Parish Resources

An Approach for Parishes to Grow in Sacramental Participation

Overview of an approach

The Parish accompanies, and supports the faithful as they

  1. prepare for
  2. fully participate in, and
  3. ponder the mystery of the sacraments in their lives.

This formation involves the whole human person: intellect, emotions, spirituality, work, relationships. Typically, much effort has gone into preparation for the reception of the sacraments. This has resulted in the sense that once the sacrament has been received, the faithful “graduate” from formation processes. It is essential, now more than ever to engage in mystagogy.

Mystagogy comes from the Greek word meaning, “to lead through the mysteries.” The Catechism describes mystagogy as a “liturgical catechesis that aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ” (CCC 1075). Mystagogy leads us from the external signs and rituals of the liturgy to the inner, spiritual meaning of the divine life they signify. Mystagogy is the form of catechesis that helps us unpack and explore the spiritual treasures contained in the sacraments by continuously reflecting on their meaning and significance in our personal lives of faith.

Ongoing mystagogy is important because our relationship with the sacraments change as we grow and mature as individuals and meet new life challenges and circumstances. In turn, the sacraments really change us. Pope Benedict XVI said, “The mature fruit of mystagogy is an awareness that one’s life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated” (Sacramentum Caritatis # 64). By reflecting regularly on the sacraments, we access an incredible strength for our daily tasks.

Developing a practice of Eucharistic mystagogy can combat the routinization that often sets into our receiving communion. For those who are married, or preparing for marriage, there is a mystagogy of marriage. With ongoing mystagogic reflection, we may discover new fruits of that sacrament in every season of life. Mystagogy is the path leading Christians to learn to live the mystery of our faith.

Our faith needs mystagogy first and foremost because of one simple reason: we celebrate and proclaim a mystery. Faith begins and ends in mystery, most especially the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, “the central mystery of Christian faith and life . . . the source of all other mysteries of faith” (CCC 234). In the scriptures, liturgy, and sacraments, we truly encounter and participate in the Triune life of God. But no matter how intelligent or insightful we are, we will never fully wrap our minds around God’s glory or totally experience it with our five senses.

The following websites provide some valuable information to support your mission:

The Liturgical Catechist

Dr. James Pauley (Liturgical Institute) on the Liturgy and Discipleship:

Book list for parish readings groups:

  • Meditations Before the Mass by Romano Guardini
  • What Happens at Mass by Jeremy Driscoll, OSB
  • Real Presence the Work of the Eucharist  by Nathan Mitchell
  • The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger  (more advanced reading)
  • The Real Presence Through the Ages by Michael Gaudoin Parker

Free videos to watch and discuss: