Sparking the Catholic Imagination 8

Deborah Stollery

Tips on Learning to Praise

As 2021 moves on, we at ConSpirita Consulting Network find ourselves, like many of you we expect, both weary of pandemic life and hopeful for what can be as vaccinations become more widespread.  And yet, there’s still so much uncertainty that calls for us to discern the signs of the times, to get into the flow of the Holy Spirit and so to walk these days of hope with resilience.  Renewing Catholic imagination can help with this.  This blog is our final contribution to what we hope is an ongoing dialogue around this. If you missed the other blogs or just want to re-read them, click here:

This final blog in the series begins to take a look at what might be part of learning how to do each of these praise-related activities in such a way that they become authentic praise:  the turning of our hearts and minds to the wonder of God-with-us…my definition of praise.  I’m reaching for the do-able, and invite you to add your wisdom to these suggestions.

  • Acclamations are integral to our Catholic liturgical worship.  In every Mass we speak Gospel acclamations, this being one:  “We proclaim your death O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.”  So what might I need to be calling to mind and heart so that these ritual responses are really part of my praise?  First, the real meaning of the text for me and for the Church.  That might mean I need to learn what the Church intends us to understand as we make the acclamations.  Then I expect I need to contemplate the texts…allow them to evoke in me awe and wonder, gratitude, and curiosity…that invites praise.
  • Applause and cheer. Our liturgies sometimes have us engaging in applause, usually after a wedding or a baptism.  Up until this very moment, I confess I found that weird/ awkward and maybe even irreverent.  So how do we make sure that applause/cheer is directed toward what God is doing in our midst and not just an expression of momentary happiness—that it’s praise?  By knowing what God is doing during baptisms and weddings, among us as the people of God.  We have to recognize God’s action as the object of our applause so that may mean deeper understanding that comes from knowledge.  Reflection on why we felt the need to cheer/applaud can also help us make sure our inner joy is for God’s work among God’s people.
  • It seems a bit odd to me to associate “cry” with praise.  But our Scriptures are full of descriptions of God’s people “crying out” to God.  This helps me to understand that in crying out or crying within, if directed toward God means we are giving praise.  But how do we learn to do this?  Get in touch with our emotions through introspection: fear, outrage, frustration, confusion and…  Emotion researchers call this granularity…being specific about our emotions.  Allow our hearts to break so that we can weep.  Carry tissues so we are prepared.  Trust in the Lord’s consoling presence.  Pray with the Psalms!
  • I think this is a real learning place.  Devotions require heart and soul to go with the practice or they are empty.  Try breaking down the devotion and focusing on just one part of it during each prayer time.  Learn more about what need(s) the devotion arose to meet and link yourself to them.  Discipline yourself to remain focused on the Lord during the devotion.  (This can be VERY hard in today’s high stimulus environment).
  • Glory or glorify. We use this language a lot.  But what does it mean to give glory?  What’s the mindset, the activity, and the disposition of heart/spirit that supports giving glory to God, proclaiming God’s glory?  Glory is connected to wonder and awe and to the deep awareness that God is God and we are not.  God is Almighty, Creator. Jesus is Redeemer.  The Spirit is Sanctifier.  We are none of these things.  The ability to glorify comes out of a consistent appreciation for the wondrous mystery of a God who desires to be with us, among us and for us.  That takes prayer, concentration, some study and reminders…lots of reminders.
  • To stand up in respect and reverence.  We do it before the Gospel.  We do it when the presider enters.  But do we do it with the intention of praise?  I’ve actually never considered the rising for the entrance procession or for the proclamation of the Gospel as praise.  But after a little thought, I realized that praise is related to honor, respect, right relationship and glory.  We can use our bodies to express this.  We can also stand without real ovation…because everyone else is doing it.  The difference:  awareness, intentionality, and reflection.  How?  Learn, remember, and reflect on where your mind/heart were when ovation was happening?  Turned toward God intentionally, to Christ with open heart, and in the Spirit? 

As I made my way through this final blog, I realized that praise takes work.  We have to want to really praise (intentionality);  we have to know these different elements that are part of praise (knowledge); we have to focus on praise in our prayer and worship (discipline); we have to learn more about praise (formation); we have to ask for the hearts and minds to offer right praise (prayer); and we have to reflect on our prayer and worship in light of the call to praise (honest self-examination).

And in the act of learning and practicing, the Holy Spirit will unlock our imaginations, point us to the parts of the Tradition to pull forward, inspire us to new activities in this area and once again remind us that we are created by God for praise! May this be so for you as Lent continues!

Next up in our blog, Dana will be reflecting on her journey of repentance tied to her participation in her parish’s JustFaith module on racism.  Until next week, know we are grateful for the connections the blog makes possible and hope they are helping us all grow closer to Christ and more committed to His mission.

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