October 24, 2017

Incorporating “Laudato Si’” in Lord’s Day Eucharist

Pope Francis


Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “Laudato Si’” [hereafter LS], whose title recalls the first two words of St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun,” is a magnificent contribution to Catholic social teaching. Dated 24 May 2015, this encyclical letter “on care for our common home” is addressed to “every person living on this planet…to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” The purpose of this short essay is to suggest ways in which the themes and text of LS might be adapted for use during the Introductory Rites at Lord’s Day Eucharist in our parishes and worship communities. I hope to make similar suggestions for the other parts of the Mass in later essays.

Entrance Chant

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal [hereafter GIRM] 47 states that the purpose of the Entrance Chant is “to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity, and accompany the procession of Priest and ministers.” While Entrance Antiphons are provided in the Roman Missal and the Graduale Romanum/Graduale Simplex, their use in the United States is facultative, not mandatory, and they may be replaced by “other liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year…” Thus, it would be possible to open the celebration with a hymn highlighting God’s action as Creator, Sustainer, and Sanctifier and the community’s responsibility to give thanks for God’s providence. Especially appropriate would be musical settings of St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun.” Marty Haugen’s “Canticle of the Sun,” Rufino Zaragoza’s “Sacred Creation,” Ricky Manalo’s “Laudato Si’ Be Praised, O God!” Other appropriate opening hymns include Bob Hurd’s “Praise Be to You” and my “God of Might and God of Mercy.”

Introduction to the Mass of the Day

GIRM 50 states that “After the greeting of the people, the Priest, or the Deacon, or a lay minister may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.” Individual phrases from the encyclical may make compelling introductions to the Eucharistic celebration, e.g., “We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him.” (LS 72); “Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: ‘For [God] loves all things that exist, and detest none of the things that [God] has made….’” (LS 77); “When we…see God reflected in all that exists, our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them.” (LS87); “it is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.... it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and inexhaustible life.”(LS 236); “The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration…. Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.” (LS 236)

Blessing and Sprinkling of Holy Water

Articles 27-31 of LS treat the issue of water in contemporary civilization. In them Pope Francis declares that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” GIRM 51 notes that “[f]rom time to time on Sundays, especially in Easter Time, instead of the customary Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place as a reminder of baptism.” The blessing of water appointed in the Roman Missal during Easter Time is especially eloquent in raising the importance of water naturally and supernaturally: “[Y]ou created water to make the fields fruitful / and to refresh and cleanse our bodies. / You also made water the instrument of your mercy: / for through water you freed your people from slavery / and quenched their thirst in the desert; through water the Prophets proclaimed the new covenant / you were to enter upon with the human race; / and, last of all, / through water, which Christ made holy in the Jordan, / you have renewed our corrupted nature / in the bath of regeneration.”

Tropes for Penitential Act C

GIRM 52 declares that the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) “is a chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy… When the Kyrie is sung as part of the Penitential Act, a “trope” precedes each acclamation.” Examining the sample invocation for the Penitential Act given in Appendix VI of the Roman Missal, we note that each of the invocations is addressed to Christ, declaring his characteristic behaviors and activities. It would be easy to construct similar statements about Christ from the text of LS, e.g.

Lord Jesus, you “united [yourself] to this earth when [you were] formed in the womb of Mary.” (LS 238) Lord have mercy:

Christ Jesus, you lead us “to that transcendent fullness where [you] embrace and illumine all things.” (LS 84) Christ have mercy:

Lord Jesus, “[a]ll things have been created through [you] and for [you].” (LS 99). Lord, have mercy.

Thus, through sung and spoken texts, the teaching of Laudato Si’ may subtly shape our common prayer.

Fr. Jan Michael Joncas

Photo of Michael Joncas

Michael Joncas

Best known for popular songs like “On Eagle’s Wings” and “I Have Loved You,” Father Joncas is also a supremely gifted choral composer. For his latest project, he’s writing hymns of the day for every Sunday and holy day of the year.

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