This Week’s Discussion Question: The presider’s responsibilities

The Constitution 
on the Sacred Liturgy, 
Sacrosanctum Concilium, says in §11: “But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.”

I want to propose a conversation about some of the implications of this article.

In Chapter III of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “Duties and Ministries in the Mass” there is a new sentence (new to this edition, that is) at the end of Section 111 (underlined in bold):

108. One and the same Priest must always exercise the presidential function in all of its parts, except for those parts which are proper to a Mass at which the Bishop is present (cf. above no. 92).

109. If there are several present who are able to exercise the same ministry, nothing forbids their distributing among themselves and performing different parts of the same ministry or duty. For example, one Deacon may be assigned to execute the sung parts, another to serve at the altar; if there are several readings, it is well to distribute them among a number of readers, and the same applies for other matters. However, it is not at all appropriate that several persons divide a single element of the celebration among themselves, e.g., that the same reading be proclaimed by two readers, one after the other, with the exception of the Passion of the Lord.

110. If at a Mass with the people only one minister is present, that minister may exercise several different functions.

111. There should be harmony and diligence among all those involved in the effective preparation of each liturgical celebration in accordance with the Missal and other liturgical books, both as regards the rites and as regards the pastoral and musical aspects. This should take place under the direction of the rector of the church and after consultation with the faithful in things that directly pertain to them. However, the Priest who presides at the celebration always retains the right of arranging those things that pertain to him.

This week’s basic question is: What are the responsibilities of the presider? Is it correct to interpret this new sentence as a circumscription of the presider’s power of choice of the Mass and its parts?

There are four other sections from documents that might help us understand this sentence. The first is from the GIRM, Chapter VII, “The Choice of the Mass and Its Parts” [emphasis added]:

 352. The pastoral effectiveness of a celebration will be greatly increased if the texts of the readings, the prayers, and the liturgical chants correspond as aptly as possible to the needs, the preparation, and the culture of the participants. This will be achieved by appropriate use of the many possibilities of choice described below.

Hence in arranging the celebration of Mass, the Priest should be attentive rather to the common spiritual good of the People of God than to his own inclinations. He should also remember that choices of this kind are to be made in harmony with those who exercise some part in the celebration, including the faithful, as regards the parts that more directly pertain to them.

Since, indeed, many possibilities are provided for choosing the different parts of the Mass, it is necessary for the Deacon, the readers, the psalmist, the cantor, the commentator, and the choir to know properly before the celebration the texts that concern each and that are to be used, and it is necessary that nothing be in any sense improvised. For harmonious ordering and carrying out of the rites will greatly help in disposing the faithful for participation in the Eucharist.

This passage is echoed in the last paragraph of the GIRM that pertains to parishes:

385. In the arranging and choosing of the variable parts of the Mass for the Dead, especially the Funeral Mass (for example, orations, readings, and the Universal Prayer), pastoral considerations bearing upon the deceased, the family, and those attending should be kept in mind.

Moreover, pastors should take into special account those who are present at a liturgical celebration or who hear the Gospel on the occasion of the funeral and who may be non-Catholics or Catholics who never or hardly ever participate in the Eucharist or who seem even to have lost the faith. For Priests are ministers of Christ’s Gospel for all.

These last two sentences seem to me to be an instance of the greatest principle in Canon Law: Salus animarum suprema lex, found in the last canon of the Code, Canon 1752: “ . . . and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”

For the sake of completeness I need to cite §78 of the Lectionary for Mass: Introduction [emphasis added]:

The Order of Readings sometimes leaves it to the celebrant to choose between alternative texts or to choose one from the several listed together for the same reading. The option seldom exists on Sundays, solemnities, or feasts, in order not to obscure the character proper to the particular liturgical season or needlessly interrupt the semicontinuous reading of some biblical book. On the other hand, the option is given readily in celebrations of the Saints, in ritual Masses, Masses for various needs and occasions, votive Masses, and Masses for the dead.

These options, together with those indicated in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Ordo cantus Missae, have a pastoral purpose. In arranging the liturgy of the word, then, the priest should “consider the general spiritual good of the congregation rather than his personal outlook. He should be mindful that the choice of texts is to be made in harmony with the ministers and others who have any role in the celebration and should listen to the opinions of the faithful in what concerns them more directly.”

As the Directory for Masses with Children says: “44. In the choice of readings the criterion to be followed is the quality rather than the quantity of the texts from the Scriptures. A shorter reading is not as such always more suited to children than a lengthy reading. Everything depends on the spiritual advantage that the reading can bring to the children” [emphasis added]. For more of the wisdom contained on these matters in the Directory for Masses with Children see §§22 and 23, and 38 through 55 of that document.

Asking again this week’s basic question: What are the responsibilities of the presider? Is it correct to interpret this new sentence as a circumscription of the presider’s power of choice of the Mass and its parts? What are “best practices” in this matter? What ought to be avoided?

With this question I am setting us the task of listing the presider’s rights and responsibilities to arrange those things at Mass that pertain to him. Let’s confine ourselves to Mass, shall we?

