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Archive for January 2012

Why Should Priests Sing?

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The ICEL introduction to the chants for the new Roman Missal notes a number of reasons why the priest celebrant   should sing:

 1. To preserve the tradition of unaccompanied singing which gives the Liturgy a more noble form;

 2. To continue the realization of a goal given by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of “full and active participation” of all the people;

3. To reinforce, by chanting, the accentuation of the English language; and

4. To preserve the vernacular chants already in use.  [What about Latin?  Sacrosanctum Concilium says that people should be taught – by their pastors – both to speak and to sing all the parts pertaining to them in both Latin and their mother tongue.  Do we belong to the Latin Church? cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 54; Musicam sacram 47]

The USCCB’s 2007 guidelines on music in the Liturgy, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, explicitly address the role of the priest in singing the Liturgy in paragraphs 18-21. These paragraphs highlight the importance of the priest singing the presidential prayers and the dialogues of the Liturgy according to his ability. As previously stated, the implementation of the revised Roman Missal is an opportunity for priests to expand their own abilities and to learn to sing the revised texts of the parts of the Mass.

Even if the priest himself is not confident singing alone he should definitely pay attention to his singing with the rest of the community in congregational song. [cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 54; Musicam sacram 47] If the celebrant is not perceived as interested in the communal singing of the Liturgy, it will almost always influence the way in which the community will respond in song. Here the truism can apply: “lead by example.” [This is perhaps an issue for discussion: is this something woven into the warp and weft of the Novus Ordo?  The priest has to … encourage?] In addition, the priest, by his attention and participation, should support the role of the cantor and psalmist. The priest also needs to be careful in the use of the microphone when singing with the gathered assembly, in order to avoid having his voice overpower that of the people.

Finally, in preparation for the reception of the Missal, pastors can point out to the faithful the overall importance of music in the Liturgy, [perhaps even along the lines the Church actually write about sacred music… about Gregorian chant and polyphony having pride of place, for example, about how the true texts to be sung are found in the Roman Missal rather than in a hymn book.]as well as the various parts of the Mass that should be sung and who should sing them.

In his 2006 Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI notes that liturgical song has “preeminent place” as an aspect or building block of the ars celebrandi, the art of liturgical celebration (see no. 42). [See below.] Singing not only at the Liturgy but singing of the Liturgy (i.e., singing the rites themselves), [NB: The texts to be sung are in the Roman Missal.  They are first and foremost the antiphons in the Missale Romanum.] which involves both the priest and the gathered assembly, is an important tool for fostering the full, conscious, and active – and therefore fruitful – participation in the Liturgy. The implementation of the revised Roman Missal provides an opportunity for pastors and parishes to evaluate their practices and commit to embracing the ars celebrandi, which will lead to more fruitful worship and prayer.

Let’s quote what Pope Benedict wrote in Sacramentum caritatis:

42. In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that “the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love”. The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration. Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons. Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy.


Written by Erineus

January 31, 2012 at 1:04 am

Posted in Liturgy, Mass

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Does Mass have to be sung?

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Mass doesn’t have to be sung, but it is strongly encouraged. As for rules about singing the Mass, the 1967 Instruction Musicam Sacramsays the following:

These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led toward an ever greater participation in the singing.
The following belong to the first degree:
(a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.
(b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.
(c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord’s Prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

The following belong to the second degree:
(a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;
(b) the Creed;
(c) the prayer of the faithful.

The following belong to the third degree:
(a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;
(b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;
(c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;
(d) the song at the Offertory;
(e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.

So technically, if anything is sung during Mass, it should be those elements of the “first degree”. This isn’t often the case, though.


Written by Erineus

January 31, 2012 at 12:49 am

Posted in FAQs, Liturgy, Mass

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What should be done if the the entrance and communion songs are not sung during the Mass?

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Antiphon is a short passage, usually from the Bible, recited or sung as a response after certain parts of a liturgical service;  a psalm, hymn, etc., chanted or sung in alternate parts.

“If there is no singing at the entrance, the antiphon in the  Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector;  otherwise, it is recited by the priest himself, who may even adapt it as an  introductory explanation” (GIRM no. 31).

“If there is no singing, however, the Communion antiphon  found in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them,  or by a lector. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received  Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.”

Written by Erineus

January 30, 2012 at 1:26 am

Question. Is it permissible, and/or is there any good reason for a confessor to ask the identity of a penitent when the confession is anonymous; that is, it is not “face to face”?

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Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: Is it permissible, and/or is there any good reason for a confessor to ask the identity of a penitent when the confession is anonymous; that is, it is not “face to face”? — L.L., Washington, D.C.

A: Anonymous confession, along with the confessional as we know it today, is generally attributed to an initiative of St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), the archbishop of Milan, Italy. Previously, the confessor would sit in a chair and the penitent, who usually was kneeling, was clearly visible to him.

