LITURGICAL CHANGES AT ST. RAYMOND’S. After prayerful consideration, and wide consultation, I have decided to make some adjustments to the celebration of Mass. Please understand, my own personal preferences may affect how I do things myself, but I won’t, and don’t, impose my personal preferences on what you do. So when I do introduce a change to what you do, it is only because I truly believe, it is best for the parish—for you.
Sign of Peace. Three months ago I asked for your input on the possibility of changing the way we exchange the sign of peace. This was motivated by my continuing concern that if the exchange is given, it should be done reverently and not distract our attention from the Eucharist.
One possibility would be to omit the exchange altogether. As an alternative I suggested: “perhaps we might turn only to the person on our left and right (so, just 2 people) and, with folded hands, give a slight bow of the head or shoulders, much like the servers do when they serve the priest at the altar. This might be a nice compromise…”
I was very pleased with the number and quality of the responses—thank you all! All told, I received about 70 emails, letters or phone messages, more responses than on any subject I’ve ever heard from you on. It was not a vote, but I can say that about one-quarter favored dropping the exchange altogether, and over one-half favored changing it to the bow I proposed. So, 77% favored some real change.
I have prayed and thought an awful lot about this, and although I am personally inclined to omit the exchange all together, I have decided that we will keep the exchange of the sign of peace on Sundays, but will adopt a new way of doing it. Effective Sunday, August 12, I ask and strongly encourage that from now on when the priest says “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”:
— Each congregant turn only to only two people, the persons on their left and right and (ideally, but not necessarily, with folded hands) give a slight bow of the head or shoulders.
— Although it will be discouraged, if someone feels moved to do something else (e.g., shake hands or hug their family members) they will not be ostracized or reprimanded at all; but they should also respect the choices of others to bow or not to respond to the offer of a handshake.
— The exchange of the sign of peace will cease immediately when the Agnus Dei begins.
— After a short period of adjustment, cards will be printed up and put in the pews to inform new parishioners and visitors of our practice.
This will take some time to get used to, I know. And for some it may be difficult. But I ask you all to try to cooperate in charity, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Altar Rail. For the last year we’ve been using our portable altar rail for Communion at all the 8:45 Masses. Eight weeks ago, I asked for your input on extending the use of the altar rail to all Masses. The number of responses were considerably less than the numbers discussed above, but almost all were enthusiastically positive to my suggestion.
So, I have decided that effective Sunday, September 2, the portable altar rails/kneelers will remain in front of the sanctuary all the time for all the Masses. So that at every Mass for Communion the people will come up the main aisle as usual, but then spread out to the left and right at the altar rail, either kneeling or standing (their choice), to receive Communion. Communion will continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual, i.e., no altar rail.
As I’ve discussed before, my primary reason for this change is very simple: to accommodate the popular demand/desire that many people have to exercise their right to kneel to receive Holy Communion. Kneeling without a kneeler is difficult and time-consuming, and therefore discourages most people who would like to kneel to receive. This is unjust. Moreover, with up to 8 people at-a-time standing/kneeling at the long rail, there is no need to rush to get out of the next person’s way. So by adding the Communion Rail, everyone can receive comfortably the way they want, kneeling or standing.
But let me be frank: I believe there are also great spiritual reasons for kneeling to receive Our Lord. As Cardinal Sarah has written: “For if, as St Paul teaches, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth’ (Phil. 2:10), how much more should we bend our knees when we come to receive the Lord Himself in the most sublime and intimate act of Holy Communion!”
Ad Orientem. For the last year we’ve celebrated the 10:30 Mass on the First Sunday of every month using the “Ad Orientem” form—that is, the priest facing in the same direction as the people (“to the East,” or toward the apse/tabernacle). Effective Sunday, September 16, I have decided to extend this practice to the 10:30 Mass on every Third Sunday of every month as well (so, 1st and 3rd Sundays).
I remind you that this practice goes back to the early Christians’ custom of facing East when they prayed, symbolically waiting for the second coming of the Son of God, like the rising of the Sun in the East. This was soon incorporated into the Mass of the early Church and became the norm for most of Christian history, until the 1960s.
But the most important reason for facing “ad orientem” is that the priest turns with the people to face toward and pray to God together with them. As the second half of the Mass begins, the “Liturgy of the Eucharist,” the priest is no longer talking to the people, as when he proclaims the Gospel and homily, but rather now he turns with them and leads them in prayer toward God. All this emphasizes the prayerful nature—the adoration and reverence—of the Mass, especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Monthly Holy Hour for Life, Liberty and Marriage. For the last 5½ years we’ve had a Holy Hour on the last Wednesday of the month to pray for the defense of unborn human life, religious liberty and the dignity of marriage. During that period we’ve seen many discouraging but also many encouraging developments related to these issues, especially with the change of federal administrations, and the nomination of Supreme Court Justices. We thank God for this, and we acknowledge the power of prayer.
However, sometimes initiatives in parishes lose their appeal over time. As one wise and prudent parishioner told me, “It is hard to sprint for the long run.” So, I’ve decided to forego the Monthly Holy Hour for the time being. I’m thinking I may reinstitute it in the future, probably on a different day, and with a different emphasis. Thanks for all who have supported the Holy Hour, and keep praying for these intentions.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles