Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
IMPORTANT: Special Election. Fairfax County School Board at-large Member, Jeanette Hough, recently had to resign her position when her husband was transferred out of country. Remember, Hough was elected 2 years ago to oppose the pro-transgender policies of the Board. This sets up a special county-wide election on August 29 to elect a replacement at-large Member. The only candidate who has stated his opposition to the pro-transgender policy of the current board is Chris Grisafe, who is also pro-life. You decide, you vote. But vote like a Catholic on August 29.
CHANGES AT MASSES (continued). Two weeks ago, I announced some changes in the way we offer Sunday Mass at St. Raymond’s. Today I want to explain my reasons for the changes I’m making at the 8:45 Mass.
Latin at 8:45. For several years now we’ve incorporated more Latin in this Mass than at other Masses. As I explained last week, this is because this is what the Church (Vatican II, the Popes) wants us to do. Moreover, Latin has been the common language of the Catholic Church for 16 centuries, and so, is dramatic sign of our communion with Catholics around the world today and in past centuries. Also, the shift away from our “every-day” language (English) emphasizes that what we are doing is not something ordinary of this world, but a heavenly mystery. Latin is not a barrier that cuts us off, but a veil that sets these sacred actions and prayers apart from the mundane things of this world.
In deciding how we would expand the use of Latin at the 8:45 Mass my first concern was to try to make it as easy for you as possible. So, first I focused on Latin parts that I felt were easy to learn and that it would be good for all Catholics to know. So, we will begin Mass by making the Sign of the Cross in Latin (Actually, I will say it, and you will simply respond, “Amen”). And then we will greet each other in our common language: I will say, “Dominus vobis cum,” and you will respond, “Et cum spiritu tuo” (“The Lord be with you…. And with your spirit”). And we will end Mass in basically the same way, with few additional final words to say goodbye: I say, “Ite missa est,” and you respond, “Deo Gratias” (“Go you are sent out…. Thanks be to God.” How many of you know how to say hello and goodbye in a foreign language: “Hola/Adios,” “Bonjour/Au Revoir,” “Aloha”? Now you will know how to do it in the native tongue of our Catholic family.
I then thought, what is the most common and important Catholic prayer: the “Our Father.” Why don’t we all know it in Latin, so we could say it together throughout the world and throughout the centuries? So, we will sing the “Pater Noster.”
Then I added two parts that you don’t have to say in Latin. The priest will sing: the “Mysterium Fidei” (“The Mystery of Faith”), and the “Per Ipsum” (“Through Him and with Him….”), and you will simply respond in the usual English, “Save us, Savior of the world…” and “Amen.” I added these with the simple idea that we would have Latin at the beginning (the “Sanctus”), middle (“Mysterium Fidei”) and end (“Per Ipsum”) of the Eucharistic Prayer. Again, this will hopefully emphasize the dimensions of unity/communion, mystery and sacredness inherent in the Eucharistic Prayer.
Finally, beginning October 8, on the 2nd Sunday of every month (and only on the 2nd Sunday) the priest will pray the Eucharist Prayer in Latin. This will be the hardest thing to get used to—but it will only be once a month, and it will be an experiment for a few months. But why will we do it? First of all, the “Roman Canon” (Eucharistic Prayer #1) is the most ancient of the various Eucharistic Prayers, originating in Latin in the actual city of Rome, the See of the Pope, around the 5th century. As such, it is a powerful sign of the communion I have written about.
More important, though, is the sense of sacredness and mystery it introduces. This is the most holy, most “otherly,” part of the Mass, and the Latin can help us remember this. It serves as a veil, not to hide the Eucharist from us but to remind us it is set apart as sacred. And it reminds us that this is not everyday event of this world, but an eternal mystery which brings heaven to earth.
Communion Rail. Beginning September 10, there will be a portable altar rail/kneelers in front of the sanctuary. At Communion, the people will come up the main aisle as usual, but then spread out at the altar rail, either kneeling or standing (their choice), to receive Communion. (Note: Communion will continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual).
My 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. Now, it’s true that you don’t need a kneeler to kneel to receive Communion. But without a kneeler it is much more difficult, clumsy, time-consuming and conspicuous than it should be, and therefore discourages most people who would like to kneel. This is really unfair.
But when there’s a kneeler/rail it is much easier for people to kneel down and get up again. 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. Finally, with everyone at the rail, if two people kneel and two people stand, no one stands out. So by adding the Communion Rail, everyone can receive comfortably the way they want, kneeling or standing.
But let me be clear, and not disingenuous: there are great spiritual reasons for kneeling to receive Our Lord. Kneeling is well-established as an important expression of adoration of the Eucharist—and so the Church requires us to kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer and for the “Behold the Lamb of God…” As St. Augustine, taught: “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah (in charge of the liturgy for the whole Church) reminds us of how Pope St. John Paul II gave us an amazing example of this, as he writes: “I simply ask you to recall that at the end of his life of service, a man in a body wracked with sickness, John Paul II could never sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He forced his broken body to kneel. He needed the help of others to bend his knees, and again to stand. What more profound testimony could he give to the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament than this, right up until his very last days.”
Taking his great predecessor’s example to heart, in 2008 Pope Benedict XVI required the faithful who received Communion from him to do so kneeling at a kneeler, and Pope Francis has continued this practice.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles