Wednesday, October 26, 2005

From Fr. Thomas Kocik - Explanation of Liturgical Changes

[Fr. Kocik has asked that I post this to the weblog. The context: the letter explains the changes that Fr. Kocik had made to the liturgy, a la the reform of the reform, to the faculty of the high school he was at during that time. Father's explanation includes some great quotes, but I find it equally interesting to see the obvious subtext found in the concerns that were being brought to him -- concerns based upon still too common misconceptions about the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the liturgy and liturgical reform. This is demonstrative of a need for us to be informed, up to date, and armed with the knowledge of the Church's teaching on these sorts of matters. Moreover, we need to be forthright and bold, yet charitable, like Fr. Kocik, in correcting people in this regard. - SRT]

The following is intended to clarify misconceptions and to explain the rationale for certain changes I’ve made in liturgical practice here at Gross. ~ Fr. Tom Kocik

Communion-related issues

Long-standing norms as well as recent legislation from the Holy See and the U.S. Bishops have led me to make certain changes in liturgical practice. Contrary to what some have alleged, these changes are not intended to hinder people’s full participation in the Sacred Liturgy; nor do I wish to return to the pre-Vatican II (“Tridentine”) form of Mass. The Council yielded good liturgical fruits, most notably a greater communal sense of worship. What I do oppose is the false notion of participation that would have one believe that unless one is engaged in uninterrupted observable activity, or performing functions traditionally reserved to the ordained (e.g., administering Holy Communion), one is not truly participating in the liturgy. Listening to the proclaimed word and joining in the people’s prayers and responses is full, conscious and active participation. The same can be said for attentively watching the ceremonial as it is enacted.

Early in the school year, I sent a memo to the Religion class teachers encouraging them to have students function as lectors, select hymns and compose petitions for the class Masses. I find it ironic that some have accused me of discouraging participation, because more than once, despite my solicitation, students would arrive for class Mass without having prepared petitions, selected hymns, and so on. Is there a truncated notion of “participation” operative here -- one that equates participation with administering sacraments?

EME’s. I have reduced (but not eliminated outright) the number of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist (EME’s) by inviting area clergy (ordinary ministers of the Eucharist) either to concelebrate the all-school Masses, or simply to assist me with Communion. Some have challenged my decision to do this. Let’s see what Rome and the U.S. Bishops have to say on the matter of Communion distribution.

The 1997 Vatican Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests (Part II, no. 8) makes clear that EME’s are not to be routinely used; in fact, good pastoral planning would aim to reduce, if not eliminate altogether, the need for EME’s. (By way of analogy, one would not use an extraordinary minister of Baptism except in emergency situations where a priest or deacon is unavailable.) Therefore, any priest or deacon in good standing is welcome to assist me at the all-school Masses.

I realize that our EME’s have been commissioned by Archbishop Curtiss to fulfill that role when needed. If they have been trained properly, they should know that their ministry is supplementary and extraordinary (meaning, in this context, not ordinary). I remember what one EME in my former parish told me: “Father, my prayer is that the day will come when we’re no longer needed because there are enough clergy to assist the celebrant.” That’s the right attitude, I thought. Want shorter Communion lines? Pray for more priests. When at any given Mass the majority of people receive Communion from extraordinary ministers, the impression is given that we are no longer a community fed by its spiritual father who acts in persona Christi, but rather a community feeding itself. Eucharist and Priesthood are inseparable, and this intimate bond must be clearly manifested in practice as well as theology.

Parenthetically, I should add that canon law forbids a priest to celebrate more than one Mass per day except for a good reason (for example, having to celebrate a funeral or wedding on the same day). For this reason, it should not be supposed that simply because a priest is at the all-school Mass he ought to concelebrate; there is nothing wrong with his merely functioning as a “Communion priest.”

Intinction. On a related matter is the practice of intinction, that is, of dipping the consecrated Host partly into the chalice and placing the Sacrament on the communicant’s tongue. Intinction requires fewer ministers for distribution of Communion, as only one chalice is needed. Since less wine is consecrated, less Precious Blood remains to be consumed after Communion, and there are fewer vessels to purify after Mass.

