Wednesday, November 13, 2013


So you get some idea what kind of new head of the USCCB's Liturgy Committee is, read his wonderful letter to the priests of his diocese written on October 18, 2007:

Bishop's Letter to the Priests of the Diocese Concerning the Liturgy

October 18, 2007
Feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist
My dear brothers in the priesthood,

Today the Church celebrates the life and work of the third evangelist. In his work, St. Luke paints for us the portrait of Christ the compassionate Savior whose life is the climax of Israel’s redemptive history that continues in the Church. Today’s feast glorifies the Holy Spirit who, in every age, raises up individuals and gifts them with the grace and charisms needed to continue the work of Christ.

With St. Luke, we priests share the privilege of spreading the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has graced us in a special way for this work. Through our ordination, we have been configured to Christ the High Priest who uses weak instruments such as us to accomplish His saving work.
On this feast day, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for accepting the vocation to be a priest. I am grateful for your apostolic zeal in serving God’s people with dedication and self-giving and for your love of the Church whose ministers we are. I would also like to address with you what is so central to our priesthood and so vital for the life of the Church.

St. Luke ends his gospel with the Emmaus story in which the two disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:30-32). He begins Acts of the Apostles with this picture of the infant Church: “These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Clearly for the evangelist, the Eucharist is the Presence of the Risen Lord building up the Church in the unity of faith and love.

The Eucharist is the Crucified Jesus uniting us to Himself, sharing with us His divine life and making the Church truly one so that she can be the effective Sacrament of salvation in every age and in every place. The Eucharist is at the heart of the mystery of the Church. This great sacrifice of the Lord’s Body and Blood is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). The Eucharist contains the entire wealth of the Church. Each day the Church draws her life from this gift given to her by the Lord at the Last Supper.

To every priest is given the great privilege of celebrating the Eucharist by virtue of his ordination. The priest presides at the Eucharist in persona Christi. The priest is the servant of the Liturgy. He is the steward entrusted with a gift that is not his own.

Therefore, every priest has the obligation to celebrate the Liturgy in such a way that he provides a witness of faith to the sacredness of the gift given to the Church by her Lord. He is to be faithful to the Church’s norms for the Liturgy so as to be at the service of communion, not only for the community directly taking part in the celebration, but also for the whole Church. The Mystery of the Eucharist “is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

In each particular Church, the diocesan bishop has a most serious responsibility before God for the faithful celebration of the liturgy. He is the first steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to him. He is the moderator, promoter and guardian of her whole liturgical life (Christus Dominus, 28; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 41; Code of Canon Law, can. 387 and can. 835.1). Recognizing this serious duty placed upon me, I ask every priest in this diocese to follow The General Instruction of the Roman Missal as well as Redemptionis Sacramentum, issued in 2004 by the mandate of Pope John Paul II. A careful reading and attention to these instructions can only increase the individual priest’s appreciation of the Eucharist and his own special role within the Church. The Eucharist “is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity or depreciation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 10).

Since the people of God have the right to the Liturgy as the Church has established, both instructions are to be followed in their entirety. Priests, as well as deacons, are not free to change the rubrics or substitute their own words for the prescribed texts. Such fidelity expresses true love for the people we serve. I call your special attention to the items that follow. The Church’s instructions use strong language to indicate the seriousness with which the Church safeguards reverence for the Eucharist.

Concerning the altar.

Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered on an altar where this memorial is celebrated, there should be at least one white cloth, its shape, size, and decoration in keeping with the altar’s design (GIRM, 304).

Concerning the proclamation of the gospel and preaching.

Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is “the high point of the Liturgy of the Word,” is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister. Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it (SR, 63).

The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.” (SR, 64)

The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants;” nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or 
group, or community, or association (SR, 66).

(To safeguard the primacy of the homily and the connection of Word and Sacrifice in the celebration of the Eucharist, any reflection offered by laypeople should be given after the Prayer after Communion.)

Concerning the distribution of Holy Communion.

It is the Priest celebrant’s responsibility to minister Communion, perhaps assisted by other Priests or Deacons; and he should not resume the Mass until after the Communion of the faithful is concluded. Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law (SR, 88).

If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. 
The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons (SR, 157)

It is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing (SR, 91).

Concerning the use of vestments.

“The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole” (GIRM, 299).
The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments or with only a stole over the monastic cowl or the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes (SR, 126).

Concerning the proper vessels for the Eucharist.

Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books. It is strictly required, however, that [they] be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate. (SR, 117)

The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, insofar as possible at the credence table. The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water, which is then drunk by whoever does the purification. The paten is usually wiped clean with the purificator (GIRM, 279).

Following the instructions that the Church lays down for the proper celebration of the Eucharist is not a burden, but a joy. For it enables us to enter into the spirit of the Liturgy with greater freedom and less distraction. It may take a child-like humility to do as the Church asks in the celebration of the Liturgy. However, true love is never proud. “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to these norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

I thank all of you for your love of God’s people and your desire to be good and faithful “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 1:4).

May the Eucharist, daily and faithfully celebrated, truly be a gift of life and growth for the Church of Paterson.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, S.T.D., S.S.L., D.D.
Bishop of Paterson

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Mike Lutz said...

One of the practices at my parish that gives me the most concern is a homily given by a lay person. In such cases, our pastor gives a brief overview of the homily's topic and then turns things over to one of our lay pastoral assistants.

