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In the middle of the month we had the momentous announcement and we ended up with the actual vacant see of Rome. With 10,148 page views, I am happy to see that my thoughts about this historic period in the Church were read and appreciated by many. Readers from The Spectator in the UK found their way here (nice to see you here!), as did many others via blogs and social media. Fr. Roderick’s sharing my blog post about the Pope’s last general audience also caused a spike in the page views, so thanks very much for that!
Anyway, on to the top 10, which may be a bit different than expected.
1: Cardinal watch: Cardinal Arinze turns 80 251
2: Countdown to papal Twitter launch 145
3: Boodschap voor de Vastentijd 2013 102
4: The pope who resigned – St. Celestine V 98
5: ‘Bel Giorgio’ takes over the household 91
6: One cardinal stays at home – Indonesia’s Darmaatmadja not attending the conclave 89
7: Distancing – how not to disagree & Risky business – German bishops allow abortive drugs, but only when they’re not abortive 83
8: The final farewell 80
9: Obsession, but on whose part? 75
10: The bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer – a first step? 70
The bishops today sent out a memorandum with the adaptations to the Eucharistic Prayers during the sede vacante. Also included are prayers for the success of the conclave and the new Pope. And in the midst of it all, they have introduced a lasting change to the Roman Missal. From now, the sixth Eucharistic Prayer will include the name of the diocesan bishop, in addition to the name of the Pope and a reference to all the bishops, as is standard in the other Eucharistic Prayers. Explaining the decision is a short sentence: “The diocesan bishop should not be left out of the Eucharistic Prayer (cf. Redemptionis sacramentum, 56).”
The document they refer to was and Instruction released in 2004 by the Congregation for Divine Worship “on certain matter to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist”. Paragraph 56 of that document has this to say:
“The mention of the name of the Supreme Pontiff and the diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer is not to be omitted, since this is a most ancient tradition to be maintained, and a manifestation of ecclesial communion. For “the coming together of the eucharistic community is at the same time a joining in union with its own Bishop and with the Roman Pontiff”.”
Considering that, the new decision fits well with the desire expressed several years ago by Blessed Pope John Paul II that the various translations of the Missal be brought into better accordance with the Latin original text. Although there is commission, which includes several Dutch and Flemish bishops, tasked with reviewing and improving the Dutch translation, very little has come out of it as yet. But this is a nice start. Now let’s hope that the change takes effect in practice, and can usher in more progress towards a new translation.
Photo credit: Diocese of Lancaster
The sanctuaries of Catholic Churches usually feature the name and portrait of the local bishop. This is a benefit to visiting priests to know, if they are from outside the diocese in question, what name they should mention in the Eucharistic prayer. It also shows the role of the local bishop in every church in his jurisdiction. He is the chief shepherd of all the faithful there, while local priests assist him in this work.
Sometimes these portraits need updating, for example when there is a new bishop, but also when the sitting bishop is made a cardinal, as happened earlier this year in the Archdiocese of Utrecht. The archbishop was created a cardinal, and so the archdiocese has created new official photographs. Cardinal Wim Eijk is now photographed wearing a cardinal’s red, as opposed to the purple worn by bishops.
In a fairly unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI interfered in the affairs of a local bishops’ conference earlier this month, when he wrote a letter (translation) to the German Bishops’ Conference via Archbishop Robert Zollitsch (and through them also to the other bishops of the entire German speaking area).
Like other conferences, the bishops of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein are working on a new translation of the Roman Missal. Whereas the new English translation was launched last Advent, there are still many other languages awaiting new translations.
The issue that divides the German bishops and that prompted the pope to write a five-page letter, revolves around two words in the Eucharistic Prayer. The Latin, from which all translations are made, has the words “pro multis” to indicate for whom Jesus suffered and died. In the translations of the 1960s and 70s, this was rendered as “for all”, out of a wish to interpret the words in a way that would do most justice to the original. Or so translators thought. The Holy Father now indicates that this line of thought has since fallen out of favour and argues strongly against interpretative translations. Interpreting Scripture is one of the main tasks of the Church, but this should happen in the churches, by the bishops and the priests, not by the translators. Bishops and priests can react quickly and specifically to the needs to their specific faithful, whereas translations usually remain the same for years on end. Translation of Scripture and the canon of the Mass should therefore remain as literal as possible. “Pro multis”, then, should be translated as “for many”.
The letter goes into some detail about the questions that this change may give rise to, and also about the theological backgrounds of each choice. Although specifically directed at the German situation, the same arguments can and will be made in other countries, including the Netherlands, which still await a new translation.
Photo credit: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images
Upon reading a letter from the Dutch provincial of the Dominicans, Fr. Ben Vocking, o.p., to Archbishop Eijk, about the firing of pastoral worker Tejo van der Meulen, I was once more struck by the deep divide between the way the Catholic Church works and the way some people think it works. The core question that Provincial Vocking asks this, “Do you think you must act against what so many faithful consider the most normal thing in the world/in the Church?” The clear answer to that is, of course, “If that thing is unequivocally wrong or illegal: yes, the bishop must act”.
