Complications of 2 Forms in 1 Rite

And More on Mass Intentions

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ROME, SEPT. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.



Q: I am the parish priest for a dual-form parish and some of the complications are currently unavoidable. I have returned the tabernacle to the center and shifted the presider's chair to the side. The free-standing altar is used for both forms, with the placement of altar cards and candles in the traditional form and the resetting of the altar for the celebration of the ordinary form. I've returned the altar rail in two spots and cushions for kneeling at the reception of Communion. Part of the "experiment" of Pope Benedict XVI lies in the "working" of both forms where the fervor and piety authentic to the Roman rite can be regained, nurtured and renewed. It is a pastoral chore to prepare a decent homily with different working ordos. It gets very interesting when the feasts don't match (Baptism of the Lord vs. Holy Family) and when the seasons clash (Septuagesima vs. Ordinary Time); there's more work for the parish priest. The rather stilted English of the Douay-Rheims also presents some challenges, yet it is often preferable to the Revised New American Bible. In the midst of the mayhem, there seems to be no guidance as to how a solemn high Mass would be celebrated when the order of subdeacon no longer exists. One might punt and use an instituted acolyte but that presumes training. The use of the deacon (transitional or permanent) requires even more training. The suggestion to use priests in the functions as was often done presumes a liturgical fluency that simply doesn't exist at present. In addition, the celebration of the Easter triduum in the extraordinary form is so ornamented that the presence of a master of ceremonies (archpriest) seems required. Adding to that conundrum, the present discipline of the Church in celebrating a true vigil presents a clear conflict where two communities celebrate two forms under one parish priest in one parish church. Is there any Roman guidance for local adaptation? -- W.S., Pennsylvania

A: When Benedict XVI took the initiative of allowing the universal celebration of John XXIII’s missal he foresaw that some practical problems would arise. For this reason he increased the authority of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" precisely to address these issues. Consultations can be made to the commission at the Vatican.

This commission, along with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is working on an instruction which will help clear up some of the difficulties that arise from having two forms of the Roman rite at the same time. Such questions constantly arrive at the desk of Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, the commission president.

Indeed, in a recent interview the cardinal said that he has more work now than when he was prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

Closer to home, a priest desiring to celebrate the extraordinary form may also consult with those institutes dedicated to its celebration. They already have long experience in this field. They are also able to provide useful resources for training priests and ministers.

Regarding some of the questions at hand, it is an open question if an instituted acolyte may perform the duties formally reserved to the subdeacon. On the one hand the extraordinary form considers subdeacon as a member of the clergy, whereas the instituted acolyte is certainly a lay ministry. On the other hand many of the liturgical duties of the subdeacon were transferred to the ministry of acolyte. The editor of the new edition of the classic Trimelloni liturgical manual opines that it is possible to use the instituted acolyte for this purpose.

The order of subdeacon still exists in those institutes specifically dedicated to the extraordinary form. It is not impossible to suppose that it could eventually be restored for all seminarians desiring to celebrate both forms of the rite. Also, I see no particular difficulty in deacons or a priest performing these functions as this possibility is foreseen in the rubrics of the extraordinary form.

Regarding the readings, the Holy Father gave permission for the readings to be in the vernacular, provided that an approved translation was used. I would interpret this as a translation specifically approved for liturgical use and not just with an imprimatur.

It is probably permissible to use the translations approved for use before the reform when it was a fairly common practice to proclaim the Gospel first in Latin and then read a vernacular version. It should also be possible to use the vernacular renditions found in the bilingual missals used by the faithful.

This has the added advantage of corresponding exactly to the official text found in the Latin missal as some texts might not be found in the new vernacular lectionary exactly as they were in the Latin.

While the full Easter triduum may be celebrated in a parish dedicated exclusively to the extraordinary form, I'd say that in a dual-form parish it is probably better to opt for the ordinary form unless the majority of parishioners prefer the extraordinary form. This is because insofar as possible the celebration of the triduum should gather the whole community together.

Finally, the question of the calendar is perhaps the hardest to resolve and will probably require much study and patience. The calendar has been historically the most flexible part of the missal, and several popes have reformed it over the centuries.

