that Jesus is Lord and saviour of all.

Eucharist: Each Sunday we come together around the altar to thank our Father for calling us to be the priestly people of God. We listen with faith to the inspired readings: God is speaking to us. We reflect on what we have heard and respond in prayer for the Church, ourselves, and all the world. As the Eucharistic prayer is proclaimed, we offer ourselves and our love in union with Jesus’ complete gift of himself to the Father. In communion we are given the body and blood of Christ as our spiritual food: in the strength of Jesus we will be able to live another week in God’s service.

Easter Cycle

From Ash Wednesday to Pentecost, the Church celebrates the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, and encourages us to become more involved in his Paschal Mystery.

Lent is baptismal in its nature. Throughout this season we prepare to renew our baptismal promises at the Easter vigil, while catechumens are preparing for their baptism. Our Lenten activities include works of penance to help us overcome our sinfulness. We listen with deeper faith to God’s word, and spend more time in praying. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are traditional Lenten works as we seek to die to sin and live with Christ for God.

Triduum: In the three days from Holy Thursday evening to Easter night, we celebrate the dying and rising of Jesus, and our involvement with him in our baptism. His death and resurrection are one great saving event: on Good Friday we look ahead to the resurrection, on Easter we remember his suffering and death. These three days are a time for prayer and reflection, and not for a whirl of shopping and entertainment. On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the people of God keep the Paschal fast as a solemn completion of the works of Lent and as a preparation for the joys of Easter.

Easter season: The whole Christian community celebrates the resurrection: we rejoice because Jesus is present in our midst and we recognize him in the breaking of bread, the Eucharist. Toward the end of the season we celebrate the Ascension: our Lord returns to the glory of heaven, and continues to pray for us and offer our worship and prayer to the Father. Pentecost Sunday recalls the sending of Jesus’ Spirit to be with us and guide us. It marks the close of the Easter season and our return to ordinary time.

Christmas Cycle

Advent celebrates the two comings of Jesus Christ among us. We begin by looking forward to his final coming as our king and judge. From December 17, we prepare for Christmas, remembering the incarnation, when our Father sent the Son to become one of us. Jesus has come because God loves us and wants to save us. Advent is a season of expectation, joy and hope: we rejoice because God loves us. We try to make straight the way of the Lord in our lives, and we pray: Come, Lord Jesus!

Christmas week: We celebrate God’s love: our Father loves us and has sent the Son to be our brother, God with us. Jesus has come to save us by his life, teaching, suffering, dying and rising. He wants us to show our love for God by sharing it with other people. Christmas is a time of loving, helping and serving others. Our first gift to those around us should be our love and our efforts to show them greater love. Our celebrations last a full week. January 1 is the feast of Mary, Mother of God, as well as the first day of the new civil year.

  • Epiphany: We celebrate the revelation of the Son of God. Jesus has come to save the world, to bring us all into the kingdom of his Father. We rejoice because God loves us and sends Jesus to us to save us.
  • Baptism of the Lord: When Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, the Father tells us that Jesus is the beloved Son and that we are to listen to him. The Spirit is poured on Jesus as he is sent to teach and save the world.

As we celebrate the Christmas cycle, we proclaim that we believe in Jesus, Son of God and one of us in all things but sin. He is our Lord and our brother, and we show our love for God by following Jesus in loving others.

Ordinary Time

This season, lasting about 33 weeks or fully two thirds of the year comes between the major seasons of the Easter and Christmas cycles. It begins after the Lord’s Baptism and ends before Ash Wednesday; it resumes after Pentecost and continues until Advent and a new liturgical year.

Sunday gospels: The central reading each week is the Sunday gospel, which follows a three year cycle. In year A, it is from Matthew; in year B, mainly from Mark; in year C from Luke. Week after week, the gospel writer takes us through the teaching of Jesus, and leads us to know him and follow him more closely.

  • Time for renewal. Every Sunday, we are invited to renew our baptismal promises of death to sin and life for God, of turning away from evil and of reaching out in love to help other people.
  • Time for prayer. As God’s people we are invited to pray every day: to give praise and thanks to God in the name of all creation, and to pray for ourselves and for all the world. Ordinary time gives us the regular opportunity to check up on our personal and family prayer, and to start praying again if we have been neglecting to do so.

