For al least the next two weeks I am directing all posting to the Sunday Stream to discuss the recent Pennsylvania report on clerical child abuse, including its implications for catechetics and Church/parish life. You can jump over to Sunday's stream by clicking here.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
63. Because of the use of the mother tongue in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals can often be of considerable help to the people, this use is to be extended according to the following norms:
a) The vernacular language may be used in administering the sacraments and sacramentals, according to the norm of Art. 36.
b) In harmony with the new edition of the Roman Ritual, particular rituals shall be prepared without delay by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, of this Constitution. These rituals, which are to be adapted, also as regards the language employed, to the needs of the different regions, are to be reviewed by the Apostolic See and then introduced into the regions for which they have been prepared. But in drawing up these rituals or particular collections of rites, the instructions prefixed to the individual rites the Roman Ritual, whether they be pastoral and rubrical or whether they have special social import, shall not be omitted.
Paragraph 63 authorized one of the most significant reforms in the celebration of sacraments, the opportunity to celebrate worship in one’s mother tongue. This is the “when they changed the Mass from Latin to English” change, though the actual teaching is considerably more nuanced.
First, the Council mandated a reform of all the sacramental rites. The reason for this is given in the previous paragraph, 62, which I did not include here for reasons of brevity. A key principle of para. 62 states that “[w]ith the passage of time, however, there have crept into the rites of the sacraments and sacramentals certain features which have rendered their nature and purpose far from clear to the people of today; hence some changes have become necessary to adapt them to the needs of our own times.”
The idea that the Tridentine Mass of my youth, for example, was badly in need of overhaul was not an invention of Vatican II. As early as the 1920’s Benedictine scholarship put forward the need for a style of celebrating Mass that moved hearts. The first professional journal devoted to liturgical renewal, Orate Fratres (“Pray, Brethren’) appeared in 1926. There is a fascinating description of this early publication from the University of Notre Dame posted here. Several years before the Council opened, permission had been given by the Vatican for “dialogue Masses” in which the congregation might respond in Latin as the altar boys had done for years. Pope Pius X (r. 1903-1914) was a strong advocate of active congregational participation; the Pius X Hymnal was the song book in my pew when I arrived at the seminary in 1962.
Second, the Council did not simply allow translation of the Tridentine Mass then in use. It ruled that the rite of Mass and the sacraments be overhauled employing the best insights of liturgical scholars, historians, Scripture scholars, and artists of multiple forms. The final product of this reform would be the Novus Ordo [“New Order”] of Pope Paul VI introduced to the universal Church in 1970. As continues to be the practice, all rites and official documents released by the Church are published in Latin. Hypothetically, the Novus Ordo Mass of today could have been celebrated in Latin these last 48 years.
However, para. 63 observes that the use of the mother tongue “can be of considerable help,” and it is under this clause that the practice of celebrating Eucharist in the local language gains its legitimacy. This paragraph describes the procedure for translating the Latin text into other languages; in the United States the translation of the Novus Ordo Latin rite was undertaken by ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, under the direction of several English-speaking conferences of bishops. The end product was submitted to the Vatican for final approval, and then the English language Roman Missals could be published and sold to parishes.
[A historical sidebar: Pope John Paul II and his advisors became dissatisfied with the approved 1970 English translation and ordered a new English translation with an emphasis upon doctrinal purity and poetic stateliness. This translation went into effect in the United States in Advent, 2011.]
Third, neither the Council nor subsequent legislative documentation demanded that the Mass must be translated into a local language other than Latin. Para. 63 states that translation “can often be of considerable help to the people” but the unstated point is that Latin may be of some considerable help to the people as well. I still have a lot of thinking to do on this subject, but it has crossed my mind that in locations such as central Florida, where Masses are celebrated in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole, and Vietnamese, the utility of worship in a common language might be an effective sign to the Church and to society of the brotherhood that transcends ethnic divides, and it might facilitate the difficult transition of missionary priests into Florida. A controversial thought, to be sure, but there is no Church legislation that would bar such experimentation in a particular diocese. Admittedly, there is no easy way to facilitate the proclamation of the Word.in multiple language settings.