The Holy See might end up publishing a completely new edition of the missal of the extraordinary form, the “Benedict XVI Missal,” perhaps. Such a missal would leave John XXIII’s text fundamentally intact, but would add the celebrations of the new saints classified according to the traditional mode. The rubrics would probably need to be adjusted so as to take into account major feasts that have been transferred so that everybody, for example, celebrates Corpus Christi on the same day.

Also, as the Holy Father suggested in his letter issued "motu propio" (on his own initiative), a few prefaces and Mass formulas (especially those coming from ancient Roman sources) could be added. These changes would help smooth out some of the difficulties in the calendar mentioned by our reader while remaining faithful to the organic development of the traditional rite as carried out by Popes such as St. Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII and John XXIII.

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Follow-up: Masses for Priestly Vocations

In the wake of our Aug. 26 column on Mass intentions for vocations, I wish to address a comment a reader sent in some months ago. The comment dealt with the possibility of offering up Mass for non-baptized persons (see Dec. 11, 2007).

Our reader commented: "I am sorry to nitpick, and I am sure you understand the theological distinction in the following, but your follow-up on Mass intentions for non-Catholics touches on a confusion I encountered in my last parish assignment. In responding to the question, you said that 'the public rites are one thing and the priest's personal intentions in offering the Mass is another.' I would beg to differ slightly. The intention for which the priest accepts a stipend is not his personal intention but rather his intention as the priest, that is, the minister of the sacrifice. When the Mass is offered, there are three fruits derived from the offering: the general (for the whole Church), the special or ministerial (for the intention of the priest as minister), and the personal (to each of the faithful, including the priest, who participate, to each according to his disposition).

"You will find this handled clearly and succinctly in Book 4, Section 3, Chapter 3 of Ludwig Ott's 'Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,' with references to Denzinger. The upshot of this is that in an environment where the role and purpose of the priest in the Mass may become confused, a certain precision in language is called for. Regarding the ministerial intention for which a stipend has been paid, particularly when the intentions are published in a bulletin or announced, it would seem that the level of discretion and judgment called for would be greater than that of offering one's personal participation for an intention."

First, let me say that I have no objections to "nitpicking" by any of our readers when the truth is served. Our reader's comment recalls a valuable teaching regarding the fruits of the Mass. His call for precision in language is very necessary.

At the same time, I believe in my original reply my use of the expression "personal intention" did not refer, as our reader seems to imply, to the priest's offering up the fruit of his personal participation as an intention. Rather, I used the expression to mean that the intention for which the priest offers up the sacrifice, as priest, is a personal act of the will and not something mechanical.

Certainly, when a priest accepts a stipend to offer a Mass, justice demands that he effectively offers the Mass. In order to do so he must make some act of personal offering, at the very least uniting his intention to that of the person who requested the Mass.

However, since the sacrifice of the Mass is of infinite value, then the priest's offering, as priest, is not limited to the intention that he has accepted as a stipend. He is also free to personally add any number of other intentions without committing any act of injustice toward the person who made the offering.

The personal fruit of his participation is, I believe, something else and depends on the degree of such factors as the priest's personal disposition, reverence and fervor in carrying out the celebration.

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Clarification: Byzantine Rite

With respect to our Sept. 2 follow-up on "Interpreting Liturgical Norms," a Byzantine-rite deacon offered the following clarifications to some assertions contained in the question that prompted the response. The substance of the response remains unvaried, but I believe these clarifications are warranted.

"First, your correspondent was quoting from the ByzCath Web site as if it were an official Web site. It is not, it is a private site and does not have any official standing in our Metropolitan Church.

"Second, the Creed does not have Christ 'becoming like us,' since that would dilute the Christological truth of that statement. Instead, the approved translation says 'and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.' (This text was promulgated by the Metropolitan Basil on Jan. 6, 2007. The initial approval was given by the Apostolic See in 2001. Churches sui juris that are not headed by partriarchs or major archbishops may revise their liturgical texts; the Apostolic See must approve those changes before they are promulgated.)

"Finally, the changes were not made to make our liturgy 'more like the Roman Mass,' but rather less like it and more like our authentic tradition. Just as the Roman tradition has 'Liturgiam Authenticam,' the Byzantine tradition has 'Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.' One of the principles set forth in that document is that when our practices deviate from those of our Orthodox brothers, then we should conform to the Orthodox tradition. This is to witness to the fullness of faith found within the Catholic tradition."

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.