A Year of Grace event

In years past, Perth Catholics gathered in great numbers to celebrate the feast of Christ the King with an annual procession, homily and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  This popular event was always held on the beautiful grounds of Aquinas College in Salter Point.

As with so many devotions, this one ended soon after the Second Vatican Council.  Enthusiastic but misguided liturgists – both professional and amateur – tried to steer the faithful away from Eucharistic and Marian devotions.  In their place, they instituted ‘bible vigils’ – services of the Word that were modelled after Protestant worship forms.  This was an attempt to reach out to our ‘separated brethren’, but it failed dismally.  Why?  Because Protestants already had their services, and didn’t need Catholics inventing ‘new’ forms for them to attend; and because ritual actions are very much part of the Catholic DNA.  So when bible vigils came and quickly went, there was a long period of several decades when the Catholic Church experienced an absence of public recitation of the Rosary, Eucharistic adoration and Benediction, novenas and processions.

Fortunately, in recent years all of these devotions have been making a comeback.  So when the WA members of the ACCC met earlier this year to discuss what we could do to promote the Year of Grace locally, memories of the popular Christ the King Sunday event at Aquinas College surfaced.

The return to Aquinas

We decided not to compete with several parishes that have recently established their own Christ the King processions.  Instead, we chose 14th August, the Vigil of Our Lady’s Assumption, as the date to have a special event at Aquinas.

Several hundred laity and religious joined ACCC priests in the beautiful chapel of St Thomas Aquinas at 7.30pm for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosary and Benediction.  Fr Don Kettle presided at Exposition and Benediction, and Fr Michael Rowe spoke at the end of the gathering to express thanks to all involved.

Fr Tim Deeter chose five mysteries from the traditional twenty – the Annunciation, the Miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana, the Crucifixion, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, and the Assumption – to illustrate the role of Mary as a model for the Church in her pilgrimage ‘from grace to glory’, which was the evening’s theme.  Before the Rosary, Fr Deeter preached briefly on the Priestly Blessing:  . . . May the Lord be gracious unto you.  The homily was illustrated with powerpoint slides of various artworks and photographs.

The Rosary was likewise illustrated with powerpoint slides that presented a scripture verse and artwork for each prayer.  Each mystery was introduced by a short meditation delivered by Fr Deeter.  Many of those present remarked afterward that the meditations and slides aided them immensely in maintaining their focus on the mysteries of the Rosary.  This, after all – and not simply the recitation of Hail Marys – is the whole point of praying the Rosary:  Grant that we who meditate upon the mysteries of the Holy Rosary . . .

Following the hour-long service, everyone gathered in the College Dining Hall for a repast of a variety of foods brought by participants, with beverages supplied and served by staff and students from Aquinas.

The ACCC in WA hope to have two more similar events at Aquinas in 2013:  one during Lent, and the last toward the end of the Year of Grace.  In this way we hope to do our bit in restoring public devotions on an Archdiocesan scale, and also make the ACCC known to more people in Western Australia.

Rev Dr Timothy Deeter is parish priest of Mt Lawley in the Archdiocese of Perth. He has previously served as a member of the Liturgical Commission in Chicago, Director of Liturgy and Music in Perth, and Director of the Liturgy Office in Sydney.