Using Time for God

God has given us the gift of time to use wisely:

  • To serve our God and our neighbour;
  • To grow to our full maturity in Christ;
  • To pray for ourselves and all the world;
  • To give thanks and glory to God in everything we do.


God calls us all to be saints, holy people, witnesses whose lives are sinless and pleasing to God. Those who have died in the love of God and have entered eternal life are also called saints. Their lives serve as models for us in our service and devotion; their prayers to God for us can help us as we try to live as God’s holy people in today’s world.

Mary and the saints are the friends of God. Saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus, sharing now in the glory of the Lord, they are ready to help us by their prayers. We remember the way they believed, the way they served God in others and we are encouraged to follow them in imitating Christ. During the year, we celebrate the feasts of the saints and are led closer to Jesus Christ.

Loving God,
maker of the universe
and Lord of all time,
help us to live each day
in your love and service.

Guide us in all we do,
so that we may give you
all honour and glory and thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord
in the love of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen!

Our Year of Prayer: Liturgical Leaflet, edited by the National Liturgy Office, and published by Publications Service, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2500 Don Reid Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 2J2 Canada. Copyright © Concacan Inc., 1984, 2002. All rights reserved. This text may be reproduced for personal or parish use. For commercial licence, please contact the publisher.

Sunday is the Lord’s Day

This document is available for dowloading in pdf format as a leaflet for easy printing and and distribution.

Story of Sunday

  • A day for the Lord. The Jewish people kept the seventh and final day of the week-the Sabbath, our Saturday-as a holy day. It was a day to rest from work and to worship God.
  • Jesus and the apostles. The gospels emphasize that Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week-our Sunday. St. Luke also describes Pentecost as a Sunday. From the time of the apostles, Sunday is the day when Christians assemble for worship and prayer, especially in the Eucharist: Sunday is the day when we recognize Christ in the breaking of bread.
  • Early Church. First generations of Christians called Sunday “the first day of the week” and “the Lord’s day” and even the “eighth day” seeing it as the day of the new creation. The Fathers of the Church placed emphasized Sunday as a day to turn away from sin and the works of Satan and to renew our baptismal promise to live with Christ for God.
  • Mistaken emphases. Christians have sometimes forgotten the true meaning of Sunday. When people had an excessive fear of the Lord Jesus, Sunday became a day of obligation. Even today, many see it mainly as a day free of work; others try to replace the Sunday celebration with various themes that have little to do with a day of the Lord.
  • A fuller understanding. The Second Vatican Council corrected some of these abuses. For us, Sunday is the Lord’s day, when believers rededicate their lives to the Father through Jesus. As Christians give the day to worship of God, they also want to use it for works of love and mercy, especially visiting the sick and helping people in need.

Meaning of Sunday

  • Day of the Lord. From the time of the apostles, the Christian Church has come together on the first day of the week, the day of the Lord’s rising from the dead. We recognize him in the breaking of bread and praise our Father in heaven.
  • Day of assembly. God calls us together to hear his word, to praise his name, to thank him for creating the world and saving us in Christ, and to be nourished with the bread of life and the cup of salvation. In our Sunday gatherings, our Father recognizes his Church present and active in the world.
  • Day of praise and prayer. On Sunday we join Christ in singing praise and thanks to his Father. In the name of all creation we give God glory; as his people we plead for the welfare and salvation of all humanity.
  • Day of the word. God himself speaks when his word is proclaimed to us during the Mass. We need to prepare ourselves by prayer and by reading over the texts before the Sunday celebration, and to reflect on them during the following week. We pray for grace to let his word touch our hearts and change our lives.
  • Day of light and joy. Christ is the light of the world, and he calls us to be and reflect this light. We are called to let our good deeds shine before other people, so that they may be led to give glory to the Father. Joy is the gift of God’s Spirit, given to all who seek to do the will of the Father.
  • Day of rest. On the Lord’s day, we take a rest from our usual daily tasks and use this time to praise God, to help others-and to relax. We play and rest, as we pray and worship: in God’s sight, and with his blessing.

