Liturgy - our public prayer

This page contains a general introduction to the public prayer of the Catholic Church, which we call liturgy. This includes Mass, sacraments & funerals. Click on any of these bullet points to read more:


What is the 'Liturgy' that we speak of?

For Catholics the primary place we gather together is as a praying people in our parish church. We gather at Sunday Mass. We unite for a funeral, a wedding, or for the celebration of a First Holy Communion. Each of these is a public form of prayer, and is called a liturgy. Our Catholic liturgies sustain and inspire us in our daily lives and in significant moments.

"It is in the familiar structure of the Mass itself that a Catholic not only encounters but finds himself received into the very gospel itself, day by day, year after year... the entire liturgy is a seamless gospel fabric, so to speak. It is the gospel, in public, ceremonial, ritual, explicit form."
(Thomas Howard)


Our Liturgical year

We celebrate Mass together every Sunday, and yet Christmas Mass and St Patrick's Day Mass are not exactly the same ... there are different scripture readings, different colours on display, and certain prayers change. Why is this? Why do Christians make certain days and time different from others? Surely God is the same every day?!

Yes, God is present everywhere at all times – God is the same, but perhaps we are not! In truth, it helps us to have certain places and times of the year set aside for reflection and prayer.  

The Church's liturgical year starts on the first Sunday of Advent and finishes in November with the Feast of Christ the King. In following this cycle we have the opportunity to reflect, each year, on the mystery and mercy of Jesus love for us.

  • Advent  - the season of waiting in hope,
  • Christmas - the season of thanksgiving,
  • Ordinary time - the time to recognise God present in the ordinary,
  • Lent - the season of repentance with fasting, almsgiving and prayer,
  • Holy week - the centre of our year, we journey with Christ through his Passion, Death & Resurrection,
  • the Easter Season - the season of joful praise and thanksgiving.

If you'd like to check any dates for the Irish liturgical year, click HERE.

Each liturgical season has its own colours and traditions. To learn more about the liturgical seasons & colours etc - click HERE.

The Scripture readings we hear follow this cycle too, as part of a three year plan.The Sunday Cycle is 3-yearly and denoted by the letters A, B and C. Each year follows through one of the Gospels: A-Matthew, B-Mark, C-Luke. The Gospel of John is proclaimed on particular Sundays in each of the three years. Weekdays in Ordinary Time follow a 2 year cycle numbered I and II. Year I is read in odd number years: year II in even ones.

To see the scripture readings which are being read all over the world today,  as well as a thought for the day and next Sundays Mass readings; click HERE


Parish Liturgy groups

"Liturgy is like a strong tree whose beauty is derived from the continuous renewal of its leaves, but whose strength comes from the old trunk, with solid roots in the ground." (Pope Paul VI)

Good liturgy is always well prepared, relevant, inclusive and grounded in Scripture.  Many parishes invite a group of parishioners to form a parish liturgy group, so that they can – with their priests – reflect, prepare and involve the community in both the Sunday celebration, and the themes of the liturgical year.

  • Some guidelines for a Parish Liturgy Group are available HERE.
  • Prayer for parish liturgy groups for is available HERE
  • Details of some resources available in the Limerick area to to parish liturgy groups are HERE.
  • For seasonal liturgy resources, please click HERE.

The Pastoral Development team offers training for parish liturgy groups as well as seasonal resources. See events calendar for upcoming trainings, or contact us on 06 1350000.

The Diocesan Liturgy Commission draws membership from across the diocese, meeting monthly to consider resources, workshops and liturgical development issues.

Seasonal liturgy workshops are listed in the diocesan calendar HERE.


Liturgical ministries

All the baptised are called to serve on behalf of Jesus and of the Christain community. Those who serve the community during our liturgies are visible symbols of our common baptismal call to service, and of our unity in this celebration.

The Diocesan Liturgy Commission and the Pastoral development team work together to train and support all those involved in liturgical ministry. These trainings vary according to parish needs and resources. Check  EVENTS calendar for details.

Extra-Ordinary* Ministers of the Eucharist

We offer one day, (or 3 evenings), training for those who have been sent forward by their parish to train as Ministers of the Eucharist. Each training is part of a two step process - the newly trained candidate must meet with their rota co-ordinator or priest on return to the parish to prepare for the local practise at their church. The balance of reflective learning and local practise is very helpful to the new candidate.

* Yes, you are extraordinary, but thats not what this means here! A priest is the ordinary minister of the Eucharist, a lay person is an extra-to-the-ordinary minister!

HERE is a recent reflection about Eucharist from the diocese of Limerick

HERE are some reflections about Eucharist from St Augustine.

HERE is a Rite of Commissioning for Ministers of the Eucharist.


Ministers of the Word

"Parishes should look at ways of ensuring that those who are called upon to read the word of God are well trained, that they are assisted in reflecting on the significance of the words that they read, words through which God speaks to his people." (Bishop Murray in 'Celebrating the Eucharist)

Training is available for those who wish to become Ministers of the Word in their parish. Two evenings to allow participants to consider Scripture as the Word of God; the Liturgical year and Catholic Lectionary, the Sacrament of Eucharist and the practical experience of proclaiming the Word of God from a parish ambo using a microphone.


Training and resources are available for those who have responsibility for the prayerful leadership of music at parish liturgies, for preparing music for Sunday Mass, and/or for developing their parish choirs. Four sessions will explore Music Ministry in Scripture, Liturgy and the role of music in public prayer, the church's liturgical year & how to choose music appropriate to season, and Resources and tips for expanding your music library.

More details about Liturgical music are HERE


Parish Liturgy Groups

A four night training program (8 hours) is available for all forming (and renewing) parish liturgy groups.

This covers a basic introduction to liturgy, Scripture and Eucharist, to liturgical planning, liturgical resources and the liturgical year. It also involves participants in planning simple liturgies each evening so as to develop confidence and teamwork. This training is of maximum benefit when delivered locally to a group of parishes.

Email resources for Parish Liturgy

If you would like to join our mailing list, which offers some liturgy resources each week, please sign up for the Diocesan newsletter on the home (front) page


Liturgical music

"As far as possible, Eucharistic celebrations with the people, especially on Sundays, should by preference take the form of a Mass with singing, even more than once in the same day." (Instruction on Sacred Music in the Liturgy III, 27)

All prayerful acts of service at a liturgy are ministry. They exist solely to bring the whole congregation more deeply into prayer and thanksgiving.  Therefore music ministry has a particular challenge to ensure that: "The faithful should not be present at the sacred ceremonies like mere outsiders or speechless bystanders; but should be deeply affected by the beauty of the liturgy." Pius XI

Choosing Liturgical Music

How do we choose liturgical music? By choosing  music that is appropriate for the liturgy! The 2008 publication 'Sing to the Lord' by the Bishops of the United States offers great insight and background for all choir leaders  They suggest three points to consider when choosing liturgical music. We need to make

  • a liturgical judgement ... does this integrate with and enhance the liturgy we are gathered to celebrate
  • a pastoral judgement ... it may be perfect for this liturgy, but is it perfect for this community at this time?
  • a musical judgement ... can it be performed well and capably so that the hymn/music is a blessing?).

All three lead to the question "Is this piece of music appropriate for this liturgy?"

In order to apply such judgements we need to educate ourselves and be aware of the context of our liturgy. Therefore before liturgical music is chosen for a particular week;  it is necessary that the choir leader(s) have an awareness of the liturgical calendar, the Sunday Gospel, the faith community gathered and the nature of the liturgy itself.

Some resources for those who lead music ministry