Saturday, September 16, 2023

Laudato Si’, Laudato No

In function of that peculiar charism (and, in the telling of some, very peculiar) by which the god of surprises goes about his business, the Sacred Congregation for Rites has just announced the promulgation of a novel liturgical tradition. In order to remind us in a more profound and meaningful way that we celebrate every liturgy as a liturgy of creation, it is now permitted to replace the traditional scheme of liturgical colors with the skins of extinct or endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Conservation Status” scheme. NLM is very honored to be chosen once again by the Sacred Congregation as the medium of promulgation for this important new tradition. Here is an outline of the scheme:

Extinct – funerals
Extinct in the wild – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
Critically endangered – Lent
Endangered – Advent
Vulnerable – Confessors, Virgins
Near threatened – Apostles, Martyrs
Least concern – feasts of Our Lord, Our Lady and the Angels.
The official Latin text is still being composed (it will be called Risu dignum et justum), but a special note has already been released, which recommends the black-and-white striped hide of the quagga as a profound and meaningful expression of the unity of the Paschal mystery, and therefore especially appropriate for funerals. (It is left to the local episcopal conferences to determine which extinct animals’ hides will be most profoundly significant and meaningful for use in funeral liturgies; they are, however, strictly forbidden from making any such determination without the approval of the Sacred Congregation for Rites, to be requested in writing.)
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
The Italian church, always especially forwardist when it comes to matters liturgical, has already put the new tradition to good use, for a celebration of the optional memorial of St Tarzanius. (Courtesy of the Facebook page of the Italian blog Messa in Latino.) 
Laudato Si’...
Laudato No!
NLM asked Mons. Giovanni Boidenio, pontifical cerimoniere and titular archbishop of Amafratria, for his comments on the new tradition. He wrote: “I would love to see the orphreys of a Requiem set done in Great Auk, which has a very rich sheen. Less pliable hides such as those of the Sumatran elephant may represent a challenge for vestment design companies. Could they be employed in a mitre? or perhaps the footwear? I think incorporation of each category is important: nothing would raise environmental awareness more than, say, an alb appareled with Pernambuco pygmy owl, or perhaps some California condor.

This raises another question: is the employment of such endangered/extinct species limited to seasonal vestments? What about liturgicalia that are not season-indicated, such as sacred vessels? For example, the Hawaiian gastropod laminella sanguinea is critically endangered/possibly extinct, so it would qualify as decoration. It has a gorgeous deep red shell and would look really nice inset on the base or cup of a chalice or ciborium. Would this be possible? Or is the new custom limited to vestments?”

Of course, with the emergence of new gene-splicing and cloning technologies, it is possible that some extinct species may become unextinct in the not-too-distant future, in which case, the new liturgical market could provide an important incentive for breeding them. NLM will be the first to let you know about any exciting developments in this new tradition.

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