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Professor explores meaning of Introductory Rites in final ‘Heritage of Hospitality’ lecture

| Thursday, April 11, 2019

At the fourth and final installment of Saint Mary’s “Heritage of Hospitality” lecture series, Dr. Tony Alonso, a professor of theology at Emory University, spoke on the Introductory Rites of the Catholic Mass.

Beginning with an explanation of the Introductory Rites, Alonso said that the Roman Missal — the rulebook — highlights what these rites will achieve.

“The general instruction articulates the following bold hopes for what the Introductory Rites of the Catholic Mass are supposed to do,” Alonso said. “It says that the Introductory Rites of the Mass are meant to ensure the faithful establish communion, dispose themselves properly and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.”

Alonso said the ways in which the Introductory Rights of the Eucharist shape us in the hospitality of God demand that we also take seriously the way our hands also shape the liturgy.

“It demands that we also take seriously the ways in which the bold hopes we have for the Eucharist don’t always take root in us in the ways we hope or the ways we intend,” he said.

The Introductory Rites have never been primarily about the entrance of the priests or the ministers into the liturgical space, Alonso said, but about the entire community being ritually gathered together by God.

“Each of the gestures, words, musical moments and movements are intended to open our eyes to recognize the presence of God in one another, in Word and in Eucharist, and in turn recognize that love in a world so loved by God,” Alonso said.

Alonso then introduced three challenges to realizing the fullness of God’s hospitality in the Introductory Rites: the belief that the Rites will accomplish in us something that is happening nowhere else in our community or in our lives, a lack of preparation that manifests as a lack of presence and a failure to tend to the whole in a way that ends up creating fragmentation rather than establishing communion.

“We must let the Introductory Rites and liturgy shape us, but we must also shape the Introductory Rites and liturgy,” he said. “By doing these things, we can become truly hospitable.”

After Alonso spoke, sophomore Jackie Rojas and Sr. Adria Connors reflected on the hospitality of the Church and its community.

Rojas said she liked the idea of having work that needs to be done outside of the liturgy.

“I think it really has been my experience, especially in my hometown of El Paso, that there is so much attentiveness to human relationships and just to the community in general,” she said. “There have been many times when I first meet a new member of the parish during Mass, and our relationship continues to grow outside of celebrating the liturgy during different events and encounters.”

Rojas said she believes cultivating a relationship outside of the Mass makes the celebration of the liturgy more special.

Connors said she hopes people come away from the Mass carrying something that will help them continue hospitality.

“There is an awareness that liturgy is life,” she said. “Life is not a compartment. Life is a permeated existence. That permeation, if I can live into that, is what enhances and enables that hospitality as well.”

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