Reading a homily and joining in the Eucharistic Prayer is something that only priests are allowed to do. We may like it or not, but this is a simple fact. If these rules are not followed, it is only logical that a bishop or superior acts to prevent it. The teachings and rules of the Church are not created in a democratic process. Christ himself did not come to say what people wanted to hear or do what they wanted Him to do. Just as we look towards Him to lead us in our lives, so to do we look to the Church to do the same for us.
Fr. Vocking also mentions the Belgian initiative denouncing celibacy, Holy Orders and a whole raft of other things. “I certainly do not hope,” he asks, “that you think that these people have left the faith behind them?” The people who signed the initiative may not have left all faith in God behind them, but they do wilfully act against His Church.They place individual preferences above God’s intentions and ignore the shepherds he has given us.
Faith is a gift. It is not a human construct, and neither are its contents. Instead of being a democratic institution, the Church is tasked with leading the faithful to God, who is above human thought and action. In that sense, we do well to cultivate an attitude of faithful obedience, with confidence in the teachings of the Church that Christ established. The Church is bigger than us individuals, and can not be subject to our whims and preferences. This does not suggest a passive attitude, but an active participation in the mystery of the salvation that the Lord chooses to achieve through His Church.
Fr. Vocking’s are pointless. He should already know the answers.
A fairly small news item earlier this week – about Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht asking a parish council to terminate the employment of pastoral worker Tejo van der Meulen – has led to much debate about the role of pastoral workers and the lines they, in more than one person’s opinion, routinely seem to cross.
At first, the piece of information seemed innocent enough: an issue that concerned one parish, but we’ve seen several times already that not all of these issues keep to the boundaries of the parish they originate in. Both secular and Catholic media have made much of it, taken the fact as a reason to write in favour of or against the existence of, the duties of, or the liberties taken by pastoral workers. The case of Mr. van der Meulen is used as a starting point of the debate, and as evidence that pastoral workers routinely ‘play priest’.
Without going into too much detail about the situation of Mr. van der Meulen and the reasons that Archbishop Eijk had for rescinding his mission, it does shed a light on the status of pastoral workers in the dioceses of the Netherlands. Pastoral workers are lay people who are sent by the bishop to a specific parish or area to perform pastoral duties, usually in cooperation with a priest and parish council, although in some areas, for example in the north, priests may be few and pastoral workers will have managerial duties that are usually reserved for parish priests in other areas. Here, pastoral workers also lead the faithful in prayer services, as well as services of the Word and even Communion services. While the Church does require pastoral workers to attend Mass before being sent out to lead a service somewhere else, this does not always happen. Sometimes that is because the pastoral workers in question does not have the opportunity to go to Mass, but that can’t always be the case.
As the above indicates, theory does not always equal practice. And, more often than many would like, we’ve seen liturgical abuses crop up, because the boundaries between priest and pastoral worker vanished. A single clear cause is difficult to indicate, but the lack of priests and a limited knowledge of the faculties and duties of priest and laity are certainly among them. And then we see situation like in the case of Mr. van der Meulen, where the pastoral worker joins the priest at the altar for the Eucharistic prayer, or where the pastoral worker reads the Gospel at Mass. Indications that there is no awareness of what a priest or lay person can or can’t do, and a pretense that the one is the same as the other. And that is something that, I believe, Archbishop Eijk tries to combat. And he should be joined by all other bishops in that, as Blessed Pope John Paul II called them to do as far back as 1980.
Priests and pastoral workers are two sides of the same coin; I often have the impression that pastoral workers work from a strong pastoral concern for the people. A good priest will have that same concern, but will be called to express that concern by means of the sacraments and the proclamation of the Word of God. Together, they can and should work fruitfully together for the faithful under their care, which is possible when they know duties, abilities and limitations, as Father Anton ten Klooster points out.
Actually, come to think of it, pastoral workers and priests who pretend they are something they are not, are mostly doing a disservice to themselves. They have each been given a specific mission in the Church, in which they each can be bearers of the Good News, each in their own unique way. Why throw that gift aside, or switch it for someone else’s?
We are all workers in God’s vineyard, not in our own. Let’s reflect that in our work and vocation.
Father Mauro Gagliardi, professor of theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum of Rome, and consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments – in other words, a man who knows a thing or two about liturgy – has written a short article about a seemingly minor detail: the place of the crucifix on the altar. But, like all elements of the liturgy, this too is not without meaning and function. Fr. Gagliardi not only expounds on this, but also offers a brief background on prayer in the context of the Mass, and the role of depictions of the crucified Christ for the assembled faithful. His remarks – as well as his quotations from Pope Benedict XVI – about the direction of prayer and the differences between the liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic prayer should also prove very interesting for Catholics in the Netherlands.
Late last night I was reading some thoughts about the new English translation of the Missal, and one point in specific made me think about my own introduction to the mysteries of the liturgy. The poll mentioned in Father Z’s post includes the statement “I worry that young people and those considering joining the church will be turned off by a liturgy that sounds esoteric or out of touch to their ears“, to which a vast majority seemingly answered in agreement. I’m not even going to answer the question of whether the new translation really is ‘esoteric and out of touch’ because it uses ‘difficult’ words, but I would like to consider if it is fear grounded in reality, that “young people will be turned off”.
