Those evening services:
THE difficulty of getting people to go to the evening service on Sundays, discussed by Fr. Clifford Howell, Si., during a recent tour of Australia, has been further publicised in a newly published book of the tour called "Living Parish Week".
Fr, Howell is reported as saying: "We can never hope that all our people. even all of our Mass-goers, will come back to church again for Sunday evening service".
But he makes exception for ten succecsful parishes which he personally knows. He says: "I know personally about ten parishes in England, and in each case the priest is a man who is liturgically-minded, determined to make his evening services both varied and interesting, and prepared to take a great deal of trouble in order to do so".
A blank ?
Fr. Howell has a point to make of interest to liturgists: Let us assume that the layman or laywoman who truly understands his membership in the parochial cell of the Mystical Body of Christ has already fulfilled his or her Sunday obligation in the morning. Must the remainder of the day be a parochial blank for him or her?
In reference to the ten parish priests mentioned above, Fr. Howell says: "Their parishes have been liturgically trained for several years to the point where there is some form of active participation of the people at every Sunday Mass; either it is a Dialogue Mass with Lector-perhaps also even with suitable psalms or hymns incorporated into that form; or else it is a congregationally sung Missa Cantata.
"These things have produced a corporate spirit among the parishioners such that they are happy in worshipping together socially, with the result that many of them willingly come together again in the evening for more corporate worship."
Fr. Howell goes on: "In each case the priest takes care to plan the Sunday evening service well ahead. He decides its subject and its content. and sets afoot any special preparations that may be needed to carry out his plan, e.g. the production of texts on a duplicating machine. the coaching of a Lector for a particular function, or anything else unusual.
"The service always has a definite theme connected, as often as not, with the liturgical feast or season which is current, or with some main truth of the faith which the Church presents to us on that feast or in that season.
"Hymns. prayers, passages of Scripture and, of course. the ser
mon, are all devoted to this chosen theme, and the material is arranged in such a way that there is variety and contrast, with interest sustained throughout."
Fr. Howell then makes certain specific suggestions regarding the type of liturgical service that could successfully be used on Sundays.
His now popular "Sunday Compline in English" has, as he himself has to admit, "sold like wild-fire". When it is sung, "the attendance is better than on other Sundays, particularly as regards the men. 1r seems that men like the virile piety of the psalms and find interest and joy in singing them."
I have heard, too. that this Advent more than in previous years, his own popular liturgical Advent Service will be held in many churches in Britain. Then, finally. as Fr. Howell says, there is a vast field to be explored with the use of the Gelineau psalms.