This practice was apparently permitted by our retired bishop, Matthew Clark; it will be interesting to see how our new bishop, Salvatore Matano, addresses this issue. Given the many problems in our diocese, though, I can't see this rising to the top of his list.

rcg said...

I bet you have never had a politician deliver a homily telling you to vote for a new tax, or Martin Sheen (admittedly, Sheen was shilling for Catholic Charities). But the priests were pop stars and othe people wanted in on it.

I have a pet theory: many priests avoid preaching about the lessons in the readings or the history of the day because they don't really know it, or are more interested in pop culture and current events and put their time in those studies.

John Nolan said...


A so-called "homily" given by a lay person should not cause you any concern. Simply walk out and return when it is over. In fact, walk out whenever the liturgy is abused, and if that means that you miss most of the "Mass" It's surely time to take your custom elsewhere.

Gene said...

Yeah, John, but then Ignotus will squawk and wave his arms at you for "skipping Mass." LOL!

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Skipping mass is a sin, as you have acknowledged.

Yes, if I read of Catholics skipping mass, I will reiterate the Church's teaching.

I am reminded of the passage "I piped you a tune but you did not dance. I sang you a dirge but you did not weep."

Gene said...

Ighnotus, Funny, that. You refused to answer another blogger on here who asked you point blank if you believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the bodily resurrection of Christ. I believe you told him that his question was "inquisitorial" and a "trap." So, asking a Catholic Priest if he believes in the Real presence and the literal resurrection is some kind of outrage. I'm still laughing my -ss off about that one…and you chastise one for "skipping Mass."

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - You skipped mass and you touted that behavior here. You suggest that when someone offers you correction for this behavior it is "squawking."

I have never denied the Church's teaching on the Real Presence or the bodily resurrection of Jesus, nor will I ever do so.

Although you try to equate your active sinful act - skipping mass - with my refusal to be quizzed by you or anyone else regarding my orthodoxy and it just doesn't fly.

I have my bishop's approval to hold my position as pastor. But, since by your own admission you trust neither pope nor bishops to be faithful, my mandatum means nothing to you.

"All Hail, the Protestant Church of Pin/Gene. He is the guardian of the True Faith."

What rot.

John Nolan said...

I have maintained here and on other sites that "obligation" is not a one-way street. Attendance at Mass is certainly laudable, and when the Mass was recognizable universally as being such, obligation to attend made sense. However, the idea that it is obligatory to suffer liturgical abuses in order to mortify the flesh is utterly repugnant to me - I wasn't brought up to regard the Mass in this light, and to do so negates the whole purpose of the rite.

From my earliest childhood the Mass was my greatest joy, and still is, when offered properly. But I consider myself under no obligation whatsoever to attend those travesties of the Holy Sacrifice which are still sadly prevalent. They might be technically valid and even licit, but I would spew them out of my mouth.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - The obligation, as you know, is to attend mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. That obligation doesn't admit of "If I don't like it, I don't have to go."

Anonymous said...

Woody Allen said something like: 80% of success is showing up. I think that many...most Catholics...Christians believe that and live that....just show up on Sunday and you're good to go...

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus

There was never a question of like or dislike until the mid-1960s when clerical preference was foisted upon congregations willy-nilly.

I take the obligation to attend Mass seriously but have a zero tolerance towards liturgical abuse, which believe me didn't happen when I was brought up.

Gene said...

Ignotus, not denying something is not the same thing as confessing it. You refused to answer a direct question about the most fundamental beliefs of the Catholic faith. You aren't fooling anyone, including yourself because you know exactly what you are doing. This country is full of apostate Priests who serve by their Bishop's mandate. You are, once again, prevaricating.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - I have "confessed" many times that I believe all that the Church teaches.

That's not the issue you have with me, however. You want those who disagree with you to go away. You want those who do not share your politics to disappear. You want anyone who has the temerity to suggest that you are wrong to submit to your harangues and inquisitions.

With others you have succeeded. With me, it just ain't gonna happen.

Pater Ignotus said...

John Nolan - It's all well and good to cite that "The times they are a'changin'," but that has nothing to do with the obligation we Catholic have to attend mass on Sundays and Holy Days.

Gene said...

Ignotus, Why'd you put confessed in quotes?

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Your statement: "Ignotus, not denying something is not the same thing as confessing it.

The quotation marks refer to your prior use of "confessing."

Gene said...

Ignotus, You are really a hoot…God help your poor parishioners.

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus

So "changing times" justifies liturgical abuse? I'm not talking here about the odd tacky modern hymn or sloppy inattention to detail on the part of the celebrant. That's sadly part of modern life, and I can usually avoid it. I'm talking about wilful persistence in practices that have been officially reprobated by competent authority. To be present at such makes me complicit in it, as well as being an occasion of sin, namely anger.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - No, you are not complicit in "liturgical abuses" simply by being present at mass. You are no more complicit in these than you would be if you were in a bank when it is being robbed.

You - and others - keep looking for someone else to blame for the sinful choice to be absent from mass on a given Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation.

It's one of the oldest dodges in the book. "Eve made me do it." "The Serpent made me do it."
It didn't get Adam and Eve off the hook, neither will it excuse your own sin.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - Feeling anger is not a sin. However, acting on that anger, such as by skipping mass, most certainly is.

John Nolan said...

PI, why do you assume that I am looking for an excuse to "skip Mass" when I habitually drive for an hour to fulfil the obligation? Yes, those who abuse the liturgy are indeed priests, and to compare them with bank robbers is an understatement - in fact liturgical abuse is more serious than child abuse, since it is God Himself who is being abused.