Fourth, at parties and classes I teach, I do hear from time to time that “I wish we could go back to the Latin Mass.” It did not take me long to discern, though, that these individuals are not expressing a desire for the Latin Novus Order, or today’s Mass celebrated in Latin. What they really have in mind is a return to the Latin Tridentine Mass [i.e., the reformed Mass of the Council of Trent, promulgated in 1570.] This is an entirely different question from the discussion of the previous paragraph.
I will agree that the Church’s “roll-out” of the 1970 rite was awkward and even insensitive. A lot of instructions were issued from pulpits, catechists, and church bulletins with the tone that those who venerated the Tridentine rite were “Neanderthals” who did not understand the errors of their ways nor grasp the wave of the future. In retrospect, I have often wondered why the option of worshipping in the Tridentine Rite was not continued with the new rite, at least for a generation or so. There is an old joke that goes something like this: “What is the difference between a terrorist and a liturgist? The answer: you can negotiate with a terrorist.” There was a pronounced arrogance and hubris among post-Council liturgical leaders at all levels who supported liturgical change, and almost no pastoral consideration was given to the suffering of those grieving the loss of the older Tridentine Latin rite. [Later, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI permitted use of the rite in churches and congregation in union with Rome.]
That said, the discontinuation of the Tridentine Latin Rite was generally approved in a solemn Church Council [Vatican II] because of numerous deficiencies, ranging from repetition and clutter to inadequate attention to the Scripture and the priesthood of the faithful [i.e., full participation]. The judgment of Vatican II on the Tridentine rite is still hotly debated even today. I get daily news feeds from conservative Catholic press sites, notably National Catholic Register, and it is interesting to read reports that the younger generations are fascinated with the old rite and find it more attractive than the Novus Ordo. Given the tired, vanilla celebrations of the English Novus Ordo Mass format, I can understand a young adult’s curiosity about a more compelling sacramental ceremony, though there is no serious data to suggest that 20 and 30-year-olds are stampeding the places where the Tridentine Mass is lawfully celebrated.
Unfortunately, I lost a link to an excellent essay about the Tridentine Mass as we remember or imagine it, and what it was actually like. What we remember [or have seen on YouTube] is probably the solemn high Mass, with full choir, deacon, sub deacon, and incense. Such a ceremony was rare in a Catholic parish, perhaps offered on Christmas or Easter. The typical Tridentine Mass, even on Sunday, was a flat and brief observance in Latin celebrated by one priest and two young acolytes. It would surprise me if this more normative Latin ceremonial would cause wholesale return to the liturgy of anyone at or beyond the age of puberty. [I say, and only partly tongue in cheek, that the present-day celebration of the Vatican II Mass is becoming harder to attend as I enter my eighth decade, too. “Banal” and “uninspiring” sum up my current reactions; I am moved neither intellectually nor affectively. But I am not inclined in the least to seek a Tridentine experience as a remedy, either.]
For starters, I would recommend we look at the actual directives for the celebration of the Novus Ordo, which run to several hundred paragraphs and make up the opening of the missal you see on the altar. G.K. Chesterton’s famous adage about Christianity can be applied to the Mass of the Vatican II reform: “It is not that the Novus Ordo was tried and found wanting; rather, it was found hard and not tried.”
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
61. Thus, for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed
toward the sanctification of men [sic] and the praise of God.
There is one sacramental or symbolic act that literally jumps off the bulletin page in many places: money, or more precisely, the absence of it. If critics of the Church accuse us of too much talk of sex and guilt, the silence about money is one of the American Church’s greatest secrets, specifically its absence from collection plates. Throughout much of my adult life the research on church giving has remained remarkably consistent: Catholic households donate 1.1% of income to their churches; mainstream Protestants 2.2%. Researchers frequently comment that if Catholics simply raised giving to the level of their Protestant confreres [and 2.2% is neither stellar nor particularly Biblical], the financial crisis of the Catholic Church in the U.S. would virtually disappear.
Hard data on the condition of Church finances is hard to come by, possibly because those knowledgeable within the Church understand that the numbers are a sacramental or symbolic metaphor of the health of the Church. It was the Wall Street Journal which first published the upcoming financial shortfall of the retirement and health needs of America’s Catholic religious women and men back in 1986, citing the research of the Arthur Anderson Company. I can recall my own shock at hearing a figure of $2 billion reported on national news services. Neither the WSJ nor very few others could know then that this number would be dwarfed by the settlements of thousands of cases of child abuse by clerics, though the first mega-settlements began, ironically, in 1986 as well, in Louisiana.
