A More Robust Liturgy – My Article In Ministry & Liturgy Magazine

Here’s an excerpt from an article (“7 Steps to a More Robust Liturgy”) I just had published in Ministry & Liturgy Magazine:

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center and got a firsthand glimpse of the ritual expression of the Polynesian people: bold, dramatic, rich, deeply expressive, highly energizing. I found my imagination stirred, my heart moved, and my senses stimulated as young people explained and performed ancient rituals to the beat of drums and sounds of various stringed instruments. In short, their ritual expression was robust.

I began to think of Catholic liturgy and how we need to have a more robust approach to our ritual expression. It should be unheard of to be bored at Mass, and yet this is the reality for far too many Catholics. Our all-too-perfunctory approach to liturgy is missing the mark when it comes to capturing the imagination of the assembly.

If we are going to speak to the next generation of Catholics, we need to turn our ritual expression up a notch. In this article, I outline seven steps to creating a more robust liturgy in the parish so that our existing rituals are expressed more fully – with an abbondanza mentality!

To read the article in its entirety, click on the following links:

I invite you comments, insights, reactions, and questions.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. This would be the 8th step I would add if given the opportunity to introduce a new rubric into the liturgy: I would have the assembly break into applause as soon as the processional cross enters! The Cross of Jesus is a symbol of victory. When the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup a couple of years ago, whenever one of the Hawks entered a gathering hoisting the Cup, the place went up for grabs. We cheered their victory. Why not let loose with wild applause when the symbol of God’s victory over sin and death enters our assembly at Mass? Maybe, just maybe, this would remind us of why we are gathered! (BTW, in some places in Africa, Catholics break out into applause during the consecration!) I’d do the same at the end of Mass as the Cross leads us out…we exit the Church as a victorious people. That’s what I would do. But that’s just me! 🙂

    • while the notion of spontaneous celebration at the victory of Christ won for us on the cross is compelling, i think it would lose a great deal of its effect if it were coerced or forced. it would also make for a rather abrupt transition to the penitential rite, which has become anything but robust in our repentance. finally, Pope Benedict wrote something to the effect that when applause breaks out at mass it is a sure sign that mass has devolved from worship of God into a form of religious entertainment. I am inclined to agree with him.

      • Anthony, thanks for your comments. When applause at Mass are for someone in the assembly (a cantor or the homilist) that often indicates a form of entertainment. When applause are for God, it is an expression of praise. Many cultures spontaneously applaud as a form of praise for God. I would appreciate it if you could find the quote from St. Benedict so that we can clarify exactly what he said.

        • “Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly. It cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits incorporating, as it increasingly does, various forms of religious titillation.” The Spirit of the Liturgy, pg. 198
          You are correct then that his critique is of applauding for others and not God, but that is a very fine distinction that I doubt would be easy to sustain in our culture. And again, it comes back to spontaneity. Applause is just one of those things that loses its meaning when its expected or forced.

  2. Good morning, Joe. Joyce Donahue shared your article on Google+ last night and I read it this morning. I too am interested in reinvigorating the liturgy, but I think my starting point differs from yours. I’ve started writing a response to your article and its seven suggestions, but it’s too long (I’m trying to be thorough) to politely fit into a comment box. Once I have my thoughts arranged and in order, I’d like to share it with you.

  3. Joe,

    We have tried to make our Mass celebrations more robust as well! One thing we have done is move our cantor for the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation. While positioned up in the rear of the Church with the organist previously, it was though as people did not know that they were welcome to sign along! Since we have moved her to the ambo for those times of praise, more of the congregation is singing!

    • Tim, that makes perfect sense. it also expresses the fact that the cantor is proclaiming Scripture in song during those 2 parts of the Mass much as readers proclaim Scripture in the other readings of the Mass.

  4. Hi Joe –
    My developmentally delayed adult daughter attends a retreat every year right
    before Easter. If you could attend their Mass you would see what a “robust
    Mass” is truely like. They sing, clap their hands & get so excited about
    praising the Lord. I have to look around because I expect Jesus to walk thru
    the door at any time. She comes out of the service declaring her love of Jesus & her love of the Mass. I have to admit that even though it is VERY loud, I find it a wonderful, uplifting experience. I wish we could have more
    Masses like that.

    • Barbara, what a great story. Just goes to show that our sophistication all too often robs us of our sense of wonder and awe.

  5. Hi Joe,
    I was just having this discussion with a group of teachers about how our Protestant friends seem to be able to put more energy into their services. While I find comfort in the traditions of the Catholic Mass, I really love it when our teen choir & band performs; it’s wonderful! Your #7 about communion bread is very relevant to our parish. We have a ministry of bread bakers that prepare it every Friday and Saturday mornings for the weekend Masses. When my son was about 9, we visited another church and I had to prepare him for the taste of the wafers which he didn’t enjoy. (; He is very thankful for our bread. Thank you for making us all think in a positive way about our liturgy.

  6. I started reading and began thinking about how terrific the processions are at my parish. Then a couple of paragraphs later you describe the entrance procession almost exactly as it happens here.

  7. Joe-is there another way to get this out to people? Cannot print and really want to do that-need some back up in an upcoming discussion on
    liturgy at a staff meeting. You do a great job in stating what should be happening at Mass and I think that the only way to do that is for all of us to get the word out to those that plan liturgies.
    Also want you to know that you were the biggest hit this year at Dubuque
    catechist in-services. A lot of what you said that night has sure made a difference in how my catechists approach things. THANK YOU

    • Thanks Susan…I always enjoy my visits to Dubuque and Iowa in general!

      I’ll send an email to you with the article attached…see if that opens. If not, let me know.

  8. We need not look far for ways to make our liturgy more “robust” when the extraordinary form is sublimely robust, and Summorum Pontificum has opened the door for the reintroduction of this robust form of worship that is our patrimony as Catholics.

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