The Interiority and the Exteriority of the Communion Rite

Allied to a previous discussion, I think it’s time to elaborate the both/and—the individual and the communal dimensions—of the communion rite by a close analysis of Articles 80 through 89 of the General Instruction. I’ll start this thread and I invite others to contribute reasoned and temperate reflections.

A relative novice at WordPress, I don’t think I have all the HTML coding at my disposal to clearly distinguish my remarks from the GIRM (e.g., I’d love to have color and underlining at my disposal). So I am going to put the GIRM Articles in block quotations. Any boldface you see in the block quotations is my addition: It signals a change in this edition of the GIRM from all previous editions. My comments precede and/or follow each extract.

It is critically important to appreciate these changes because they were made in the reign of Blessed Pope John Paul II and could have been withdrawn or changed by Pope Benedict XVI, but the latter has yet chosen to amend the General Instruction. The content—though perhaps not the intent—of a few remarks on the previous post libel Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Bugnini as if they were enemies of personal prayer during the liturgy. May we please avoid even the appearance of verbal injustice?

The Communion Rite
80. Since the celebration of the Eucharist is the Paschal Banquet, it is desirable that in accordance with the Lord’s command his Body and Blood should be received as spiritual food by those of the faithful who are properly disposed. This is the sense of the fraction and the other preparatory rites by which the faithful are led more immediately to Communion.

Nothing is new about this paragraph; it’s been there since 1969. But it may escape some readers that the emphasis on the proper dispositions of the faithful is an entirely new dimension of the Missal of Pope Paul VI. Pope Saint Pius X balanced the church’s previous stress on the fact of sacraments with a new awareness of the fruitfulness of sacraments—while the fact of the sacrament depends on the proper matter, form, and intention, the fruitfulness of the sacrament depends on the enlivened dispositions of the recipient. This is a theme taken up by Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. This emphasis on enlivened dispositions is found in the very first words of the General Instruction—and 120 more times!

GIRM is claiming that enhancing the interior dispositions of each member of the assembly is the deepest purpose of all stages of the rites that prepare us for communion.

The Lord’s Prayer
81. In the Lord’s Prayer a petition is made for daily bread, which for Christians means principally the Eucharistic Bread, and entreating also purification from sin, so that what is holy may in truth be given to the holy. The Priest pronounces the invitation to the prayer, and all the faithful say the prayer with him; then the Priest alone adds the embolism, which the people conclude by means of the doxology. The embolism, developing the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer itself, asks for deliverance from the power of evil for the whole community of the faithful.

(Nothing new here either.) Why do we pray the Lord’s Prayer? Although there are seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, the GIRM emphasizes three: To ask for our daily bread, to ask for purification from sin, and to ask for deliverance from the power of evil.

I believe it is a commonplace observation—but one worth repeating—that the prayer says OUR Father, and not MY Father.

The Rite of Peace
82. There follows the Rite of Peace, by which the Church entreats peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament.

As for the actual sign of peace to be given, the manner is to be established by the Conferences of Bishops in accordance with the culture and customs of the peoples. However, it is appropriate that each person, in a sober manner, offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest.

There is much new in this edition of the GIRM, not only by way of clarifying the purpose of the Rite of Peace, but the hoped-for effects.

The Fraction of the Bread
83. The Priest breaks the Eucharistic Bread, with the assistance, if the case requires, of the Deacon or a concelebrant. The gesture of breaking bread done by Christ at the Last Supper, which in apostolic times gave the entire Eucharistic Action its name, signifies that the many faithful are made one body (1 Cor 10:17) by receiving Communion from the one Bread of Life, which is Christ, who for the salvation of the world died and rose again. The fraction or breaking of bread is begun after the sign of peace and is carried out with proper reverence, and should not be unnecessarily prolonged or accorded exaggerated importance. This rite is reserved to the Priest and the Deacon.

The Priest breaks the Bread and puts a piece of the host into the chalice to signify the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation, namely, of the Body of Jesus Christ, living and glorious.

Again, there is much new, and more about motives and dispositions.

84. The Priest prepares himself by a prayer, said quietly, so that he may fruitfully receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The faithful do the same, praying silently.

Then the Priest shows the faithful the Eucharistic Bread, holding it over the paten or over the chalice, and invites them to the banquet of Christ; and along with the faithful, he then makes an act of humility, using the prescribed words from the Gospels.

There is nothing new about the first paragraph of Article 84. But the communion rite is often so hurried at this point, I wonder if anyone is asking God that she/he might receive the sacrament fruitfully.

85. It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the Priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the cases where this is foreseen, they partake of the chalice, so that even by means of the signs Communion may stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.

