Liturgy: ‘it’s the air we breathe’


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — Theologian Tim O’Malley of Notre Dame University and his wife, Kara, struggled for seven years to conceive a child. During the Eucharist he’d gaze at the crucifix and wonder why he and Kara weren’t among the many families in their parish with children. The couple made the decision to adopt and when their newborn son’s birth mother said “thank you,” O’Malley realized what a profound gift he and Kara received. It was the embodiment of Eucharist, self-giving love.

Barb Arland-Fye
Members of The Apostles of “Hymn” Music Ministry at St. John Vianney Parish, Bettendorf, led singing at the “Liturgy is Life!” day for youths and adults Sept. 27 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.
They were among approximately 20 youths who participated in the event.

“My son has transfigured my world; God has transfigured my life, because my son is a reminder of that transfiguration at each Eucharist,” the theologian said.

O’Malley, a professor at Notre Dame University in Indiana, shared his story with participants in the Diocese of Davenport’s “Liturgy is Life!” conference Sept. 27 at St. Patrick Parish, Iowa City. He gave the keynote address for the event, a day for youths and adults who care deeply about the Eucharist and want to encourage the full, conscious and active participation of those gathered for Mass.


Eleanor Kiel, director of liturgy and music at St. John Vianney Parish in Bet­ten­dorf, also spoke at the conference on engaging faith communities in active, spirit-filled liturgy. Accom­panying her were approximately 20 junior high and high school students, members of the parish’s The Apostles of “Hymn” Music Ministry. They led singing and participated in break-out sessions at the conference. Several high school students from St. Mary Parish in Iowa City also attended the conference and served as readers.

Bishop Martin Amos presided at the opening and midday prayer and expressed special appreciation for the youths and young adults in attendance.

“Fifty years ago, the bishops gathered at the Second Vatican Council reminded us that the liturgy, especially the celebration of the Eucharist, is at the heart of who we are as Church, as those who follow Jesus Christ,” Bishop Amos said in the event’s program guide. “… It is the source of grace for all that we do; it is, in a sense, the air that we breathe.” He asked the participants to consider “How we might be transformed more and more into the body of Christ to be broken in service to and for the world?”

O’Malley briefly reviewed the Second Vatican Council’s Con

tution on the Sacred Liturgy, noting that the constitution wasn’t simply about making changes in the liturgy; it was intended to change hearts.
Throughout his presentation and breakout session O’Malley emphasized — with humor, passion, and personal example – how full, conscious and active participation in liturgy extends beyond the walls of the church into daily life. But participation in Mass is essential. “My conversion takes place through my participation in the rites,” he observed.

O’Malley identified four spiritual practices — confession and praise, remembering, sacrifice and mission — that help the faithful to become more aware of the Eucharist as gift and, in turn, to be restored to their original vocation as creatures made for love.

“We are to empty ourselves totally in love,” he said. Christ set the example. “Christ’s whole life is gift. It’s gift without anyone deserving it.” Each time Catholics receive the gift of the Eucharist, they are reminded to give of themselves as Eucharist in their daily lives.

During a break-out session, especially relevant to high school students and those in ministry who work with them, O’Malley asked participants to imagine how they’d write a homily about the story of the Good Samaritan.

Grace Allmgren, a seventh-grader from St. John Vianney Parish, volunteered an observation about the Good Samaritan that O’Malley called brilliant: “The only people who help are the ones who know pain and suffering themselves.”

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