Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

Archive for January, 2009

When an Orthodox Joins the Catholic Church

And More on Deacons

ROME, OCT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is the procedure for a person who was baptized Macedonian Orthodox and who now wants to be received into the Roman Catholic Church? — F.F., Toronto

A: In the vast majority of cases Orthodox Christians have been validly baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist from infancy, and thus do not have to receive any of these sacraments.

Likewise, Catholic canon law allows a Catholic priest to administer the sacraments of Eucharist, reconciliation and anointing to Orthodox Christians if their own minister is unavailable or for other just causes. (Most Orthodox Churches, however, do not approve of their faithful availing of this possibility.)

For this reason Orthodox Christians intending to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church would usually be able to participate in the Church’s sacramental life even before their formal incorporation, either in the Latin rite or in an Eastern Catholic rite.

Prior to formal incorporation, they would still require a dispensation from the bishop before entering into marriage and a man could not enter into seminary formation. Nor could they receive any formal ministry.

The specific process for incorporating a baptized Eastern Christian is covered above all in the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, canons 35 and 896-901.

Canon 896 specifies that for those adult Christians (beyond 14 years) “who ask of their own accord to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, whether as individuals or as groups, no burden is to be imposed beyond what is necessary.”

Canon 897 indicates that the Christian may be received “With only the profession of faith after a doctrinal and spiritual preparation that is suited to the person’s condition.”

With respect to individual laypersons the right to receive usually pertains to the pastor although in some cases particular law might reserve this admission to a higher authority (cf. Canon 898.3).

Canon 35, however, is important because it specifies that baptized non-Catholics entering into full communion “should retain their own rite and should observe it everywhere in the world as far as humanly possible. Thus they are to be ascribed to the Church ‘sui iuris’ of the same rite.”

When the person wishes not only to become Catholic but to change to the Latin rite, the same canon recognizes the right to approach the Holy See (the Congregation for Eastern Churches) in special cases.

Therefore, in the case at hand, the simplest thing to do is to approach the Eastern eparchy most closely resembling his original rite in order to be admitted into the Catholic Church in accordance with the dispositions of the pastor.

Once admitted, he should continue to practice the faith in the corresponding Eastern rite. But he may also freely practice in the Latin rite for a just cause, for example, if there were no churches of his own rite within a reasonable distance.

In order to formally switch rites, he would need to recur to the Holy See as mentioned above.

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Follow-up: What a Deacon Can Do

Two readers offered friendly criticism of an expression used in my Oct. 2 column on what a deacon can and cannot do.

One wrote: “Father McNamara says that the deacon is of a ‘lower grade’ of order than a priest. While such a designation might be accurate in terms of reflecting the liturgical faculties associated with the diaconate, it seems to suggest that a deacon is in some way subservient to a priest, which I believe is a trivialization of the ordained ministry of service. Rather than a strict hierarchical construct in which the line might be a straight one from bishop to priest to deacon, my understanding of the diaconate, traditionally and in our contemporary context, is that the ordained deacon is directly accountable to the bishop. That is, of a class of order unique to itself.”

Another added: “You state that the deacon is a lower grade than a priest. ‘Lumen Gentium,’ No. 29, does indeed say ‘at a lower level of hierarchy are deacons,’ but it does go on to say ‘in communion with the Bishop and the presbyterate.’ So though there is a hierarchical difference between deacon and priest, and of course bishop and priest, there is also a fundamental unity and communion. Talk of lower grades by itself does not seem to me to do justice to this understanding of Vatican II.

“I do not think priests would welcome being told they are a lower grade than bishops, full stop. That would again not do justice to a proper understanding of priesthood and their share in the high priesthood of Christ to which a bishop is ordained.” The writer went on to say that a deacon is an ordained minister, who, like a priest, shares in the apostolic ministry of the Church “but with a distinct, different and differentiated but not lesser ministry than the priest.”

While I appreciate both the interest and the sincere friendliness of these observations, I believe that the term is technically accurate from the point of view of the sacrament of orders. Bishop, priest and deacon are not three separate sacraments but different levels (or grades or degrees) of the one sacrament of holy orders.

Each level has its own value and its proper sphere of ministry and specific liturgical functions. Yet, they are not simply three distinct modes of orders but are indeed hierarchically structured. The deacon has many particular functions, but insofar as he is at the service of the Eucharistic mystery his ministry necessarily depends upon and is related to the priestly ministry, not as subservience but as service.