The newness in this article underscores how desirable it is for everyone to receive from the fruits of this sacrifice of the Mass, and not from some previous celebration.

86. While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the “communitarian” character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. . . .

I have already commented about this passage here.

88. When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time.

This is NOT the time for announcements, and not the time for a second collection, and not the time for a motet by the choir or a song by a soloist or an instrumental. It is not even—in my opinion—the time for the purification of the vessels: GIRM 163. ” . . . Nevertheless, it is also permitted to leave vessels needing to be purified, especially if there are several, on a corporal, suitably covered, either on the altar or on the credence table, and to purify them immediately after Mass, after the Dismissal of the people.”

This silent praying should be the longest at the Mass. As I say in my English and Spanish scripts for “How to Pray the (Order of the) Mass”, “During this time of silent prayer the priest leads us into the third and last of the three ancient silences in the Mass, the silence when we reach out to be in communion with Jesus and with everyone to whom he leads us. You are now seated beside Jesus. What is he saying to you? What have you to say to him? Is our Lord calling you to serve him in a special way by reaching out in active, loving service of any particular person or group? Is he inviting you to enjoy the vocation he has already given you—to be single, a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a neighbor, a co-worker? Is he calling you to be single, to be married, to be a parent, a priest, a deacon, a religious sister or brother? Is he leading you to someone whom you have hurt or who has hurt you? You are now close to the saints and all your beloved dead; tell them of your love and receive theirs. Listen to Jesus comfort you in your suffering. See him reveal himself as the ultimate source of your joy. Let him give you strength for your work. Hear him answer your prayer” [“Mass In Slow Motion” © 2002–2011 Paul F. Ford. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint and use is freely granted as long at the forgoing copyright notice is also printed.]

If the communion antiphon and psalm have been chosen correctly, that is, if the antiphon alludes to and even quotes the gospel of the Mass, or one of the other readings, then everyone can experience in the silence that God has delivered on the promises He made in the Liturgy of the Word to be present in the Body and Blood of His Son. For example, on the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, the gospel of the Canaanite woman, if we have sung the Psallite Song for the Table, “The Mercy of God Is for All,” with Psalm 130 and/or 103, we can receive our eucharistic Lord as the very Mercy of God for us.

89. To bring to completion the prayer of the People of God, and also to conclude the whole Communion Rite, the Priest pronounces the Prayer after Communion, in which he prays for the fruits of the mystery just celebrated.

The people make the prayer their own by means of the acclamation Amen.

Three things happen during this prayer, two of which are newly brought to our attention: (1) the prayer of the People of God is completed, (2) the whole Communion Rite is concluded, and (3) the fruits of the mystery just celebrated are prayed for. The Prayer after Communion is the last part of the Mass when we are in the future, at the Table of the Lamb.

So. There is my first attempt at articulating the balanced interiority and the exteriority of the Communion Rite. I have labored over this post for nearly three hours and have made twenty-seven revisions. I know I am omitting things and failing to be clear and not seeing mistakes. Gentle reader, help me improve this post.


  1. Paul, you write that the silent time after Holy Communion: “This is NOT the time for announcements, and not the time for a second collection, and not the time for a motet by the choir or a song by a soloist or an instrumental. It is not even—in my opinion—the time for the purification of the vessels”

    While I agree wholeheartedly with you and your article and citations, I do think we get into trouble when we begin to “pontificate” on what is not to be done when the GIRM doesn’t approach it that way. Apart from the other things you mention which I would never do either, I do think the GIRM or at least the rubrics allow for a post-Communion song (I’ve asked our sacred music director not to do a post communion chant since the preference is silence in so many quarters). I don’t think a second collection is forbidden although certainly not prescribed. I’m not sure either where I can find that the silence after Holy Communion should be any longer than after the homily. Opinions are great, but they are that, opinions. Rigidly following opinions is what gets liturgists into trouble not to mention priests.

    1. Father Allan, you and Jack and John mention GIRM 88, the “Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn” after communion; and you three note that it is sung by the whole congregation. I trust then you three agree with me that this is not the time “for a motet by the choir or a song by a soloist or an instrumental,” as I say above. When you consult the official repertory for these songs in the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex, you see that Rome is thinking of the great songs of praise sung at the end of weddings, ordinations, vows, forty-hour devotions, and other great occasions—“Te Deum Laudamus,” “Te decet laus,” “Te laudamus Domine,” or even the Magnificat.

      1. The rubric in the new English translation of the Missal’s Order of Mass it is written: (After purifying the vessels): “138. Then the Priest may return to the chair. If appropriate, a sacred silence may be observed for a while, or a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung.”

