About this blogger:
Renowned as composer, conductor, theorist, author, pedagogue, and organist, Aurelio Porfiri has served the Church on multiple continents at the highest levels. Born and raised in Italy, he currently serves as Director of Choral Activities and Composer in Residence for Santa Rosa de Lima School (Macao, China).
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“One must pray to God not only with theologically precise formulas, but also in a beautiful and dignified way. The Christian community must make an examination of conscience so that the beauty of music and song will return increasingly to the liturgy.”
— Pope Saint John Paul II (26 February 2003)

On the Issue of Participation
published 10 June 2014 by Aurelio Porfiri

AVE YOU EVER participated in civil ceremonies? The patriotic kind, where people feel happy just to be born here or there, sometimes without even knowing why? Ok, in this ceremony, there is a certain program to follow: a rite indeed.

Some people qualified for it will make a speech, other qualified people will play the music. Now, imagine that on your way back home from one of these ceremonies, your best friend tells you that you did not truly participate in this gathering because you were just standing (or seated) there and applauding, without saying or doing anything else. You would give him a weird look. Participating, means being part of something; it is possible on many different levels, and listening is as important as anything else. In fact it is our ability to make sense of information that makes us what we are. But for some people it is not important being someone, but doing something.

This is what happens in many of our liturgies here and there around the world. There are priests who, with the best intentions, think that they fulfill their duties in front of Our Lord if each and every one seated in the church is doing something that can be verified on the spot (without having to resort to MRIs to ensure that the people are really listening). Father Silvano Maggiani, a renowned Italian liturgist from the congregation of the Servant of Mary, calls this “participationism”: The strange idea that everyone has to do something tangible.

I remember a first communion not many years ago, when every one of the innocent kids had to read an intention, when the responsorial psalm was lacerated in many tiny pieces to allow more kids to offer their inspired reading, and when the acknowledgments had to include half the universe to be sure that everyone could read something. Was this the concept of participation that the Council Fathers had in mind?

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