Michele Wood’s art is featured in the Lenten book Keeping the Seasons: Reproducibles for Lent — Triduum — Easter 2017. Photo courtesy of Michele Wood, LTP

Canadian bishops' Lent guides should challenge us

  • February 25, 2017

No parish or individual Catholic should have to walk into Lent blind.

Lent, the season of renewal, demands we rediscover who we are in Christ. These 40 days, beginning March 1, end with baptism, celebrated by the whole community together at the Easter Vigil. The season is aimed straight at the heart of resurrection — Christ’s and ours. So we need to prepare and dive deep into the hope, the promise and the truth of Lent.

This year, rather than publish their own materials to guide Canadians through Lent, the Canadian bishops through CCCB Publications are offering a trio of Liturgical Training Publications materials prepared in Chicago. For parishes, the LTP material includes a CD of posters, bulletin inserts, pre-written email blasts and web site helpers. As is appropriate in the U.S., where half of all Catholics are Hispanic, these materials are presented in English and Spanish.

The art on offer in Keeping the Seasons: Reproducibles for Lent — Triduum — Easter 2017 stands solidly in the time-honoured folk-art tradition so closely associated with Catholic educational materials since the 1970s. It is good quality, appropriately multicultural and balanced between depictions of important moments in the liturgy and biblical episodes. Michele Wood’s art, however, recalls more than anything children’s book illustrations. Hanging these posters in the parish hall or in the narthex is certain to be greeted with indifference by most adults, or even negative reactions as many parishioners will feel they are being treated like children.

The bulletin inserts are certainly a good idea. They guide each parishioner through the readings for the entire week, prompting ways of praying and thinking about the readings.

This same material is presented as text and Word files that can be sent in emails. Both the art and the text can also be used on parish web sites. At $56.25 from CCCB Publications, it’s probably not the worst investment a parish could make.

For parish liturgy committees, there’s a 148-page paperback, Guide for Celebrating Holy Week and The Triduum ($13.75). While useful, it is also a disappointment. It trudges through, once again, the history of the liturgical movement from the late 19th century to the Second Vatican Council. It summarizes the thinking of council fathers about the liturgy in general and presents plain language instructions and options for all the liturgies of Holy Week.

By why are we still having to argue for a liturgical reform that happened 50 years ago? Why do we have to dance around what we’ve been doing for half a century, as though we have to justify it to people who have been complaining about our liturgy as celebrated since the Beatles were the Fab Four and Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister?

If you must turn to Americans for outside help, much better material is available for free from the Jesuits at St. Louis University. Their excellent Sunday Website at liturgy.slu.edu genuinely treats the liturgy as a treasure to be lived in every parish.

Most disappointing is The Way of Faith: Keeping Lent, Triduum and Easter Time, by Fr. Stephen Wilbricht. It’s a day-by-day series of Scripture readings and reflections. These reflections are the product of an entirely privatized and inevitably trivial approach to being Catholic. There’s not a single reference to the world we live in. The political, economic and cultural setting of our lives has been left out of these two-or-three paragraph reflections. In this little magazine, we’re living in a world stuck somewhere halfway between Hallmark greeting cards and self-help books.

We need to be challenged in Lent. From Christ in the desert facing off against Satan to Christ on the cross asking why he has been abandoned, Lent is not Lent unless it challenges our faith.

For deeper, meatier spiritual reading during Lent, I’m going to try Fr. Albert Holtz’s Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey through Lent (Morehouse Publishing, $23.66 at amazon.ca).

Keeping the Seasons: Reproducibles for Lent — Triduum — Easter 2017; Guide for Celebrating Holy Week and The Triduum, by Corinna Laughlin, Kristopher Seaman and Stephen Palanca; The Way of Faith: Keeping Lent, Triduum and Easter Time, by Fr. Stephen Wilbricht

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