        It does not say who should or shouldn’t sing it. I want to reiterate that we observe sacred silence in my parish at this time, but to say that if singing is done it has to be by the congregation and not a motet by the choir, just ain’t there as we say in the south.

      2. I know of that rubric, Father; it duplicates, except for the parenthesis at the end, the GIRM 164, , “After this, the Priest may return to the chair. A sacred silence may now be observed for some time, or a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung (cf. no. 88).” With the parenthesis, it is clear we’re in the same territory, north south, east, or west, or from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof.

    2. I hope that the tone of my post was not pontificating. I agree that I am stating my opinion. I believe my opinion is informed.

      What is not opinion but fact is that the announcements are to be made after the prayer after communion. Something new to the 2002 edition of the GIRM is Paragraph A of Article 90: “brief announcements, should they be necessary.”

      What is not opinion but fact is that the “Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn” after communion is “sung by the whole congregation.”

      1. Thanks Paul for indicating what music might be appropriate after the silence and before the post-communion.

        What you say is consistent with the placement of the Magnificant and Benedictus here when Evening Prayer of Morning Prayer are combined with the Mass.

      2. Thank you for reminding me of the Benedictus and the Magnificat. NO one sits for the singing of them, nor for the singing of the “Te Deum Laudamus,” the “Te decet laus,” or the “Te laudamus Domine”—at least not in the Church of my youth or of my dotage.

      3. Paul, yes, I know there are many references to the chants of the Mass which are assumed to be what is being used and thusly mentioned first (with other options/concessions listed next). I see no preference for a song sung in place of a chant as you deduce, though that has become enshrined as tradition.

        Regarding the time after Holy Communion, I would opt for the “sacred silence” (is there a corresponding evil silence? LOL), using the hymn option only very rarely, and allowing time for the private thanksgiving of those who have just received the Lord, including the priest. Considering that the chior would have just been singing the communion chant (Communio) for a long time immediately before, it seems unfair to have them sing a motet after communion as well. Now if a song leader was singing the verses of a song during communion with the congregation (ostensibly) singing a refrain, then perhaps a choral motet would be entirely appropriate and welcome.

        Finally, I have to ask, what is the combining of Morning or Evening Prayer with Mass? Is this something new in the upcoming Missal? I know that on 4 feasts (Christmas Eve, the eve of Epiphany, Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday), the Orthodox combine Vespers with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, but I have never heard of this in the Roman rite. I’d be interested in hearing more, can you point me to the liturgical books for this? Is it on the USCCB website?

      4. from General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours II-VII

        Chapter II-VII. Combining the Hours With Mass or With Each Other

        93. In particular cases, if circumstances require, it is possible to link an hour more closely with Mass when there is a celebration of the liturgy of the hours in public or in common, according to the norms that follow, provided the Mass and the hour belong to one and the same office. Care must be taken, however, that this does not result in harm to pastoral work, especially on Sundays.

        94. When morning prayer, celebrated in choir or in common, comes immediately before Mass, the whole celebration may begin either with the introductory verse and hymn of morning prayer, especially on weekdays, or with the entrance song, procession, and celebrant’s greeting, especially on Sundays and holydays; one of the introductory rites is thus omitted.

        The psalmody of morning prayer follows as usual, up to, but excluding, the reading. After the psalmody the penitential rite is omitted and, as circumstances suggest, the Kyrie; the Gloria then follows, if required by the rubrics, and the celebrant says the opening prayer of the Mass. The liturgy of the word follows as usual.

        The general intercessions are made in the place and form customary at Mass. But on weekdays, at Mass in the morning, the intercessions of morning prayer may replace the daily form of the general intercessions at Mass.

        After the communion with its communion song the Canticle of Zechariah, Blessed be the Lord, with its antiphon from morning prayer, is sung. Then follow the prayer after communion and the rest as usual.

        Similar Instructions follow for Evening Prayer.

  2. 88. When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time.

    “This silent praying should be the longest at the Mass.”

    Thank you very much for your interpretation of this. While it is not very important to me personally, it is an issue that I heard very often with deep feeling when I was a member of pastoral council. Despite the pastor’s endorsement of this issue, it was often neglected or overridden, either by the presider, or by the choir director, e.g. instrumental music. Washing the dishes during it also detracted from it. While not everyone has to sing for singing to work; everyone has to be silent for shared silence to work.

    However, like Fr. Allan, I recall that there is an option for a hymn (I guess after the silence but before the post-communion). I think you have to deal with that fact. Why it is there? What it could be used for? Etc. It has to be more than “let us just not use it.”

