The Canadian bishops latest webinar to promote catechesis is exploring the beauty and wonder of the liturgy. OSV news photo/Sam Lucero

Encountering beauty in liturgy

  • September 3, 2023

In his 2022 apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi, Pope Francis said congregants are called “to be astonished at the beauty of the liturgy.”

Instead of navigating through the readings and Eucharistic banquet with lukewarm acknowledgment, the pontiff asked Catholics to understand “wonder is an essential part of the liturgical act.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) Office for Evangelization and Catechesis will propagate this message via a three-part webinar series called The Way of Beauty over three Thursdays in September — Sept. 7, 14 and 21. Each seminar will run from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET.

Margaret Shea-Lawrence, the director and commission secretary for the evangelization and catechesis office, said online attendees will contemplate the magnificence of God’s creation.

“God is the source of all splendour and beauty in creation,” said Shea-Lawrence. “Jesus manifested that beauty through His death and resurrection. The Church has recounted the story of creation, salvation through the witness of the saints, liturgy, art, music and drama. We know when we encounter goodness and beauty, we can’t help but encounter Christ. Those encounters become teachable moments. We believe bringing attention to the notion of beauty will help, especially people who are working in evangelization and catechesis to transmit those messages.”

Dr. Jem Sullivan leads the opening session on Sept. 7. She’s a professor in The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies who specializes in catechetics. Naturally, she is guiding a session called Beauty and Catechesis.

Sullivan wrote in an email what she hopes to impart during her presentation.

“Pope Francis notes that beauty is a path to encounter God,” wrote Sullivan. “I hope to lead participants on a pilgrimage of beauty to discover ways to communicate the beauty of faith to anyone seeking truth, goodness and beauty in their lives.”

The graduate level professor has also demonstrated her expertise on this topic by authoring the books The Beauty of Faith: Using Christian Art To Spread Good News (2009) and Way of Beauty: Rekindling Eucharistic Amazement through Visio Divina (2023). She was also appointed by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization to sit on the International Council for Catechesis.

David Dayler hosts the Sept. 14 webinar called Beauty and Evangelization. His professional experiences include formerly serving as the director of discipleship and parish life for the Diocese of Hamilton. He also taught theatre arts in various schools throughout the Hamilton region. Currently, he is a director of catechesis at St. Ann’s Parish in Ancaster, Ont.

“He is an extremely creative person,” said Shea-Lawrence. “He is very gifted in bringing about beautiful liturgical spaces. He is also very gifted in understanding how we can use drama to convey the faith and evangelize. His presentation will focus on the holiness found in beauty and how catechists are called to help others discover it through the evangelization process.”

Also adept in drama is Fr. Paul Massel, the guide of the Sept. 21 lecture Beauty and Liturgy. In the 1980s, he landed key roles in the Stratford Festival productions of H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado and The Gondoliers. He spent five years in the early ’90s as a member of the original Canadian Phantom of the Opera cast.

Massel described the spiritual sensation he felt as he waited to enter the stage to The Catholic Register in December 2021.

“When you stand offstage ready to go on, you are in prayer,” said Massel. “You are using your imagination and asking God to be with you. Every artist knows that there is something larger contributing to the creativity of which comes forth through them.”

The experienced thespian was ordained a priest in 2000. He serves the Diocese of Peterborough as the leader of the rosary prayer program and is board chaplain and faith animator on behalf of the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board.

“He will talk about the importance of nurturing beautiful liturgy in young people,” said Shea-Lawrence. “(Massel) feels artists have something to bring in the liturgy of our Catholic faith.”

The Way of Beauty will be the seventh webinar series led by the CCCB to promote the teachings expressed in the latest Directory for Catechesis (2020). The goal of all the webinars is providing Canadian Catholic evangelists and catechists an opportunity to discover the directory’s teachings.

Previous presentations centred on the encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti, a series about evangelization in daily life and multiple sessions discussing how to create a synodal Church.

On average, the CCCB webinars have attracted an audience between 250-300 people, according to Shea-Lawrence. A similar crowd is anticipated for The Way of Beauty. Registration access for the livestream is available right up until the start time for each presentation. Visit for information.

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