Not that everything you add to this list need be supported by reference to documents, let me start us off:

  1. GIRM 23. Moreover, in order that such a celebration may correspond more fully to the prescriptions and spirit of the Sacred Liturgy, and also in order that its pastoral effectiveness be enhanced, certain accommodations and adaptations are set out in this General Instruction and in the Order of Mass. GIRM 24. These adaptations consist, for the most part, in the choice of certain rites or texts, that is, of the chants, readings, prayers, explanatory interventions, and gestures capable of responding better to the needs, the preparation, and the culture of the participants and which are entrusted to the Priest Celebrant. However, the Priest will remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass.
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48 comments

  1. The last sentence above, that priest “is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove or to change anything in the celebration of the Mass…” is perhaps the most visible thing that is ignored at Mass by many priests and some congregations. The introduction of inviting non-Catholics or those who cannot receive Holy Communion forward for a blessing and then improvising that blessing with multiple possibilities of gestures and words seems to come to mind, as well as asking people to hold hands at Mass during the Our Father. Neither of these gestures is in any way foreseen by rubrics or as legitimate options in the official sense. These are contrived by well meaning priests and congregations and then implemented by fiat.
    In all the parishes I’ve been in, we give grieving family members and those who are marrying the necessary books to pick their readings, prayers and hymns/chants from an approved list for the Liturgy. I reserve the right to choose which Eucharistic Prayer in all circumstances. I would prefer to choose the Gospel, though, since I’m preaching but haven’t mandated that.
    Our liturgy is planned only from the music point of view and I allow our DM the greatest flexibility and seldom interfere in her choices, she has my authority in saying yes or no to choices people suggest for weddings and funerals. Everything else is planned by the priest who is celebrating in terms of the options of the missal for Mass.
    At funerals which here have mostly Protestants attending and certainly some Catholics who infrequently attend Mass, I explain very briefly after the Intercessions what will happen in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the reason for the incense and who is invited to receive Holy Communion. At weddings which have more Protestants than Catholics usually, I briefly explain things at the beginning of the homily, for example, “the Liturgy of the Word, just heard, the reason for the brief homily, and what will occur after the homily and why, but very briefly. Of course for both weddings and funerals I am very conscious of asking people to stand, sit or kneel (as you are able).

  2. Paul, a suggestion

    I hope in the future that you will give us one of these masterful posts that would bring together all the things that might empower us faithful to fully exercise our roles in the liturgy, such as from your citations above

    But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain.

    111. and after consultation with the faithful in things that directly pertain to them

    352. and the liturgical chants correspond as aptly as possible to the needs, the preparation, and the culture of the participants

    For harmonious ordering and carrying out of the rites will greatly help in disposing the faithful for participation in the Eucharist.

    #78 and should listen to the opinions of the faithful in what concerns them more directly.”

    It seems that elaboration is really needed especially about what concerns them more directly and also what does listen to the opinions of the faithful really mean.

    Right now I think most pastors and priests arrange things mainly for their benefit. And when they don’t care (like about music) they let the music director do whatever they want.

    I don’t think there is any listening to the opinions of the faithful except for the carefully chosen members of committees stacked with “yes, father, what ever you say is great” types.

    I think all the disposition language in the above is generally interpreted as a license for pastoral staff to pour their ideas about liturgy into our heads rather than listening to us. Are there any correctives in the documents?

    I was surprised there was anything in the documents like this that seems to imply we have a right to voice our opinions.

  3. Perhaps it would be good to identify all the decisions that need to be made about the celebration of a Mass. I’m sure I’m going to leave some things out (due to my own assumptions, or out of ignorance) so I’d appreciate others filling in the blanks. I have left out, for example, the arrangement and decoration of the church, particularly the sanctuary, as well as the choice of vestments/colors, etc. I do not bring up the issue of language, with the exception of the Kyrie.

    The abbreviation ISWS stands for “If Sung, What Setting [will be used]”?

    I. Opening procession
    .. A. Who walks in procession?
    .. B. What will be carried in procession?
    .. C. What will be sung, and for how long?
    .. D. Will incense be used?

    II. Greeting
    .. A. Which greeting text will be used? ISWS?
    .. B. Will the Mass be introduced, and if so, by whom?
    .. C. Penitential Act or Rite of Sprinkling
    .. .. 1. Penitential Act
    .. .. .. a. Which form of the Penitential Act will be used?
    .. .. .. b. How will the priest begin the Penitential Act?
    .. .. .. c. If Form C is used…
    .. .. .. .. i. What invocations will be used?
    .. .. .. .. ii. Who will say/sing the invocations?
    .. .. .. .. iii. ISWS?
    .. .. .. .. iv. Will Greek or the vernacular be used?
    .. .. 2. Rite of Sprinkling
    .. .. .. a. How will the priest introduce the rite?
    .. .. .. b. What prayer will be used?
    .. .. .. c. Will salt be used?
    .. .. .. d. Will the prayers be sung/chanted? ISWS?
    .. .. .. e. What will be sung during the sprinkling?
    .. D. Kyrie
    .. .. 1. If needed, will the Kyrie be said or sung, and by whom?
    .. .. 2. ISWS?
    .. .. 3. Will Greek or the vernacular be used?
    .. E. Will the Gloria be said or sung, and by whom? ISWS?
    .. F. Collect
    .. .. 1. If there is a choice of collect, which will be used?
    .. .. 2. Will it be spoken or sung? ISWS?
    .. .. 3. Ad orientem?

