Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

Archive for Homilies

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.

* * *

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.



Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman

 

And More on Devotions During Mass

ROME, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Our parish has one Mass in Spanish. None of the priests and deacons is a native Hispanic, but the priests make every effort on their part to say Mass in Spanish. They are improving. I am one of the deacons and am fluent in Spanish, having lived in Spanish-speaking countries for several years. The pastor has his English homilies translated into Spanish. I read the Gospel in Spanish and sit down while a native Spanish-speaking layman reads the homily. Another priest has his English homily translated also, but he reads it himself. Is it permitted for the layperson to read the homily? — R.M., Huntersville, North Carolina

A: In first place, one must duly recognize the zeal and effort made by many English-speaking priests in the United States to meet the pastoral needs of the growing Spanish-speaking population.

Learning a new language is never easy, and doing so when one is already advanced in life is yet more daunting.

That said, I do not believe that having a layperson read out a translation of a homily is a viable solution. It is likely to cause confusion and leave the impression that the layperson is actually giving the homily itself, a practice which has been repeatedly prohibited.

Also, a homily is more that just a text that is read; it is closer to a conversation, a personal communication in which the ordained minister explains God’s word and exhorts the faithful to live in accordance with what they have heard. Therefore the personal element is very relevant to the efficacy of the communication itself.

With this in mind the best solution is always that the priest read his prepared text. My experience with Spanish speakers is that they are almost universally grateful and edified when the minister makes the effort to speak in their language. They are also very tolerant and forgiving of errors and slip-ups.

While having the deacon read the text avoids the problem of confusing ministerial roles, it is still an imperfect solution from the personal communicative point of view.

Since the deacon may also give the homily, it would probably be better that the pastor entrust him with this task until he acquires a sufficient dominion of the language. Of course, the pastor could indicate to the deacon the principal ideas that he would like the deacon to develop in the homily he delivers.

Another, less perfect, but legitimate, solution would be to deliver the homily in English while someone else, either the deacon or a layperson, either simultaneously translates the homily or reads a prepared text afterward. This kind of solution is more common when the Mass is celebrated by a foreign ecclesiastical dignitary who preaches in a language unknown to most of the hearers.

There might, however, be some extraordinary cases when the homily may be simply read by someone else due to some impediment on the part of the celebrant. This was the case in the final years of Pope John Paul II when his ability to speak clearly was increasingly impaired by illness.

There are many useful pastoral resources available on the Internet for priests and deacons. One of these, ePriest, has a special section offering Spanish-language homilies in text and audio.

* * *

Follow-up: Novenas and Devotions During Mass

In the wake of our column on mixing devotions and Mass (Aug. 28) a priest from Conway Springs, Kansas, asked for a clarification.

I had written: “[I]t is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass.” Our correspondent asked: “Could you clarify the difference between ‘non-liturgical litanies’ and ‘liturgical litanies’? Are the only ‘liturgical litanies’ those in the sacramentary (e.g., at the Easter Vigil or an ordination)? I was taught that certain litanies, such as of the Sacred Heart, were approved for use within a liturgy of the Church.”

By “liturgical litanies” I referred to the various litanies specifically found in the liturgical books for the celebration of Mass as well as other sacraments (such as baptism, ordination and anointing of the sick) and sacramentals, such as the crowning of an image of Our Lady.

These would be the only litanies used as a specific rite within Mass, although some other forms of prayer, such as the prayer of the faithful and the Kyrie, are also technically litanies.

As our correspondent says, there are other approved litanies that may be used in public worship, such as during exposition (if consonant with the aims of adoration) and other public devotions and novenas. The principal approved litanies are found in the Roman Ritual and are also listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences (concession 22.2 partial indulgence).

The litanies (liturgical and devotional) thus universally approved are the litanies of the Holy Name, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Precious Blood, Blessed Virgin Mary (those of Loreto and the Queenship, which is used as part of the order of crowning an image), St. Joseph and All Saints.

Many other litanies have been approved either for private use of the faithful or in some cases for particular groups.

Among such litanies are the litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim, much beloved by Pope John Paul II, and the litany of Divine Mercy, both of which are often prayed in common. Others, usually prayed privately by individuals, include the litany of the Holy Spirit, of the Infant Jesus, of the Blessed Sacrament, of the Passion, and for the souls in purgatory.