    I think observing this silence is key to eliciting people’s cooperation in singing and standing after they have received communion but before the end of everyone’s communion.

    Also you might want to deal with the “if appropriate.” Again when you have an option (i.e. not to do it) there needs to be some thought about when that might be appropriate.

    Both the strength and weakness of the Post V2 Mass is its flexibility. Interpreting that flexibility well is an art that needs to be learned. It should be more than a series of random choices. You do not have to use all the choices; indeed one parish that does liturgy well has deliberately chosen not to clutter the liturgy with a lot of options over the course of the year. I think that makes it a very strong very predictable ritual statement.

  3. Paul–I appreciate your hard work on trying to explain your views. And yes, I see where GIRM #86 is trying to bring out the “communitarian” (I have to say that word makes me uneasy) aspect of this procession by extending singing to the end of it, if, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner. The fact that GIRM #87 says that this is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with the people, leads one to believe that choir is the preferred option, since it is mentioned first, allowing the gathered assembled processing community to use the time on the way, in private preparation, and the way back, as the start of their private thanksgiving. But I really don’t see where it’s instructing, recommending, or mentioning posture or method of prayer prior to reception or for those who have already received, or are not receiving the Sacrament.

    As GIRM #88 says: “When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.” Again, options, but no mention of posture or what or how that private prayer should be molded, if circumstances allow it.

    I guess my point is that prior to VII little regulation of what the people should do was given by the missal, and post VII more substantive instructions are given for them (but mostly unknown by them, agreed?). But these are not complete, perhaps allowing room for regional traditions/variations. What I see here is that supplemental regulation is being proposed and in some cases implemented, outside of the GIRM, to reduce individualism and create unity through uniformity, where it is not needed or regulated.

    1. John, the option for choir alone exists to protect the singing of the communio of the Graduale Romanum. From the entirety of the GIRM 80 through 89 as well as from the official repertory in the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex I deduce that there is a preference in the law for the singing of the communion chant by the choir or cantor alternating with the people.

  4. RE: The Communion Rite 80 “Faithful who are properly disposed”

    Why is this never discussed? Far and away, the greatest liturgical abuse is the reception of Holy Communion by, in most parishes, virtually 100% of the congregation. Yet Confession lines are minuscule in most parishes.

    Most recipients of Holy Communion are committing sacrilege in the U.S. (I’ve noticed in congregations with lots of Hispanics that 100% participation doesn’t seem to be the practice). There must be no spiritual benefit to the Church as a whole of most attendance at Mass in the American Church. ‘

    In case you question how I could know that people might not be in the state of grace, surveys show that 90% of Catholic couples use artificial birth control, for one. 100% of Christmas/Easter Catholics receive Holy Communion when they do attend. For two.

    No wonder Mass attendance is so low and young people in many parishes are non-existent. Subliminally, they must be aware of the hypocrisy and figure it can’t be that important.

    I was reminded today that our Bishops have excused us from attending Mass on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the B.V.M. Our Bishops keep making Catholic teachings easier and easier, and our Catholic parishioners keep pushing the envelope to make life even more easy for themselves.

    1. Ray, I appreciate your passion; but I think you need to moderate your way of speaking. As a holy bishop said in the 2008 presidential election campaign, “the verse before communion says, ‘O Lord, I am not worthy,’ not ‘My neighbor is not worthy.'”

      I believe you misunderstand the connection between Eucharist and Reconciliation. Revisit the Catechism, Articles 1393 through 1395.

      As Pope Paul VI said to priests in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae: “So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.”

      Pope Saint Pius X is rejoicing from heaven that his decree, Sacra Tridentina (December 20, 1905) has now had its effect in some of the Church:

      1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited therefrom.

      2. A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.

      3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.

      4. Since, however, the Sacraments of the New Law, though they produce their effect ex opere operato, nevertheless, produce a great effect in proportion as the dispositions of the recipient are better, therefore, one should take care that Holy Communion be preceded by careful preparation, and followed by an appropriate thanksgiving, according to each one’s strength, circumstances and duties.
      5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor’s advice should be asked. Confessors, however, must take care not to dissuade anyone from frequent or daily Communion, provided he is found to be in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention.

      6. But since it is plain that by the frequent or daily reception of the Holy Eucharist union with Christ is strengthened, the spiritual life more abundantly sustained, the soul more richly endowed with virtues, and the pledge of everlasting happiness more securely bestowed on the recipient, therefore, parish priests, confessors and preachers, according to the approved teaching of the Roman Catechism should exhort the faithful frequently and with great zeal to this devout and salutary practice.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if the various generations of crafters of all versions of the IGRM ever conceived that the “folks” would actually read it, much less forensically attempt to deconstruct it to discern its perhaps intentional ambiguity?
    I’m officially old, confused and disaffected. Could someone explain this all to me as if I were four?