Sunday Eucharist

  • Day for Eucharist. Sunday is the day when every Christian community comes together to give thanks to God for his saving gift in Christ. Nothing should keep us from taking our full and active part in this celebration of faith and love, in union with God’s people here and in every part of the world, and with his Church in eternity.

On the Lord’s day we want to offer our best to the Father. For this reason, our Sunday celebration must sum up our week of service, joy, suffering, prayer and praise, and lead us to a new week of following Christ, of making God’s kingdom come among us.

  • Preparing for Sunday. We may prepare for the Sunday Eucharist in many ways: by giving thanks frequently to the Father, who calls us in Christ; by admitting that we are sinners in need of God’s help; by praying for the Church and the world. We prepare by reading over the readings and prayers ahead of time. We may come early and spend a few moments in quiet prayer.
  • Morning and evening prayer. In our day, the believing community is beginning to recognize once more the importance of morning and evening prayer on the Day of the Lord. The complete celebration of Sunday begins with the community’s morning prayer and ends with evening prayer by God’s people.

Sunday in our home: Those who believe in Christ want to make his day special in their family life. As well as taking an active part in their community worship, they will mark the Lord’s day by special times of prayer, scripture reading and good works. This is also a day to “recreate” ourselves for God’s service.

Heart of the year of prayer: Sunday is the greatest day of the week and the heart of the Church’s liturgical year. Each week we celebrate God’s love in saving us by the obedient death and glorious resurrection of Christ. Sunday is the Lord’s day, when God calls his people together to worship him and to renew the baptismal covenant: once again we promise to put sin out of our lives and to live with Christ for God.

  • Day for celebration. When a special celebration touches the prayer life of the whole parish, it is fitting to hold this celebration within the Lord’s day liturgy. Thus, Sunday is the preferred day for celebrating baptism and ordinations, and for dedicating a church to God’s worship.

Saturday evening: The Catholic Church continues the Jewish practice of beginning important feasts the night before: the Easter vigil and Christmas Eve are examples of this custom. The first celebration of the Lord’s day begins in the evening hours of Saturday and is always celebrated with the solemnity of Sunday.

Foretaste of heaven: On Sunday we remember and share in the Lord’s dying and rising; it is also a time to look forward to his coming in glory, and to our eating and drinking with him at the heavenly banquet. Those who eat this bread and drink this cup now, he promises, will have eternal life with him.

Sunday needs our attention:

  • In our home. What does Sunday mean for us? How do we prepare for it? How do we celebrate it?
  • In our community. How do we get ready for the Lord’s day? How well do we celebrate it? How do we follow it up? What have we done in the past year to understand it and celebrate it better?

Living out the Sunday liturgy: Liturgy and life must always go together:

  • Sunday leads to life. Our Sunday worship makes us more open to hear God’s word and prepared to do his will; to share this word with others; to prove our love for God by loving and serving others. Sunday is the beginning of another week with the Lord.
  • Life leads to Sunday. During the week, we live out our vocation. We pray for our daily bread; we carry our daily cross with Christ. We seek to know and do God’s will. With the help of the Spirit, we live for the Lord. On Sunday we bring all this to him as our gift.

Blessed are you, Lord our God:
you have chosen us as your people,
to praise you by word and deed.

We thank you for calling us together each week,
for teaching us with your saving words,
for nourishing us with your food from heaven.
Accept our praise and our thanksgiving.
Send us forth to do your work,
and keep us always in your love.

Father, we give you glory
through Jesus Christ your Son
in union with your Holy Spirit.
Glory to you! Amen! Alleluia!

Sunday is the Lord’s Day: Liturgical Leaflet, edited by the National Liturgy Office, and published by Publications Service, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2500 Don Reid Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 2J2 Canada. Copyright © Concacan Inc., 1979, 2002. All rights reserved. This text may be reproduced for personal or parish use. For commercial licence, please contact the publisher.