Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

Archive for benediction

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.



When a Host Isn’t Swallowed

ROME, JUNE 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: How should one dispose of a consecrated host which was placed in the mouth of an ill person who, in the end, was unable to swallow it? — L.M., Kennesaw, Georgia

Q: In Canada most parishes use several types of missal booklets for either English or French Masses. Once these have expired they are thrown out. The question is, since the majority of people now take Communion in the hand instead of directly by the mouth, particles of the host are bound to become attached to these missals when the communicant returns to their pew. How then should these missals be disposed of? It just doesn’t seem right, if they have particles of host on them, to throw them in the garbage. Could you please give us some advice on this problem? — R.H., Otterburn Park, Quebec

A: A host which has been partially consumed in some way may be disposed of by placing it in water until it has dissolved, and then pouring the water into the sacrarium or into the ground.

If the mishap has occurred outside of a parish — for example, in a nursing home or hospital with no chapel — then it should be carefully wrapped in a purificator and brought to the parish for proper disposal.

Some courageous ministers might be willing to consume such a host themselves out of respect, but this is usually not advisable and is unnecessary.

Regarding the second question, I do not think there is really much danger of fragments of hosts remaining on the booklets.

If such were the case, then they would also remain in other places such as the pews, the clothes worn by the faithful and all over the floor. If the Church had considered that there was a serious danger of fragments being deposited in various places as a result of the practice of receiving Communion in the hand, then it would never have contemplated permitting the practice.

This is, of course, presuming that the hosts used are properly produced and not subject to easy fragmentation.

Also, as dealt with in more detail in the follow-up published on July 5, 2005, according to traditional Catholic theology, above all, that of St. Thomas Aquinas, a microscopic fragment is no longer an integral part of the host and may therefore be considered as equivalent to a corrupt host in which Christ’s presence would no longer subsist.

Therefore, I believe that the booklets may be disposed of without scruple as regards the possibility of the Eucharistic presence. They still contain God’s Word, however, and, while strictly speaking they are not sacred objects like the missal or lectionary, many people have scruples about mixing these booklets with the common trash.

While it is not necessary to go to great lengths to dispose of them, if feasible, it may be better to take them directly to an incinerator or paper recycler rather than mixing them with the common garbage.

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Follow-up: Benediction by a Bishop

After our piece on a bishop giving Benediction (May 29), a reader from Malmö, Sweden, asked: “I’ve noticed that a bishop may also give a blessing with the Book of the Gospels. Does he do this on more solemn occasions? Is there any difference when giving the blessing with the Book of the Gospels and when giving it with the monstrance and Blessed Sacrament?”

The practice of the bishop imparting a blessing with the Book of the Gospels on certain solemn occasions is a relative novelty in the liturgy.

It may have been introduced by Pope John Paul II. For some time it was considered as a prerogative exclusive to the Holy Father, even though some bishops also began to impart this blessing, probably influenced by televised papal Masses.

Although the norm legitimizing the custom is not mentioned in the Ceremonial of Bishops, it has been incorporated into some recent publications such as the introduction to the Book of the Gospels.

The norm does not specify how this blessing is to be carried out. The general practice seems to be that, after proclaiming the Gospel, the priest or deacon brings the open book to the bishop to be kissed. The priest or deacon then closes the Book of the Gospels and gives it to the bishop who makes a simple sign of the cross with the volume in a manner similar to that of Benediction with the monstrance. In other cases the book is brought, already closed, to the bishop, who takes it, kisses it and then imparts the blessing.

The rubric does not indicate on what solemn occasions this blessing is imparted and apparently leaves the decision to the bishop himself.

The rubric does indicate, however, that only the bishop imparts this blessing and this rite is never carried out by a priest.

Benediction by a Bishop

And More on BlessingsROME, MAY 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: When a bishop gives Benediction with the monstrance, does he use one great sign of the cross like a priest, or does he use the triple sign of the cross like at Mass without the monstrance? I’ve seen it done both ways by bishops. — D.Z., Marquette, Michigan

A: The norms in force before the present rite did foresee the triple sign of the cross when a bishop gave Benediction.

The present norms found in the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 1114, simply describe the bishop who, after taking the monstrance, “then turns towards the people and makes the sign of the cross over them with the monstrance in silence.”

The accompanying footnote refers to No. 99 of the ritual of Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. As this ritual makes no distinction between Benedictions imparted by a bishop or a priest, it may thus be presumed that a particular form of Eucharistic Benediction is no longer foreseen for a bishop even though some prelates may have continued the earlier practice out of force of habit.

On the other hand the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 169, does specify the triple sign of the cross at the end of Mass.

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Follow-up: Blessings Without a Stole

In line with our column on blessings without a stole (May 15), several readers have asked a similar question: “Is it proper for lay extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to give a ‘blessing’ to young children or people who cannot (or choose not to) receive the Eucharist?”

There are many ways of distinguishing kinds of blessings and sacramentals. One such distinction is between constituent and invocative sacramental.

The effect of a constituent sacramental is to transform the person or object being blessed in such a way that it is separated from profane use. Examples would include the blessing of an abbot and the blessing of holy water. Practically all of these blessings are reserved to an ordained minister and sometimes are the exclusive preserve of the bishop.

Invocative blessings call down God’s blessing and protection upon a person or thing without sacralizing them in any way. Some of these blessings are reserved to the ordained, such as the blessing of the assembly at the end of a liturgical celebration.

Some blessings may also be imparted by lay people by delegation or by reason of some special liturgical ministry, above all when an ordained minister is absent or impeded (see general introduction to the Shorter Book of Blessings, No. 18). In these cases lay people use the appropriate formulas designated for lay ministers.

This latter situation is probably the case of the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion who ask that God’s blessing may come upon those who for some good reason approach the altar but do not receive Communion.

Finally, some simple blessings may be given by lay people in virtue of their office, for example, parents on behalf of their children.