    1. Charles, I think we are coevals (I’m 64)? I too get confused but I am not disaffected.

      What I offer in my remarks is not a forensic attempt to deconstruct the GIRM but a careful reading to discern its intention to teach and to clarify.

      After a medicinal, spiritual beverage and a good night’s sleep, might you amplify what you would like to have explained in monosyllables? 😉

  6. “Most recipients of Holy Communion are committing sacrilege in the U. S” has to be the most judgemental and unverifiable statement I have ever read in this blog. Considering some of the bring back the phony good old days nonsense of some posters, Mr Marshall yours is quite the achievement. “Studies” can in now way define the state of any individual’s soul. For you to comment on the proper disposition of any individual but yourself is presumptuous to the point of obscenity. Just who do you think you are?

  7. The are many options on how to do the liturgy, both according to the letter of the rubrics, and according to the many customs we see around us. The problem is less that we have not enough options but that we have too many options. Paul is doing us a great service by organizing everything and strongly advocating a way through it all.

    Fortunately most of us are not employees of the church, but we have had much experience with many bureaucracies and know their policies and procedures often do not work in practice. We also have seen how really dysfunctional the church bureaucracy is, and so anything like the GIRM is pretty much DOA. Many of us have worked in multidisciplinary environments and are very comfortable with challenging the wisdom and expertise of other fields. It is usually been necessary to solve many problems in our organizations.

    Ultimately any changes in parish practice are going to have to sell themselves. So I would skip the GIRM rationale for doing them when talking to the people of the parish.

    The combination of standing and singing the communion song while all communicate, and a substantial period of silence reflection would likely meet the approval of most of people in the parish. It also fits the rhythm of a natural celebration or banquet. Everyone waits until everyone has been served before beginning to eat. And usually when the food is good, a natural silence descends upon the participants who are more absorbed in the shared meal than in separate conversations.

    However, many banquets and special meals have special events at the end of the meal, e.g. a speaker. While I like the idea of the Magnificat or Benedictus before the postcommunion prayer for particularly solemn feasts, many parishes love their choirs and even some of their soloists and would like to hear from them at this time.

    Give people good liturgical experiences, forget about the bureaucratic rationales. Find a parish that has already done it, and have them share.

  8. Paul,

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. At times I think the tension between interior and exterior is at the root of most points of contention in the “liturgy wars”.

    A question (to all) concerning GIRM #86. I do not recall being at a Mass where the communion chant (or song) was actually begun precisely as the priest was receiving communion. It usually begins a bit later when the faithful receive, and it is often introduced by an instrumental, which can undermine the unifying function. My recollection may be faulty, but I think this was the order of events at Masses I attended during NPM conventions. Is this just a widespread local anomaly or what?

    1. It’s a rule that is often ignored, but not always. There’s a habit from the EF that the priest’s communion is the summit of the Mass and should be silent, but that’s not the way the OF is designed.

      1. This is not really an complete synopsis of the EF practice. The Communion antiphon generally can’t be begun at the priest’s communion in the EF because there are public prayers following it and before the Communion of the people.

        The rubrics account for this. If the people do not Communicate (which might have happened, especially under the pre-1983 discipline if they have already Communicated earlier in the day) the Communion rite prayers for the people are omitted and the Communion verse is begun immediately at the priest’s Communion.

        From the Liber Usualis: “The Communion Antiphon is sung while the priest is consuming the Blessed Sacrament. When there are other communicants, the Antiphon is begun when the priest distributes Communion.

        So it doesn’t have to do with a preference for silence at the priest’s Communion.

    2. Chuck, I don’t recall this detail of the NPM convention Masses; but I know it is more often the case that assembly singing is often delayed in most places. Alas.

  9. JR: “I think observing this silence is key to eliciting people’s cooperation in singing and standing after they have received communion but before the end of everyone’s communion.”

    This is exactly on target. I have not seen anything posted on these two threads from those on the anti-OF right that acknowledges the reality of this both/and approach written into the GIRM itself. I have not seen any interest in cooperation with the community.

    I continue to read self-centered insistence on having personal prayer instead of participating in all of the time of communal prayer. It repeatedly looks like they think they are still just required to ATTEND Mass and derive whatever PERSONAL benefit they can from it. Sounds more capitalist than Christian.