The distinction between private and public use derives above all from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 1259.2). It forbade the public recitation of litanies that had not been approved by the Holy See. This prohibition included not only the public recitation of unapproved litanies by priests but extended to particular groups of the faithful who prayed in common without an ordained minister present.

This canon has not been retained in the present code. And while the law today is somewhat more flexible, it does not necessarily mean that all litanies formally approved for private use can now be publicly used.

There were and are good reasons for not multiplying the number of public litanies. Canon 839.2 of the 1983 Code directs the local ordinary to assure that “the prayers and pious and sacred exercises of the Christian people are fully in keeping with the norms of the Church.”



Slide Shows at Homilies

Slide Shows at Homilies

And More on Sacristans

ROME, SEPT. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Are there guidelines for slide shows shown during the homily at Mass? Are there guidelines for who (pastor/bishop) can authorize slide shows? Are there guidelines for the music played during a slide show? Is it OK to have a slide show and no homily? — M.M., Howell, New Jersey

Q: Each year, in our archdiocese, on two Sundays the homily at all the Masses is replaced by a recorded fund-raising appeal, one for the archdiocesan annual appeal and one for Catholic Charities. The celebrant does not give a separate homily. In the past it has been an audio recording; one year it was to be a video. I am not at all opposed to giving money to the archdiocesan appeal and Catholic Charities, but this seems like an abuse of the rubrics for Mass. — B.W., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

A: The most recent norms regarding the homily are found in the instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum.” Here are two key norms:

“[64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, ‘should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.’

“[67.] Particular care is to be taken so that the homily is firmly based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts throughout the course of the liturgical year and providing commentary on the texts of the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass, or of some other rite of the Church. It is clear that all interpretations of Sacred Scripture are to be referred back to Christ himself as the one upon whom the entire economy of salvation hinges, though this should be done in light of the specific context of the liturgical celebration. In the homily to be given, care is to be taken so that the light of Christ may shine upon life’s events. Even so, this is to be done so as not to obscure the true and unadulterated word of God: for instance, treating only of politics or profane subjects, or drawing upon notions derived from contemporary pseudo-religious currents as a source.”

It is clear, therefore, that the priest or deacon who gives the homily must be physically present. Thus, tapes or videos cannot replace the homily.

Likewise the proper place for an appeal is preferably after the post-Communion prayer, although in some cases a priest may effectively tie in a direct appeal with the themes of the liturgy during the homily. If a taped appeal is to be made, a priest may shorten his homily so as not to prolong the Mass.

It could be argued that when the bishop himself makes the tape or video, it is merely a modern version of a pastoral letter. These letters, which the bishop addresses to the whole diocese as its pastor, usually deal with matters of particular concern. Because of their importance they are sometimes read out at Mass in place of the homily.

A case could be made for this argument, but I believe that when dealing with regular annual appeals, and not some particular pastoral concern, it is still better to place them at the end of Mass and not replace the homily.

I am unaware of specific norms regarding the use of slide shows or presentations. But the norms above would certainly exclude the substitution of the homily by a presentation.

Another question is if they may be used as aids to the homily. The question has been debated among pastoral liturgists and I find the arguments against their use more convincing.

Images tend to remind people of television and thus they tend to induce a passivity that distracts from the core message being transmitted by the words.

Some would argue that “an image is worth a thousand words,” but this is a fallacy for whatever message is suggested by an image is understood in words by our linguistic intelligence. We think and hear in words, and nothing is understood without words. The spoken word is indispensable for all interpersonal communication.

Faith, as St. Paul said, is transmitted above all by hearing — which is one reason why preaching has always been privileged in Church practice.

* * *

Follow-up: A Sacristan’s Duties

After our piece on the duties of the sacristan (Aug. 21) a priest kindly notified us of a useful resource for sacristans. He wrote:

“Here is another resource for you in reference to the sacristan question. There is a manual called ‘The Sacristy Manual,’ published by Liturgy Training Publications, by G. Thomas Ryan. It gives some valuable information.”

It is worthwhile mentioning that several Catholic publishing houses have issued useful liturgical guidebooks and resources addressing various aspects of liturgical service. For example, Paulist Press published this year W.T. Ditewig’s “The Deacon at Mass,” a very recommendable theological and practical guide to what the deacon should and should not do.

I would probably quibble with the author regarding a couple of minor technicalities, but then liturgists are wont to quibble over such things.

* * *

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.