Expert Answer Forum

Around the Altar during Mass QUESTION from John Masters September 20, 1999
One Mass in our parish is attended by the Life Teen group. During this Mass the people are invited to gather around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer including the Consecration. Our DRE insists that the Mass for Children allows this. I doubt that it is permitted and also doubt that the Mass for Children was intended for teenagers. Is this allowed? ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on September 20, 1999
Dear John, You're right on both counts, neither of the practices you mention are allowed. 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 these practices. The interpretations and explanations in Notitiae, are binding and affect the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. In it we find the following clarifications; 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 too have heard some insist that the practice is legitimate when done with teens and 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. This document is also very clear about for whom the Directory for Masses with Children is intended.; The Directory is concerned with children who have not yet entered the period of preadolescence. [Introduction, Directory for Masses with children, #6] I hope this helps. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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