What is quickly becoming my 2nd favorite thing about being a Catholic is what I like to call the “Liturgical Life”. Most Protestants have no idea what “Liturgy” is, I’ll give you the definition and then explain how it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I am talking about.
Liturgy: a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted.
A Catholic service, which protestants would call a “worship service”, is called “the Mass”, but it’s really nothing like a Protestant worship service. It gets this name from the Latin word “Missa” which means “sent” and is said at the ending of the service in Latin.
The Mass is divided into three parts:
The Introductory Rites
The Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
Each of these has a very specific order and sequence of events. You can read the outline of the Mass here
But the Liturgy of the Catholic faith goes well beyond just that of the mass. We, as Christians, are called to be Christ centered people, not just for an hour on Sunday morning but for every hour, of every day of the entire year.
Our entire year is organized into the Liturgical Calendar. You can see the Liturgical Calendar below:
Right now, we’re in the longest stretch of what we call “Ordinary Time”. This season of Ordinary Time stretches from Pentecost to the beginning of Advent. We’re only 33 days away from Advent and as a new Catholic I cannot tell you how excited I am to experience Christmas in the Church for the first time.
On the Liturgical Calendar you can see that we have Advent, followed by Christmas, then another brief stint of Ordinary Time and then we move into the Lenten season in preparation for Easter season which lasts until Pentecost.
Throughout this calendar you will see several “Holy Days of Obligation”. These are days when you HAVE to go to Mass. These can vary somewhat by Archdiocese and by Liturgical Cycle. For Atlanta, 2018/2019, they are:
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8th)
Mary, Mother of God (January 1st)
Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15th)
All Saints Day (Nov. 1st)
You may be wondering “why isn’t Easter or Pentecost listed”? Because those are always on Sunday and every Catholic is supposed to go to Mass on Sunday or to the Vigil Mass on Saturday evenings.
We are called to live this calendar. My wife called me up last week and said “I just want to remind you that we have All Saints Day next Thursday morning and there is a 9 am Mass”. During my life as a Protestant if the Church was having an event like that, I would have said “well go and have fun, I have to work”.
Now? I cleared my calendar without a moment’s hesitation.
The Liturgical Life goes further than just the calendar and to Holy Days of Obligation but also into our prayer life.
We have what is called the Liturgy of the Hours, which you can read about here.
My favorite name for it is in latin: “Opus Dei” or “Work of God”.
In short, it is where the entire day is sanctified through prayer. Now, the Laity are not commanded to participate in the Liturgy of the Hours but we are invited to and specifically we are asked to open our days with Prayer and close our days with Prayer.
For me, personally, I always open my work day with a Rosary and close my work day with a Rosary. Sometimes, I may even get another Rosary in there sometime during the middle of the day.
Let me tell you, it brings me an immense amount of peace to take all of my concerns to God and Jesus and Mary in a lengthy prayer session 2+ times a day.
When I was a Protestant I would have NEVER spent nearly 1.5 hours a day in prayer, but now it’s a common occurrence and it doesn’t even seem like work. It is pure joy that I get to the spend that time with my creator, my savior and my Holy mother and it certainly helps keep my life rightly ordered. (To be clear here, I’m not saying there aren’t devout Protestants. There are. I’m just saying I wasn’t one of them.)
Christ, Family, Career, in that order. Some days it is harder than others, but these daily prayers help me immensely.
I have a prayer card on my desk at my office and I always pray it when I sit down in the morning:
[Blessed St. Joseph, patron of all working people, obtain for me the grace to labor in a spirit of penance for the atonement of my many sins. Help me to be conscientious in my work so that I may give as full a measure as I have received.
May I labor in a spirit of thankfulness and joy, ever mindful of al the gifts I have received from God that enable me to perform these tasks. Permit me to work in peace, patience and moderation, keeping in mind the account I must one day give of time lost, talents unused, good omitted, and vanity of success, so fatal to the work of god. Glorious St. Joseph, may my labors be all for Jesus, all through Mary, and all after your holy example in life and in death. Amen.]
The Liturgical Life, to me, is best represented by the words of the second Vatican Council in the document of Lumen Gentium, paragraph 34:
The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.
For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".(199) Together with the offering of the Lord's body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.
Peace Be With You!