RITUAL of HOPE
detail of an early Christian painting of an agape meal found in catacombs below Rome, from Wikimedia
An experiment at home, since I have been having a hard time going to Mass without just being sad, drawn from the Didache in the late first century, the Apostolic Tradition in about 215 AD.
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(Let Glory Be To God On High) melody and chords for O Come O Come Emmanuel, adapted from the 1858 anonymous translation of Gloria in excelsis deo in an 8th century manuscript of the Liturgy of St. James.
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Download this 12 page pdf document and print it as a "booklet."
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This work has emerged from efforts to attend Mass then having to leave with a deep sadness that does not easily go away, and the awareness that I am not alone in this. This book is not intended for anyone who is able to happily participate in the sacramental life of the Church, nor is it intended to encourage anyone to stop doing so. As a faithful Catholic has a right to the sacraments, this ritual is for those faithful members of the People of God who are finding themselves unable to do so and still yearning to, a way to help those of us who feel pushed to the margins.
In other words, the purpose of this little book is to help faithful Catholics stay in the Church. Well-meaning friends invite me to join their denominations. Hard to say why, but I am still Catholic.
The core of this ritual is our identity as priests in the common priesthood of Jesus. Each baptized follower of Jesus the Christ has been anointed priest, prophet, and royal. As vassal kings and queens of the King of kings and queens, each of us has been gifted with power rooted in our imago dei, being created in the image of God with gifts and talents we are meant to use to wash the feet of humanity and participate in God’s ongoing creative and healing work. As a prophet each of us will be called to speak a truth that God wants heard by a person, a community, or by the whole world, and speaking this truth will involve risk. As a priest in the common priesthood of Jesus the Christ, each of us is called to be in a personal relationship with the one God and to be in communion with God along with each human we encounter. And as priests we are given the power and duty to forgive, a power we use in the first place at home.
The Agape Meal Prayers, probably from the late 1st century AD might be best suited today for what we call a potluck supper or dinner on the ground, where everyone brings what they have and there is equal sharing, or perhaps for large family reunions. Agape is one of the Greek words for love. Scholars suggest that the words of institution were omitted to distinguish it from the Sunday Eucharist.
The Eucharistic Prayer is from the Apostolic Tradition, from about 215 AD, the prayer that I use regularly in these days.
The Anaphora of Addai & Mari, probably also from the 3rd century, is still the core of some Eastern Eucharistic Prayers. Like the Agape Meal Prayers, it did not originally have the words of institution, though they were later added by some traditions.
We hear stories of priests who have been persecuted and faithful Christians in exile offering simple prayers over whatever food and drink is available. And yet everything eucharistic is meant to happen in a community; this is of course the ideal. And so anyone who uses the Apostolic Tradition and/or the Anaphora of Addai & Mari is encouraged to be aware of all the many ways each human being exists as a person-in-community, including with family and friends, and to continue to seek ways of being an apostle in the world.
Catholic rituals have many options, often with instructions to use these or similar words. Options are given here as incomplete introductions for consideration and study.
While a deacon, priest or bishop is the ordinary minister of Baptism, in cases of necessity even a non-Christian with the intention of doing so for the Church can baptize as long as water and the words (I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) are used. Anyone who does so is advised to inform the local parish that this has happened with the correct words. For all of the prayers, see Order of Baptism of Children (Participation Booklet), ICEL, 4+ by 6+ inches, 80 pages, $4.95, Catholic Book Publishing Corp.
As a pastor I developed a Candidacy for Confirmation, used sometimes at a Sunday Mass and sometimes at the end of a Confirmation retreat, and offer it here as a way for a sponsor and parents to help a young person prepare for the sacrament. Some of it came from an article in one of the Catholic magazines.
The ritual for Marriage can be used by an officiant of a civil marriage. It recognizes that the officiant, whether priest or mayor, is the chief witness to the marriage while the spouses themselves confer the sacrament of marriage onto each other in their mutual exchange of consents, and it is their identity as priests in the common priesthood of believers that empowers them to do so. Most of this is what my husband and I used. For all of the prayers, see The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, ICEL, 7+ by 10+ inches, 164 pages, $27.95, Catholic Book Publishing Corp.
The Prayers for the Sick and the Commendation of the Dying are not to take the place of the Sacrament of Anointing, but recognize that there will be times when a priest is not available. For all of the prayers, see this book which is especially helpful for any layperson in parish ministry: A Ritual for Laypersons: Rites for Holy Communion and the Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying, 4+ by 6+ inches, 176 pages, $29.95, Liturgical Press.
For the other Blessings in this book, as with any blessing by the lay faithful, the leader simply signs themselves with the sign of the cross along with everyone else. For more blessing prayers, see Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, USCCB, 6 by 9 inches, 528 pages, $26.95, Catholic Book Publishing Corp.
Though a Funeral is normally presided over by a priest or deacon, a graveside service can be done by anyone. Sometimes a family would prefer that one of their members lead the prayers of Committal on the four pages beginning on page 82. It was disheartening to hear during the pandemic that some people had a hard time getting a priest to do a graveside service. For all of the prayers, see The Funeral Rites (Participation Booklet), ICEL, 4+ by 6+ inches, 80 pages, $5.50, Catholic Book Publishing Corp.
If prayer is done with a group of people, consider making copies and inviting all present to read the prayers together.
From the institutional church I beg patience and forbearance with all of this. I know this is not easy. Please remember that Catholics who feel marginalized are also being asked to continue being patient with our institutional church.
Stephen Joseph Wolf
January 3, 2024