Given that the Eucharist is the center and lifeblood of the Church, all other possible diaconal ministries such as celebrating baptism and matrimony ultimately flow from the priest’s Eucharistic ministry.

However, the priest’s Eucharistic ministry, and hence the deacon’s relatedness to him, in turn depends on the bishop and finally upon Christ himself as the foundation of all the sacraments.

In this sense of sacramental and hierarchical communion and interdependence, it is no slight to a deacon to state the fact that his is a lower grade of the sacrament of orders, just as the priest’s dignity is in no way demeaned by saying that he is at a lower grade of orders compared to the bishop. This is implied in the Latin text of the prayer of priestly ordination which asks that the candidate receive the second grade or degree of priestly ministry.

For this reason I believe that our first correspondent’s affirmation regarding the deacon and priest’s direct accountability to the bishop confuses two distinct spheres. One thing is that all clerics depend directly upon the bishop with regard to assignments and ministries; another is the specific liturgical functions, which depend on the nature of the sacrament itself.

As stated in the previous article, among the practical consequences of this sacramental reality is that the deacon should not ordinarily preside over the assembly whenever a priest is present and available, just as a priest should not normally preside over the assembly in the presence of a bishop.

There may be some legitimate exceptions to this general rule, but I believe that it is important to recognize that this rule is grounded in the nature of the sacrament and is not a mere question of protocol and human criteria.



Mentioning the Mass Intention

And More on Multiple Chalices

ROME, OCT. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Unlike our present pastor, our former priest always would mention the intention for the Mass. Is this up to the individual priest? It gets printed in our bulletin, but I would hope the priest would mention who the Mass is for at some point, even though I know God knows who it is for. — L.S., St. Louis, Missouri

A: While there are no universal laws regarding this topic, some dioceses have published norms with common-sense indications that all priests may take into account.

My reply is inspired by the norms issued by the Diocese of Rome.

There is no requirement to mention the priest’s intention at the Mass. Thus, a mention in the bulletin or some other public notification is a legitimate option, especially when the pastor is aware that the person who requested the Mass will not be present at the celebration.

If the person or family who requested the intention wishes to be present, then it is good that the celebrant mention the name of the person for whom the Mass is being offered.

This may best be done either after the greeting at the beginning of Mass or as an intention of the prayer of the faithful.

The name should not normally be mentioned during the Eucharistic prayer. This naming is best left for funeral Masses, Masses at the notification of death, and significant anniversaries. The special formulas for funerals, especially in Eucharistic Prayers 2 and 3, were specifically composed with such occasions in mind and were not conceived for daily recitation.

It should be remembered that the Mass intention refers above all to the intention of the celebrating priest who took upon himself the commitment to celebrate for a specific intention when he accepted a stipend.

Since the Mass is infinite the priest may also have other personal intentions that may or may not be reflected in the Mass formula used.

For example, a priest may offer the Mass for a deceased soul while at the same time using the Mass formula “For Vocations,” with the personal intention of asking God to bless the Church with abundant vocations.

Likewise, while any person assisting at Mass is free to associate his prayer with the intention of the priest celebrant, he or she is also free to offer up participation at the Mass for any number of personal intentions.

We also have dealt amply with the topic of intentions and stipends in our columns of Feb. 22 and March 8 in 2005.
Follow-up: Using Multiple Ciboria and Chalices

In the wake of our comments on multiple vessels (Sept. 25) a reader asked: “When several chalices are prepared for a concelebrated Mass, my understanding is that it is correct to add water to the wine only in the ‘main’ chalice, and that it is not necessary to add water to the wine in all the chalices. Is there any official document in which this is specified?”

This point has been discussed by liturgists, but no consensus has been found. Nor am I aware of any official norms on this particular subject.

Some liturgists hold the position that it is sufficient to add water to the chalice of the principal chalice, which thus forms a moral unity with the other chalices for the purpose of consecration.

This argument is fairly solid from the theological standpoint, and there would certainly be no doubt that the consecration would be valid and licit.

It also solves the problem of the rather ungainly sight of a deacon or priest pouring a drop of water into several chalices already arrayed upon the altar.

It is not, however, universal liturgical practice. Many celebrants prefer to place water in all chalices, along with wine, so that all communicants can receive from wine that has been mixed with water according to ancient Church tradition.

This may be done in two ways. If there are only a couple of extra chalices, then wine and water, or just water (if the extra chalices are already prepared) may be placed in all of them during the preparation of the gifts.

