ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
28. In liturgical celebrations each person, minister, or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.
Paragraph 28, although brief, establishes a basic principle of sacramental celebration: the rites are not the exclusive domain of the presiding clergyman but a shared venture of specific functions exercised by those trained and designated for the rite. The spirit of para. 28 is that, as far as possible, the parts of the Mass, for example, that pertain to deacons—such as proclaiming the Gospel—should be filled by deacons. This is universally true regardless of the number of priests (and bishops) concelebrating the Mass. Deacons are ordained to proclaim the Word and the integrity of their ordination demands that they can do what the Church ordained them to do. Although we see it nearly every Sunday, the celebrant is not the ordinary minister to proclaim the Gospel. He does so in the absence of a deacon.
The principle applies across the board to other ministries of the Mass. The two major ministries of liturgical significance that do not involve sacramental ordination are lector and acolyte. There is a formal institution by the Church for these two ministries, which are required for candidates for the priesthood, but under present law the formal installation is reserved to men only. Outside of the seminary, the installation of a man to the order of lector and acolyte is rare but it can be done. The lector proclaims the Word (roughly equivalent to the “reader” or “readers” at Mass.) The acolyte “is instituted to serve at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon. In particular, it is his responsibility to prepare the altar and the sacred vessels and, if it is necessary, as an extraordinary minister, to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful. In the ministry of the altar, the acolyte has his own functions (Roman Missal, cf. nos. 187-193), which he must perform personally."
The practical function of the acolyte in the United States has been broken down into two ministerial populations: altar servers and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. The reason the word “extraordinary” describes the laity who distribute communion is that, legally speaking, lay ministers of communion can only function in the absence of an “ordinary” minister of communion: an instituted acolyte, a deacon, priest, or bishop. I should add that each conference of bishops can determine if its country will permit the use of lay extraordinary ministers at all.
The hue and cry over “altar girls” that arose after Vatican II and still lingers today in some quarters reflects the reality that females ministering at the altar do so in place of male acolytes instituted by the Church, though in the U.S. our altar servers do not distribute communion as minors. It is hard to imagine a Sunday Mass today without lay ministering of the Word, distribution of Eucharist, “serving,” and cantoring, but formal Church documents will continue to speak cautiously about these lay ministries to avoid prejudice and misunderstanding of the Sacrament of Orders and the minor orders of lector and acolyte.
If I can change gears for a moment, I must note today’s (July 22) Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. After everything I have written above about the “maleness” of official Church ministry, it is ironic that the prayers of today’s Mass and Liturgy of Hours acknowledge that Mary of Magdala was the first to witness the Resurrection, ahead of the Apostles. There is no consistent scriptural and/or historical data to support the idea that Mary Magdalene was a converted prostitute or the woman from whom Jesus “cast seven devils.” Nor can we say with certainty that Mary Magdalene is the same Mary who lived with Martha and Lazarus. Using the biblical rule of “multiple attestation,” Mary Magdalene comes down to us as the first witness of the resurrected Jesus and the first to pay him homage. It is time to acknowledge her critical role in the birth of the Church.
The next Sacramental Saturday post will be August 19, as I am taking a break to clear my head and recharge my batteries.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
27. It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private.
This applies with especial force to the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments, even though every Mass has of itself a public and social nature.
Paragraph 27 addresses a basic principle—the public nature of sacraments and full participation of the baptized—at a time when the concept of actual lay participation was not generally appreciated. In 1963 the faithful “attended” Mass, and on occasion the Mass was offered without the faithful, the “private Mass” I discussed earlier in this thread. In my opinion, a precise catechesis of how Catholics participate at Mass in 2017 is still waiting to be written. In A Church with Open Doors (2015) Edward P. Hahnenberg (159ff) provides an interesting analysis of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass, observing that they are written in the first-person plural, “We,” an inclusion of the entire gathered assembly. But posture (kneeling), architecture (distance), and virtuoso choirs (performance) among other things tend to signal a generally passive role for non-clerics.