In order to ensure modesty and discretion, Cardinal Borromeo mandated in 1564 that the confessionals in his diocese be closed on both sides with a grill between penitent and priest. Pope Paul V’s Roman Ritual adopted this provision, which helped spread its use, although it did not become a universal practice until the 17th century.

Anonymous confession remains the norm although current dispositions allow for the penitent who so desires to request face-to-face confession. And confessionals may be designed to allow for both options.

Although the penitent may request face-to-face confession, the priest is not obliged to accede to the request and may insist on the use of the grill.
If a penitent desires anonymity, the priest should respect this desire and in the vast majority of situations he should never have any need or right to inquire as to the identity of the penitent.

Even if the priest recognizes the penitent it is usually more prudent not to make personal references unless the penitent makes some form of self-identification or the circumstances warrant it, such as could be the case of a regular penitent well known to the priest.

More frequently there may be situations when, in order to determine the exact nature and gravity of the sin involved, the priest may make a general inquiry as to the penitent’s state in life, for example, if he or she is married, or a vowed religious, etc.

In some confessionals, where the penitent is almost invisible, it can happen that a priest may have to ask some detail of age, or even sex, in order to tailor his counsel to the penitent’s specific characteristics.

Some very grave sins, such as abortion, also might incur excommunication reserved to the bishop or in some special cases, such as the deliberate profanation of the Eucharist, to the Holy See.

In such cases the confessor may not be able to grant absolution immediately, or only on condition that the penitent requests the lifting of the canonical penalty within a month from the competent authority.

As most penitents would be unaware of how to go about this process, the priest may offer to help by contacting either the bishop or the Holy See as the case may be. This is always done without revealing any personal data or identifying circumstances (see Canon 1357).

If the penitent wishes to remain anonymous then he or she may make an appointment to return to confession to the same priest after a certain time in order to have the sanction formally lifted. But in some cases it may be necessary to reveal some personal data so that the priest can inform the penitent of the arrival of the proper authorization.

Question. When will the Anointing of the Sick be appropriately administered?

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

Q: My wife and I go to Mass on first Saturdays to this church where the normal priest offers confession, Mass and anointing of the sick. Now, the normal priest was not there, but our new priest stood in for the normal priest. When the Mass was over the priest said: “Before, I give the anointing of the sick, I want it to be known that I will give it only to those who are: sick, dying, have a serious illness, or in danger of losing their life. Too many people abuse this sacrament.” Was he right in making that statement? — J.C., Corpus Christi, Texas

A: I have no idea if the manner or tone of the priest’s statement was done with due pastoral tact. But he is correct as to the substance of the norms for administering the anointing of the sick.

Under present norms the sacrament may be administered “as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived” (Code of Canon Law 1004 §1).

The provisions of the ritual “for the anointing of the sick and their pastoral care,” issued by the Holy See, clarifies the conditions under which the sacrament may be received.

Regarding the judgment as to the seriousness of the illness the document states that: “It is sufficient to have a prudent or probable judgment about its seriousness. All anxiety about the matter should be put aside and, if necessary, the physician might be consulted.”
Also: “This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person had recovered after his previous reception of anointing. It can also be conferred again if, during the same illness, his dangerous condition becomes more serious.”

Major surgery is also a sufficient motivation for receiving the sacrament even if the condition is not in itself immediately life-threatening:

“Before a surgical section (popularly ‘operation’), holy anointing can be given to the sick person as often as the dangerous illness is the cause of this surgery.”

Here the Church distinguishes between an illness that might not of itself warrant reception of the sacrament, and the same illness preceding surgery. In the latter case, anointing becomes warranted.

With reference to the elderly: “Anointing can be conferred on the aged who are greatly weakened in strength, even though there is no sign of a dangerous illness.” In this case the anointing may be repeated periodically as old age progresses.

The sacrament can also be administered to sick children: “from the time they have reached the use of reason, so that they can be strengthened by this sacrament.” Consequently the motive for conferring the sacrament is not (though it may include) remission of their personal sins, but to obtain the strength they may need either for bearing their sufferings, or to overcome discouragement or, if it is God’s will, to be restored to health.

The sacrament may also be conferred on the unconscious if “as believers they would likely have asked for the holy anointing while they were in possession of their faculties.” Likewise, if a person is apparently dead but the priest “is in doubt whether the sick person is really dead, he can give him the sacrament conditionally.”

Therefore, although the Church’s dispositions allow for a generous administration of the anointing of the sick, the sacrament is ordered toward the gravely ill from a physical condition. It should not be administered generally and indiscriminately.

Written by Erineus

January 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Question. What are the vestments proper to Priest at Mass?

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Monsignor Peter Elliott in his excellent guide “Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite” suggests that crossing the stole could be tolerated if Mass is celebrated using traditional Roman vestments such as the planeta. I believe that this is a reasonable exception.

Regarding the second question, the recent instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum” clearly states in No. 123:

“‘The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole.’ Likewise the Priest, in putting on the chasuble according to the rubrics, is not to omit the stole. All Ordinaries should be vigilant in order that all usage to the contrary be eradicated.”