    This betrays an entire lack of understanding that liturgy is by its nature is communal and not personal prayer, that all participate in the communal ritual for the mutual benefit of all in the community. All of the other rhetoric is just covering this desire to do individual things instead of participate in communal, liturgical prayer. The most cynical of these is the complaint about uniformity and the political terminology introduced recently. To defend their selfishness, they are excusing their flaunting of their individual disrespect for the community with condemnations of supporters of the community as dictators. It is like loud movie goers complaining about the ushers, comparing them to storm troopers.

    This extreme individualism has no place in liturgy. One will and should have personal experiences and reflections during communal events. Just do not insult everyone else by withdrawing into and preferring your personal reflections when you have come to a communal event.

    1. Me, Tom? First off, I am not an anti-OF right-winger you might think I am. While I do support the access to the EF of those who are attached to it to be able to freely worship in that rite, it’s not for me. I attend the OF only. I love the respectful silences at the points in the OF form where it is regulated and recommended, but rarely observed in local parochial practice. Trust, when I am at Mass, I participate; I respond, I sing, even when the music is banal or when no one around me is doing so.

      What I don’t understand is: why is there no benefit, no communal nature, no participation unless we are all doing everything together in unison at every turn. Even things suggested here that are not even hinted at in the GIRM. Almost 2000 years of liturgy celebrated for naught, with no benefit for the community until now? Please, tell me honestly, how does it benefit the community to be asked to stand there while others go to communion? And some silence afterwards will elicit people’s cooperation in doing that? Is that the carrot? And if I kneel down to pray when I come back to my seat I’m disrespecting the community and have no understanding of liturgy? That sounds rather communistic than Christian.

      We are talking about the most awesome and mysterious moment, not only in a liturgy, but in a person’s life. We receive the body and blood of Christ our God into our own bodies to feed us, strengthen us, help us, and sustain us. Words can’t explain it, the community can’t explain it or even enrich it. Doesn’t that fact knock you over if you think about it and believe it? It sure does me.

  10. I hope it is not unreasonable or intemperate for me to comment on the fruitfulness of communion. This depends on right dispositions of the individual, as St Pius X expressed, but we should not think it ends at the individual. Fruitfulness does not end at the tree, but with those who enjoy the fruit. So when we pray for an increase of charity and give thanks for being nourished, it is with the understanding that we are involved in more than just a transaction between us and God, but with God for others God loves.

    So, when the Roman centurion protested, he did it so his servant could be healed. (not sure why that got changed to healing his soul.) When Jesus knelt, it was to serve the apostles at the Last Supper. These images should not evoke some private encounter, but rather God’s love for all. We want the servant who may never have heard of Christ to be healed; we are strengthened not for own good, but for his.

    (and I have no idea why this appeared out of order, rather than later on the list after some earlier comments. that happens here sometimes. It was not meant as a comment on TP’s similarly displaced remarks, which I had not read.)

    1. So, when the Roman centurion protested, he did it so his servant could be healed. (not sure why that got changed to healing his soul.)

      I admit I would personally like to see that phrase changed to “only say the word and your servant shall be healed.” (I actually have some clearly fabricated memory of that being the response when I was a child.)

  11. JR: “Give people good liturgical experiences, forget about the bureaucratic rationales. Find a parish that has already done it, and have them share.”

    This is optimal. However, it is very hard to find these good examples, so many priests and parishes having gone with what they like rather than trying to understand and seeking to develop good liturgy, as CT points out,
    “A question (to all) concerning GIRM #86. I do not recall being at a Mass where the communion chant (or song) was actually begun precisely as the priest was receiving communion. It usually begins a bit later when the faithful receive, and it is often introduced by an instrumental, which can undermine the unifying function. My recollection may be faulty, but I think this was the order of events at Masses I attended during NPM conventions. ”

    Good examples are hard to find, even where they should be emphasized.

    JR also mentions a version of this problem.
    “many parishes love their choirs and even some of their soloists and would like to hear from them at this time. ”

    It is this sort of preference for some performance, or other sorts of personal, or even social, preferences, which get in the way of making good liturgical decisions. Enjoying a concert moment has nothing to do with effective liturgical prayer. So long as we fail to teach the differences between liturgical an personal prayer, between liturgical prayer and social support, between ministering to the community and doing your own thing, just that long we will fail to fulfill the vision of SC, fail to fulfill the very real possibilities of liturgical prayer as distinct from other church activities, because we do not have the purpose and real possibilities in mind but are allowing individuals to find ways to get what they want instead of what will be most effective as liturgical prayer.

    We need to get entirely away from “what I want is permitted” and seek “what works best here for the praying community.”

