USCCB Approves Four Liturgical Action Items at November 2021 Plenary Meeting
Jan 11, 2022

USCCB Approves Four Liturgical Action Items at November 2021 Plenary Meeting

At the first in-person USCCB plenary meeting in two years, the Latin Church bishops approved four action items presented by the Committee on Divine Worship. First, the bishops approved the inscription of an Optional Memorial of St. Teresa of Calcutta in the Proper Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States of America by a vote of 213-0 with one abstention. If confirmed by the Holy See, her feast will be celebrated on September 5, the day currently observed by the Missionaries of Charity, and will use those Mass texts approved for them by the Holy See, with only a very minor modification to the Spanish text. Proper texts for the Divine Office will be promulgated together with the Liturgy of the Hours, Second Edition.

The second action item approved was a new translation of Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery outside Mass, prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) in April 2020. Passed by a vote of 200-14 with four abstentions, this book includes rites for Holy Communion outside Mass, the administration of Communion and Viaticum to the sick by an extraordinary minister, and various forms of worship of the Most Holy Eucharist. For the most part, the text is a straightforward translation of the Latin typical edition. One section, however, includes adaptations newly approved by the body of bishops. In the Order of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, the rubrics of the Latin typical edition are sparse, providing space for adaptation to the traditions and needs of individual regions as well as helpful flexibility when planning special events. The Committee on Divine Worship proposed, and the bishops approved, a sort of “standard model” for Exposition and Benediction in the dioceses of the United States. This form includes new English translations of O salutaris Hostia and Tantum ergo, confirmed by the Holy See as a part of the hymnody of the Liturgy of the Hours, Second Edition. It also includes a standard text of both the versicle following the Tantum ergo and the Divine Praises. Certain rubrics were expanded to include customary practices or provide necessary clarification.

The third action item approved by the bishops, the fruit of several years of work, was the revised English edition of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA), by a vote of 215-6 with two abstentions. This vote was the second of a two-step process, which began with the approval of the ICEL Gray Book translation at the November 2019 plenary meeting. Following that approval, the Committee on Divine Worship began the process of adapting and rearranging the text after the model of the current English edition. The paragraph numbers of this new edition follow the paragraph numbers of the current edition exactly.

There are a few new elements in the text being sent to the Holy See. Most notably, the terms referring to individuals have been adjusted for the sake of clarity. In ritual books, the word “candidate” often refers generically to any person preparing to receive a sacrament, ministry, or blessing. In the context of the Initiation process, however, a custom has developed over the last four decades in the United States of using the word “candidate” to refer to an already-baptized person who is preparing to receive the other Sacraments of Initiation. Thus, to help clarify the steps of the process, the new book will reflect that practice and reserve the use of “candidate” to only those who are already baptized, and will use other terms such as “inquirer,” “entrant,” “catechumen,” and “elect” as replacements for “candidate” when referring to individuals in other stages of the Initiation process.

Two other notable changes in the new edition are found in the combined Easter Vigil celebration of Initiation and the Rite of Reception. Suggested introductory language is now provided, motivated by an ecumenical sensitivity, highlighting the difference between catechumens and those who are already baptized. Also added to the rite are rubrics and prayers for the baptism of an infant at the Easter Vigil, a possibility noted by both the Order of Baptism of Children and the Roman Missal. This Combined Rite already attended to the Initiation of the elect, reception into full communion of candidates, and the confirmation of uncatechized Catholics, and thus now provides texts for a fourth category of person who might be initiated at the Easter Vigil.

Finally, the fourth item approved by the bishops was a revised Spanish edition of the OCIA, entitled the Ritual para la Iniciación cristiana de adultos, by a vote of 218-3 with one abstention. This edition is not a new Spanish translation but has rather been updated to match the changes in the new English edition, to correct various errors in the current edition, and to incorporate texts from the Misal Romano approved for use in this country.

Related to the OCIA, revised English and Spanish editions of the National Statutes for the Catechumenate were approved by votes of 222-1 and 224-0 with one abstention, respectively. This item, presented by the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance in consultation with the Committees on Divine Worship and on Evangelization and Catechesis, updates the statutes in light of nearly four decades of experience with catechesis and the Christian Initiation process. Fewer statutes are now proposed, namely only those that are truly legislative, complementary to the universal law, and unique to the United States. If granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops, these revised statutes will abrogate those currently in force, and its text will be published in the new editions of the OCIA, as is the case with the current ritual text.

Photo Credit: AB/CNA

USCCB Committee on Divine Worship

The Committee on Divine Worship, a standing committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has the responsibility for all matters relating to the Liturgy. The Secretariat of Divine Worship carries out the work of the Committee on Divine Worship, by: –overseeing the preparation and approval of liturgical books and texts and granting the concordat cum originali for publications of liturgical texts in the United States; –reviewing all publications in the United States which contain excerpts from approved liturgical books; –providing leadership in liturgical formation and sacramental catechesis, especially by means of its monthly Newsletter and other publications; and –serving as a resource for Bishops and Diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of Worship seeking advice.