    And that’s just the Introductory Rites.

    The next vectors to take into consideration are:

    1) To what degree do each of the “stakeholders” have input, responsibility, and authority for each of these individual decisions?

    2) What is the hierarchy of decisions? In other words, which decisions are “cornerstones”, ones that should be made first and which exert their influence upon the remaining decisions?

    [P.S. Did I just have a Jack Rakosky moment?] 😉

  4. Jack, thanks for your praise. I have every intention to “one of these masterful posts that would bring together all the things that might empower us faithful to fully exercise our roles in the liturgy, such as from your citations above.” I have a small slide show I use to illustrate this crucial theme at https://dl.dropbox.com/u/7331043/dispositions%20and%20the%20PEOPLE.pdf The theme begins with Pope Saint Pius X.

    The dispositions of the faithful are mentioned 121 times in the new GIRM!

  5. Jeffrey Pinyan : “I do not bring up the issue of language, with the exception of the Kyrie. ”

    You might bring up the language around the Agnus Dei as well (my parish uses the Latin for this — chanted — on occasion).

    As a cantor, I'm aware of various presiders' "standing" preferences, garnered over the years. A presider who prefers that the Our Father be recited, never sung; others who prefer it chanted, but want me to start it, still others who want it chanted, but they will start it. Presiders who will chant the propers during Christmas and Easter seasons. A presider who will chant the propers and preface as a matter of course.

    It would be a great idea for a parish liturgy committee to occasionally walk through the full list of options with the regular presiders, cantors, lectors, and members of the assembly.

    1. @Michelle Francl-Donnay – comment #6:
      Michelle, your list of various presiders’ “standing” preferences is the kind of thing I am looking for, for my list. Singing by the priest needs to have his cooperation and his competence. But the singing of the Our Father needs to be governed by the principle of progressive solemnity, whether he starts it or someone else does.

      I’ll be posting my full list of sung options soon.

  6. Fr. Allan J. McDonald : The last sentence above, that priest “is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove or to change anything in the celebration of the Mass…” is perhaps the most visible thing that is ignored at Mass by many priests and some congregations.

    Yes, like those priests at places such as St. Agnes in the Twin Cities who add nonlisted vestments like maniples to the “ordinary form” of Mass.

  7. “110. If at a Mass with the people only one minister is present, that minister may exercise several different functions.”

    I don’t wish to derail the discussion, but just want to note that this would make a fine separate topic for discussion some time.

  8. Wasn’t it Robert Hovda who popularized the dictum “Presiders preside.” Meaning that anything not very strictly belonging to the role of presider was not done by the presider.

  9. Paul, you ask, “Is it correct to interpret this new sentence as a circumscription of the presider’s power of choice of the Mass and its parts?”

    Here are some of the verbs that I’ve plucked from the citations you’ve provided: the presider should “be attentive”, should “remember”, should “take into special account”, should “consider”, should “be mindful of”, should “listen to”.

    All of these seem to be various ways of saying, “the presider should be open to input from others”. None of them positively amounts to, “the presider must cede power of choice”.

    Perhaps it’s worth noting that all of these verbs are preceded by “should”, and the word “should” always implies a moral obligation – there is an implicit “must” buried somewhere in “should”. What is it he should do? He should listen, he should be open to others’ views and opinions and arguments. And although the passages cited here don’t explicitly say so, presumably he should also be attentive to his own experiences and reasoning and education. But I don’t think the documents say that others’ views should override his own.

  10. In our parish, the presider chooses which vessels will be used. He chooses which vestments he will wear, and if there is a concelebrant and/or a deacon, those ministers might make an attempt to coordinate their own vestments. He chooses the Eucharistic Prayer. When more than one collect is offered (which doesn’t seem to be the case too much anymore), he chooses the collect.

    The rule of thumb in our parish is, when there is more than one possible Gospel passage (e.g. a long and a short form), the person preaching gets to decide which one is used. Thus, if there is a deacon to proclaim the Gospel but the presider is scheduled to preach, the presider gets to choose.

    All of these elements are seen or heard or touched by the entire assembly, so perhaps one could make an argument that these things also “pertain to” everyone. I don’t know how everyone would have input into such things, though, except perhaps by being represented on a liturgy committee that would consider those elements.