Even where there is good news, the shadow of finances follows. I was encouraged to read in The Wichita Eagle a May 27 news story on the ordination of ten new priests for the Wichita Diocese. However, the paper’s coverage noted that “adding a second priest to a parish does come with an additional funding challenge. According to a December issue of The Catholic Advance, the diocesan newspaper, a parochial vicar (the second priest) creates a need for about $40,400 in salary and health benefits. Because of this, the diocese created the Parochial Vicar Assistance Appeal to help four parishes, including St. Patrick, pay part of that salary for three years.” To put that another way, the diocese was not able to guarantee that its newly ordained priests can be supported by the parishes they will serve, and a capital campaign would be necessary for such purposes.
While the financial woes of parishes are a general concern, those involved in ministry—particularly catechetics—and diocesan administration may not fully understand how underfunding undermines the basic ministries of a diocese. With so many dioceses and parishes in financial squeeze, there are fewer and fewer parish and diocesan hires of competent, well qualified educational personnel to operate faith formation programs. As the waters of fiscal support dry up, there is a direct proportion to the “dumbing down” of ministerial hires. For most of my professional life the standard qualification for a parish faith formation director or director of religious education is a master’s degree in theology or religious education from a well-established Catholic university, such as Dayton University or Boston College. In the State of Florida, the only institution to offer this caliber of professional training is Barry University near Miami, about 250 miles from my home parish; you can browse through the program handbook here. Graduate costs at Barry run to about $1000 per credit hour.
The attainment of a master’s degree is a major investment of time and money; for some years after Vatican II religious orders provided such qualified personnel for salary, but with the drastic decline of religious in the United States, the limited number of certified professionals decreased, and the last generation has seen an attempt to fill the void with on-line master’s programs, such as my own diocese’s working relationship with Loyola of New Orleans. Still, the investment of time and money for lay persons in on-line studies is considerable; I tutor or encourage several present or recent students in the Loyola program, and what they tell me is that the parishes don’t quite know what to do with them once they have graduated.
The problem makes sense if you consider that most of these students are successful in their current careers outside of church settings, and there is a reasonable expectation on their parts for appropriate compensation when they approach parishes for employment. It is much cheaper for a pastor to promote a volunteer whose main strength may be years in the parish ministry than to take on a university educated theological professional, though the drop-off in quality and vision is very significant. Earlier this year CARA research found that the number of lay persons seeking masters-equivalent certification has dropped 10% in the past year. The best and the brightest are concluding that there is no future in Catholic ministry, particularly if one is raising a family.
Since we’re about salaries, I checked to see what the national norm for Catholic parish faith formation directors might be; nationally, the career guidance sites place the position in the $40,000-$50,000 median. To confirm this, I sought out a position in a parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, listed twelve days ago. Please click here and read the entire description, because it stumbles over itself in peculiarities. The prospective director of faith formation has a hefty list of responsibilities and is expected to be at the parish every Sunday and at many other times during the week. The parish is clear that it wants an M.A. qualification. But here’s the rub: it is clearly stated that this position is part-time, twenty-hours! Obviously, this hourly limitation has implications on benefits, to be sure, but the demands of the job preclude secondary employment, a likely necessity for most employees in these circumstances. This is a major gripe of church musicians, too: “We want you part-time, but definitely on the weekend.”
And so, we’ve come full circle to the reality that fiscal poor health is accelerating the dismemberment of anything resembling a strong Catholic educational establishment. [Even my alma mater, Catholic University, has fallen on hard time, even with the Koch Brothers in tow.] And while we expect our sacramentals—signs of spiritual realities—to bear pictures of the saints and the angels, the green pictures of Ben Franklin, Ulysses Grant, and Grover Cleveland are a spiritual metaphor, too, particularly when they are absent.
I was not happy with the limited posting I was able to do in June, and I feel like I left a lot of you hanging. One reason for the limited posts is several changes in my circumstances. Back in May I opened a free mental health service in the local Catholic Church here in my town. It is open Fridays all day, and in less than a month the available time slots were full. I am enjoying it very much, but I cannot do anything else on Friday, which eliminates another day I can devote to the Café. I continue to work Mondays at the Catholic Charities Clinic in Eustis, Florida; in fact, I will be driving over in an hour or two.
