I am grateful to a correspondent who has drawn my attention to The Deacon's Bench blog reporting the letter and decree of the Bishop of Covington, the Most Reverend Roger J Foys, issued on the occasion of the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.
In his letter the Bishop points out that
The rituals of the Roman Church, of which we are a part, call for specific words to be used as well as particular actions and gestures, both on the part of the priest and the faithful who join their hearts with his in their worship of God.
He reminds his people:
As we continually give ourselves to the Lord, to His Word and to His Church, as your bishop I ask for your cooperation with the implementation process and to take to heart the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, in the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), that no one on their own authority, for any reason, may add to, remove or change anything in the Sacred Liturgy (emphasis added).
In a recent memo to priests in his diocese, Bishop Alexander K Sample of Marquette also reminded us of this very point. Bishop Sample is currently preparing a pastoral letter on the liturgy.
Amongst some of the points in Bishop Foys' decree that I was glad to read:
The music used in the Sacred Liturgy be theologically sound and properly composed in accord with the teaching of the Church on Sacred Music.Would this seem to imply that not all hymns in our hymnals fulfill this condition? I have already given my parish music director a list of hymns from our hymnal that I do not consider appropriate.
Music for the Ordinary Parts of the Mass (also known as Service Music – e.g. Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) must have the approval from the Diocesan Office of Worship and Liturgy.Note that the bishop is only speaking about the English settings. All the Latin Gregorian Chant settings are permitted, nay encouraged, by the universal law of the Church and have been repeatedly proposed for use by the Supreme Pontiffs before and after Vatican II.
i. From November 27, 2011, until June 30, 2012, only the following three English settings are permitted for use:
1. The Chant Mass of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal (mandatory)
a. This one setting is mandatory so as to foster a unified participation of the faithful at Mass throughout the Diocese.
2. The Heritage Mass (optional)
3. The Mass of Renewal (optional)
ii. Other Mass Settings will be approved for use on July 1, 2012.
iii. Please note: Hymns that are theologically sound and properly composed are not restricted.
In Marquette, Bishop Sample has asked all parishes to learn the Mass of Resurrection, in addition to the chant settings.
Bishop Foys reminds the faithful that
“Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.”(GIRM 61)(How often has one heard hymns in stead of the psalm, or paraphrasing of the psalms - Because the Lord is my shepherd...)
He reminds people that the people should kneel from the end of the Sanctus through to the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, that deacons are to kneel from the epiclesis through to the showing of the Chalice, that priests (presumably concelebrants - for it is normally the case that priests and other clergy attending in choir kneel when the people kneel) should remain standing, and that the people should kneel after the Agnus Dei.
Concerning the Our Father, the bishop writes:
Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.
The bishop makes these important observations about silence:
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal reminds us: “Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times…. Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence is observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” (GIRM 45) Silence following the Mass is also encouraged for those who might want to remain in the church to pray.
I am very pleased to say that in this parish there is always a reverent silence before Mass. However, since I have arrived a number of people have brought my attention to the rather noisy atmosphere afterwards, hoping that I will "do something about it". A group of parishioners has organized coffee in an adjacent room to encourage visiting there rather than in the church. I haven't yet preached on this matter but the time is coming soon when I shall do so. The fact that a bishop has mentioned this point obviously adds some strength to my position.
Other things I have drawn attention to here in this parish are:
- the striking of the breast during the I confess
- the bowing during the words referring to the incarnation in the Creed
- the sign of peace to be made in a sober fashion and only with persons next to you, the words "The peace of the Lord be with you always" being permitted with the reply "Amen"
- that communicants receive on the tongue or, in those places where it is permitted, on the hand, and how communion on the hand is to be received.