Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Father Z: Instructing parishoners on proper liturgical celebrations

Father John Zuhlsdorf (W.D.T.P.R.S) features a letter from a Connecticut priest today, instructing his parishioners on proper liturgical celebrations of the Mass.

At St. Mary’s in Norwalk, CT, Fr. Greg J. Markey is instructing his flock on liturgical matters.

I have written about this fellow before. He "gets it".

Let’s have a look at Part I (of two) with my emphases and comments.

Part I: These past two Sundays I have dedicated my Pastor’s Column to New Year Resolutions. First I recommended that following Pope Benedict XVI’s lead, people no longer receive Holy Communion in the hand, and start receiving on the tongue. [Three cheers!] Secondly I recommended that people start correcting themselves when they use the Lord’s name in vain. [Very good! The two are connected. Apparently this priest takes the cura animarum seriously.] This week I recommend that everyone in the parish make it a point to attend the 9:30 am Extraordinary Form of the Mass at least a few times during the coming year. [Yes. The EF is for everyone and a parish shouldn’t be divided into two ghettoes.]

To begin to understand why, perhaps it is best to ask a question: How many Catholics today even realize that there is a liturgical crisis currently going on in the Church? [!] Many parishes during the post-Vatican II era fell into irregular liturgical practices to such an extent that Pope John Paul II needed to commission a juridical document in 2004 for the universal Church in order to address the issue: “It is not possible to be silent about the abuses, even quite grave ones, against the nature of the liturgy and the sacraments as well as the tradition and authority of the Church, which in our day not infrequently plague liturgical celebrations in one ecclesial environment or another. In some places the perpetuation of liturgical abuses has become habitual” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 4). [After a while people think the abuses are the norms and that perfectly legitimate elements of the Roman Rite are abuses!]

Habitual abuse means that neither the clergy nor the laity at Mass even realizes that the Sacred Mass, that which offers true worship to God and forms Catholic identity like no other act, is being deformed. Such ignorance of the nature of the liturgy prompted Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to write in 2000: “Liturgical education today, of both priests and laity, is deficient to a deplorable extent. Much remains to be done here.” Sadly these attempts by Rome to correct liturgical abuse seem to have been virtually ignored by much of the Church at the parish level. [Apparently not in Norwalk! I wonder what Fr. Markey’s neighboring priests think about this?]

Since I arrived here at St. Mary Church in 2003 I have tried to address these issues and as everyone knows, I have made the renewal of the liturgy a priority for the parish. [As worhsip goes, so goes the parish.] The first thing I did as pastor was to simply bring St. Mary Church into conformity with the norms of the Church. In the following years, I introduced singing the Latin Mass parts into all of the Masses, depending on the Mass and the occasion, as the documents require: “...steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 54). [Excellent! I almost never see a priest quote this!] Thirdly I reserved altar serving to boys alone in order promote vocations to the priesthood. [Better and better.] Finally, I have tried to imbue the liturgy here with a sacred spirit, avoiding profane greetings and actions, and I sought to build a sacred music program that would truly reflect our rich and ancient heritage.

Most importantly, I have attempted to educate everyone about why I was doing all of this. I have held numerous evening classes on the liturgy over the years, given homilies and written bulletin columns, trying to explain the proper spirit of the liturgy, and the authentic liturgical norms of the Church.

Many Catholics, who have been rightly offended by the profanation of the sacred over the years, joyfully embraced these changes. Some while not familiar with liturgical theology, have grown to understand better why a reverent liturgy is a more prayerful experience, and have also supported the changes.

Nonetheless the decisions I have made have been hard for others, and there have been not a few complaints. I am sometimes saddened by the brazen words of people who come to me and criticize a St. Mary’s priest for actually prayerfully offering the Mass according to the liturgical norms. [Isn’t that sadly so often the case? They run at you with the invincible armor of ignorance and arrogance.] To me, the person’s comment is symbolic of the current liturgical crisis: many years of a more casual liturgy, and even habitual liturgical abuse, are hard to overcome. Furthermore, the fact that so few parishes are implementing what the Magisterium is asking us to do makes the changes at St. Mary Church appear even more strange.

[QUAERITUR] Yet how many Catholics truly understand what the Mass is: the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ’s crucifixion to God the Father? (Catechism #1367) Some people are still coming to Sunday Mass expecting liturgical abuses or to be entertained by the priest, rather than the real reason we come – to worship God, offering this perfect sacrifice according to the means handed down to us by Mother Church.

If only more people understood that novelties and priestly creativity in the Mass take away from this transcendent reality, [MYSTERY] and suddenly the sacred act is profaned, taking on the mere personality of the priest. No! As Padre Pio says, at Mass we are to humbly pray like St. John and Our Lady at the foot of the cross. Would that more people’s comments to me about the Mass reflected this understanding.
Fr. Markey has his head screwed on in the right direction, that’s for sure.

How many of you are wondering what it would take to move to Norwalk?


Margaret said...

In the hand or on the tongue-- I don't understand why this is in the same class as some of the other things he talks about, like taking the Lord's name in vain. I think I understand the theology of the different ways of receiving and that on the tongue (which enables one to receive under forms) is supposed to be preferred for various reasons. But there are lots of reasons why somebody might want to do one over the other at different times and if it is permissible and the understanding is there, I don't see a problem. Having people be flip about it, not reverential, that's a problem. The means of distribution itself, not so much.

Unknown said...

There are several problems with the issue of Communion in the hand, most relating to a "lack of control."

I think that the problem with "on the hand" is more a problem with the Extraordinary Ministers who aren't always as reverent as they should be.

The tiniest particle of the consecrated host is fully the Body of Jesus Christ. If a crumb is left on a hand or falls on the floor, that is a sacrilege.

There is further sacrilege when so many people are receiving Communion when they are in the state of Mortal Sin. Back in the old days, one or two priests were able to distribute Communion to the congregation because most were not receiving. The fast from midnight also contributed to the small number of communicants.

There is a further problem with inadequate purification of the paten and chalice when the EM's are on duty.

In some parishes communicants are "self intincting", dipping the consecrated host in the chalice for the Precious Blood. We are supposed to "receive" Jesus from the priest of EM's, not "take" Him.

Some people are known to have put the consecrated host in their pocket or to give it to someone else.

Many EM's are in the habit of "blessing" young children who are in the line. Only an ordained minister, priest or deacon, may bless someone.

Unknown said...

I think most of the problems you mention are due to poor training or a bad attitude or misunderstanding of the theology or liturgy or both. When people use non-traditional bread for the sacrament crumbs are a problem, not when the use the right kind. I was taught to receive in the hands palm over palm in a gesture to receive, not take.

There are always people who will choose to do the wrong thing knowing full well that it's wrong. (People who take the host away in their hands). Only so much you can do about that. In the old days people would take it out of their mouth and keep it which was equally sacrilegious.