A second issue is the increasing demand for more reading prior to posting. There are several streams going at the same time which call for more research. Certainly, the Thursday stream on Luther and the Reformation is one; the nature of evil in the Monday Morality stream is another. This year I began commenting on the First Readings on the Sunday Mass, which meant a return to Old Testament studies, a discipline which is not one of my greatest strengths. When I started the Café four years ago, one of my goals was to introduce busy professionals to the best of new religious, catechetical, and theological works. This assumes reading the books first!
A third issue is retirement itself. Having turned 70 this year, I am finding that increasingly friends and family need contact and attention. Again, I am very pleased to become more involved in their lives, but this too devours the hours of the day. On the other hand, all the medical advice for seniors speaks of exercise and interpersonal interactions as means of maintaining a sound mind and a good spirit. This is a time of life to cultivate and enrich the relationships I already have, and perhaps engage in new ones. I know a fair amount of people who have outlived their friends and face their final years in an undesired solitude.
And, I am beginning to feel older. While I continue to be blessed with good health, I am no longer the young buck who could read till 2 AM. If I stay up that late, I will feel it the next day, like a hangover. When I was on retreat with the Trappists two weeks ago, I talked about all of this with a wise monk who reminded me that the senior population brings an example of transition and serenity, and he gently challenged me to stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
I have no intention of discontinuing the Café, because aside from the pressures of brewing up new flavors frequently, it is one of the more pleasurable enterprises in my life. Realistically it is probably best to say that the weekly grind of each stream will be tapered back to two weeks instead of weekly. On days when I am on the road, like family reunions, I may post with more spontaneity and less pedantic. Old bloggers don’t die, they just reign it in a bit.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
60. Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church's intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.
I must be honest that I am floundering with the layout of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Para. 59 opens a large section on the other sacraments and the sacramentals, having devoted considerable attention to the Eucharist. I expected that subsequent paragraphs would delve into the “other sacraments,” a rather unfortunate English translation for the six sacraments not Eucharistic. However, para. 60 turns to sacramentals, which I find confusing for several reasons. First, there is a break in the logical flow; second, sacramentals in my upbringing were synonymous with “devotionals,” those pious things we did or prayed or crafted that would remind us of our faith throughout the day. Para. 60 engages in legal overkill, like a city ordinance for birthday parties.
I still own a Baltimore Catechism, which in pre-Council days treated sacramentals in this fashion: “Sacramentals are holy things or actions of which the Church makes use to obtain for us from God spiritual and temporal favors.” It goes on: “The sacramentals most used by Catholics are: holy water, blessed candles, ashes, palms, crucifixes, medals, rosaries, scapulars, and images of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints.” One could and did add to this list such practices as visiting churches, particularly those that fostered special identity or devotion. Growing up in Buffalo my family frequented Our Lady of Victory Basilica in South Buffalo and Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Lewiston, N.Y, a few miles below Niagara Falls. When I was in middle school, the Christian Brothers tallied the number of those students carrying their rosaries (‘the beads”) and wearing their scapulars, and posted the daily count on the blackboard.
No one ever confused sacramentals with sacraments. Some individuals might go overboard on sacramentals in terms of common sense. I lived for a while with a religious brother who collected relics; his most prized possession was a feather from the wing of St. Michael the Archangel. He also collected devotions to such persons as Therese Neumann, who claimed that she ate nothing except holy communion. “And she was not skinny, either,” he would tell me. But, no harm, no foul. Sacramentals enriched Catholic life and gave it seasoning when the Latin Mass was, for want of a better word, flat.
So, I was surprised to see sacramentals receive significant attention in Sacrosanctum Concilium, and even more so in the later 1983 edition of the Code of Canon Law. In researching the question, I came to find that historically speaking, the modern era secular philosophy of signs, called semiology, came to play a major role in twentieth-century Catholic theology, particularly in matters of worship. For centuries the Church has designated the sacraments as signs that effect what they signify. For example, the pouring of water at baptism is a physical act of cleansing with an invisible or spiritual effect, the cleansing from the sin of Adam.
