An heretofore unremarked addition to the GIRM?

So what are the “things that pertain to responsibility of the presider”? This sentence was added to the previous editions of the GIRM (see below).

Preparing liturgy is one of the most important tasks of everyone involved, presider, ministers, and assembly. Whatever mechanism for preparing liturgy a parish chooses (committee, advisory board, or the like), it needs to pay great attention to the rules of good communication and good liturgy. Three times between Paragraph 119 and Paragraph 122, Sing to the Lord cites GIRM 111, so it would be good to consult the entire text:

“111. Among all who are involved with regard to the rites, pastoral aspects, and music there should be harmony and diligence in the effective preparation of each liturgical celebration in accord with the Missal and other liturgical books. This should take place under the direction of the rector of the church and after the consultation with the faithful about things that directly pertain to them. The priest who presides at the celebration, however, always retains the right of arranging those things that are his own responsibility.” [my emphasis]

Note that the entire last sentence of 111 is new to this edition of the GIRM.

SttL 119 also quotes from a very important passage of the GIRM:

“352. The pastoral effectiveness of a celebration will be greatly increased if the texts of the readings, the prayers, and the liturgical songs correspond as closely as possible to the needs, spiritual preparation, and culture of those taking part. This is achieved by appropriate use of the wide options described below.

“The priest, therefore, in planning the celebration of Mass, should have in mind the common spiritual good of the people of God, rather than his own inclinations. He should, moreover, remember that the selection of different parts is to be made in agreement with those who have some role in the celebration, including the faithful, in regard to the parts that more directly pertain to each.

“Since, indeed, a variety of options is provided for the different parts of the Mass, it is necessary for the deacon, the lectors, the psalmist, the cantor, the commentator, and the choir to be completely sure before the celebration which text for which each is responsible is to be used and that nothing be improvised. Harmonious planning and carrying out of the rites will great assistance in disposing the faithful to participate 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 (e.g., orations, readings, Prayer of the Faithful), pastoral considerations bearing upon the deceased, the family, and those attending should rightly be taken into account. Pastors should, moreover, 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 rarely participate in the Eucharist or who seem even to have lost the faith. For priests are ministers of Christ’s Gospel for all.” [my emphasis]

These last two sentences are 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.”

10 comments

  1. “The priest, therefore, in planning the celebration of Mass, should have in mind the common spiritual good of the people of God, rather than his own inclinations.”

    I think often folks on both sides of the liturgical spectrum, progressive and traditional, accuse the other of infusing their own “inclinations” into the celebration. Perhaps, however, the divide has more to do with different answers to the question posed above, that is, what actually serves the common spiritual good of the people of God. Progressives tend to side with meeting the people “where they are”. Traditionalists might argue that any watering down of the faith does, in the long run, spiritual harm. One can see validity on both sides. Perhaps that’s why God has blessed the Church with both progressive and traditional-minded people. Perhaps we would be better served engaging in discussions with the assumption that we have the same goal, the spiritual good of the people, and see our disagreements in that light rather than immediately assigning ulterior agendas to someone when we don’t agree.

    1. “Perhaps we would be better served engaging in discussions with the assumption that we have the same goal, the spiritual good of the people, and see our disagreements in that light rather than immediately assigning ulterior agendas to someone when we don’t agree.”

      Well said. I would also add that the Catholic response would be to meet people where they are, but not to leave them there. Mass takes place here on Earth but in unison with the company of Heaven. We mustn’t forget either side of the equation, so to speak.

  2. If we would simply let the Funeral liturgy stand as it is and give a good pastoral homily based upon Jesus and what He has accomplished for us even in death rather than what we have accomplished for ourselves, that would go a long way in the planning process and the options available. We should allow people to choose readings (either before they die, or family members afterward) but I think the priest should have some input and work very closely with family members who are not Catholic or have stopped practicing the faith altogether. Some of the worst experiences in planning a funeral is with those who are not Catholic or have left the practice of the faith. Each group brings a non-liturgical, trendy post-Christian antipathy to the process. But as always, music becomes the most contentious element and a narrowing, not expanding of these options should take place with a preference for the official Entrance Antiphon, Offertory Antiphon and Communion Antiphon taking precedence. Ultimately pastoral councils in conjunction with the music minister should establish very strict, but pastoral guidelines for funerals which the pastor ultimately approves after his own tweaking.

  3. Jeff, you strike just the right tone. Father Allan, you are correct; but is “tweaking” the music possibilities in the pastoral guidelines for funerals” a “thing that pertains to his own responsibility”?

    I posted this to see if we all could have a discussion what falls into this list and what falls out.

    1. Hopefully, the priest would have tweaked things in consultation with the music minister and pastoral council who help set policy for things of this nature. Usually in my parish, I ask our full time music director to be the “bad or good guy” in terms of saying yes or no to music, so that I always come out smelling like a rose!

  4. I tried to comment on this post last night… my internet connection went wonky, however, and it seems it didn’t go through.

    There are quite a few parts of the Mass that pertain to the priest’s responsibility and don’t (generally) require consultation with the other ministers (choir, servers, Deacon, etc.) This is true even after the choice of Mass and choice of options requiring consultation (pentitential rite) For instance the choice of the Eucharistic prayer, the choice of the preface, the introduction to the Lord’s prayer and the prayer of private preparation of the priest (Domine Iesu Christe or Perceptio Corporis et Sanguinis).

    It seems the purpose of this paragraph is to prevent rectors, pastors, or bishops from trying to mandate uniformity from above on the places where options have been provided in the liturgy. Pastors have been known to say things to their curates like “We don’t use the Roman Canon here.”

    1. Samuel, I tend to agree with you that there are so many options, that the priest should pick and choose and in a pastoral way the parts of the Mass, like orations, preface and Eucharistic prayer. I think with the Scriptures and some of the music that some choices should be provided as well as openness to some music. If someone asked me to use a particular Eucharistic prayer, I certainly would comply, but in my 30 years as a priest, no one has every asked me to use a particular Eucharistic prayer for and Sunday, weekday, funeral or wedding. I’ll let sleeping dogs lie on that one.

      1. As a pastor, you also have control over the music (within the norms of the law). The sentence in question addresses what the celebrant controls versus the pastor/rector. Your comment reminds me of another option that would seem to belong to the priest, that of using the ordinary oration or the alternate currently provided in the ICEL books, though this option is going away with the new translation I think?

  5. These last two sentences are 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.”

    What a powerful statement. All of us need to focus ourselves on this and make this our primary mission. Let’s put aside our bickering and “conspiracy theories” found on both sides of the aisle and let Christ take care of his Bride. He’s done a pretty good job at it for the last two millennia and will continue to do so until he returns again in glory.

    To steal a quote from Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?

  6. Consult all you want but nowhere does it say that you may add or subtract to the words and rubrics of the GIRM, does it?

    Even if it is only one word added (or subracted), I start to think about why he would make that change.

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