Hahnenberg, continuing the thought, makes an intriguing argument that the Church does not employ social sciences to explore what actually happens in parochial life. His point of study is lay ministry, noting that none of the roles we see in parishes, such as DRE’s, ministers of music, parish administrators, etc., were prescribed by Vatican II and developed spontaneously, under the very general rubric of the importance of the laity. This presents a rather serious ecclesiological dilemma as we progress into this century. American bishops have approved (by necessity, mostly) the appointment of lay or religious leaders to canonical leadership of parishes. I believe there are approximately 4000 such parishes in the U.S. if my memory of CARA data is correct.
The difficulty is that for many centuries—and even today—a parish is, and should, be identified as an assembly around the Eucharistic table. While the bishops have issued a rite for the observance of Sunday without an ordained priest, A priest-less parish, one without the celebration of Eucharist, flies in the face of theological and pastoral tradition of long-standing. This set of circumstances has led to a new line of thinking from the grassroots of the Church—why not ordain these appointed parochial leaders? It may be surprising that there is some precedent for this. Monasteries are brotherhoods; not every monk is a priest. Rather, some monks are ordained to the priesthood precisely to lead the community in Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick. In addition, as many monasteries serve as retreat houses, priests are needed for confessions, spiritual guidance, conferences, etc.
[I need to interject here that some of the newer parochial arrangements have not exactly percolated everyone’s ecclesiological consciousness. A few years ago, Margaret and I vacationed in Glacier National Park, and the closest church was St. Mary’s, on U.S. 89 near the East Gate. This church was one of six networked in rural Montana, and as it happened, there was no Mass, but a Sunday Word service with distribution of communion. Our leader was a deacon, a Native American ordained deacon with a pony tail and an earring. He arrived by car with the Eucharist and his guitar, with which he led us in some worship ditties. He read the Sunday readings and then distributed communion.
As it happened, Margaret and I decided to hike through the remaining snow (July!) to visit an obscure glacier. As we waited for a shuttle boat to transport us back to our cars, we met a couple who had been with us in church that morning. The wife said to Margaret, “That was the first time I ever went to Mass where the priest wore an earring.”]
The needs of small churches, and the ways they are addressing their leadership sustenance, have led bishops in turn to a variety of sacramental strategies. The most common is the “consolidation” of parishes; I have been following this trend for about 25 years and its only real advantages are postponing the day when priests are truly rare, and saving a region’s Catholic school. Another strategy has been the outright closing of parishes, where the number of worshippers simply does not justify the expense of the operation. Church closings are the cause of much weeping and gnashing of teeth, usually with more than a touch of nostalgic grief, and a chronic indifference of the membership to five and ten-year financial projections.
The one solution no bishop has ever put forward is the idea of ordaining the de facto leaders of a priest-less community. Wait, I stand corrected. Pope Francis has initiated a study of the possibility of ordaining women deacons, but in practice it would not change the central question of a local church’s identity around the Sunday Eucharist and its celebrant.
The Council’s emphasis upon the centrality of the Mass and the importance of full participation—however this is achieved in the next century or two-is treated differently today than it was at the time of its promulgation in 1963. Para. 27 states “this way of celebrating them [sacraments] is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private.” The reference here is most pointedly directed at the practice of private Mass or a Mass celebrated for a “special group.” [True story: I received a call late on a Sunday afternoon from several out-of-town golfers who offered to pay me handsomely--$100 or more, in the early 1980’s--if I would offer a quick Mass in one of their hotel rooms.]
However, in the documentation that followed Vatican II, provision was made for the celebration of almost all the sacraments to take place in conjunction with the Eucharist. Baptisms and Confirmations, for example, occur routinely within a full gathering of the parish assembly. The one exception is the Sacrament of Penance, which we think of as the most private of sacraments. Even here the Church has made provision for public forgiveness of private sin. The Penitential Rite of the Mass, for example, is an actual rite of forgiveness of venial sins. The ritual of the Rite of Penance makes provision for three formats of forgiveness. The first is a reformed version of the confessional format. The second is a “Penance Service,” where all the parts of the Sacrament of Penance are done in common except the act of confessing personal sins to one of the priest confessors present. Parishes commonly hold such services during Advent and Lent.