  12. Charles Culbreth :
    Sometimes I wonder if the various generations of crafters of all versions of the IGRM ever conceived that the “folks” would actually read it, much less forensically attempt to deconstruct it to discern its perhaps intentional ambiguity?

    Prior to the Roman Curia revising the IGMR to make it more clericalist and to make the RC Mass more distinct from all other versions of the Christian Eucharist, the most important part of the GIRM was in introductory material prior to the specific details. Huge amounts of fiddling over details of permittedness could have been avoided if bishops, priests, and parish liturgical ministers and liturgy committee members had applied the principles there ahead of the fad of current interest to them.

    It has long seemed to me that, instead, people arguing for their individual preferences in liturgy have skipped the general introduction elements in order to mine among the details for specifics which could be polished to highlight their own preferences.

    I suspect that the crafters of the IGMR expected their general material to be read in order to find the mind of the legislator and that the original details were merely attempts to answer questions about the ideas and expectations for certain areas. Instead, the mindset behind the Missal of Paul VI has been mostly ignored in favor of going along with what others are doing, and many of those visible others were selling goods and services instead of good liturgical principles. The principles are there in the original GIRM, and it is exactly those principles which are ignored by those desiring to privatize or concertize liturgical prayer or introduce dance or new age rituals or even clowns. More’s the pity.

  13. JK:”Me, Tom?
    Who said anything about you personally?

    “What I don’t understand is: why is there no benefit, no communal nature, no participation unless we are all doing everything together in unison at every turn.”

    You have turned things all around backwards. Why do you not feel you get enough out of the communal liturgy unless you get to do something individualistic, separate yourself from the communal experience somehow? It is up to you to justify your individualism in the midst of communal prayer, not up to communal prayer to satisfactorily justify itself to you.

    “Almost 2000 years of liturgy celebrated for naught, with no benefit for the community until now?”

    The ignorance of the entirety of liturgical history this displays is sufficient to doubt your competence to even participate in any serious discussion of liturgy. Do you know nothing of the communal nature of liturgy for Paul, in the house churches, prior to basilican liturgies, prior to the Roman Missal codification?
    ‘Please, tell me honestly, how does it benefit the community to be asked to stand there while others go to communion?”

    If you just stand there, it benefits you or the community not at all. If you participate in the communal rite in its entirety instead of retreating into individualistic piety then you and the community benefit from the entirety of the communal experience. You need to learn to get away from this attitude of seeking what you get out of moments as an individual and learn the inherent values of participating in Christianity as a communal project instead of merely individual profession, heaven striving, interiorized bonding. Liturgy is an exterior experience where Christians seek those kinds of support which they cannot provide for themselves as individuals.

    The idea is to participate in the communal experience and meditate on its benefits and awesomeness and theological implications on your own time.

    1. What is “individualistic?” What is “communal?”

      As a social scientist, community occurs when people relate to each other along many dimensions of their personal life just as in a family, e.g. one knows the local grocer as the husband of Mary, the father of John, and they attend the 9:30 Mass at Saint Jude. Perhaps such communities occurred in some ethnic neighborhoods in the last century.

      But, as the pioneer Jesuit sociologist Joseph Fichter maintained decades ago, parishes are not communities in this sociological sense. They are voluntary associations and businesses where people relate around religion. Yes, they market themselves as families and communities, but these are more aspirations than reality. The Vibrant Parish Life Study showed people were as dissatisfied with the quality of their parish “communities” as they were with the quality of their parish liturgies.

      If Pete’s ability to play the flute, Sues work at the local soup kitchen, and Sam’s job as a firefighter become evident at liturgy, we become more of a community in this sociological sense because we experience more dimensions of people’s lives.

      If at Mass we experience soloists, ensembles, many different musical instruments, and many different types of music as well as everyone singing together, we are more of a community (in this sociological sense) than if only the people sing, or only the choir sings, etc.

      In this understanding of community, great development of personal talents and differences is not opposed to community but makes a community more communal.

      In talking about “The Interiority and the Exteriority of the Communion Rite” Paul has largely avoided a false dichotomy between the personal and the communal.

      Or to paraphrase Merton: we cannot enter into the deepest center of ourselves and pass through that center into God unless we are able to pass entirely outside of ourselves and give ourselves to others in selfless love.

      1. Thank you for this, Jack. It articulates my thoughts better than I would have. I know you’re approaching it from social-scientific perspective, but I’m convinced a lot of the usual clichés about “communal” vs. “individual” are based on an inadequate theological anthropology. Not that I have a clear sense of what an adequate one would look like, but it’s sure a more interesting question to me than the usual naiveté about community and individuality.