When I first attended Mass, in Advent of 2005, language did not play a big part in my experience. Of course, I noticed that the priest was speaking, and I paid attention (still do) during the homily and the readings, trying to apply them to my own life. But the wording of the Eucharistic Prayer, for example, which also in Dutch includes words that are not used in daily conversation, was not instrumental in my decision to return and attend more Masses. It did not turn me off.
Was that because I didn’t pay attention? Not really, as I indicated above. Rather, the entire structure of the liturgy – rituals, gestures, words – was something to get to know. I did not separate one piece to try and understand before I turned my attention on the next bit. And if I did not understand something immediately (which, in the beginning, was basically all the time) I considered it more of a challenge to learn than a reason to be put off.
The liturgy and its language have nothing to do with quick satisfaction and the lowest common denominator. Rather, it must invite and challenge. The liturgy is, after all, primarily something that is supposed to bring us closer to God, not about making things easy for us. And I think that a correct liturgy will have that effect on people: they will notice that the priest is not there to entertain them, but to commune with God on behalf of, and with, the people.
Difficult words – for a given value of difficult – are really quite secondary to that. And people are smart enough to realise that. The only prerequisite is that the priest knows what he’s doing and performs his liturgical duties correctly. But that goes for many people in many situations.
My point, or perhaps a point, is that the liturgy is always going to be strange and new to people who are first introduced to it, regardless of the language used. Yet people continue to join the Church every year. These people knew that they were not going to understand everything they saw immediately. It is not only okay to use different words in the liturgy, it is even necessary. The liturgy is more than a social gathering or a community meeting, and the language must reflect that. Then it is one of the things that will elevate people, allowing them to join the priest in transcending the mundane practicalities of ink, paper and everyday words. A movement upwards, towards God.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of serving at a wedding Mass. It was the first time for to even attend a wedding Mass, let alone be a server at one. The soon-to-be-weds had brought their own priest, as far I understood a friend of the family.
When introducing myself to him and discussing some points of the Mass, he seemed surprised that there would be servers, but pleasantly surprised, and he asked me what our duties would be. Well, just the usual ones: preparing the altar, carrying the gifts, assisting with a few other things, and also the washing of the hands before the Consecration. “Oh, I never do that”, he replied. I nearly raised an eyebrow and asked him why on earth not? I didn’t though, merely mumbled something that we do do that here, and he seemed okay with that.
Anyway, that by way of introduction, because that little occurence led me to fear that the wedding Mass that the priest would celebrate would suffer from what I call a DIY liturgy. And that fear was confirmed. The experience was rather paradoxical for me: on the one hand the liturgy bothered me, and on the other hand the clear happiness of the bride and groom and their friends and family made me happy as well.
Looking back, I can’t help but wonder what lies at the root at this urge (if it is an urge) to adapt the liturgy to your own personal preferences. In this case the Mass was valid (the priest used a proper Eucharistic prayer and so on), but the introduction of extra prayer within the Eucharistic prayer, the involvement of the congregation in the various prayers of the priest, the priest’s apparent lack of awareness of certain rituals and their meaning, and, worst of all, the invitation to everyone who felt spiritually close to the bride and groom to receive Communion, led not only to a vague service (which is what the priest consistently called it instead of Eucharist or Mass) but also allowed a number of abuses to take place. I assisted the priest in giving Communion and I am certain that a number of non-Catholics received the Body of Christ from my hands. Maybe I am responsible for that or the priest is, I don’t know, but during the celebration of Mass I tend to defer to the priest: any disagreements and questions may be raised afterwards. So I gave Communion to those who presented themselves.
The liturgy of the Mass, with all its rules and rituals, is the product of a development of centuries. It has been codified numerous times, most recently following the Second Vatican Council. That codification has a reason: it unifies the celebration of the sacraments in the entire Church and so also its members. Being people of head and heart, the rituals, gestures, visuals et cetera, serves to provide us with a more exalted worship; Mass is not like sitting down with friends and have a chin wag: it is the communion with God, which deserves, even needs its own language. In the language and gestures of the liturgy we are exalted also, and so we are enabled to meet God, despite all our human failings. If the liturgy is brought down to us, we bring God down to us (an impossibility): the opposite of what He asks from us. Liturgy is also a teaching tool: the language, gestures and rituals show us who God is, that we are able to come into His presence despite the fact that He is so far out of our reach.
DIY liturgy is a dangerous business, but paradoxically an understandable one as well. Yesterday wedding Mass was an enormously joyous occasion for everyone involved, and I don’t begrudge anyone that. But the Mass barely transcended the level of a social gathering, but the couple did consciously choose to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. The (subconscious) need to remove God as much as possible from the picture amazes me. In words we still acknowledge Him, but that is where we draw the line. It is as if we have become people of the head only: our heart and soul is not in it.