The third format follows the second, except that there is no private confession of sin due to large numbers in attendance, and the celebrant extends “general absolution” of moral and venial sin to those properly disposed. There has been a lot of confusion about the General Absolution format; Pope John Paul II clearly opposed it when used in non-emergency situations; today I am not aware of parishes who offer this third option, the general wisdom being that personal confession to a priest better effects the sacramental intention of guilt and forgiveness. My contemporaries and I used the “formula three” format in the 1970’s and 1980’s; the rite was immensely popular at the time but perhaps it was light on the experiential side of the sacrament. Its advocates countered that the sign of an entire parish receiving forgiveness together was a profound outward sign of the sacrament. But this argument has not carried weight with Rome.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
26. Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops 
Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their differing rank, office, and actual participation.
The heart of Paragraph 26 is the opening sentence, a quotation from St. Cyprian of Carthage, a bishop from North Africa (c. 200-258 A.D.). Cyprian’s writings on the Church are the fruit of a very difficult age: the Roman persecutions of the churches in North Africa. The writings of Cyprian which have survived are not voluminous, and Cyprian was not a systematic “theologian” in the sense of St. Augustine, two centuries later. He was an influential Church leader on his continent, more preacher/administrator than philosopher, but his texts are the foundations of an important institutional component of worship and sacraments, that they be signs of unity.
Cyprian’s concern for unity in sacraments was the result of probably the first great crisis in sacramental discipline, the issue of reunion with the Church after serious sin, or what we would call today sacramental or canonical Penance. As a sitting bishop, Cyprian experience two waves of Roman persecution; during the second wave, he himself was beheaded. But he survived the first persecution and was thus confronted with the fallout that faced other bishops like himself. The Roman persecutors had put many Christians to the test: the faithful were subjected to a variety of intimidations, ranging from confiscation of goods to torture to actual sentence of death.
A Christian could avoid or reduce his torments if he or she repudiated membership in the Church and voluntarily made a gesture of worship toward a Roman deity. (On the standard marriage application form found in any parish office today, there is or should be a canonical question, “Have you ever left the Catholic Church by a formal act?” I guess publicly worshipping a Roman deity would serve as an affirmative answer.) In ancient times, the term for abandoning the faith in persecution was apostacy, a grave sin in the eyes of the Church given the horrific sufferings of those who remained faithful to Christ. Witnesses of the times chronicled the most heroic sufferers, and the most famous of these sufferers are celebrated in our Church calendar: Sebastian, Lawrence, Agnes, Cecelia, etc.—and some are remembered in today’s Eucharistic Prayer I.
After the first persecution, Cyprian actually faced a twin problem. He was confronted with a small group of living survivors of Roman violence—those maimed and scarred in ghastly ways who enjoyed a kind of charismatic authority among the faithful that exceeded the ordinary authority of a consecrated bishop. In fact, the intercession of a “living martyr” seems to have been a component of the earliest rites of Penance. Cyprian would have been sensitive to the extraordinary role of these heroes and heroines vis-à-vis the normative rule of bishops who shared in the authority of the apostolic succession through the laying on of hands.
But by far his greater challenge came from the other extreme, those guilty of the sin of apostasy. What was to become of them? It is hard to know percentages as no data exists, but given the prolonged controversy that ensued, it is fair to say that a good number of Christians apostatized. In fact, Cyprian himself came under some scrutiny here, as Roman officials targeted bishops for execution. Cyprian undertook a self-imposed exile during the first persecution, on the not unreasonable argument that the local churches needed living shepherds as much as hallowed martyrs.