If there are many chalices, then water and wine may be placed in all but the principal chalice when the chalices are prepared before Mass begins.

This latter solution is generally practiced by the Vatican sacristans for large concelebrations at St. Peter’s.



What a Deacon Can Do

And More on Altar Cloths

ROME, OCT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: In our parish we have a temporary overseas priest and a married deacon. During Benediction our married deacon consistently wears the full vestments that a priest wears for Benediction; says the Divine Praises; and elevates the monstrance while the overseas priest either sits watching in the pew or acts as an acolyte, swinging the thurible. The priest only wears an alb or even just plain clothes with no vestments, and remains kneeling. Several parishioners are much disturbed and have said so. I have asked the deacon why he wears the priest’s vestments. His answer: “I’m an ordained minister.” My reply was, “But you are not a priest.” I asked, “Who has given you authority to do this?” He stated that the bishop has. There are other irregularities which he persists in during the Mass. He stands throughout the prayers; takes the host from the ciborium given to him by the overseas priest; mouths the doxology; and even holds the paten containing the host. — R.I., state of New South Wales, Australia

A: Some distinctions should be made. Although the deacon is an ordained minister, he is of a lower grade than a priest and therefore he should not preside over the community if a priest is present.

Therefore in normal cases a deacon may not give a blessing, and even less so Benediction, if a priest is present and available.

He may do so if the priest is legitimately impeded, for example, if the priest were hearing confessions during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and could not leave the confessional to impart Benediction.

In those cases where the deacon legitimately imparts Benediction, either because there is no priest or the priest is impeded, the deacon may wear the same vestments as the priest: the stole albeit worn in the manner of a deacon, the cope and the humeral veil. He may also recite or sing the same prayers as the priest. He does not need any special permission from the bishop to wear these vestments as the rubrics already foresee it.

The other actions that our correspondent describes are aptly termed irregularities. The deacon should usually kneel for the consecration, silently hold up the chalice (not the paten) for the doxology, and should always receive Communion from the priest and not self-communicate.

Rather than any special permission or dispensation from the bishop (who is unlikely to dispense from basic liturgical law for no reason), such errors are more probably due to bad habits and imperfect liturgical formation. The person responsible for correcting them is the pastor, the priest celebrant, or even the bishop if the local priest is unwilling.

When a deacon is ordained he promises the bishop and the Church that he is willing to carry out the diaconal service with humility and love as a cooperator of the priestly order and for the good of the Christian people. If he lives up to his promise, then he will gladly correct any errors that might have crept in.

The Web site of the U.S. bishops’ conference has a useful document “The Deacon at Mass,” based on the latest norms from the Holy See.

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Follow-up: Altar Cloths

A priest reader from British Columbia sent in some more information regarding cloths that may be placed upon the altar (see Sept. 18 column).

He wrote: “There is the practice, not universal, of placing a cerecloth, a cloth made waterproof by being soaked in wax. It was placed immediately under the altar cloth to prevent, in the case of accident, any spilled Precious Blood seeping through to other cloths or coverings. Apparently this type of cloth was also used in wrapping a corpse. Hence, the mind might allow for a connection between the Bloody Sacrifice of Calvary and the Un-bloody Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.”

A reader from Israel asked: “Is there or was there a rite or prayers to prepare an altar that hasn’t been used recently for Mass and hasn’t had the Blessed Sacrament present for a while? Perhaps called ‘dressing the altar’?”

In most cases an altar that has been unused for some time does not lose its original dedication and there is no need to be dedicated or blessed anew.

A suitable way of underlining the return to use is with a new set of liturgical objects, such as a new altar cloth and other linens. These may be blessed at the beginning of Mass using the appropriate rites and formulas described in the Book of Blessings.

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.



Using Multiple Ciboria and Chalices

And More on Spanish Homilies

ROME, SEPT. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Can you advise as to the correct procedure when arranging ciboria and chalices on the altar following the receiving of the gifts? Given that during a large celebration there will be a number of chalices and ciboria, is it appropriate to arrange them symmetrically giving pride of place to the celebrant’s chalice and ciborium? There are those self-proclaimed liturgists who would insist that as there “is only ONE bread and ONE body,” only the celebrant’s chalice and paten/ciborium should be placed centrally on the corporal and the additional vessels should be placed “to one side.” This seems to me to fly in the face of consecration of the elements. — I.M., Island of Jersey, United Kingdom

A: Among the most explicit norms touching on this theme are the norms published by the U.S. bishops’ conference on Communion under both kinds. Although these norms have no legal force outside of the States, they are indicative and have been approved by the Holy See.

