Skip to comments.Vatican fine-tunes details of the Mass
Posted on 12/22/2003 6:19:37 AM PST by NYer
Jim Rosengarten gasped when he learned the Vatican wants him to stop calling himself a eucharistic minister.
Rosengarten may still distribute communion to shut-ins and at Mass at St. Vincent's parish in Germantown, as he has done for years.
But under the Roman Catholic Church's new guidelines for the celebration of Mass, the men and women who assist the priest this way are expected to henceforth use their proper titles. They are "extraordinary ministers of holy communion."
"Oh, my God," Rosengarten exclaimed. "What a shame."
It was not the title's mouthful of syllables that disturbed him, he said, but the Vatican's reasons: It wants the priest's role at Mass unambiguously distinct. Only the priest consecrates the bread and wine, the essential act of Eucharist.
The distinction is just one of dozens of refinements that Catholics worldwide - including the 1.9 million in the Philadelphia and Camden dioceses - may encounter at Mass in the year ahead.
Dismayed by the many small, local variations that have crept into the celebration of liturgy around the world (and also by a blurring of the priest's role in some churches), Rome is calling for near-uniformity in the way Masses are celebrated.
The Vatican has codified and clarified virtually every detail - when to stand, who wears what, how to drink from the chalice, how to hold the gospel book - and put it in a 100-page document called the General Instruction for the Roman Missal. It replaces the previous general instruction of 1985.
The Rev. Daniel Mackle, head of the archdiocesan Office for Worship, praised the guidelines as necessary. In some parishes, Mackle said, the Mass "has become like a painting coated in candle soot. It has to be cleaned so we can see its full beauty."
Pope John Paul II approved the new instruction's original Latin version three years ago, but it was only last March that the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship approved the English-language version for the United States.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia began to train clergy in its implementation this fall. Camden Diocese introduced the changes in the spring.
Mackle has been asking parishes to start with an inventory of all the prayers, hymns, Scripture readings, processionals and other rituals of their liturgies, and compare them with the carefully prescribed order of the general instruction.
For example, he said, priests should not be strolling about the church during their homilies, "microphone in hand like they're Johnny Carson."
And it is important, he said, that only the priest or deacon may break the communion bread after the consecration, and only he may pour the consecrated wine into chalices.
As one way to promote lay participation, however, Rome is encouraging parishes to use a different reader for each Scripture passage.
While some of the directives may seem modest, Mackle said there is theology behind almost every detail of the Mass, which in the Catholic tradition reenacts the Last Supper and Jesus' death and resurrection.
For example, he said, the book of the Gospels is carried at the entrance processional but not at the recessional "because we have already received the word of God during the Mass, and are now carrying it within us and out into the world."
Mackle is urging pastors to implement any changes slowly, "so you don't turn the parish upside down."
For example, he said, the general instruction says that all should "meditate briefly" and in silence after the homily - the sermon - and Scripture readings. Mackle recommends that parishes start with just 15 seconds of silence, "or else everyone will think Father can't find the switch on his microphone."
Expect squirming and coughing for the first month or two, he said, and extend the silence to a half-minute once the congregation has grown comfortable with it.
At Holy Savior parish in Westmont, Camden County, communion minister Trudy Cranston said the changes have meant "we're not allowed to pour the precious blood [consecrated wine] into the cups anymore" and "now we don't separate the hosts" into distribution plates or bowls.
But Cranston, 56, a communion minister for 15 years, said the changes don't faze her.
"I don't know anybody in our parish who thinks it's a problem," she said.
It took a few weeks last spring, however, for the people in the pews to switch from sitting to standing when the priest says: "Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable...," Cranston recalled. After several notices in the parish bulletin, "now everyone does it without hesitation."
Diocesan bishops may allow certain local customs under the new rules, provided they are uniformly applied across the diocese.
In the Diocese of Trenton, for example, the people will stand for the "Lamb of God" prayer, whereas they will kneel in the Diocese of Camden and the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
"The Second Vatican Council called for conscious, activist participation in the liturgy," said the Rev. Robert Hughes, head of the liturgy office for the Diocese of Camden. "That's what we're falling back to."
But certain kinds of lay activism don't sit well with Rome - especially if the laity are seen as performing clergy roles.
At St. Vincent's, for example, Rosengarten and other eucharistic ministers used to break the communion bread at the altar alongside the priest, and pour the consecrated wine into chalices for distribution.
"The image we wanted was of the table being prepared by members of the assembly and the presider, who are one," Rosengarten explained.
But because the new instruction restricts the breaking and pouring to the priest, Mackle has advised St. Vincent's that it must conform. He also told St. Vincent's it had to cease its longtime practice whereby priests and communion ministers waited until everyone else had received communion. Now, they must take it first.
While some members of St. Vincent's have welcomed the return to strict practice, or orthopraxy, others are very upset, according to Rosengarten, a history teacher at Central High School. A few even wept when the parish made the changes.
About 25 members of the parish have begun protesting the Vatican's changes by wrapping purple stoles, or scarves, at the base of the sanctuary cross after communion.
For three years, feminists at St. Vincent's had been wearing the stoles to Mass as symbols of mourning for "the loss of the gift of women" in the Catholic Church, parishioner Pat Imms explained recently.
Support for women's ordination runs high at St. Vincent's, and many parishioners viewed female participation in the priestly gestures as powerful symbols of women's inclusion in Catholicism's supreme rite.
Imms sees the general instruction as diminishing the laity's - and women's - roles in the Mass.
"We worked really hard on our liturgy," said Imms, who has been laying her stole at the cross in recent weeks.
The Rev. John Kettelberger, pastor of St. Vincent's, declined to comment, but Msgr. Nelson Perez, pastor of St. William parish in Lawncrest, defended the call for unified liturgy.
"I've always had the feeling that it's not my liturgy to change," he said. "It belongs to the whole [worldwide] community of the church."
Her stole??? Who gave it to her, for what purpose was it given, when - where - and why was it given? As for tieing stoles aroung the base of the crucifix, the pastor should deal with this immediately.
If these women want to be ordained as ministers, they should look elsewhere. As the pope has repeatedly said, it won't happen in the catholic church.
Lol ... it does change from one parish to another. What upsets me more than anything else, is to see it 'inflicted' on the unsuspecting. Since most cathoics trust their pastor to comply with church doctrine, they 'assume' that the mass he delivers is valid. Were more catholics to read the GIRM, I am certain they would go after him with pitchforks.
I'd bet if Rigali cracks down on them, they'd declare themselves independent. The whole reason the Inquirer highlighted St. Vincent's is that the parish attracts hippies and homosexuals from all around Philadelphia. There is very little in that parish that would be recognized as Catholic.
If St. Vincent's cracks down on abuses, it will die a quick death. The next parish up, which is in a slightly better neighborhood, has already been twinned and will probably be closed shortly.
If that is your old school teacher, she's sure to be in good company - St. Vincent's is loaded with current and former St. Joe nuns and almost all of them taught at one time or another.
It is exactly the wackos above who SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED to become an EM in the first place. Notice the wording - image ("we wanted"), table, assembly and presider all in one sentence! Just love how these people want to whole Mass to evolve around them!
Yes, like this woman did before them.
(Sorry - a picture is worth a thousand words and a few dropped jaws).
Are you familiar with the story of Mary Ramerman? Her ordination occured on Saturday November 17, 2001, in a breakaway catholic community in Rochester, N.Y. They utilized an Old Catholic Bishop for the ordination. Community Calls Woman to Priesthood .
It's really quite simple. The wackos have many other church groups that will take them in and ordain them. Obviously, they are more interested in trying to shatter THE catholic church rather than do as Mary Ramerman, who simply left. (No matter how many times I see it, the sight of a woman dressed in clerical garb, just makes my skin crawl).