  11. Paul – curious about some things given my experiences? Have always tried to plan and coordinate liturgies (incl. music, readings, sacraments, parish specific celebrations/customs, diocesan celebrations/customs) with the seasons or specific parish community events. A parish liturgy committee with respective ministries coordinated by the parish liturgy director makes these plans months or weeks before the season or celebration. Usually, this committee includes pastor, associate, deacons, music directors, others.
    Given this, appreciate your post and framing the specific “presider” documents but my experience is that this can lead to tensions – can a presider (say a visiting or supply priest) over-ride what the parish has planned? You cite or highlight enough places for me to reach the conclusion that a presider can not really substitute his preferences over a parish liturgy plan. But? Just wonder?
    OTOH – frequent annual lector trainings or EM trainings always have to prepare folks for the fact that an individual presider may change things at the last minute and the role of the ministers is not to argue or insist but to follow the presider’s lead. And yes, we do prepare folks for each presider’s *standards*
    Have never witnessed a presider changing the church liturgical decorations, musical choices, etc. but have seen confusion when a presider changes readings or insists upon changing things such as cups, etc. (maniple or amice – they would have to bring their own – you wouldn’t find one in our church). Have also seen what happens when a presider makes last minute changes.

  12. This discussion is reminding me of a friend’s ordination (not a Catholic liturgy) where virtually everyone with a role to play was a visitor to the church. Well before the starting time, everyone from musicians to photographer to readers to ordinand to homilist gathered in a back room and read/skimmed through the entire liturgy (presider leading). Where were people to be, how were they to get there, where would there be music, responses, who was doing precisely what and when. Various little issues were ironed out, and duly noted. The liturgy itself had a reverent and unworried feel to it as a result, ministers were prayerfully present, not frantically wondering if they were going to miss a cue. It’s worth thinking about for complex liturgies, or even Sunday Masses with visiting presiders.

    But the question Paul is asking remains more about what happens (or should happen) well before the liturgy begins — though Bill’s point (#14) that everyone needs to be able to follow the presider’s lead once things begin is certainly critical. (I’m thinking of a few weeks ago when the power went off as I opened my mouth to intone the Gospel verse. In a hot, dark church, I followed the presider’s lead as we proceeded onward. Yes, we’d planned to sing the Our Father as he usually prefers, but no we didn’t.)

  13. While I respect Dr. Ford’s emphasis on the importance of GIRM 382 and 385, I do wonder if some assemblies would at times be better served if the preaching cleric chose the ritual readings rather than the wedding couple or the bereaved. Perhaps the preacher knows the wedding couple well or knew the deceased person well, and considers a certain set of readings most appropriate for the occasion. Often times the greatest introspection and intellectual growth springs not from what is familiar, but rather from that which is at first glance unconnected to one’s immediate circumstances or desires.

    Certain lections which are traditional for ritual votives, such as Ephesians 5 as the nuptial epistle, are not appropriate for most weddings today. In this case, both the preacher and couple might wisely choose another epistle. Indeed many of the older lections of ritual Masses, and of the older one-year-cycle in general, are not appropriate for many assemblies given the great challenge of explaining very difficult texts within a postmodern context. Still, why should there be such a diversity of lection choices in the reformed funeral, for example, if some “traditional” lections continue to provide great and roaming spaces for reflection? If 1st Thessalonians 4 and John 11 has offered at least a millennium of reflection and is able to offer another millennium of reflection on the mystery of Christian death, why then not continue to offer these profound statements on a regular and consistent basis?

    If I am buried in a Christian funeral, I certainly hope to buried to the scriptures which are not read to comfort but rather to challenge. I also wish for the requiem to amplify the mystery of death and not the inevitable fact of my death. Choice and variety are not necessarily the paths to sustained reflection or an ever-deepening appreciation of scripture between both the preacher and assembly.

  14. This is a genuine question, though (admittedly) not asked without obvious bias. From whence were we given the term ‘presider’ for the erstwhile priest-celebrant. I gather that those of a certain stripe wanted to stress the notion that all, not just the celebrant, were celebrants. Too, those of a certain stripe had it in mind to de-emphasise and banish any nasty awful old notion of clericalism and its inevitable tinges of a caste system. But! Why ‘presider’? I cannot but think of a corporate board meeting or the ladie’s (or men’s) club meeting when I hear this signifer. It hath nothing remotely churchly, liturgically, ecclesiastically, or religiously apt in its connotations and imagery. Surely some word more indicative of sacerdotal function could have been found by the poetically bankrupt wayside of soulless contemporaneity.

    (Ditto ‘assembly’! What’s wrong with ‘church’, or ‘people’? Either of these is existentially far more than an ‘assembly’!)

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #17:
      Agreed M. Jackson, I have the same question. I know the terms is an old one but I also find its revival in preference to the traditional term “celebrant” to be somewhat forced. After all, priests get a “celebret” from their bishop in order to offer the Mass.

    2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #17:
      I sometimes see stuff like, “The presider, who is the parochial vicar, leads the assembly in the Eucharistic liturgy in the new worship space, using printed worship aids.” New multisyllabic substitutions for perfectly good old words pop up more and more often.

      I’d go with “president,” which is the real word for “presider.” But “celebrant” is just fine and needs no substitution.

      1. @Scott Knitter – comment #20:
        I knew a priest now celebrating the great mystical supper in the beyond who would have preferred seeing himself as “toastmaster” rather than “presider” or “president”. He would come down into the nave with his hand-held microphone and treat the congregation as though they were children– most of them were too. The late Art Linkletter’s “House Party” on 1950s television immediately comes to mind.

