Some of the liturgical practices of the Neo-Catechumenal Way were detailed last week (in critical fashion) by Sandro Magister in Chiesa Expressonline.
Here are the items that raised Magister’s eyebrows:
The Masses of the Neocatechumenal communities have always been distinguished by at least four elements.
1. They are celebrated in small groups, corresponding to the different stages of advancement on the catechetical journey. If in a parish, for example, there are twelve Neocatechumenal communities, each at a different stage, there will be twelve Masses, celebrated in separate places more or less at the same time, preferably on Saturday evening.
2. The surroundings and furnishings trace out the image of a banquet: a table with the participants seated around it. Even when the Neocatechumenals celebrate the Mass not in a parish hall but in a church, they often ignore the altar. They put a table in the middle and sit around it in a circle.
3. Each of the biblical readings of the Mass is preceded by an extensive “monition” on the part of one or the other of the community and is followed, especially after the Gospel, by “resonances,” or personal reflections by a substantial number of those present. The priest’s homily is added to the “resonances” without being distinguished from them.
4. Communion also takes place in banquet form. The consecrated bread – a large unleavened loaf, two thirds white flour and one third whole wheat flour, prepared and baked according to detailed rules established by Kiko – is broken and distributed to those present, who remain in their places. After the distribution, it is eaten at the same time by all, including the priest. After this, the priest goes from one person to the next with the chalice of consecrated wine, which everyone drinks.
There are also other peculiarities, but these four are enough to understand how different in form and substance the Masses of the Neocatechumenals are from those celebrated according to the general liturgical rules. A difference that is certainly more pronounced than that between the Masses in the ancient Roman rite and in the modern rite.
The Vatican authorities have repeatedly sought to bring the Neocatechumenals back to greater fidelity to the “lex orandi” in effect in the Catholic Church. But with a weak pulse and almost no results.
But it seems the Holy See did not mind so much after all. The movement has come away with the laurels in its recent interactions with the Pope, who appears to have approved their practices while urging more openness to integration with the work of the bishop and the life of the ordinary parishioners.
Catholic Culture now reports that the approval does not extend to how they celebrate Mass. But, then, it never did. So the situation appears to be unchanged. The rules they didn’t follow before are still in force. And still able to be ignored.