It’s as if we’re in a tsunami of ceremonies these past days. The recent Paschal Triduum (The Solemn Commemoration of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection — from Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil) featured several rites, with the Vigil itself as the “mother of all,” for sure. Not only that, but these days we also have ordination ceremonies, the installation of new rectors (including me!), first and perpetual professions (anniversaries too) for religious men and women, and so on . . . .
Have you ever wondered or asked at all about the value of rituals and ceremonies in our lives, especially for our Faith? An immediate answer may be that rituals and ceremonies are essential to provide us a sense of order and meaning in life — especially in the midst of so much chaos and confusion nowadays. I recall an HBO movie entitled Taking Chance, starring Kevin Bacon. Based on real-life events, Bacon portrays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, who accompanies the mortal remains of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. Actually, that’s all there is to the 77-min. movie. And yet, it is for me a beautiful, powerful testament to the profound value of ritual and ceremony. A catechist might as well use it to condition and sensitize young people to the sacraments (or church rituals, for that matter). Incidentally, this is actually the recommendation of youth minister and author William J. O’Malley SJ. Check out two of his books — Converting the Baptized: A Survival Manual for Parents, Teachers, and Pastors and Becoming a Catechist: Ways to Outfox Teenage Scepticism.
Indeed, young Catholics ought to be given the proper exposure and formation in the celebration of the sacraments (for instance). We need not wonder how the innate power of ritual and ceremony still affects them (despite all the postmodernism hounding them!). There are those of us adults who are still surprised why and how the old, traditional liturgical rites of the Catholic Church have long since made a comeback, and has caught the attraction (and captured the imagination) of many a young Catholic of today. Indeed, we even have nowadays millennial Catholics fascinated by “the smells and the bells” of our old liturgies. Come to think of it, it should not really be a surprise at all (frankly speaking as well).
You see — even let’s say a gymnastics sequence, or a demo-recipe for making one’s favorite dessert, or a beauty routine — all these can be looked at as though they were rituals. Life itself is inextricably tied with rites of passage and ceremonies, and even the most mundane and everyday tasks do have their value. Now if only we can often see the splendor and worth in them, particularly in their unfolding as rituals indeed! They need not be boring and mechanical and repetitive routines. There’s meaning and symbolism in ceremonies and rites.
Let’s have even more of them, then! Most especially for the sake of our youth.
MartYM or Fr. Martin Macasaet, SDB, SThD is a professor of Youth Ministry. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.