Inculturation, even in Rome?

For the closing Mass of the International Union of General Superiors, the celebrant was the Vatican’s representative, Fr. Eusebio Hernandez Sola. Below is NCRep’s description of the adaptation he made to the closing rites for the sisters. Hmmm, if we start allowing this kind of sensitivity to the assembly, just where will it end?

At the end of the mass Father Antonio Pernia, SVD, answering a request of UISG President Notre Dame de Sion Sister Maureen Cusick, rather than give a final blessing, asked the UISG leadership to take the lead. The women asked each of the women at the assembly to place a right hand on the woman to the right and what the assembly experience was a grand communal blessing.


  1. OK, I’ll bite.

    Just which element of what Catholic “culture” was being incorporated into the Mass? When did a process of discernment and dialogue take place to discover whether this change was an authentic expression of some culture? And when did the proponents of this inculturation seek to involve the church’s apostolic authority, that is, the bishops, in a process of guidance in adopting this inculturation?

    Or was this just one priest, “feeling the moment”, with the sisters, doing whatever the hell they felt like?

  2. I would have asked for the sacerdotal blessing afterwards anyway. I wouldn’t have shouted out to the priest to give a blessing during the Mass, but I would have asked him to offer one after the conclusion of Mass. Discretion is key.

    I wonder if everyone present recited benedicat vos omnipotens Deus… in some vernacular. That would usurp the priest’s perogative. I would suspect that the religious that pronounced the priestly blessing would commit a sacrilege. If the blessing was a spontaneous prayer, then the worshippers were simply denied the final blessing. benedicat nos omnipotens Deus…, such as said in the office without a priest, would have been better but still a bit strange.

    1. When we, in every situation, insist on only using very specific words accompanying a specific action we risk turning those words & actions into a magical incantation…

  3. I think this is yet another example of post-Vatican II creative clericalism on the part of the priest who wanted to placate his constituents, one of many “creativities” that have been foisted on the people in the pew whether they liked it or not. In this case, I suspect it was liked by those gathered. While not as dramatic as substituting pizza and beer for the bread and wine at a college Mass, it is of the same mind set, to conform to those who attend the Mass in some creative egalitarian way. It is also like the priest who simply can’t be prophetic in the final blessing using “May almighty God bless US, in the Name of the Father… “instead of “May Almighty God bless YOU…., the Father…” I wonder if the word “Father” was even used, maybe the more utilitarian term “Creator” or worse yet “Generator,” but you have to buy gas for the latter.

  4. This is the kind of thing that should not be happening. I agree with Fr. Allen, completely. He said it much better then I could, so I will just second his comments.

  5. On the basis of a third-hand report I would be reluctant either to praise or to criticize what allegedly happened. But the case for such a move should certainly not be associated with the highly questionable idea of ‘inculturation’: it would be more a matter of appropriate senstivity to a particular need.

  6. Tom Fox’s series on this conference shows how, when a common modern organizational problem, i.e. the senior executives( in this case B16 and Rode) take a vital part of their organization for granted by not attending a very significant gathering, that organizational problem becomes evident and tries to get resolution in the liturgies of the gathering.
    Very good illustration of how liturgies are in fact not isolated from their organizational culture, but in fact mirror its conflicts.
    The bottom line for me is you solve organizational problems by actually solving organizational problems, not by trying to symbolically solve them in the liturgy, or by treating them as liturgical problems when they are human problems.

  7. Culture? It depends on whether you think feminism is an aspect of culture or an aspect of faith in the Triune God that has been neglected or suppressed historically because of sin. Cardinal Rode thinks feminism is the sin, evidently, but not everybody agrees with him.

  8. Ioannes – OK, I guess I’m probably just stirring the pot here.
    Jordan and Fr. Allan – In general I agree with your sentiments and don’t like dinging around with the rite. But here I think it might be good to hold back and ask why something so liturgically questionable happened.
    Phil and Jack – Good points. The blessing no doubt happened because some people in Rome know they have a pretty lousy reputation because of the sisters’ visitation (among other things). It’s an organizational or structural issue.
    Rita – And yes, it’s also a cultural issue.
    Thanks all,

  9. And then the priest suggested that he say the Eucharistic Prayer ad orientem silently in Latin and the sisters ran for their copies of the GIRM.

      1. Well, try telling that to a number of folks who strain to make a very convoluted reading that it does, and, when they fail to persuade, argue that the prior custom is not abrogated, et cet. Then you’ll get the copy-and-paste arguments in favor of the silent canon that are of the typical ahistorical post-hoc rationalization kind.

      2. GIRM 30 calls the Eucharistic Prayer a “presidential prayer”, ad GIRM 32 says that the nature (in the OF, at least) of a “presidential prayer”is that it be spoken in a loud and clear voice.

    1. The reasoning behind the post is that one invalid adaptation was seen as great whereas another would be seen as a travesty.

  10. I guess this could be extrapolated to: anything is permissible in the Mass with the permission/consent of the celebrant. And that could eventually evolve into: … with the permission/consent of the liturgical committee. And that could eventually evolve into: … with the permission/consent of the specific congregation.

    Why must all these things take place within the context of the Mass? The liturgy does not exhaust the entire spiritual activity of the Church. The religious women could have had a blessing-of-affirmation (or whatever it is they would call it) afterwards.

  11. The blessing is one of those places where the changing of even one word changes the meaning of the words/action. The simple changing of “Bless you” to “Bless us” betrays our theology of the priesthood, ecclesiology, and liturgical theology in many ways.

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