Among other practical suggestions they say:

“32. Before Mass begins, wine and hosts should be provided in vessels of appropriate size and number. The presence on the altar of a single chalice and one large paten can signify the one bread and one chalice by which we are gathered ‘into the one Body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.’ When this is not possible, care should be taken that the number of vessels should not exceed the need.

“At the Preparation of the Gifts

“36. The altar is prepared with corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless the chalice is prepared at a side table) by the deacon and the servers. The gifts of bread and wine are brought forward by the faithful and received by the priest or deacon or at a convenient place. (Cf. GIRM, no. 333). If one chalice is not sufficient for Holy Communion to be distributed under both kinds to the Priest concelebrants or Christ’s faithful, several chalices are placed on a corporal on the altar in an appropriate place, filled with wine. It is praiseworthy that the main chalice be larger than the other chalices prepared for distribution.”

On the one hand, these norms present the preferred situation of a single chalice and one large paten. On the other, they bow to the reality of many different situations and wisely abstain from offering rigid proposals for all circumstances.

This same flexibility may be used in responding to the question at hand.

While certainly pride of place must always be given to the celebrant’s chalice and paten, placing them directly in front of him, other chalices and ciboria may be arranged either beside the principal vessels on a single large corporal or on other corporals placed upon the altar.

In some very large concelebrations with many vessels, a special corporal covering almost the entire altar table and placed before Mass is sometimes used, as the vessels take up most of the available space.

Among the factors to be taken into account is the number of vessels. If we are speaking of but one or two extra vessels, then having everything on a single corporal is probably preferable. If there are many vessels, then extra corporals would be preferred, located in such a way so as not to block the view of the main vessels and also respecting common-sense symmetry and aesthetics.

Other elements to be considered include the size of the altar, the logistics of the various movements, the number of concelebrants and faithful, and the method chosen for distributing holy Communion. Since all of these might vary from one celebration to the next, there is no universal rule that can be applied to all cases.

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Follow-up: Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman

Several attentive readers offered input on our Sept. 11 commentary regarding a layman reading a priest’s homily in Spanish.

Some readers illustrated the huge difficulties faced by many priests seeking to accommodate the influx of Spanish-speaking parishioners throughout the continental United States, including in some unexpected regions.

One reader pointed out these difficulties are often compounded by the fact that not all immigrants speak the same variety of Spanish. And there are even rural immigrants from countries such as Peru and Mexico for whom Spanish is not their first language.

In such cases, even standard Spanish can leave them perplexed in a similar way as happens to English-speaking Americans visiting England who discover the truth behind Churchill’s quip that they are two countries separated by the same language.

In my earlier reply I had supposed that the solution of simultaneous translation was rather uncommon. An experienced reader, however, informed me that this is often the preferred and best solution in many parishes.

He wrote: “Simultaneous translation maintains the original ‘communicative’ rapport of the pastor with his flock. My recent experience of this situation in the USA is that the level of English among the [Spanish-speaking] listeners is extremely diverse. Some will understand 100%, others 80%, 50%, etc. Those who have no knowledge of English have the live translation, and they can also perceive the personality of the priest in his intonations, facial expressions and gestures. It establishes a much more personal relationship than simply listening to a written text read to them.

“I have seen priests do this in an engaging way that manages to create a very lively rapport with the congregation, even without the homilists’ speaking a single word of their language. In the situation described, there are surely people willing to do the simultaneous translation and, in the end, all will benefit greatly from it.”

If an immediate simultaneous translation is not feasible, but it is possible for someone to translate the text of the homily ahead of time, then I believe that the best solution is that the priest preach the homily in English and after each paragraph or principal point some other person read the translation, preferably using a different microphone.

While I know of no official document forbidding it, I still maintain that having a layperson read the whole homily in lieu of the priest is not a proper solution. The nature of the homily as a communication of the ordained minister should be preserved as far as possible.

Likewise it is necessary to avoid even the appearance of any confusion of ministerial roles or of a layperson delivering the homily. Most regular parishioners are capable of distinguishing between a layperson reading and preaching the homily. But in the highly mobile U.S. society, visitors are frequent, and it is best to avoid all possibility of scandal.

It is also true that some input from the lay reader is inevitable as nobody can read a text without putting himself into it. Words that are read are never merely someone else’s communication.