Expert Answer Forum

Standing at the altar QUESTION from Sandy April 17, 1999
I have recently moved into this parish. While I agree with MOST of what our priest is doing, he has one custom that has me bewildered. During the consecration, he calls people to come forward and stand around the table of the Lord. They people stand during the entire consecration and return to their seats prior to receiving communion. I have been unable to find anywhere that states this is a practice. Where did it come from and what is its significance? As we have a church school, which my 7-year-old daughter attends, and he does this with the school children, I am concerned about this not being accepted by Rome. Please help me ASAP because my daughter's class is scheduled to read for Mass in two weeks and the reading class is the class that goes up to the table of the Lord. I would like to find some answers before she is put into that position again. Thank you and God Bless!! Sandy ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on April 17, 1999
Dear Sandy, The practice of inviting the faithful to gather around the altar has been specifically repudiated by Rome. The Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, through its official publication Notitiae, has issued a number a clarification regarding this practice. The interpretations and explanations in Notitiae, are binding and affect the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. In it we find the following clarification; 101. Query:At the presentation of gifts at a Mass with congregation, persons (lay or religious) bring to the altar the bread and wine which are to be consecrated. These gifts are received by the priest celebrant. All those participating in the Mass accompany this group procession in which the gifts are brought forward. They then stand around the altar until communion time. Is this procedure in conformity with the spirit of the law and of the Roman Missal? Reply:Assuredly, the Eucharistic celebration is the act of the entire community, carried out by all the members of the liturgical assembly. Nevertheless, everyone must have and also must observe his or her own place and proper role: In liturgical celebrations each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy. (SC art. 29). During the liturgy of the eucharist, only the presiding celebrant remains at the altar. The assembly of the faithful take their place in the Church outside the presbyterium, which is reserved for the celebrant or concelebrants and altar ministers: Not 17 (1981) 61. I've heard some trendy clerics and liturgical directors / committees insist though that the practice is legitimate when done with young children. A quick look in the Directory for Masses with Children, however, puts that myth to rest. 21. It is always necessary to keep in mind that these eucharistic celebrations must lead children toward the celebration of Mass with adults, especially in the Masses at which the Christian community must come together on Sundays. Thus, apart from adaptations that are necessary because of the children's age, the result should not be entirely special rites, markedly different from the Order of Mass celebrated with a congregation. The purpose of the various elements should always correspond with what is said in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal on individual points, even if at times for pastoral reasons an absolute identity cannot be insisted upon. My heart and my prayers go out to you and your daughter. Yours in Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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