New Liturgical Norms

On his second anniversary of installation as Bishop of Raleigh, Michael F. Burbidge promulgated new General Norms for the Celebration of the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass in the Diocese of Raleigh. On the same date, August 4, 2008, the USCCB, under Bishop Serratelli, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, issued a letter sharing the recognitio now received from Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on June 23 for the new English translation of the Mass. While not yet promulgated, this so-called White Book will soon become the official text of the Mass in English throughout the United States. This will replace the translations made available in the years following the Second Vatican Council (1963) and, as a result, mean that communities will need to learn new texts, previous musical arrangements of the texts will either need to be amended or replaced, and missals, hymnals, and other published aids to worship will no longer be considered valid. In order to assist communities with this forthcoming transition, the USCCB is now providing materials for our priests and the faithful which can be used for catechesis and preparation for the eventual implementation of the revised texts. The General Norms for the Celebration of the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass for the Diocese of Raleigh will also make some changes in the how the community is to pray together, most of which consist in a narrowing down of the range of celebration permitted in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Professionally, I am bound by obedience to implement both those norms specific to the Diocese of Raleigh and the forthcoming changes in the texts of the Mass. I am not, however, convinced that either set of documents reflects the idea that in the sacred liturgy…full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else…the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14). Needless to say, I am entering into a trying time in my career as a pastoral liturgist. Please stay tuned for future reflections and I would ask for your continued prayers as I endeavor to continue helping other people to pray.

11 thoughts on “New Liturgical Norms

  1. Andrew, I do offer prayers for you as you do waht you need to do to implement these new norms, and practical support too, especially with the catechetical requirements.

  2. I'll take only two points and how they impact celebration of the liturgy:1. “The assembly is to kneel following the conclusion of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)” (§83) although “following communion individual communicants return to their place in the Assembly and remain standing” (§95). This is problematic for several reasons: a) The particular posture from the Lamb of God through communion (regardless of whether standing or kneeling) should be consistent throughout the entire Communion Rite (as it is for the Eucharistic Prayer and reinforced by through-composed music) in order to emphasize its unity; the present directive is disjunctive. b) Standing is the posture normative throughout the world and, in fact, the episcopal prerogative to permit kneeling was a special grant to US bishops. c) Standing during the reception of communion reflects our incorporating Christ bodily just as our standing during the proclamation of the Gospel–the other high point of the liturgy–reflects our reception of Christ aurally. d) If no previous standard had existed, I would forgo b) and c) for the more important point of a), however, since standing was already the norm in the Diocese of Raleigh, the imposition of new norms contrary to those of the previous episcopacy will pose unnecessary pastoral challenges, causing some to see the change as arbitrary or capricious while others will gloat at this their supposed vindication in having 'held out' from compliance with the previous episcopal decision. The result will be divisive rather than fostering authentic common celebration of the liturgy in keeping with general norms (GIRM, etc.) and proper ritual unity of the Communion Rite.

  3. If by radical you mean something akin to its etymology and as it was used by the likes of Augustine, namely, fundamental, original, or rooted, then, sure, I'd wholeheartedly agree that the old norms, when new, were far more radical–grounded, rooted, and essential.

  4. 2. “Parish church buildings in the Diocese of Raleigh, whether new or existing construction, are to be adapted to reflect the norms” (§110), namely that “the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle located in or near the sanctuary of the church building…not to be located behind where the assembly is seated in the nave” (§106). This is problematic and, to answer your initial question, a hindrance to authentic worship, for a number of reasons. This current particular/local law is, while not contradictory to general law, certainly goes well beyond what was intended by the general/universal and USCCB documents governing not only the placement of the tabernacle but also, and perhaps more significantly, the manner in which alterations to existing church structures are to be effected. The USCCB document Built of Living Stones outlines the reasons for reservation of the Eucharist, the placement of the tabernacle for liturgical and devotional purposes, legitimate variation (including placement in the sanctuary or in a separate chapel), and so forth by recourse both to universal law (CIC, GIRM, etc.) and added reflection. What is clear from this document, universal/general law, tradition, etc., is that various forms of reservation of the Blessed Sacrament are not only permitted but also that each form has its own merit and reasons. Why I may, in fact, prefer one placement for new construction I would never (nor did any universal/general or USCCB document) recommend replacing one form with another in churches already established. For example, in many churches constructed in the two centuries prior to the Second Vatican Council wherein the tabernacle had been placed on the main high altar, such altars remained in place as did the tabernacle thereupon (i.e., the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame) as they rightly should. In places where the tabernacle…

  5. …(or hanging pyx as it may be better called) has been in tact (e.g., Quarr Abbey, Pontificium Institutum Musicae Sacrae, et al.) in direct contradiction to universal/general law that requires the tabernacle to be affixed, this too has been allowed to remain out of respect for tradition. The present directive seems to me to narrowly define one form of reservation which, while within episcopal prerogative, does not admit of a genuinely catholic (or even Roman for that matter) respect of legitimate variation. It would not even be beyond reasonable directive to require all future construction to adhere to a particular form of eucharistic reservation. But to require communities to spend a considerable sum of money on retrofitting their worship spaces in order that the tabernacle be located "in or near the sanctuary" (and done properly in accord with all other law and good practice when so doing) does not seem advisable to me. And, while I am happy at the prospects gaining a true catechumeneon, a space for the reservation of the Gospel book, and/or a chapel for the Liturgy of the Hours, I find that in our church the placement of the tabernacle in sanctuary will a) distance most folks from the tabernacle especially those with physical handicaps, reduce the likelihood of privacy/silence, and ultimately diminish the intimacy/nearness of adoration, b) alter the ability to use the church for other legitimate functions (e.g., choir practice, church tours, etc.) out of rightful respect for those engaged in adoration, and c) ensure that St. Thomas More will not be home to perpetual adoration. For these pastoral reasons I foresee many downsides to our intended implementation of the Raleigh norms at St. Thomas More even given some of the less than ideal aspects of the present location of the tabernacle. While I hope it will have unforeseen benefits as well, I still find it inadvisable to eliminate legitimate forms of authentic worship in order to impose only one such form.

  6. Andrew – Thanks for this update. I have briefly read through it – will need to look at it and your comments some more. So, these are changes just in our diocese or since some of these norms are coming from/approved by the Vatican will we see these in other dioceses and countries as well?

  7. As of October 19, the changes noted as a result of the promulgation of the "General Norms for the Celebration of the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass" (link above) in the Diocese of Raleigh will only effect the celebration of the liturgy here.By mere coincidence, however, "the eventual implementation of the revised texts" of the Mass that was also made public on Monday will effect the celebration of the Mass in all English-speaking countries, although only in the United States initially and not likely before November 2010.

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