Tag Archive: mass

Clerics who use their position to spread antipathy towards the new English translation of the Roman Missal are abusing their position, in my opinion, and in the process are doing a great disservice to the communion of the Church.

I came across recently an address given by the then Archbishop Rosalio Castillo Lara, SDB, who was the pro-president of the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law.  The address was given at the annual convention of the Canon Law Society of America in Milwaukee in 1984, not long after the promulgation of the new 1983 Code of Canon Law.  The quote is lengthy, but here it is (Castillo Lara quotes Pope Paul VI, whose words I have put in bold print):

“It is obvious that the code cannot satisfy all personal requirements, nor respond to very different, and not rarely contrasting, points of view. But the legislator, in his prudence, has now* considered it opportune and necessary to promulgate the code and he has made his choices, which among other things have been supported by the universally favourable reception which the code has received.

“At this point it is useless, and would be even counterproductive, to continue to offer criticisms which would have been valid during the ‘de jure condendo’ period, but which now would have no other effect than weakening the law’s force.  By this I do not mean to imply in the slightest that the code cannot be criticized.  To do so is lawful and in many cases even opportune and worthwhile.

“Nevertheless, criticism should rather be made in scientific circles, and not addressed to the ordinary faithful.  In the first case, criticism is a source of progress, stimulus and collaboration and will enlighten the legislator in possible future updatings of the law.  In the second case, it will have the predominantly negative effect of undermining the ‘vis obligatoria’ [obligatory force] of the law which, at this moment when the Code is beginning to be known and put into practice, could prove to be rather dangerous for the ecclesial community.

“Speaking in 1968 at the International Congress of Canonists organized in Rome for the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Pio-Benedictine [1917] Code, with farsighted vision Pope Paul VI rightly stressed the need to observe the law and to avoid useless and destructive criticism if it were desired that the law have all its salutary efficiacy: ‘Nevertheless we must add that the most outstanding results of the revision of canon law will be perceived only when and to that extent that these laws of the Church are truly inserted into the convictions and society of the people of God.  This will not happen if ecclesiastical laws, even though most accurately drafted and correctly organized, are ignored in the uses and customs of people, or are called into controversy, or rejected regrettably remain empty, inert and deprived of a healthy effectiveness;  and so the movement for renewal, unless it is rooted in the practice to which laws are to lead, would be weakened or would perhaps become flaccid and worthless, or at least doubtlessly less sincere and certain.’ “

[* the original said “not” which seems, clearly, to be an error, given that the Legislator has promulgated the Code.  Source:  Rosalio Castillo Lara, “Some Reflections of the Proper Way to Approach the Code of Canon Law,” in Canon Law Society of America Proceedings, 46 (1984), pp. 26-27].

Granted, Archbishop Castillo Lara was talking about the law.  But the law is not unrelated to Liturgy, since the ‘praenotanda’ [introductions etc] that accompany the liturgical rites, and the rubrics of the liturgy themselves, are in fact laws, albeit laws outside the Code of Canon Law.  Aside from this, I think his comments have something to say to the current situation.  Indeed, in “scientific circles” those with expertise in the area will certainly be studying the revised missal with a view to subsequent editions, which may indeed contain changes and corrections.

However, generally speaking, the time for public and general discussions of such matters is over now that the new Missal is promulgated by competent ecclesiastical authority.  Parish newsletters and diocesan magazines and newspapers are entirely inappropriate places for clerics and others who speak in some manner in the name of the Church to be spreading controversy and discontent.  They should, on the other hand, be doing everything to assist all members of the Church to enter more deeply and fruitfully into the sacred mysteries, and to receive our liturgical texts with good will.

I hope that clerics and other liturgists might be persuaded to refrain from public controversy and the spreading of discontent regarding the Church’s liturgy, actions which at the least are unseemly and inappropriate, and more seriously, have the potential to injure the ecclesial community.


Reform of the reform

One of the golden opportunities of the new English translation of the Roman Missal is to study again the “nuts and bolts” of how Mass should be celebrated.  Over the past decades, we’ve become used to many things in the celebration of Mass.  Some are legitimate variations;  others are not.  And beyond this, liturgical renewal is not static, but ongoing.  Indeed, the renewal that was embraced at the time of Vatican II had been going on for decades, and liturgical renewal continues today.

It’s with interest, then, that I see the announcement on Ottawa’s dioecesan website of a Mass on the First Sunday of Lent:

CHANTED MASS IN THE ORDINARY FORM, CELEBRATED ‘AD ORIENTEM’: Celebrated by Fr. Pierre Ingram, CC.  First Sunday of Lent, Sat., Feb. 25, 7:00 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church. Accompanied by a small men’s choir; 20 minute intro on chant and booklet with music for full congregational participation. Info: (613-728-9811).

This announcement is interesting on several points.

1.  The Mass is signified as being in the “Ordinary Form” recognising that we now have two official Forms of Mass (the other being the Extraordinary Form).  One of the great achievements of Benedict XVI, in my opinion, has been regularizing the situation of the so-called Extraordinary Form, so that those who wish to worship in this way are now free to do so, and priests are to assist generously groups asking for this.

2.  The Mass will be celebrated ad orientem, in other words, facing “liturgical East” – priest and people on the same side of the altar facing in the same direction.  [I cringe at the description “the priest with his back to the people” because it’s as true as saying that everyone in front of me in the church has their back to me … well, they do and they don’t].  I hope we’ll see a lot more of Mass celebrated ad orientem.  I personally believe that this change [to Mass “facing the people”], even more than Mass in the vernacular, seriously affected in a negative way our understanding of what we are doing when we offer the sacrifice of the Mass.  I believe that even an occasional use of celebrating ad orientem, with appropriate catechesis, could greatly contribute to people’s understand of, and participation in, the Sacred Mysteries.

3.  The Mass will be accompanied with chant.  Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (no. 116), whilst not excluding other kinds of sacred music, stated that Gregorian chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”  Unfortunately, hymn singing has come to almost universally replace the singing of the Entrance, Offertory and Communion Chants.  It will take a lot of hard work by liturgical musicians (and assemblies), but it is time – I believe – to start learning the chants.  Of course, there will always be a place for hymns – here and there – but they should be seen as secondary to the proper chants of the Mass.

As I said above, liturgical renewal is ongoing and not static.  Just as we embraced liturgical renewal in the decades following Vatican II, we must not allow ourselves now to get stuck in the immediate past.

Well done to the organisers of this Mass in Ottawa … and I hope that it is an initiative that gets taken up in many other places.


It is my observation that few people had been observing the rubric to strike their breast during the “I confess” in the Penitential Rite at Mass.  With the new translation, now would be a good time to remind everyone that the rubric is still there during the Penitential Act (N.B. the new title of the Penitential Rite).  With the revised translation, which now fully translates the latin of the Confiteor (I confess), we say in English the threefold confession, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” (which had always been there in the Latin text, but which had been simplified in the former English translation).  The logical question arises: do we strike our breast once, or three times.  A useful answer to this question can be found on ZENIT, as printed below.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-33981?l=english

Q: In the new translation of Mass according to the English-language Roman Missal, I find myself wondering about a certain lack of specificity in the Confiteor. The missal indicates that those reciting the prayer are to strike their breast at the point where they say, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” I am old enough to remember the threefold striking of the breast in pre-Conciliar days, but wonder if this practice has been maintained elsewhere in the Church by the other language groups that use the Roman Missal. Is there a generalized practice? Or is the perceived lack of specificity in the new missal merely an indication that one strike of the breast is expected? — A.L., Gallitzin, Pennsylvania

A: The perceived lack of specificity is in the original Latin rubric which says, “[P]ercutientes sibi pectus,” whereas the extraordinary form specifies that the breast should be struck three times.

There is, however, a slight but noticeable change in translating this rubric. The former translation, with only one admission of fault, said that the faithful should “strike their breast,” thus specifying a single strike. The current translation says, “[A]nd striking their breast, they say:” before the triple admission of fault.

This use of the gerund indicates a continuous action, and so I would say that even if a number is not specified in the rubric, the use of a dynamic expression implies that the number corresponds to the times one admits to personal faults. I think that this is also what would come naturally to most people in any case.

This would be confirmed by the practice in Spanish- and Italian-language countries, which have always maintained the triple form in the “I Confess.” The Spanish missal translates the rubric as “golpeándose el pecho, dicen:” which could mean either once or several times. In these countries it is also common practice for priest and faithful to strike the breast three times.

Although the Second Vatican Council requested the removal of “useless repetitions,” it must be said that not all repetition is useless. Some forms of communication necessarily use what is technically called redundancy, that is, reinforcing the signal carrying a message more than would be strictly necessary in order to overcome outside interference and stress its importance.

The triple repetition of words and gestures in the Confiteor could be considered such a case. With the former translation it was fairly easy to omit the gesture of striking the breast or pay scant attention to its meaning. The triple repetition underlines its importance and helps us to concentrate on the inner meaning of what we say and do.

It must be admitted, though, that the above argumentation is not watertight, and a single strike could also be a valid interpretation of the rubric.

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.


The New Missal

I haven’t got round to posting about it yet, but I LOVE the newly translated missal!  In a certain sense it’s not fair to compare it to the previous translation because each of them was done following entirely different rules of translation.  That said, (and because of the different rules) one thing I love about the new translation of the prayers is that they are much richer in content, i.e. much more of the theological and scriptural imagery is now present in the English translation of the Latin, or it’s present in a much more obvious way.  The liturgy catechizes in the act of celebrating it, and I think this will be facilitated greatly with the newly translated texts.

I recently heard Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, the executive director of the secretariat of ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy), speak here in Ottawa.  See some pictures of that event here, here and here.

The Chant Cafe has a post with links to a recent interview with Mgr Wadsworth about the new missal, and some thoughts on its future, which is quite interesting.  See the article here.