The Rite Norms

Oct. 21-27, 2004
The Rite Norms
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
At the diocesan priest convention meeting held the week of Sept. 27, Bishop James Moynihan spoke to the priests about implementing and adhering to the April 23, 2004 encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II entitled, “Church of the Eucharist” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia) and the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum. There are two reasons why the Church saw a need to revise the General Instruction, said Bishop Moynihan. “First to make better our celebrations of the Eucharist so that we may have a better grasp of what it is that we are celebrating and second, to make our celebrations more reverent, and clearly better expressions of faith.”

The bishop stated that the celebration of Mass is connected to the universal Church and should not be considered a singular celebration but one which flows in a continuum of celebrations from those of ages past to those around the world. Furthermore, the liturgy should be an authentic celebration and should draw the faithful to want to participate. The liturgy should be consistent and not cause the congregation to question the orthodoxy of individual celebrations of the Eucharist.

The third paragraph of the General Instruction echoes the Fathers of the Council and their most important admonition concerning the celebration of Mass when it states, “the entire celebration is placed in such a way that it leads to a conscious, active and full participation of the faithful in body and in mind, a participation burning with faith, hope and charity, of the sort which is desired by the Church and demanded by the very nature of the celebration, and to which the Christian people have a right and duty by reason of their Baptism.”

Father Joseph Scardella, director of the Office of Ministerial Formation expanded on this statement. “The Holy Father wants Mass brought back to a normalized, unified Eucharistic celebration. The liturgy should be recognized as a Catholic Mass, no matter where we are celebrating it. The Holy Father is not asking us to divest the liturgy of local customs or traditions, however,” he said.

Some of the topics presented in the document include the following:

• “The Instruction emphatically forbids changing the words of the Mass. Varying the texts of the Sacred Liturgy is a “reprobated practice and must cease.” (RS 59) “The altering of the Mass texts has been the most frequent abuse within the English speaking Churches, a problem that affects both the spoken text and texts that are sung or chanted.”

• “The homily must be given only by ordained clergy, never a layperson (RS 64), and this prohibition extends to ‘seminarians, students of theological disciplines and those who have assumed the function of those known as pastoral assistants.’” (RS 66)

• “The gifts of bread and wine are brought forward by the faithful and received by the priest or deacon at a convenient place (GIRM 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 the 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.” (RS 36)

Father Scardella expanded on this stating that the priest is now required to pour the wine into all of the cups after bringing the flagon to the altar, but before consecration. “The reason why the Holy Father is asking us to do this is to avoid spillage of the Precious Blood,” explained Father Scardella. “No pouring is to take place after the consecration. It is a way of treating the Precious Blood with more respect. It’s more reverent,” he said. The document makes it clear that the use of pitchers, flagons, decanters or other such vessels for the Precious Blood are “never to be used.” In other words, said Father Scardella, the Precious Blood should not be left in the flagons. The flagons should be removed from the altar at the time of the offertory.”

Later the General Instructions states that glass vessels are “reprobated” and only “true noble” materials may be used “so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful. Reprobated, therefore, are considered common vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay or other materials that break easily, or metals that may easily rust or deteriorate.” (RS 117, cf. 327-332)

“This is the real presence of Jesus and the vessels we use should be worthy of that presence,” said Father Scardella. “That is why something that’s breakable or something that would be used as normal tableware should not be used.” Father Mark Kaminski, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cortland, told his staff to keep in mind that the norms handed down by Pope John Paul II were instructions for the Universal Catholic Church. “If there is abuse going on in some other country, we are still getting instruction,” said Father Kaminiski. “There is a trend in France and Germany to use ceramic vessels. The artists are trying to make the vessels look ancient. Therefore, the cracks or polish used to make them look old may mix with the consecrated wine. The Vatican wants to ensure that the most precious possession of the church, namely the Eucharist, is celebrated in a worthy manner,” he said.

One of the instructions that many may find as a new directive is that when the priest returns to the middle of the altar after the washing of hands, he invites the people to stand and extends his hands saying, “Pray brethren…” The people make their response: “May the Lord…” Then the priest says the prayer over the offering. At the end of which the people make the acclamations, “Amen.” (GIRM 154)

“That’s a big change,” said Father Richard Prior, pastor of Holy Family Church in Fairmount. Father Prior and the education committee of the parish have been working on the general instructions since they came out in 2002. “The real challenge for the education committee, in my view, is that it will take a lot of work to implement the changes so that everyone is on the same page,” said Father Prior. “I feel a strong obligation to properly instruct and inform the congregation so that everyone can fully understand the changes,” he said.

Father Prior and the education committee are considering celebrating a teaching Mass that will explain the changes being implemented. “We are all in this together. The larger the parish, the more it’s going to take to make the changes. But I certainly understand why they are being made,” he said. Another big change will be saying ‘Amen’ when the sign of peace is given, said Father Scardella.

The General Instruction states the following:

• During the Rite of Peace: “The priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. In the Diocese of the United States of America, for good reason, on special occasions (for example in the case of a funeral, a wedding or when civic leaders are present) the priest may offer the sign of peace to a few of the faithful near the sanctuary. While the sign of peace is being given, one may say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” to which the response is “Amen” (Not, “And also with you.”) (GIRM 154) “By saying ‘Amen,’ you are accepting the peace of Jesus from that person,” said Father Scardella. “You are acknowledging the gift.”

• During the reception of Communion, the faithful are not permitted to take the consecrated bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them from one to another. The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. However, communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally for the good order of the liturgy, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for the norm.

• When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes it entirely. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.

Father Kaminski said that while the norms say not to have Eucharistic ministers serve communion to each other, the general liturgical principle says the purpose of having a Eucharistic minister is to serve other people. “We need to call on the bishop, the one who has the authority, to clarify that point,” said Father Kaminiski. There are many other practices defined in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. This article covers some of the pertinent information that directly affects the congregation as a whole. In Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II writes: “A certain reaction against ‘formalism’ has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the ‘forms’ chosen by the Church’s great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate.” “I consider it my duty, therefore, to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, not of the celebrant nor of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated…” (EE52)

Father Jerome Katz, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Whitney Point, said that he does not look at the document with enthusiasm. “I see it as a reversal of the spirit of the original liturgical document of Vatican II,” he said. “It will lead to conformity in the celebration of Mass but I don’t think it will lead to unity of the people of God who look for an exciting liturgical life.” “We always need norms for common prayer, but I also think there is room for intrepretation,” added Father Joseph Salerno, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Utica. Father Salerno said that he and the parish liturgy committee introduced the new liturgical norms in a gradual process –– over the summer and fall. “This is an opportunity to reflect on how we celebrate as a community; how we celebrate our greatest prayer, which is the Eucharist and how to celebrate with a greater sense of participation on the part of all of us,” he said. While Father Salerno feels that the liturgical norms will foster a greater awareness of what the mysteries of one’s faith call one to, as well as promote a deeper understanding of one’s mission as a Catholic person, he also understands that no two parishes are alike nor are cultures the same.

“The Liturgy Documents, time and again, speak about the liturgy growing from the experience of the people,” said Bishop Moynihan. “We have come to a point where the liturgy is almost second-nature to us now. We can go through it with not a lot of thought. And this, I think, is one of the reasons why it is important to re-introduce ourselves to what the Church says about our liturgy and why it is important to concern ourselves with the details of the Mass. We need to hone our skills and grow in our understanding of what it is that we need to bring to liturgy so that we can present our best selves to God and offer to God the best worship we are able to create,” he said.

Father Scardella explained that the norms should be put into place at each church throughout the diocese no later than the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 28, 2004.

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