Bishop Serratelli’s pastoral letter on the new missal

Bishop Arthur Serratelli of the diocese of Paterson, NJ, issued the pastoral letter “The New Missal:  Liturgical Renewal and Catechesis” on December 8th, 2010.


  1. Fine, constructive, positive letter. Wonderful context:

    [8] The present moment of welcoming new liturgical texts is a flowering of a long liturgical renewal that preceded the Second Vatican Council. Within three months of his election to the Chair of Peter in 1903, Pius X (1903-1914) began the process of liturgical renewal.

  2. This poor guy hides behind history, hoping it will dignify his performance. Alas, no; the name of Serratelli will always be associated with one of the most ridiculous moments in the history of the Church.

    When the US bishops approved the texts in Nov 2008, remember how Serratelli made his prepared utterance, saluting a historic moment (prompting Card. George to interject, “not yet”!). This man thinks he has won an imperishable niche in history — and has yet to discover that history is a cruel mistress.

  3. He had me at “intelligible and dignified”. If there are any sections that qualify, it’s only because of a statistical accident.

  4. “with much collaboration among bishops, priests, scholars, poets, musicians and the faithful”

    Like those Gallup polls. This faithful was never collaborated with. And now we know at least one scholar and one musician who were fired when they tried to collaborate.

    Can’t blame the dude I guess. Who wants to be stuck in Paterson New Jersey for their whole career.

  5. Recently I shared with the Pray Tell readers a short article I wrote for our parish bulletin, concerning our growing reliance on printed materials to follow the most basic public prayer. Many commentators wrote that they also dealt with this issue but felt that we will have to live with booklets and sheets. I agree that we cannot do without them altogether. This has to be resolved parish by parish.

    A few wondered what good my article would do, or what purpose I had at a time in which (by their lights) an unsolicited and (now to all appearances) inferior translation is being imposed upon English-speaking Catholics. I reply to them that I was not addressing all English-speakers but those in one parish, none of whom except for me have the foggiest idea what this is all about. I was using the event of next Advent to present a personal plea for us to get our noses out of our missals. It could be that more websurfers than parishioners have read the article. No one from the parish has said anything to me about it.

    At the same time I was willing to speak out at a moment of universal focus. The first rule I laid down for myself (and reported here) was to do no harm. We have seen several approaches to preparation: Paul Turner’s pastoral style, Arthur Serratelli’s canonical stand, and Michael Ryan’s open mobilization. My approach is to speak out as constructively as I can in a language that others can understand. It is not a time to stand aloof to watch how the implementation will go.

  6. (cont.) Of course, Catholics are not the only ones with printed guides in their hands. I have attended non-Catholic worship services at which the congregation was directed every 5 minutes or so to turn to another part of the book. But we are the only ones that I can remember who keep a book open at a prominent place on the altar table of the Eucharist. Yes, I admit that I keep a newspaper or journal near me during meals at home, but never when family or friends are eating together. Yes, of course it is a long-standing church requirement, but I question its propriety. Do we not know what we are about, especially we who repeat so many of our prayers mass after mass? And despite what some commentators have affirmed, I reply that our presiders do not; without exception, they have their noses constantly in that book. So, CDW: stop cluttering up our altar table and distracting us from what we are celebrating!

    That is my issue. Too many readers, deacons and priests say things out loud but do not communicate. None of us ought to be commended for effective communication, as we sometimes are; it should be expected of us! It won’t matter whether the collect prayers, prefaces, blessings and the rest follow the trimmed down 1973 version or the Latinized 2010 product or whatever version meets our personal standard. These can be heard and help to build a church around the saving act of Christ, or can be mumbled and perceived as time-spending filler material.

    1. I’m not sure I see the problem with the use of the Missal / Sacramentary on the altar. The priest has different prayers every day. Are you suggesting he memorize them all? And, for the unchanging prayers, I must say that when I see a priest keeping his eye on the page I am re-assured that the correct words are being prayed. It doesn’t deter most priests from praying the words aloud in a reverent manner.

      1. +JMJ+

        Todd, I’m sure you don’t mean that the priest is not exercising his “liturgical leadership” (presidency?) when he is praying the Eucharistic Prayer at the altar. So I’m not sure why the chair and the altar need to be compared here.

    2. +JMJ+

      The Catechism teaches that the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” (CCC 108) And Benedict, in Deus Caritas Est, says “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (DCE 1)

      I think the same can be said for the Divine Liturgy: it is not an encounter with a book (the Missal), but with a Person — no, three Persons! But that does not mean the book is necessarily an obstacle to be overcome, or an inconvenience to be ignored.

    1. +JMJ+

      Then for the love of Christian unity, Todd, could you help me out?!

      It now sounds to me like you are saying the priest, praying at the altar, is not exercising liturgical leadership of the assembly. Does that mean he’s not presiding, then? Help me understand your vocabulary or whatever it is I’m missing to have fruitful discussion with you. This is immensely frustrating. 🙁

      1. Jeffrey

        You seemed to have missed the “some of” in Todd’s comment earlier (perhaps that was a later add-in by Todd, but it’s there now).

  7. I glossed over the comments above.

    But it is a liturgical error for a priest to use the altar as a bookstand for the prayers which are properly prayed at the chair. No matter how heavy or awkward the book is for him or for the server, it should be held and used.

    Jeffrey, part of your problem is that you’re in Fox/GOP gotcha! mode. We’ve had our discussions, and you even asked me to review your book. Either you trust me or you don’t. It is possible for a person (me, for instance) to make an error by not reading carefully or to assume that people are using the altar as a bookstand when they shouldn’t be. I felt the latter needed an underscore. What’s a blog if you can’t go off-topic on a thread now and then?

    1. +JMJ+

      Okay, I see now that you were addressing a different issue. That clears things up for me.

      I’m not trying to “get (catch) you”, I was just confused: I didn’t “get (understand) you” at all.

      (And it sure would have been nice to have heard back from you, regarding reviewing my book. Did you never get my response?)

    2. Not the Eucharistic prayers.Those are always prayed from the Altar. The GIRM states that the Collect, the Introduction to the Prayers of the Faithful, the Conclusion to the Prayers of the Faithful, the Gloria if recited, the Lord Have Mercy, the Creed as well as the closing prayer and the solemn blessing over the people are all led from the chair. Other times I’ve seen where you’ve described is when a priest is celebrating daily Mass and there is no server or deacon to assist him by holding the Sacramentary in front of the presider. So, yes the Church does allow that practice in those circumstances.

      1. I have to add here-that the GIRM directs the Liturgy of the Eucharist be led from the Altar at all times not from the chair!

  8. Todd Flowerday :

    Because the altar is not the locus for some of the liturgical leadership of the priest; the chair is.

    True, at other times, especially in the reading of the readings, the proclaiming of the psalm by the lector or cantor or the proclaiming of the Gospel and the delivery from the homily is all done from the Ambo. So at other points of the Mass, the Ambo is the focal point of the liturgy. And even still, during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Altar is the focal point of the liturgical leadership of the presider. But after the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the focal point of liturgical leadership of the presider switches back to the chair for the concluding rite of the solemn blessing or the prayers over the people. Read your copy of the GIRM if you have any doubts about what I am saying.

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