Church thinkers began to consider if the sacramental signs currently employed in, say 1900, adequately expressed the Church’s full understanding of its Tradition, which continues to grow under the guidance of the Spirit. Baptism is a good case in point. Examination of the Scriptures and the practices of the pre-Constantine era reawakened contemporary understanding of Baptism as more than a washing of the soul. Baptism is a new birth into the Kingdom of God, into a real community of humans who believe the Christ has redeemed us. Consequently, the rite of infant Baptism—its symbol—is communicated differently than a century ago. The parents and family, and the parish as a whole at times, plays a visible role in accepting the responsibilities to tutor and nurture the child in the ways of the Faith. Today parents and godparents receive a candle with fire drawn from the Easter candle, a practice not observed a century ago.
Symbols are complicated things, and they convey a wide range of meanings that change, not just over time, but with the person or persons who give them and receive them. A very good example is the act of receiving communion. In nearly every congregation there are many who opt to receive communion on the tongue, which others receive in the hand. The different gestures convey different theological understandings. At the risk of gross simplification, I would suggest that those who receive on the tongue carry a profound reverence for the Real Presence and consider themselves unworthy of “handling God,” so to speak. On the other hand, those who thoughtfully receive in the hand take seriously Jesus’ command to take and eat and understand the Eucharist as a saving meal. Both positions would be correct, and both are permitted in the Eucharist, but we must acknowledge that the symbol of distributing the Eucharist reflects several different understandings of what we do at Mass.
It might be helpful here to recall the final advice of para. 59 from several weeks ago: “It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.” As the Council began its work to make sacramental signs more intelligible, philosophy was coming to grips with the complexity of symbols themselves and the way they are received in the human mind.
It would seem that the Church desires all of its sacramentals—i.e., the holy things we have done on our own for ages—be carefully coordinated with the most significant signs of the seven sacraments. All the same, despite the lengthy directives such as those in Canon Law, the exercise and use of sacramentals remains your personal exercise of good will and common sense—so long as you don’t harbor the feathers from angel wings.
The Easter Season comes to its conclusion next weekend with the Feast of Pentecost. The Season of Ordinary Time resumes on Monday, May 21, [week 7] with the new feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. As your yards turn green, so will the vestments.
Before we close on book on the Easter Season of 2018, it might be time to reflect upon an undeniable issue of the Triduum, the observance of the Easter Vigil. At least two articles came across my desk or email box in recent weeks. Father James Martin of America Magazine writes “Is the Easter Vigil Too Long?” and a fellow blogger from “Pray Tell” kicks off a very interesting stream of responses to his post, “What Does It Mean That So Few Attend the Triduum Liturgies?” My wife and I attend the Vigil every year, and I would have to say that attendance at the Vigil is always a disappointment, particularly given all the parish investment of time and energy to the Catechumenate.
Two thoughts immediately come to mind. First, while the ritual of the Easter Vigil is faithfully observed by the book in my parish and certainly in many others, the optics of the rite strongly proclaim the nature of the event as a special evening for Catechumens [i.e., those receiving Baptism and the other sacraments of initiation). There is something of a Quinceanera flavor to the rite. I feel as if for a good hour of the rite, at least, I am an observer or a well-wisher; the concept of the Vigil as a rebirth of all the baptized gets washed away in the backsplash of the baptismal pool. The local and universal language regarding participation in this rite is heavy on Vulcan mind-melding. Unfortunately, our sacramental system is much more visceral and physical than the present Vigil rite allows.
Second, the Easter Vigil is the night when our shallow catechetics return to bite us. The responders to the “Pray Tell” blog are very pointed on this subject. The concept of the three-day observance of the drama of Redemption is simply not in Catholic consciousness. This is more of a formative question than a liturgical one. There are no obvious compelling reasons that attract wholesale Catholic attention.
It is worth noting that my parish’s outdoor sunrise Mass attracted only a few less people than the original Woodstock Festival of 1969.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
59. The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.
It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.
Over the past several days I have been reading research papers for a good friend in my parish. A career health professional, he decided in mid-life to pursue a master’s degree in theology for his own satisfaction and no doubt with an eye toward future ministry. I was intrigued with this project for a number of reasons, not least of which was to observe how a professional in another field brings his or her skill set to the sacred discipline of theology. His finished products were marked by a sound historical investigation, attention to official documents, a very good review of current theological thinking, and—a skill we must all master nowadays—adroit handling of the internet. He added his own experiences with the topics at hand and rendered opinions, correctly citing them as such.
