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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Liturgy at College Newman

by Catherine Frakas 16 May 2002

Liturgy at College Newman QUESTION from Brian Szuter on November 10, 2002 Dear Sirs or Madams:
At the Newman Center on my campus, I think there may be a few liturgical abuses and I would appreciate it if you could tell me if I'm correct, or if I'm being over-sensitive:
1) At communion time, instead of kneeling at our seats (we have chairs without kneelers), we all gather around the altar and then only a few people kneel from the Sanctus to the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer. There is plenty of space to kneel: that is not the problem.
2) The priest (we having a visiting priest from a neighboring diocese each week) does not do the Washing of the Hands at the appropriate time. We provide water, but we don't have any altar boys, only Eucharistic Ministers. (Does not having altar boys excuse this?)
3) Our worship space is set up oddly with two groups of chairs facing each other, the altar on one end, and the lectionary on the other with the celebrant's chair (which is of a different type from the rest) set among the laity's chairs instead of behind the altar. (Imagine a traditional setup, but with the pews turned towards each other, with the celebrant's chair among them, the altar in its usual place, and the lectionary at the rear of the church and you'll get the idea.)
4) The sanctuary is neither set off from the congregation, nor is it raised (even though we have the means to alter this) and the priest only enters the sanctuary during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
5) The chalice for the Precious Blood appears to be an ordinary wine glass, and the paten for the Blessed Sacrament is made of clay.
6) Announcements are read shortly after communion, before the closing prayers. (Shouldn't they be read after the closing prayer but before the Closing Hymn?)
7) When the gifts are brought up, candles are brought up from the lectionary too, so candles are only around the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
8) There is no procession at the beginning or end of Mass. The priest simply stands up from his chair to start Mass. At the closing, he stays and sings the closing hymn until its conclusion.
Could the fact that we are not a regular parish excuse the set-up (even though we the Blessed Sacrament is in residence)? When I asked about standing around the altar, I was told that our Bishop had granted permission for it. Could this be correct, and does the Bishop have such authority to altar the GIRM for his diocese? Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Brian Szuter
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on November 21, 2002 Dear Brian,
During Mass, the priests and the people have their proper places in the church. The other day I have written an answer for this, this subject is would this be allowed In addition to that answer I can say that a church must have a sanctuary which is clearly visible and set apart from the body of the church. Having it raised certainly would be good since the sanctuary would become more prominent.
For your other questions:
1. Kneeling is required at the proper times; this is called for in the Missal. No priest has the authority to change any part of the missal.
2. There must be a Lavabo or washing of the hands, since there is no rule that allows its excuse. Other ministers must pour the water.
5. Glass is not preferred for the chalice since it breaks easily. Clay cannot be used since it is porous. These instructions are found in the General Instruction.
6. You are correct; the announcements are to happen after the Closing Prayer, not before.
7. The Instruction calls for lighted candles to be prepared at the altar before Mass.
8. I was not able to find any circumstances that would allow the procession through the church into the sanctuary to be omitted.
I have seen abuses like this many times in less formal settings for Mass, including at my college. Priests seem to think that if there are fewer people present, respect for proper Liturgy may be diminished. In the secular world, having fewer people present at any function or meeting generally DOES call for less formality. But for Holy Mass, it is inexcusable. The same reverence must be given as if the Mass were celebrated in a large, full cathedral. Individual bishops do NOT have the authority to change liturgical law, except for a few specific areas in which the Instruction states that they do.
Mr. Slavek
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