July 25, 2024
Reflections By Rev. Fr. David Okolie

‘PARTICIPATIO ACTUOSA’: This is for Catholics


Rev. Fr. David Okolie

Dearest friends, the Latin phrase: ‘PARTICIPATIO ACTUOSA’ which has its English equivalent as Active Participation, is one that anybody that has passed through the four walls of any Catholic Seminary is surely conversant with. I am also sure that a number of Lay faithful must have heard about it also from their priests. In fact, I would say that the phrase is quite popular. The reason is majorly because it featured prominently in the Liturgical Reform of 1963 which is one of the great achievements of the SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL.

Now, as popular as the phrase ‘Participatio Actuosa’ is, a number of priests, religious and lay faithful have not really understood what the phrase means. In fact, just as the phrase is popular so it has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. A number of persons believe that the phrase only means LIVELY Vocal and Bodily expressions; including high sound of musical instruments during the Holy Mass and other Liturgical Celebrations. This type of understanding, perhaps, motivates priests and the lay faithful who try to turn the Holy Mass and other Liturgical Celebrations into ‘Dance Club’. They want to ensure that there is ‘Participatio Actuosa’ (Active Participation).

Well, for us to properly understand what ‘Participatio Actuosa’ really means, we need to listen to the Council Fathers who really enshrined the phrase in the very first document of the Second Vatican Council. Thus, they affirm:

But in order that the Liturgy may be able to produce its FULL EFFECTS, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with PROPER dispositions, that their MINDS be ATTUNED to their VOICES, and that they cooperate with heavenly grace lest they receive it in vain (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC] n. 11).

What the above simply means is that the outward expressions during liturgical celebrations should conform to the internal disposition towards God.

To further understand what the Council Fathers meant in the above, let us include the two terms that are often omitted when emphasizing a vague ‘Participatio Actuosa’. Thus, they assert:

Mother Church earnestly desires that the faithful should be led to that FULL, CONSCIOUS, and ACTIVE PARTICIPATION in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy… (cf. SC n. 14).

The question then is: When about a thousand faithful attend a Holy Mass and during the celebration, they danced to frenzy to the high sound of the band and other musical groups but do not really know the RESPONSES at Mass; then during the reception of the Holy Communion, only 50 or 100 persons out of the 1,000 persons came out to RECEIVE and after the Holy Mass only about 20 persons were able to REMEMBER the readings and the message from the homily, can we say that there was really ‘PARTICIPATIO ACTUOSA’ (Active Participation) in that Holy Mass?

Therefore, while we encourage the faithful to always prepare very well in order to participate FULLY, CONSCIOUSLY and ACTIVELY in the Holy Mass and other Liturgical Celebrations, we remind our beloved priests their duties towards the faithful entrusted to them with the words of the Council Fathers thus: “With ZEAL and PATIENCE, pastors of souls must promote the LITURGICAL INSTRUCTION of the faithful and also their ACTIVE PARTICIPATION, both internal and external…” (cf. SC n. 19)

Remain blessed🙏🏼

Rev. Fr. David Okolie is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Okigwe, Imo State, Nigeria. He is a prolific writer, retreat preacher and social media evangelizer.

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