When Cyprian returned to Carthage, he discovered that pastoral practice in his absence had taken two distinct directions. In some cases, the apostates (known as lapsi) were received back into full communion with little or no fanfare. Other Church leaders held that the lapsi could never reenter the Christian assembly. Cyprian took a middle position: that lapsi might seek full reception to the Eucharist through the one-year process of canonical or sacramental penance. Cyprian summoned all the North African bishops to a synod in Carthage, where his moderate position became standard except among extremists who agitated into the fourth century virtually to the time of Constantine. It is important to add that Rome itself suffered the same divisions during persecutions there.
Cyprian’s experience and writings are brought into Vatican II for multiple reasons. His quote in para. 26 stresses the importance of unity in the Church as it gathers for Eucharist with its bishop (or today, with his authorized surrogate, the ordained priest.) In Cyprian’s thinking the primacy of the Apostolic Tradition was nowhere more visible than in the breaking of bread by a legitimate successor of the apostles, i.e., a bishop, in union with the faithful. The power of liturgy, then, is derived from the Spirit-filled successors of the apostles.
Para. 26, citing Cyprian, also makes a compelling argument about Church governance. The third-century bishop was a strong proponent of an institutionally structured Church, built around the office of the bishop. (Theology books use the term “monarchical bishops.”) As much as Cyprian respected the “living martyrs” of his day, he did not cede to them an authority parallel to that of duly consecrated bishops in the Apostolic Tradition. The Church today does not deny that the Holy Spirit grants unique gifts, virtues, and insight upon any baptized persons—gifts referred to biblically as “charisms” as in charismatic—but as an institution the Church leads through what it has received from Scripture and the collective wisdom of bishops and their faithful.
As a historical sidebar, I should add that during Vatican II, one of the biggest complaints of many of the bishops in attendance was the diminished regard for the office of the episcopacy and a nineteenth century shift toward a monarchical papacy. In practice, they complained, the Church put all authority in the hands of the pope, who doled out whatever governing powers local bishops needed. The bishops rightfully argued that by the Sacrament of Order they enjoyed Apostolic authority themselves that needed expression in the governance of the Church. Consequently, the Council and the Vatican agreed to regular consultations or synods of bishops, the most recent being Pope Francis’ Synod on Marriage and the Family two years ago.
Para. 26 also addresses a common practice in 1963, the “private Mass.” A priest was expected to offer Mass daily; most priests regarded their daily Mass as a privilege of their ordination. In parishes, the priest’s daily Mass would have been a public parish Mass. On vacations, it was common practice for a priest to seek permission to offer Mass—publicly or privately—in the closest church. But in religious communities such as my seminary, there might be as many as twenty priests living under the same roof with only one “public” Mass, that being for the seminarians. Thus, our seminary church—like many of the old churches and cathedrals you might see today in your travels—was lined with smaller side altars; I believe we had twelve altars along with the main altar at the front. It was not unusual at around 6:30 AM for all thirteen altars to be in use at the same time—the seminarians Mass from the high altar, and twelve individual Masses offered by twelve individual priests at the same time, with one altar server in attendance at each one.
Even before Vatican II there was discussion among academics about the idea of “concelebration,” where all priests in a church or institution might celebrate Mass together. Para. 26 proposes that the idea of Mass as a “private function” be replaced with the better understanding of Mass as a sacrament of unity, both within the priesthood and with the faithful at large. I was a sacristan in 1967 when my seminary began to offer concelebrated Masses as standard fare, with many of my teachers celebrating Mass together. Some older clergy found the concelebrations difficult to accept and continued to offer the private side altar Masses. I do not know if any newly ordained priests have brought back the private Mass for their own reasons, but Church law and practice strongly favors fewer and better attended Masses as appropriate sacramental signs of the unity of the Church.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
25. The liturgical books are to be revised as soon as possible; experts are to be employed on the task, and bishops are to be consulted, from various parts of the world.
I had dinner last week with one of our diocesan transitional deacons; he will complete his final year of theology starting this fall and then enter the priesthood next spring. He will be a fine addition to the presbyterate, a future priest who is spiritual and thoughtful. We compared seminary experiences. He told me that his seminary employs technology in the training of sacramental execution. He and his peers are videotaped as they practice sermons and sacramental rituals; there is evidently a doll used in practice of the administration of Baptism which has been “baptized” over a thousand times in his seminary.
