Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

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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.

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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.



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Concelebrants From Different Rites

And More on Consecrated Hosts

ROME, JUNE 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Are there special norms for the celebration of Mass when priests of different rites concelebrate? — A.E., New York

A: The 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite is silent regarding this subject, but it was specifically addressed in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated in 19–

Canon 701 of this code states: “For a just cause and with the permission of the eparchial bishop, bishops and presbyters of different churches ‘sui iuris’ can concelebrate, especially to foster love and to manifest the unity of the Churches. All follow the prescripts of the liturgical books of the principal celebrant, avoiding any liturgical syncretism whatever, and preferably with all wearing the liturgical vestments and insignia of their own Church ‘sui iuris.'”

Unlike most canons, this one lists no sources for its indications in earlier documents, thus confirming that it was specifically composed to address a relatively new situation. As it is the only norm available, its indications are also applicable to Roman-rite priests.

To this may be added the injunction of the instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” No. 113: “Where it happens that some of the Priests who are present do not know the language of the celebration and therefore are not capable of pronouncing the parts of the Eucharistic Prayer proper to them, they should not concelebrate, but instead should attend the celebration in choral dress in accordance with the norms.”

Therefore a priest, with sufficient dominion of the language, may receive permission to concelebrate in a Mass of a rite different from his own. This permission may be for a specific situation or habitual, as may be the case of some Eastern priests studying or residing in Latin-rite institutes or priestly residences.

The priest should normally participate in the vestments of his own rite, as was clearly visible in Pope John Paul II’s funeral and Benedict XVI’s installation Mass where each of the Eastern cardinals who concelebrated wore his own proper vestments.

Canon 7–2 of the Eastern code, however, allows for exceptions to be made to this rule if proper vestments are unavailable. This could easily happen to an Eastern priest traveling in Europe or America or, less likely, a Latin-rite priest in an Eastern country. In such cases he may concelebrate using Latin or Eastern vestments.

As the canon says, there should be no attempt to syncretize or mix elements of different rites. Only one rite may be followed.

The texts and rubrics of some Eastern rites have been translated into several languages. In some cases these translations are for study purposes only, and priests may never concelebrate using a translation that has not been formally approved for liturgical use by the proper authorities.

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Follow-up: When a Host Isn’t Swallowed

Some readers took umbrage toward the affirmation in our June 12 column on corruption of the host: that Christ’s real presence would no longer subsist in a microscopic fragment of the host.

A clarifying link to an earlier reply was provided in the earlier piece. However, given that not all of our readers have access to the Internet, I will restate the essential point here.

My reply was principally based on an application of the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologiae” III pars q — In the corpus of the fourth article of this question, “Whether the sacramental species can be corrupted,” the Angelic Doctor affirms:

“An accident can be corrupted in another way, through the corruption of its subject, and in this way also they can be corrupted after consecration; for although the subject does not remain, still the being which they had in the subject does remain, which being is proper, and suited to the subject. And therefore such being can be corrupted by a contrary agent, as the substance of the bread or wine was subject to corruption, and, moreover, was not corrupted except by a preceding alteration regarding the accidents.

“Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between each of the aforesaid corruptions; because, when the body and the blood of Christ succeed in this sacrament to the substance of the bread and wine, if there be such change on the part of the accidents as would not have sufficed for the corruption of the bread and wine, then the body and blood of Christ do not cease to be under this sacrament on account of such change, whether the change be on the part of the quality, as for instance, when the color or the savor of the bread or wine is slightly modified; or on the part of the quantity, as when the bread or the wine is divided into such parts as to keep in them the nature of bread or of wine. But if the change be so great that the substance of the bread or wine would have been corrupted, then Christ’s body and blood do not remain under this sacrament; and this either on the part of the qualities, as when the color, savor, and other qualities of the bread and wine are so altered as to be incompatible with the nature of bread or of wine; or else on the part of the quantity, as, for instance, if the bread be reduced to fine particles, or the wine divided into such tiny drops that the species of bread or wine no longer remain.”

Thus, our discussion dealt specifically with the theme of corruption of the host by reduction “to fine particles … that the species of bread no longer remain.”

This is a different question to that of Christ being really present in small particles or fragments of a host while retaining the species of bread. So long as the species of bread remains, Christ is really present and it is even possible to administer Communion to the sick or persecuted using very small pieces of hosts or even drops of Precious Blood.

Thus, while Christ would certainly not be present in microscopic or no longer visible fragments, it is almost impossible to establish a dividing line when dealing with small but visible particles — and the Church has never wished to pronounce on this theme.

In part this is due to the objective difficulty and danger in making such a demarcation, but also so as avoid giving any justification whatsoever for a lackadaisical manner of treating the sacred species.

Even when specifically asked about this question in the 1960s, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith merely recalled the necessity of observing due reverence for all fragments by carefully following all Church norms regarding the purification of sacred vessels and altar linens as well as the proper procedure for cleansing the area if a host should happen to fall to the floor.

I hope that this clarifies Church doctrine on this matter for our concerned readers. As for me, my intention is always to coincide with the Church’s teachings.