      2. @Dunstan Harding – comment #35:
        Oh, I’ve experienced that type, including one who had another thought about the sermon during the Creed and stopped the Creed to give us that late pearl of wisdom. Thought I had seen everything…wow.

  15. “Hence in arranging the celebration of Mass, the Priest should be attentive rather to the common spiritual good of the People of God than to his own inclinations.”

    I read this as a corrective against liturgical minimalism.

  16. And further: we now do not have collects and such but ‘Presidential Prayers’. this really sounds important doesn’t it; certainly more of a feather in one’s cap than a mere collect. Nor do we merely pray these prayers; Why, we Proclaim them! What arrogant nonsense that one should imagine that he is proclaiming rather than praying what is purportedly a prayer. There is a great chasm of difference between the spirit of humility, awe, and worshipfulness present in genuine prayer (even when spoken in a voice for all to hear) than in that of a rather presumptuous proclamation of something conveniently morphed into an almighty Presidential Prayer. These are Not the president’s prayers: they are the people’s prayers, the church’s prayers, by which God is beseeched, not proclaimed to. (Too, perhaps these collects of the new translation would be more friendly if one actually prayed them and stopped trying to proclaim them.)

  17. # 17 -#21

    Celebrants in concelebration are not presiders.

    Priests can participate without being presiders or celebrants.

    Pastors have a role in regulating the liturgy of the parish even when they do not preside.

    President implies a more permanent and extensive relationship like being a CEO, e.g. pastor.

    Paul really does posts well, including choosing his words carefully.

  18. JR, no. 22 – We have trod a spiritually barren path when we think of pastors as CEOs. The comparison makes me cringe. It is as far off from being a cure of souls, though in a different guise, as were mediaeval abbots and prelates who rode fully armoured into battle in defense of their feudal interests. The last thing our Lord called his followers to was being like unto the CEOs of his day.

  19. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #1:

    The last sentence above, that priest “is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove or to change anything in the celebration of the Mass…” is perhaps the most visible thing that is ignored at Mass by many priests and some congregations. The introduction of inviting non-Catholics or those who cannot receive Holy Communion forward for a blessing and then improvising that blessing with multiple possibilities of gestures and words seems to come to mind, as well as asking people to hold hands at Mass during the Our Father. Neither of these gestures is in any way foreseen by rubrics or as legitimate options in the official sense. These are contrived by well meaning priests and congregations and then implemented by fiat.

    I wonder, Father Allan, if your list is “the most visible thing that is ignored at Mass by many priests and some congregations.”

    It is true that the more open invitation to communion to receive a blessing and holding hands during the Our Father are not “foreseen by rubrics or as legitimate options in the official sense.” But what are we saying during the Institution Narrative, “Take this, all of you, and eat/drink of/from it,” if we really mean “only those who are Catholics in good standing who have also observed the fast”?

    I’m not myself a fan of handholding during the Our Father because some don’t want to touch or be touched. But again and again our bishops have stepped back from legislating against handholding, so handholding has become one of the adiaphora, in my opinion.

    Isn’t the indifference of the priest presider or his showmanship or his clear lack of preparation the more visible obstacle?

    1. @Paul F Ford – comment #25:
      Yes to your last question with the added point that the priest shouldn’t recommend things that aren’t prescribed such as inviting to communion any baptized Christian, which I’ve witnessed at weddings and funerals in my neck of the woods.

    2. @Paul F Ford – comment #25:
      Paul, I’ve been thinking about your response: “But what are we saying during the Institution Narrative, “Take this, all of you, and eat/drink of/from it,” if we really mean “only those who are Catholics in good standing who have also observed the fast”? ”
      In fact the Institution Narrative in the Eucharistic is a prayer to God recalling the specific event of the Last Supper and the words are directed to the Apostles who alone are present as an anticipation of Good Friday’s Sacrifice and how they will offer that one Sacrifice in perpetuity as a Memorial of the Good Friday event. Only a literal expression of that by the priest facing the people and gesturing to them would make anyone feel as though this prayer is directed to them literally rather than simply a prayer recalling a specific historical event directed to God in prayer. I’ve seen priests change the rubrics and gesture toward the people dramatically during the consecration as though the congregation is the “Apostles” and the words are directed to them rather than God. That’s the pitfall of the priest facing the congregation during this prayer to God that is highly stylistic and not literalistic.
      Rather the laity are called to the Banquet of the Sacrifice at the “Ecce Agnus Dei.” “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the word; Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
      The latter is directed to the laity and those called to Holy Communion and should be done facing them to make that clear and literal. In this case the Sacrifice offered through the Eucharistic Prayer with its words of institution and the share in the Eschatological Eucharistic Sacrificial Banquet which is highlighted in the Communion Rite and specifically the “Ecce Agnus Dei” and the subsequent Communion of the priest and laity are quite different.
      Nonetheless, if someone comes forward for a blessing who can’t receive or if some choose to hold hands at the Lord’s Prayer, so be it, I don’t think anyone should get bent out of shape about it. But the priest-celebrant requesting the laity to do so seems to me to be out of bounds not to mention rubrics and has “added” or “changed” something about the Order of Mass.