I thought to myself, if he accidentally dropped one of his papers during a meeting of his medical peers, and one peer of any or no religious persuasion picked it up to read, this unintended reader would respect the competence of the paper as worthy of a professional peer. The paper could be critiqued for its philosophy, but not because it is incompetent, poorly documented, or the product of my friend’s imagination. The theology student is evangelizing as surely as Peter in Jerusalem or Paul before the Altar of the Unknown God.
“Evangelization” is one of about a dozen words the Church has never cleanly identified for theological study and present day pastoral life, along with “community,” “groups,” “reconciliation,” “stewardship,” etc. My own working definition of evangelization is engagement with the world, finding a common ground of language, experience, and need. I checked in on two Catholic groups dedicating themselves to two brands of evangelization, FOCUS on the college campus and RENEW in the parish setting. Both are worthwhile endeavors, organized plans to “save this generation of our young people” [or other people] by instruction, tight-knit organization, and targeted contacts and crusades.
The RENEW website advertises its pedagogical methodology as exploring “Catholic teaching with direct quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, scriptural references, and reflection questions.” There is hardly anything here to disagree with except for the absence of one key factor: a dynamic that forecloses upon listening. A Church with Open Doors (2015) is a sophisticated primer for the delicate work of Catholicism’s engaging with the world, noting that for the Church to arrive upon the scene with Catechism under arm and waiting for the rest of the errant world to fall into line is the least effective form of evangelization, short of restoring the Inquisition.
The “new evangelization” [another phrase from the indeterminate list] demands a new evangelizer, one who is wise, well-grounded in the Faith tradition, humble in the search for God, and welcoming to the pain and insights of those who have left the Catholic communion, Christians of other traditions, men and women of good will, and even atheists. Perhaps hardest of all to embrace are those for whom religious experience is something of a trinket along the way of life, but it is hard to dismiss this segment of society because perhaps no one has made a genuine outreach to hear them without first prescribing catechetical medicine.
Para. 59 opens a lengthy section of Sacrosanctum Concilium with the decidedly unpoetic title of “The Other Sacraments and Sacramentals.” While the linguistics suffer, there is a great deal of truth—perhaps unintentionally revealed—in the document’s emphasis on the Mass and the failure to unpack the other sacraments and pious rites and events [sacramentals]. My friend had chosen The Sacrament of the Sick for one of his research efforts, and he expressed amazement at the many forms this sacrament has taken over the centuries, not to mention the many pastoral options for this sacrament today which typically are not appreciated by rank and file Catholics.
Para. 59, in its closing words, uses the phrase “with great eagerness” in describing the richness of the full Catholic sacrament/sacramental life of the Church. The Church is in desperate need of ministers and teachers who can present the richness of our life in a fashion that respects and loves both our own membership and, as the Council writes, even those who wish us harm. In fact, we might do better to pray for more ministers and educational lay leaders to pursue the vocation of theological learning than pray for more priests—something we have doing for my entire lifetime and we seem to have less and less. Looking at my own parish, nearly all our “faith formation” personnel are volunteers with a bare minimum of theological preparation. Packaged programs of renewal where non-professional “evangelizers” with an overly doctrinaire dependence upon the Catechism and the quick trigger to divide sheep from goats are a parish’s prime formative resource, what results is counter-evangelization, a literal fundamentalism where “great eagerness” is nowhere to be found.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
[57. 1.] Concelebration, whereby the unity of the priesthood is appropriately manifested, has remained in use to this day in the Church both in the east and in the west. For this reason, it has seemed good to the Council to extend permission for concelebration to the following cases:
a) on the Thursday of the Lord's Supper, not only at the Mass of the Chrism, but also at the evening Mass.
b) at Masses during councils, bishops' conferences, and synods;
c) at the Mass for the blessing of an abbot.
2. Also, with permission of the ordinary, to whom it belongs to decide whether concelebration is opportune:
a) at conventual Mass [in religious houses], and at the principle Mass in churches when the needs of the faithful do not require that all priests available should celebrate individually;
b) at Masses celebrated at any kind of priests' meetings, whether the priests be secular clergy or religious.
