Bruce Morrill, S.J., holds the Edward A. Malloy Chair of Catholic Studies at Vanderbilt University, where he is professor of Theological Studies in the Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion. He provides liturgical, pastoral, and educative ministries regularly at two Nashville parishes, as well as at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison. His latest book is The Essential Writings of Bernard Cooke: A Narrative Theology of Church, Sacrament, and Ministry (2016), while earlier monographs include Encountering Christ in the Eucharist (2012), Divine Worship and Human Healing (2009), and Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory (2000).

Good Table Manners?

“The fact that by the end of Vatican II the church’s dogmatic teaching treated the Mass in terms not of propitiatory sacrifice but of table—the one table of Christ, both Word and Body—cannot be overestimated in relation to the reform of the Mass that followed. The popular, practical import over the ensuing half-century in the United States is evident in the way the vast majority of the Catholic laity have developed a highly open, forgiving, and inclusive view of who is welcomed not only to take part as members of the liturgical assembly but also to join in Holy Communion.”

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Too Many Masses? Pastoral-Liturgical Practice on Ash Wednesday

Given the history of Ash Wednesday’s emergence and various morphings over the centuries as a ritual-symbol inaugurating a season of penitence, I simply do not see why, in the Roman Catholic Church, at least, the most apt liturgy would not be based on the sample penitential services (basically, liturgies of the word) found at the end of the Rite of Penance.

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