I didn’t want to scandalize our guest, but I had to confess that, prior to my own ordination, I had no courses on “how to say Mass.” I had a number of excellent courses in Sacramental Theology—the internationally renowned Regis Duffy was a favorite professor of mine, but we never had a “practicum.” During the summer of 1974 at St. Bonaventure University where I was director of liturgical music for the summer school, two close friends—a friar and a Sister of Mercy working toward advanced degrees--spent an hour with me just a few weeks before ordination as I did a walk-through. I learned by “doing,” but I was not alone in that.
My deacon guest was surprised at my lack of rubrical preparation, but then he recalled hearing and reading some of the historical problems immediately after Vatican II in terms of the state of the liturgy. “We heard that back then [after the Council and before the 1970 reformed Missal] priests used to say Mass from binders, and every week or so they received another insert as soon as it was written.” That is a fairly close rendition of what happened; in fact, the new rite for the Sacrament of Penance was not implemented until after my ordination.
Paragraph 25 suffers from an unfortunate contradiction: it calls for the liturgical books, such as the Mass Missal, to be revised as soon as possible. It also calls for the best theological minds from both academia and bishops from around the world to become intimately involved in the process. In other words, complete an exquisitely delicate and professional revamping of the central rites of the Church—a project not attempted in five centuries, since the Council of Trent—and get it done as soon as possible. The result of para. 25 was an inordinate amount of haste and an inordinate lack of reflection which probably harmed the renewal process in several ways and put priests and laity through a period of constant turmoil. [What kind of “reflection,” you ask? See this analysis of the Kiss of Peace, “A Kiss Is Never Just a Kiss,” written in 1995, and not in 1965, alas.]
I have written a lot about the emotional stress on Catholics during that period, but not quite so much about the finished product, which is essentially our present-day celebration of sacraments. It is probably fair to say that the order of the Mass, for example, might have benefited from more time in its arrangement and clearer catechesis at a number of points. I can think of a few off the top of my head: (1) greater thought on the communal nature of the Mass, i.e., how we interact with each other such that our faith makes Christ present in actual experience. The post-Vatican II buzzword “participation” was not fully developed; in practice, local churches took it to mean more congregational singing and drinking from the cup, in tandem with the Roman guidelines regarding the observance of the Kiss of Peace among the faithful.
The communal nature of the Mass would have been greatly enhanced if the authors of the new Missal had (2) addressed the heart of Church architecture. As it is now—with some notable exceptions—the Mass of Vatican II is celebrated in the structures of the Council of Trent of the sixteenth century, templates of the old Roman Churches that in turn reflect pagan worship, since Constantine bequeathed the Roman worship spaces to the Church in the fourth century. Sacraments, as signs, need to be seen by all the faithful, including the seven-year-old boy in pew #21. Given that Rome did not address the actual mortar and brick question until some ways down the road, local churches built and/or renovated from the 1960’s either took the leap into circular buildings or, more commonly, fell back to the template of familiarity, the rectangular box with the tabernacle at the front. When my own church’s renovation is complete next year, the boys and girls of pew 5 and beyond will be condemned to another generation of visual exclusion.
First impressions of the new rite of worship were not only important; they also set templates for procedures to follow. A very good example of this is Church music, (3) another area where philosophical guidance on renewal was slow in coming—or just ignored, a very common circumstance in the United States—was the role and form of music in the liturgy. There was not much congregational singing at Mass prior to the Council. It was not required; parishes usually employed choirs in lofts to sing the parts of the Mass, the Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei as well as assigned psalms of entrance (the Introit), the response to the Epistle (the Gradual), the offering of gifts, and the reception of communion.