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #36:
        Allan says: “In fact the Institution Narrative in the Eucharistic is a prayer to God recalling the specific event of the Last Supper and the words are directed to the Apostles who alone are present as an anticipation of Good Friday’s Sacrifice and how they will offer that one Sacrifice in perpetuity as a Memorial of the Good Friday event. Only a literal expression of that by the priest facing the people and gesturing to them would make anyone feel as though this prayer is directed to them literally rather than simply a prayer recalling a specific historical event directed to God in prayer”

        Really? Sounds like a strange Eucharistic theology – *congregation is the apostles* *pitfalls of facing the congregation*? Would suggest a different and *Vatican II Reformed* approach – from Rev. Komanchak’s homily last Sunday: http://jakomonchak.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/three-forms-of-the-body-of-christ/#more-883

        Money quotes:
        – “An ancient tradition in the Church referred to “the threefold Body of Christ.” There was the physical body of Christ, born of the Virgin, nailed to the Cross, buried, and raised by God and now seated at his right hand. In the Mass, secondly, this Body became present in the bread and wine, present sacramentally, in mystery (as it was said), so that it was called the “mystical” Body of Christ. And finally, there was the Body of Christ that comes to be when believers partake of the Eucharist and, as St. Augustine put it, they become what they eat–that is the Body of Christ that is the Church. On the earlier understanding, it was this last–the unifying of believers in and as the Body of Christ–that was considered the main purpose of the Eucharistic drama at Mass, and attention focused on the relation between the second and the third meanings of the Body of Christ.
        – “In the decades before the Second Vatican Council scholars began to recover that ancient tradition, and the Council adopted it in some of its main documents. An adage began to be quoted: “The Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church.” That is: the Mass is the moment in which the Church best reveals what it is: a people gathered to give thanks for the salvation proclaimed and preached in the Word of God, while the source of this salvation, the death and resurrection of Christ, are re-enacted in the ritual and its power to save is realized again when individuals receive the Body of Christ that makes all, however many they may be, a single Body of Christ.”
        – “At every Mass Christ offers himself as the Bread of Life first in his word, in the Scriptures, and we respond with our Credo: “I believe.” Then he offers himself as the Bread of Life, as his own flesh and blood, when his death and resurrection are recalled and made present, and once again we respond, this time with the great “Amen.” And this unity of faith and of thanksgiving makes us who receive the Eucharist the very Body of Christ. The movement, the drama, is not supposed to stop there, of course. If the Mass is the high-point of the Church’s life in the sense that we here show what we are by God’s word and grace, it is also the source of our life as the Church in the world, after we leave this celebration”
        Eucharist – it is a communal meal in which the community remembers the death/resurrection of Jesus Christ. Undue focus on *sacrifice* can run the risk of returning us to pre-Vatican II understandings. To Paul Ford’s post – Any presider’s motions, tone, attitude, etc. can influence the meaning of the Eucharistic Prayer and create concerns.

      2. @Bill deHaas – comment #38:
        Bill–can you explain what “undue focus on *sacrifice*” means or is? I don’t believe that VII changed any of the understandings of the Eucharist. But, my guess is now that post-Vatican II understandings have swung entirely in the other direction and if one said to a young Catholic (say under 35 or so) today that the Mass is a sacrifice, you’d get that blank stare.

      3. @John Kohanski – comment #39:
        I suspect what he means is that it is something related to this:

        -if I were to caricature ta common preconciliar framing of the Eucharist, it was as a re-presentation of Calvary (“Sacrifice”)
        -if I were to caricature a common postconciliar framing of the Eucharist, it would be as a re-presentation of the Last Supper (“Meal”)

        But, you see, each of these is a partial truth, and even together are incomplete. The Eucharistic re-presents the Paschal Mystery (which includes both, but is more than them), and is also a foretaste of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Oh, and let’s not forget the pneumatological dimension of Pentecost while we are at it…

        So, getting stuck in a stale dichotomy between Sacrifice vs Meal is a kind of ideologically distilled minimalism that misses the much larger, and richer, tradition.

      4. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #40:
        Karl, thanks for this excellent, succinct characterization of the issue.

        When John says “I don’t believe that VII changed any of the understandings of the Eucharist,” we have a misunderstanding. Of course it did – in the sense of developing the tradition, developing doctrine, correcting perceived distortions and overemphases, retrieving laudable parts of the tradition that had become underemphasized, and the like. Why else did they bother to have a Council, if it wasn’t to do anything?

        I hope I’m not over-reacting, but an alarm goes off when someone writes that “Vatican II didn’t change x.” That is generally a misunderstanding of how tradition and doctrine both continually develop, as well as a misreading of what the documents themselves explicitly say.

        awr

      5. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #41:
        Fr. Anthony–I’ll explain hopefully more clearly, what I meant. Vatican II did not offer any new teaching on the Holy Eucharist nor did it disavow or change any previous teaching. In short, it emphasized different aspects of the Holy Eucharist but taught nothing new in regards to doctrine. This hymn still applies today because it aptly teaches about what the Holy Eucharist is and why we are there. Maybe we should hear it more.