        That a Christian liturgical sensibility is radically anti-individualistic should go without saying. However, putting aside the (today) highly problematized question of what an “individual” even is, I would start with asking myself what the difference is between uniformity and communion. It’s an enormous difference, but I’m amazed at how many liturgists shy away from parsing it out.

      2. Chris,

        According to John R. McGreevy Catholicism and American Freedom (2003) the polemic of a Catholic communalism against a Protestant and Enlightenment individualism was an important part of the 19th Century Catholic Revival in Europe.

        In today’s ecumenical world we seem to have largely dropped the individualism polemic against Protestants, however individualism continues to be used by many Catholics to describe aspects of secular or popular culture which they dislike.

        Meanwhile the polemic has come to be used within Catholicism by liberals and conservatives to describe things within Catholicism which they dislike, with both the behavior of laity in the EF being described as individualistic by OF supporters and that of priests in the OF being described as individualistic by EF supporters.

        The mutual interrelationship and development of both persons and communities which I see as a social scientist seems evident in a lot of theology.

        So the individualism vs. community polemic may have outlived its usefulness. I tend to talk about persons and community just to keep away from the baggage of the past, and because person as well as community is valued in the Catholic tradition.

  14. Thank you for the gift of this thoughtful post. Your pointing out OUR Father vs MY Father was most instructive. In a similar way your opening remarks about the avoidance of verbal injustice were a prayer to deliver us from the evil of uncharitable comments posted on the internet. Thank you for uniting the Lord’s Prayer with this medium of public dialog.

  15. Great analysis, Paul. So, do you teach this at St. John’s or use it in the daily or week-end liturgies?

    Given what I have experienced out of Camarillo, how do you talk about liturgy (your recent posts) given that so many students seem invested in playing with the EF?

    1. I am happy to report that in February I begin my twenty-fifth year teaching ecclesiology, sacramental theology, mariology, eschatology, and the music side of the liturgy courses here at Saint John Seminary in Camarillo. I am also the default music director when (for the sixth time in my quarter century) the seminary music director leaves or when (as is now the case) the seminary can’t afford a music director.

      So, yes, I teach this and practice this.

      You mischaracterize our students here. Few are invested in the EF.

  16. I’ve found both of Paul Ford’s posts extremely enlightening and provoking, and it’s made me think about some regular practices which go against the letter of GIRM. What I do find most valuable in the GIRM is the framing of the rite as something we do together. It seems to me important to take that on board as an ideal and as a way of thinking, but at the same time to be sensitive to myriad other factors as we implement it, notably the co-existence of this teaching alongside rooted prayer habits that are more individualistic, the logistics of any worship space, the need to respect the customs of the place, the particular characteristics of particular pieces of music. My default option is not to have music, or at least not congregational music, during the distribution of communion–and I’d defend that on the ground that (British) Catholics need coaxing to sing at the best of times, and it’s not good to expect them to do so when they are moving around. The practice of standing all the way through the communion rite is not common in the UK, and I’d be pretty nervous about the aggro with most communities if you tried to introduce it at this stage. Surely choir motets can be perfectly appropriate, either during or after the distribution–but provided we take on board the impact they will have. If the place needs wallpaper music to cover noise when moving around, fine–some motets, appropriately presented and introduced, might promote the intimacy at once deeply personal and richly communal that the GIRM is trying to promote. I ramble–but let me volunteer the view that it’s against the spirit and genre of GIRM to focus centrally on its detailed prescriptions. The important thing to do is to let the text hold a goal before us, and for people on the ground in particular places to use their common sense, prudence and discernment about how this particular community can best move towards that vision. The best and better are often enemies of the good.

    1. I appreciate your situation, Father Philip, and your pastoral sensitivity; and I would not want to make the best the enemy of the good.

      But motets and, worse, wall-paper music are not good. The ideal for the text to be sung during communion is an antiphon drawn from the text of the gospel or one of the other readings at Mass, sung responsorially with one of the great communion psalms. Our mutual friend Paul Inwood and I would recommend that you ask your music director to begin to have your choir and your cantors sing the Song for the Table from the Psallite project, even if your congregations don’t sing at first. The power of the making the connection between the Word Proclaimed and the Word Consumed will win them over, I feel sure.

    2. Philip,

      There is in fact a significant number of parishes in the UK where they take seriously the content of GIRM 86 that

      While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity
      of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the ‘communitarian’ nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.

      They have realized, or have been instructed, that liturgical wallpaper is not what the rite is asking for here, and have transferred their Eucharistic motets to the Presentation of the Gifts.

      And their number is increasing!

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