As Vatican II progressed, the first word on the streets, so to speak, was the primacy of “participation.” The easiest way to foster participation, to “get the folks at Mass involved,” proved to be music. Moreover, the composition and direction of music was a golden first opportunity for the laity to “own” the process of renewal, since there was a vacuum at the time of congregational music available. As I look back myself, I recall that our first congregational organ hymns were often Lutheran, such as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” But what old timers remember—and even millennials have heard about—was the advent of the guitar Mass or the “folk Mass.” For a decade or two, “folk Masses” were avant garde or cutting edge.
As the old comedian Jimmy Durante used to say in his routines, “Everybody’s gotta get into the act.” And in American Catholicism, they did. It was the golden age of amateurism. I taught myself to play an old World War II guitar my father gave me, and then nagged my religious superior to cough up $200 for a Martin 12-string, which I played passably, enough to receive many invitations to parishes, convents, schools, etc. For five years a group of us played for the Saturday Vigil Mass at Arlington Cemetery’s military church.
Prior to Vatican II there were no Catholic guitar hymnals, at least not until Dennis Fitzpatrick appeared on the scene. Fitzpatrick is to church folk music what Brian Epstein was to the Beatles, an individual who saw an opportunity. He sized up the market for innovative guitar music and began to collect the independent composers of music, such as Ray Repp and Gary Ault, and formed the Apple Corporation of Vatican II early liturgy, Friends of the English Liturgy, or more commonly, F.E.L. Publications. The first printed hymnal for guitar Masses, The Hymnal for Young Christians, appeared in the mid-1960’s. Given the grassroots origins, the guitar songs reflected the pop culture of the times—Peter, Paul, and Mary stand out in my mind. Today, my generation looks back on the era with amusement, nostalgia, or dismay. None of the products of that time have enjoyed survival in today’s pastoral scene. There were two unfortunate side effects of the guitar era: the parishes subconsciously absorbed the idea that mediocrity and amateurism were the new norms, and that Mass singing equaled song singing, which led to the “four hymn sandwich” you probably employ in your own parish. (Entrance, Offertory, Communion, Closing.) The early composers and publishers were not theologians, nor were they even officers of the Church. Very little of the immediate post-Council music reflected theological and historical principles regarding music and liturgy.
In summary, para. 25 tried to square the circle of urgency versus depth, and we are still paying the price for that. In a few cases, that price could be steep. I have included a portion of a circuit court’s 1990 ruling involving the Friends of the English Liturgy and the unfortunate Dennis Fitzpatrick:
Operating under the aegis of F.E.L. Publications, Ltd., Fitzpatrick was a successful publisher of religious music for Roman Catholic liturgies. In fact, Fitzpatrick was so successful that, with little regard for the copyright laws, religious groups often copied his music. Some of these groups were controlled by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, which soon found itself on the wrong end of a September 1976 lawsuit by F.E.L. Publications for copyright infringement. At the same time, F.E.L. Publications sent letters to all other Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States threatening litigation for copyright infringement.
In October 1976, Monsignor Brackin, the Vicar General of the Chicago archdiocese, sent two letters to institutions within his jurisdiction. These letters mentioned the pending litigation and asked that all use of F.E.L. materials cease immediately. Monsignor Brackin also requested that all F.E.L. materials be turned over to archdiocesan officials. In response to inquiries from other Roman Catholic clergy, Monsignor Brackin mailed copies of these letters to all dioceses in the United States. Monsignor Brackin's mailings are at the heart of this lawsuit.
After Monsignor Brackin sent his letters, F.E.L. experienced a sharp decline in sales whereas other publishers of liturgical music gained market share. Today, F.E.L. is no longer in business. Consequently, added a tortious interference with contractual relations count to its copyright suit. Specifically, F.E.L. claimed that the Chicago Archdiocese's ban on F.E.L. music interfered with actual and prospective contractual relations with Roman Catholic parishes and other institutions both within and without the Chicago Archdiocese. The focus of F.E.L.'s suit is Monsignor Brackin's letters about the ban that were mailed to third parties outside the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The court awarded Mr. Fitzpatrick $200,000 in damages, a quarter century after the first appearance of the Hymnal For Young Christians.