1. The regulation, however, of the discipline of con-celebration in the diocese pertains to the bishop.
2. Nevertheless, each priest shall always retain his right to celebrate Mass individually, though not at the same time in the same church as a concelebrated Mass, nor on Thursday of the Lord's Supper.
The segment of Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Holy Eucharist concludes with detailed regulation on a matter that at first glance does not seem to impact the laity very much: rules regarding the concelebration of Mass, in which multiple priests con-celebrate in one Mass. Documentation from ancient times up through the IV Lateran Council (1204) indicates that the practice of offering one common Mass was known and observed in various times and places. Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216) instructed cardinals in Rome to concelebrate with the pope on certain high holy days. The practice declined and disappeared for a time in the Catholic West due to, among other things, the high mortality rates of the Black Plague, which demanded a large number of private requiem Masses or “Masses for the Dead” in which the saving grace of the Mass was always dedicated to one soul. Our present-day practice of mentioning a special name “for whom this Mass is offered” is a theological misnomer, as the Eucharistic Prayers are inclusive for all the living and the dead.
When I came into this world in 1948 Church Law permitted concelebration on two occasions: the ordination of priests, who concelebrated with the ordaining prelate; and the consecration of a bishop, who said the words of the consecration of the bread and wine with the senior bishop who conferred the sacrament of Holy Orders. But as with many other liturgical reforms of the 1960’s post-Vatican II era, the idea of restoring the Eucharist to an earlier model of priestly unity was actively discussed and even adopted in some European circles before the Council; some religious orders were particularly sensitive to the poor symbol of the “main Mass” or conventual Mass taking place on the high altar while as many as a dozen “low Masses” were offered simultaneously on side altars along both walls of the church or chapel. Visit any church constructed before the Council, including the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and count the altars.
Para. 57 cites the “unity of the priesthood” as the primary reason for restoring the practice of concelebration, and this is certainly true. But I think the greater impetus toward this practice was the overriding principle of the Mass as a community assembly around the table of the Lord. During my pre-ordination retreat in late August 1974, I can recall a rather strong discussion about the theological appropriateness of offering a “private Mass” alone. Most of my ordination class—which was made up of Franciscans with a strong community bent—held that a solitary Mass of any sort was something of an anomaly. As I look back, I can barely remember the few times I offered a solitary Mass, i.e., without concelebrants or a congregation, as the idea seemed so foreign to my seminary upbringing. A priest in active ministry is called upon to offer Mass every day in his ministerial setting, though opportunities for concelebration are infrequent, and probably more so than 1974.
On the other hand, during my first assignment, as chaplain of a Catholic college, I would have to say that about half of the friar community concelebrated daily. The mostly older men who eschewed the common late-afternoon campus Mass preferred to offer Mass privately in several chapels in or around the friary and its main campus church. It was common to hear a priest speak of “my Mass,” and although such terminology is theologically incorrect today, it is hard to critique a generation in which the personal offering of Mass—even with a congregation—was the center of a priest’s spiritual identity.
Para 57.2 makes a point that a priest maintains his right to celebrate Mass individually so long as he does not do so on Holy Thursday—when all priests are expected to concelebrate the Last Supper Mass where the Christian priesthood was instituted—or in a church or chapel where another Mass is currently being concelebrated. The Church’s concern here is the sign of unity of which the Mass is the ultimate sign among the Sacraments. A priest may offer Mass alone if he is sick or confined or finds himself in circumstances where no congregation is assembled, as in the case of travel, or assignment to very rural or mission territories. When I was on vacation as a priest, I offered Mass daily at my family homestead in our summer house in the yard, or with any family I might be staying with while on the road.
This marks the end of the treatment on the Mass; our next post will be para. 59 introducing the other sacraments and sacramentals.
Today was our turn to cook breakfast at a local shelter, and this evening we plan to participate in the Easter Vigil. It was not possible to provide a worthwhile Holy Saturday post for today. However, I am providing a link to a first millennium Holy Saturday sermon, which is part of the Church's present day Office of Readings. My prayers and thoughts are with all of you wherever and however you celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
56. The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly, this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation.
