Mar 15, 2002


Online Edition – Vol. VIII, No. 1: March 2002


What of Holy Days? | Saving Catholic art | Spinning the GIRM | Moves in Monterey | No problem with women priests, Irish bishop says | The norm is kneeling

What of Holy Days?

Many Catholics wonder what will happen to Holy Days of Obligation — the few days of the liturgical year other than Sundays when Catholics are required to attend Mass. The obligation to attend Mass on New Year’s Day was abrogated this year in the West Coast archdioceses of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A November 30 communication to the priests of Los Angeles from Monsignor Terrance Fleming, the archdiocesan Moderator of the Curia/Vicar General, announced that Cardinal Roger Mahony was "dispensing parishioners in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from the obligation to attend mass on Tuesday, 1 January 2002, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which is normally a Holy Day of Obligation".

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops lists January 1 as a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States. (The liturgical calendar is on the USCCB web site, liturgy section.)

According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar §55, "Only with the approval of the Apostolic See may a celebration be removed from the calendar or changed in rank".

The Los Angeles announcement to priests did not mention authorization from the Holy See for this change.

Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco also abrogated the January 1 Holy Day of obligation. Adoremus received several reports that bishops of other West Coast dioceses acted similarly.

For the past several years Catholics have been increasingly confused about the obligatory feasts – and whether they are to attend Mass on these feasts. Permission granted to US bishops to change the day of the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension to a Sunday, and to remove the obligation to attend Mass on All Saints and the Assumption if they fall on a Saturday or a Monday has contributed to confusion and misunderstanding.

The result has been to diminish the meaning and importance Catholics attach to the Church’s obligatory celebrations.


Saving Catholic art

In order to insure that sacred art left over after a church closes or is "renovated" is put to proper use, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, on the initiative of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, implemented the Ecclesiastical Exchange Program in 1991.

The program collects sacred art no longer in use and sells it to interested churches — both in the archdiocese and around the country. It does not sell to private parties, and all proceeds from the sale of the art goes back either to the art’s parish of origin; or, if the original parish has closed, the congregation into which the original parish was incorporated.

Cardinal Bevilacqua began the program after he had noticed religious statues and other devotional artwork turning up in restaurants or being used in an undignified way.

The Ecclesiastical Exchange Program fields about 20 – 25 inquiries a week. Many buyers are poorer parishes or parishes in areas with few Catholics. The program’s administrators report that patrons show genuine interest in classical sacred art and traditional church design.

Source: Philadelphia Catholic Standard


Spinning the GIRM

While Catholics await the long-delayed third typical edition of the Roman Missal, the rules for celebration of Mass released in July 2000, and proposed adaptations by the US bishops, continue to be a source of speculation and, sadly, considerable misinformation.

Some of the misinformation may come from a genuine misunderstanding about what the documents actually say. And the delay in official implementation of the new rules has allowed various interpretations of the rules to multiply almost geometrically. The confusion and uneasiness many Catholics are experiencing are exacerbated when they attend "workshops" and lectures organized to explain what these changes will be.

In December, the Saint Cloud Visitor reported on a talk on the new rules given by Father Jan Michael Joncas, best known as a composer of songs.

"The GIRM calls for a ‘uniformity in posture’ in worship in order to express and foster unity of mind and spiritual attitude among the assembly and to avoid ‘any appearance of individualism or division’.

"Some parishes are torn apart over postures they take during prayer", Father Joncas said. "Some say kneeling is the only reverent posture, while others feel you are only a progressive Catholic if you stand".

The solution, he says, is the GIRM’s note "for the faithful to follow the instructions given" by the celebrant.

The custom may be to stand during a particular prayer, he observed. A wrong response and attitude by a parishioner would be, "That may be your custom, but I kneel before my Savior".

He might well have put the arrogant "wrong response" in the mouth of a stander instead of a kneeler. It is well known that people who follow the generations-old tradition of kneeling at the customary places during the Mass are most often the ones who are derisively being accused of "individualism".

The majority of bishops were sensitive to this problem — and mindful of tradition — when they specified in their proposed adaptations of the GIRM for the United States, that "the faithful kneel at the Ecce Agnus Dei", and that "they may kneel or sit following the reception of Holy Communion". Father Joncas apparently did not mention this in his presentation.

Source: Saint Cloud Visitor, Dec. 6, 2001


Moves in Monterey

"It is NOT AN ACCEPTABLE POSTURE to genuflect or kneel before receiving Holy Communion", Bishop Sylvester D. Ryan emphatically proclaimed on the Monterey diocesan web site in February (original emphasis).

The bishop says his two-part letter, "The Sign of Unity — Liturgical Movement and Posture", is a "summary of the specific instructions of the GIRM and the particular adaptations". Like Father Joncas, Bishop Ryan stresses that "uniformity in posture [is] to be observed by all as a sign of unity", and notes that the GIRM "designates and empowers the diocesan bishop" to make decisions about the Liturgy.

In a striking departure from customary practice in the US, he ordered that people shall "extend the hands in the same manner as the celebrant does" for the Our Father, "the opening prayer, prayer over the gifts and the prayer after Communion".

Bishop Ryan forbids people to kneel after the Agnus Dei, thus opposing the norm for the United States approved by the bishops in November 2001. He also mandates that all must stand and remain standing "until all the faithful have finished receiving Holy Communion".

The bishop states that in requiring Monterey Catholics to cease kneeling he is following "the universal norm" .

In November 2000, Cardinal Medina Estévez made it clear in an official response to a bishop’s question that the new regulations for Mass do not intend to suppress kneeling.

Source: The Sign of Unity


No problem with women priests, Irish bishop says

Bishop William Walsh of Killahoe, Ireland, said he would have no difficulty with women priests, The Irish Times reported February 15. "I would have to honestly say that I do not see it happening in my time", Bishop Walsh told the local newspaper, the Guardian, but "who knows where the spirit will lead us in the new millennium"?

"I certainly would be very conscious that our church has missed out on a significant input in decision-making by women", said Bishop Walsh. "I would even find myself at times, if I have a serious problem, talking to women about the matter rather than with men, because they bring a dimension and view of thingsthat enriching female view of things".

Only one man is to be ordained as a priest in the diocese during the next seven years. However, Bishop Walsh said that his diocese is more likely to have priests from Africa and eastern Europe "where vocations are flowering" than women priests. "We are gradually coming to realize the whole concept of church is not the clergy", said the bishop. "The church in Killahoe is not my diocese, the church is all of us", he told the Guardian.

"If the future of the church was in the hands of the clergy it wouldn’t be great in terms of numbers and in terms of our age", he said. Bishop Walsh, 67, became bishop of Killahoe in 1994.

At a recent meeting of the diocesan priests, he said, "there was realization and an acceptance that as a clergy we have grown old. There was a willingness to share and invite lay people to share in the life of the church. We don’t have the same energy as we had in the past".

Source: The Irish Times online


The norm is kneeling

Adaptations for the United States to the new rules for celebration of Mass (the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani) that were voted on at the November 2001 bishops’ meeting included a proposed adaptation of the posture of the faithful during the Communion rite.

IGMR 43.3: In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the Consecration.

The faithful kneel at the Ecce Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise. They may kneel or sit following the reception of Holy Communion.

The adaptations, expected to be approved by the Holy See, would be printed in the main text of the new Missal, not as an appendix.



The Editors