No. 126 states: “The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments or with only a stole over the monastic cowl or the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes, contrary to the prescriptions of the liturgical books, even when there is only one minister participating. In order that such abuses be corrected as quickly as possible, Ordinaries should take care that in all churches and oratories subject to their jurisdiction there is present an adequate supply of liturgical vestments made in accordance with the norms.”

It is therefore clear that the alb — a full-length white linen garment usually tied at the waist — may never be omitted for the celebration of Mass or for other rites in which it is required.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, no group, not even a religious order which sports a white habit, has ever been granted a privilege to omit the alb and celebrate with stole and chasuble over the habit.

In hot climes the habit may be removed if possible and replaced by the alb.

Written by Erineus

January 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

Question. What are the crimes that can desecrate the church? How will the reparation for desecration be carried out?

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

Q: There was a bomb blast last year in our cathedral at Kathmandu. In it, three people died and several were injured. In all probability, one died on the spot (inside the church). We did clean up the place after the police had done their job, and we had Mass celebrated the following day. Now, there was doubt in the minds of some of our old Catholics. At least one of them told me that after a murder takes place in the church, it is desecrated (because of the murder); therefore, before celebrating Mass and other sacraments in the building, the church needs to be re-dedicated. The person told me that that was “the rule before.” I personally had not come across a situation like this before, and I did not know whether any rule existed either. Could you please explain whether there are some rules or regulations with regard to this? — P.P., Kathmandu, Nepal

A: This topic is dealt with in the Code of Canon Law and in the Ceremonial of Bishops. Canons 1211-1112 touch upon the violation of sacred places.

“Can. 1211 Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.

“Can. 1212 Sacred places lose their dedication or blessing if they have been destroyed in large part, or have been turned over permanently to profane use by decree of the competent ordinary or in fact.”

To this must be added the norms of the Ceremonial of Bishops, Nos. 1070-1092, which describes the public prayers to be made after the desecration of a church.

First, it specifies further the nature of the crimes that can desecrate a church as those that “do grave dishonor to sacred mysteries, especially to the eucharistic species, and are committed to show contempt for the Church, or are crimes that are serious offenses against the dignity of the person and society.”

It continues: “A church, therefore, is desecrated by actions that are gravely injurious in themselves and a cause of scandal to the faithful.”
The situation in Kathmandu clearly fulfills all the conditions for a desecration.

Reparation for the desecration is to be carried out with a penitential rite celebrated as soon as possible. Until that time, no sacred rite may be celebrated in the church. Preaching to prepare for the penitential rite may be carried out. The people are encouraged to avail themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation, which should be celebrated in another church. To symbolize penance, the Ceremonial recommends: “The altar of the church should be stripped bare and all customary signs of joy and gladness should be put away, for example, lights flowers, and other such articles.”

It is fitting that the bishop presides at the rite of reparation, which may be either a celebration of the Eucharist or a Liturgy of the Word as circumstances suggest. It may be celebrated on any day except the Easter triduum, Sundays and solemnities, but may be celebrated on the vigil of a Sunday. The Mass of reparation is the preferred mode.

The most suitable Mass formula may be chosen; for example: the votive Mass of the holy Eucharist (in cases of profanation of the Blessed Sacrament) or for promoting harmony in the case of violent clashes.

There are several forms of carrying out the rite. One is a procession of the people from a nearby church or another suitable place during which prayer and the litany of the saints is sung, including the patron of the desecrated church and other prayers found in the Roman ritual. If a procession is not possible, then the people gather in the church and the bishop and other ministers enter from the sacristy.

On entering the church, the bishop along with concelebrants and other ministers goes to the chair without reverencing the altar. He then blesses water, and after a moment of silent prayer sprinkles the altar. He may also sprinkle the people and the walls. Returning to the chair, and with hands joined, he invites those present to pray. After a brief silent prayer, the bishop recites the opening prayer with hands outstretched.

The readings usually come from the Mass for the forgiveness of sins, unless other more suitable readings are chosen. Appropriate general intercessions are prayed only if the litany of the saints has not been used. After this, the deacon and other ministers place the altar cloth and the other usual elements upon the altar and may place flowers around it. The procession of the gifts follows the bishop receiving them at the chair.
When everything is ready, the bishop goes to the altar and kisses it and the Mass continues in the usual manner.

In the case of desecration of the Eucharist, the concluding rites of Mass are replaced by exposition, adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

If there is only a celebration of the Word, then everything is done as above, until after the homily. A prayer of intercession asking for God’s mercy is carried out. The altar is then dressed and decorated by the ministers or the faithful. The bishop then approaches the altar, and kisses and incenses it. He subsequently introduces the Our Father, followed by a suitable closing prayer and the blessing.

When the Ceremonial of Bishops was published, the official rite of reparation was not yet promulgated. However, the elements provided in the Ceremonial and described above suffice for the preparation of an adequate celebration