        O sacred banquet! in which Christ is received, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory to us is given. Alleluia.

      6. @John Kohanski – comment #46:
        A revered hymn, no question. But it captures part of the reality, and seems to avoid much of the Paschal Mystery.

        What you cite about doctrine is not totally relevant to the challenge of Vatican II. Sacrosanctum Concilium and other follow-up documents demand reform and renewal. Otherwise, why is some of the Right in schism waving a flag over the liturgy? The priest is responsible for watchfulness over this, and mainly in safeguarding the participation of the assembly, likely the main thrust of the Council.

      7. @Todd Flowerday – comment #47:
        John – you might also want to review these notes from Rev. Thomas Richstatter’s St. Meinrad’s liturgy classes on Eucharist and Sacrifice:

        http://www.tomrichstatter.org/eEucharist/e42sacri.htm

        Note:

        -“….eucharist is the sacrificial memorial of Christ and of his body the Church. Be sure your explanation does not stop short of the resurrection and or identify the sacrifice of the Mass with the sacrifice of Christ without the inclusion of Christ’s body the Church. A good explanation of Eucharist as sacrifice shows how it is our sacrifice and shows how we offer ourselves to the Father in the Spirit.”
        – “Today most theologians place the sign in the sharing of the sacred meal. In eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, we are transformed into his body by the Holy Spirit and received with Christ by the Father. The meal is the sign of the sacrifice, the intimate union of Father and Son in the Spirit.”

        As you review, he lays out an excellent approach to avoid the *old example* of meal v sacrifice.

      8. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #40:
        Karl, I would agree with you completely and that is why I indicate in my comment to Paul that the gesture toward the people in terms of the meal aspect of the Mass is at the “Behold the Lamb of God…Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” And this as well as the Mass in its entirety is “eschatologlical” concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming, or the Last Judgment. So in effect it goes way beyond Pentecost too. Obviously though, Good Friday’s Sacrifice would not be “memorialized” if not for Easter Sunday and if not for Easter Sunday we would not be talking about Pentecost or the Last things.
        Ultimately the entire Mass is a mystery and it is a step into eternity which has no trajectory in our time constricted notions of the future in the philosophical sense, it simply is just as God is “I AM.” So we shouldn’t stop at the Last things either but go to the mind of God and back in our sense of temporal time to the creation of Adam and Eve, their original sin, subsequent actual sin, the covenants to save them, the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifice and so on to the new dispensation–there is a connection to all that too.
        While I would agree too with Fr. Anthony below, the Second Vatican Council did not change any dogma or doctrine. It is a pastoral council and framed the discussion of many things in a “developed” way including the Mass. But so does every encyclical a pope writes even if no new doctrines or dogmas are defined but simply described in a new or different way, which might not always be a better way or the final way. Certainly “Pope Pius XII Mystici Corporis Christi (June 29, 1943) on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is one of the more important encyclicals of Pope Pius XII, because of its topic, the Church, and because its Church concept was fully included in Lumen Gentium but also strongly debated during and after Vatican II. The Church is called body, because it is a living entity; it is called the body of Christ, because Christ is its Head and Founder; it is called mystical body, because it is neither a purely physical nor a purely spiritual unity, but supernatural.”–wikipedia
        So the Mass, in whatever form one celebrates it Extraordinary, Ordinary, Eastern Rites, etc hasn’t changed, but its expression certainly has and does and how it is described too, but it is still the Mass and thus a Mystery.

  20. Jim Pauwels : Paul, you ask, “Is it correct to interpret this new sentence as a circumscription of the presider’s power of choice of the Mass and its parts?” Here are some of the verbs that I’ve plucked from the citations you’ve provided: the presider should “be attentive”, should “remember”, should “take into special account”, should “consider”, should “be mindful of”, should “listen to”. All of these seem to be various ways of saying, “the presider should be open to input from others”. None of them positively amounts to, “the presider must cede power of choice”. Perhaps it’s worth noting that all of these verbs are preceded by “should”, and the word “should” always implies a moral obligation – there is an implicit “must” buried somewhere in “should”. What is it he should do? He should listen, he should be open to others’ views and opinions and arguments. And although the passages cited here don’t explicitly say so, presumably he should also be attentive to his own experiences and reasoning and education. But I don’t think the documents say that others’ views should override his own.

    Well said, Jim. Thank you.

  21. Bill deHaas : . . . can a presider (say a visiting or supply priest) over-ride what the parish has planned? You cite or highlight enough places for me to reach the conclusion that a presider can not really substitute his preferences over a parish liturgy plan. But? Just wonder? OTOH . . . we do prepare folks for each presider’s *standards* Have never witnessed a presider changing the church liturgical decorations, musical choices, etc. but have seen confusion when a presider changes readings or insists upon changing things such as cups, etc. . . . Have also seen what happens when a presider makes last minute changes.

