SUSAN Fajardo loves the Mass, but certain things that sometimes happen when she’s there disturb her intensely.
She gets so disturbed that she’s taking on years of study to give herself a chance to do something about it.
It all started when a priest in her suburban Brisbane parish gave her the role of liturgist, and trained her in preparing for the liturgy.
But that training wasn’t enough for her.
“My nature is, if I’m going to do something I want a thorough knowledge of that area, so I wanted to learn more,” Susan said.
“So I looked for documents that would give me some knowledge about the liturgy, and so I found a lot of liturgical documents.
“I found (the Second Vatican Council document) Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) – and a lot of other documents – and then, of course, the Order of the Mass in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal …
“I looked at the Code of Canon Law on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and I looked at (Pope Benedict XVI’s) apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis: On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life and Mission …
“And then, as I learned more about the liturgy, I became more attentive to the liturgical celebrations that I attend, and that’s when I noticed deviations from the rules and the norms.”
That has been the source of Susan’s disturbance.
She said, from studying the documents, she had learned the Church called those deviations “liturgical abuse”.
“‘Abuse’ sounds harsh, but that is how the Church calls it,” she said.
“And the Congregation of the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, from the mandate of Pope John Paul II, issued or published the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, and in there, they classified the liturgical abuses into three types, three categories.
“And I thought, ‘Oh, these are serious …’
“So I thought, I wanted to do something.”
If she was to write something, she thought, who would take notice – she was “only a parishioner”.
“I didn’t have the credentials or the standing to talk about liturgy and liturgical celebrations, and especially liturgical abuses,” she said.
That’s when she decided she had to take on formal study.
Having been a barrister and forced to retire after a heart attack in 2014, Susan had been interested in studying Canon Law so she had taken on study for a master’s degree in Theology to satisfy the requirements for a Licentiate in Canon Law.
Then, when she’d become troubled by what she’d noticed in some liturgical celebrations, she thought she’d “kill two birds with one stone” by specialising in Liturgy in her Theology master’s.
Australian Catholic University have recognised her efforts by awarding her an ACU Centre for Liturgy Postgraduate Scholarship for 2018.
She also has an Archdiocese of Brisbane Theology scholarship to study at ACU in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy this year, after having received the same scholarship two years ago.
Her aim is to highlight the link between “ars celebrandi”, the proper celebration of the Mass, and the full, conscious and active participation of the faithful.
“The liturgical documents, especially Pope Benedict’s, have emphasised the link between proper celebration and active participation of the faithful, so that will be in my paper, in my master’s by research, my thesis,” she said.
An example of “one very common deviation” that affects Susan’s own active participation at Mass is the omission of the penitential rite.
“I feel so bad (when that happens) because I feel robbed of the opportunity to prepare myself to receive Jesus in his Word and in the Eucharist because it robs me of the opportunity to ask for forgiveness …,” she said.
She said the penitential rite helped her “to get in the proper disposition to celebrate Mass”.
For Susan, liturgy is vital to her life as a Christian.
“Just as we need food for the body, we need liturgy for our soul, because, as the Council Fathers (of the Second Vatican Council) and popes have proclaimed and declared in their writings, the liturgy is the source and summit of the actions of the Church, of everything that the Church does,” she said.
“And with the liturgy, it’s right at that moment, when we’re celebrating the Mass, we’re celebrating the sacrament of Redemption, and right at that very moment, we receive an outpouring of grace from God, and we’re justified in Jesus Christ, and at the same time we give grace and thanksgiving to God.
“So it’s a two-way thing right there and then.
“We receive and we give. God gives and receives from us the grace and thanksgiving.
“So we need that outpouring of grace to guide us in our daily life.
“It’s the food for our soul, because we receive Jesus through His Word and through the sacred species, the Eucharistic Bread and Wine …”
Susan is a reader and an extraordinary minister of Communion at Brisbane’s St Stephen’s Cathedral.
“When we do the readings, it’s very important for the readers to do it properly, to proclaim it,” she said.
“On the Saturday, I read it over and over and over again, until I almost memorise it, because if you read it over and over again, you sort of internalise it and you will have a better understanding of what you’re reading.
“So if you have it there (in your heart) you will feel it …
“If you keep reading the readings over and over and over again, you get to feel it in your heart, you get to internalise it.
“So, by the time you stand up there, it’s like you’re not reading but you’re communicating what you’re feeling.
“You’re sharing with them exactly the Word of God, which, in those times, it came from the Prophets or St Paul. They’re coming from God.
“And knowing the Word of God, we can be effective witnesses of the Word by the way we live our lives.
“The liturgy does not end when we step out of the church; it continues when we get out of the church.
“(The celebration of the Mass) continues out there in your life, in the way you live your life.”