It is for the local bishop to determine if, and under what circumstances, Holy Communion may be administered under both species. Provided that he has allowed Communion under both kinds, it is for the priest-celebrant to determine in what manner the Precious Blood will be given (either from the chalice or by intinction). In a letter to archdiocesan clergy (2 Sept. 2003), Archbishop Curtiss noted that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2000) supports Communion under both species, but added that “it is not required for every Mass, even on Sunday,” because Christ is wholly present in His sacramental Body and Blood under either species. Moreover, the Archbishop stated that “the celebrant may distribute Communion by way of intinction…”

The U.S. Bishops’ Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds (June 2001; approved by the Vatican in March 2002), states: “In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species or for using intinction instead of distributing the Precious Blood from the chalice” (no. 24, emphases mine). I often opt for intinction because it allows me to maintain the availability of Communion under both kinds while avoiding an excessive use of EME’s.

All of this is in no way meant to suggest that, unless things are done exactly as I do them here, it’s wrong. You can see by the wording of the above passage from the U.S. Bishops’ norms that the decision whether and when to use intinction is a matter of pastoral judgment on the part of the celebrant. My knowledge of the Church’s liturgy, my concerns over the relationship between belief and practice, and my years of seminary study, afford me no small competence to make such decisions.

Latin in the Sacred Liturgy

I have been teaching the students (at class Masses) the Kyrie eleison (which is Greek, actually), the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei Mass chants with a view to exposing them to the Church’s rich liturgical patrimony. There is a common misconception that the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) prohibited the use of Latin and Gregorian chant in the liturgy. Quite the contrary. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium] (4 Dec. 1963) states: “The use of the Latin language… is to be preserved” (no. 36). Elsewhere, we read: “Care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may be able to say or sing together in Latin the parts of the Mass which pertain to them” (no. 54). While opening the door to the use of the vernacular in the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican II clearly did not intend an all-vernacular liturgy.

Five years later, Pope Paul VI said that “Latin must be held in high honor.”

In his 1980 letter Dominicæ Cenæ, Pope John Paul II wrote: “The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself.”

The 1983 Code of Canon Law indicates that “the Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided that the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved” (can. 928).

Finally, the Omaha Archdiocesan Pastoral Policies Book has this to say: “In accord with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the recommendation of recent Popes, the treasury of Latin and Gregorian chant (in service music, hymns, antiphonal and chant music) should be retained.”

I do not advocate the occasional use of Latin simply because of liturgical norms (however widely ignored these are). While I certainly acknowledge the benefits of worshipping in the vernacular, I advocate the use of some Latin because of its capacity to evoke a sense of the transcendent and eternal; it transports us, as it were, beyond the four walls of our chapel (or gym) and connects us with the Church of the Ages, the Church Universal. Recent Popes have repeatedly warned that the loss of a common language for worship will impoverish our sense of catholicity (“catholic,” after all, means universal) and thereby lead to a congregationalist mentality whereby each local community is a “church” unto itself.

Altar Servers

Recently I submitted a bulletin item inviting freshmen boys to see me about training to become altar servers for the all-school Masses. Why only boys? In July 2001, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a letter stating that no priest is ever obliged to have female servers (even where this is permitted by the local bishop). The letter also reaffirmed that altar boys should be encouraged.

I observed at the all-school Masses that, while students were functioning as cross- and candle-bearers, there were no servers to assist the priest at the chair or at the altar. So, I decided to recruit additional servers for the all-school Masses to assist at the altar. Since archdiocesan policy forbids the number of girl servers to exceed the number of boys, I thought that inviting only boys to fulfill the additional roles would ensure two things: compliance with archdiocesan policy (by balancing the numbers), and encouragement of male servers (and thus, indirectly, of priestly vocations). The bottom line: Girls may still function as crucifers and candle-bearers, but boys will serve any additional roles as needed.

October 2, 2003
Guardian Angels

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