    I have witnessed a visiting or supply priest over-ride what the parish has planned: changing the music, demanding that the entrance song be finished as his foot touches the floor of the presbyterium, changing the readings, demanding the short form of readings, forbidding the use of sung Latin (or demanding it), and the like.
    My favorite story about this sort of thing is when Cardinal Timothy Manning celebrated Mass at the motherhouse of a great order of sisters in our archdiocese. Coming into the sacristy at the end of Mass, he asked the sister sacristan (quite the senior citizen) to bring him the sacramentary. When she did, he opened it with a flourish to the eucharistic prayer he had just prayed and, pointing to the handwriting throughout the text, declared that only God was allowed to cross out and add words to the eucharistic prayer. Sister, following his finger, took the matter very seriously and agreed, “Yes, that doesn’t look like God’s handwriting.” Manning was so amused he couldn’t complete the scolding.

    1. @Paul F Ford – comment #28:
      Paul – have had many experiences like that. My least favorite was a seminary liturgy with Archbishop May. It was our practice to use specially designed and created earthen cups by the students. At the preparation, we prepared the table and when May stepped forward, he stopped, made a scene, and commanded that the vessels be removed and replaced with gold chalices. Took a while to open the safe and clean/replace with any chalices we could find in the back of the safe. Let’s just say – it left a *mark* on the seminarians who were present.
      (Do hope that the Vincentians don’t re-arrange at the last minute at St. John’s?)

  22. Shane Maher : “Hence in arranging the celebration of Mass, the Priest should be attentive rather to the common spiritual good of the People of God than to his own inclinations.” I read this as a corrective against liturgical minimalism.

    Yes, Shane, that’s how I read it as well.

  23. M. Jackson Osborn : This is a genuine question, though (admittedly) not asked without obvious bias. From whence were we given the term ‘presider’ for the erstwhile priest-celebrant. I gather that those of a certain stripe wanted to stress the notion that all, not just the celebrant, were celebrants. Too, those of a certain stripe had it in mind to de-emphasise and banish any nasty awful old notion of clericalism and its inevitable tinges of a caste system. But! Why ‘presider’? I cannot but think of a corporate board meeting or the ladie’s (or men’s) club meeting when I hear this signifer. It hath nothing remotely churchly, liturgically, ecclesiastically, or religiously apt in its connotations and imagery. Surely some word more indicative of sacerdotal function could have been found by the poetically bankrupt wayside of soulless contemporaneity. (Ditto ‘assembly’! What’s wrong with ‘church’, or ‘people’? Either of these is existentially far more than an ‘assembly’!)

    Thank you for reminding me of possible bias. I had no intention of speaking to any other issue than the responsibilities of the priest who presides.

  24. M. Jackson Osborn : And further: we now do not have collects and such but ‘Presidential Prayers’. this really sounds important doesn’t it; certainly more of a feather in one’s cap than a mere collect. Nor do we merely pray these prayers; Why, we Proclaim them! What arrogant nonsense that one should imagine that he is proclaiming rather than praying what is purportedly a prayer. There is a great chasm of difference between the spirit of humility, awe, and worshipfulness present in genuine prayer (even when spoken in a voice for all to hear) than in that of a rather presumptuous proclamation of something conveniently morphed into an almighty Presidential Prayer. These are Not the president’s prayers: they are the people’s prayers, the church’s prayers, by which God is beseeched, not proclaimed to. (Too, perhaps these collects of the new translation would be more friendly if one actually prayed them and stopped trying to proclaim them.)

    Yes, Jackson, as Queen Victoria complained of Gladstone, ” “He always addresses me as if I were a public meeting.”

  25. Thanks to both you for an excellent response. It also gets at any directions that swing too far to one interpretation e.g. sacrifice. What also concerned me was the use of language such as – *the words are directed to the Apostles who alone are present as an anticipation of Good Friday’s Sacrifice and how they will offer that one Sacrifice in perpetuity as a Memorial of the Good Friday event.” As KLS says well – it is so much more than just that – isn’t the memorial aspect the complete Triduum experience culminating in resurrection and, yes, the foretaste of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Thus, to suggest that *ad orientem*, latin, or picking apart the EPs as if they are a *re-enactment play* as if they are preferred or *have pride of place* leads to concerns.

  26. The responsibilities of a pastor include less a personal elucidation of bona fides (and the public expression thereof), and more an effective ministry of evangelization and continuing formation. With respect to complaints about anti-clericalism, priests-as-special-people really doesn’t work in Western culture these days.

    As a parent, I can attest childrearing by example is far more effective than by preaching. And if clergy and hierarchy are going to emphasize the “unchanging” quality of dogma and doctrine, how do they have a prayer of modeling the Christian values of conversion?

    #17-#21: Some of the words you dislike are the ones the Church actually uses in its documents. But as for “proclaim,” you don’t quite have the nuance right. The Scriptures, especially the Gospel, are proclaimed. The verb doesn’t fit for the presidential prayers, but they still need to be spoken aloud, slowly, and with a finer nuance than, say, an order to crack into the safe for the gold finery.

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