It struck me today that we are into the second year of the Sacrosanctum Concilium or Saturday Sacraments stream here at the Café, and there is about one more year to go. This post and next Saturday’s are the final two on the Sacrament of the Eucharist. From there the document takes us to the other sacraments, the sacramentals, the Liturgy of the Hours, sacred music, and a number of other topics you may find fascinating. There are 130 paragraphs in the entire Constitution, and this link will take you to the full text of Sacrosanctum Concilium if you want to browse ahead to the remaining 74 items, some of which are not directly applicable to parish life and which I will pass over.
Those in my generation [70+] have experienced the liturgical reform in significantly different ways from those who were born into the Church after 1960 or thereabouts. My formative years, up through my mid-teens, were spent worshipping in the Latin Tridentine Rite. Vatican II concluded in 1965 when I was 17, and life in the seminary and many local parishes and schools gave me an excellent seat to both observe and assist in the process described in para. 56, most notably that pastors “insistently teach them [parishioners] to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligations.” And, in approaching my golden years—though they sometimes feel more leaden—I see certain groups spending a great deal of time and money to restore the pre-Vatican II Mass, the Rite of Pope Pius V in 1570.
From the vantage point of the shuffleboard court, it strikes me that para. 56 attempts to do two things which no one realized might be so difficult. The first was to impart a sense of unity in the Mass which did not exist before. The missals and catechisms of my youth were careful to lay out the Mass in two distinct stages, “The Mass of the Catechumens” and the “Mass of the Faithful.” Even para. 56’s wording, “the two parts…” cannot escape the double-rite thinking. The “Catechumens’ Mass” corresponded to our Liturgy of the Word and gets its name from the ancient practice of allowing those preparing for baptism to be instructed during the Liturgy of the Word, given that the first half of the Mass was based upon the Bible only.
Catechumens were expected to leave before the Offertory when the Church got down to its serious business of consecrating and distributing the Body of Christ. The pre-Council Mass was weighted toward the Eucharistic elements, possibly at the expense of the Scripture. Subsequent directives on para. 56 attempted to unify the Mass, and architectural guidelines stated clearly that the ambo [the furniture bearing the Sacred Word, the pulpit] and the altar should dominate the visual scope of the sanctuary.
Vatican II in Sacrosanctum Concilium was proposing a change in basic assumptions for Catholics, that the Mass be understood as a celebration of Bible and Eucharistic meal. Catechisms even today still speak of the Mass as the sacrificial act of Calvary, and indeed this is true. But, like the two disciples on the Easter road to Emmaus, the ignominious death of Christ on the cross—the sacrifice which the Mass perpetuates—does not make sense until Jesus and his Church explain the entire Old Testament, as Luke 24:27 makes eminently clear. It is only after this exhaustive opening of the Scriptures that the two disciples recognize Jesus in the Eucharistic formula of the Mass, when he broke the bread for them and their eyes were opened.
There is, then, a preeminence of Word in the human sequence of time. We cannot worship the Savior in the Eucharistic bread unless we know him from revealed Scripture. I am presently reviewing Catholic Parishes of the Twenty-First Century (2017), an exhaustive study of American Catholic attitudes and practices. [It is available on Kindle as well as other formats.] In a survey of those who attend Mass and what they look for, the highest rated expectation was fellowship and warmth at 68%, a well-executed liturgical rite at 62%, a helpful homily at 60% and artistic surroundings. Far down the list, in the 30% range, do we find the kinds of things that make good liturgy possible: adult education and Scripture study. My own read on the numbers is that we approach liturgy to receive and be served, and less to engage in the work that makes this happen. The book’s chapter on Church finances adds credence to my opinion: the average Catholic household contributes 1.1% of income to the Church; this figure has enjoyed the constancy of pi for my entire adult life. The average of all other Christian households is 2.2%. Neither figure is stellar, and the permanence of the percentages suggests that many church goers are content with the performance-cost ratio.
What would rock the boat are the hard teachings of Scripture and clear-headed preaching, expounded in the Mass, parish and group adult formation, and perhaps most of all, an intimate relation between bible and reader. The reformers at the Council assumed a strong dynamic between Liturgy of Word and Liturgy of Eucharist. But even present-day Church architecture undermines the principles of para. 56; the newly consecrated $31 million cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee, is designed as an elongated Eucharistic reservation structure, and not in an optimum way to celebrate the life-giving forces of both Word and Meal.
At least in the United States, there is still much work to do regarding the awakening of Catholics to the Word of God, and it will not be as easy as pi.