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Monday, November 2, 2009

Stirring the liturgical pot

ALL SOULS DAY in years past allowed for "trination" (saying three Masses) to accommodate the large number of people who wished to offer Masses (and thereby for priests to receive multiple stipends) for the Dearly Departed. Concelebration, restored since Vatican II, seems to have made trination passé.

We have at Maryknoll long debated the propriety of what to wear and where to sit when concelebrating Masses and have hit upon a seemingly workable solution: those who wish to concelebrate may do so and vest (alb and stole) while other priests may sit among the congregation. Unspoken yet misunderstood is the status of those priests who sit unvested among the people.

I have earlier expressed my uneasiness at seeing all these hands rise up from among the people during the words of consecration by priests neither in albs nor clerical attire. Well, turns out, these men are not officially concelebrating after all, at least not according to the rules of Holy Mother Church.

To wit, from the USCCB web page on concelebration:

14. Concelebrants should be seated together in a distinct area (presbyterium). They should not be intermingled with the assembly nor should anyone be seated between the concelebrants and the altar. If the space in the presbyterium is not large enough to accommodate all the concelebrants appropriately, some are seated in another area which physically and visually unites them with the other concelebrants.

15. The position of the concelebrants should not obscure the fact that only one Bishop or one priest presides over the whole celebration. Furthermore, the position of the concelebrants should not usurp the positions or limit the functioning of other liturgical ministers. Unless it is unavoidable, concelebrants should not impede the full view of the assembly, since members of the congregation are called upon to kneel at various times during Mass.

19. Priests may not concelebrate in secular attire, in ordinary clerical garb, or by wearing the stole over the cassock. Nor may priests of religious institutes concelebrate merely by placing a stole over the monastic cowl or habit.

An unsettling question: Can we claim to be offering Masses for the Society if we are not following these basic norms? A more troubling one: when people buy Mass cards from us, do they not deserve a legitimate Mass by properly vested, albeit concelebrating, priests?

One final point. We are, after all, living at the headquarters of the CFMSA. When our seminarians visit, shouldn't they expect liturgically correct celebrations, without us being rubric nit-pickers? Should we not model accepted liturgical norms? Perhaps while awaiting suggestions and programs from our Centenary Committee, we might prepare for our 100th by a starting a liturgical renewal to get us more aligned with the Church in the United States.

1 comment:

  1. MM - Thank you for this well-researched post. I too have often been slightly disturbed by the habit of ersatz con-celebration from the pews, but have held my tongue for fear of the 'fecal tempest' that voicing such an opinion would create. I appreciate your going where angels fear to tred.