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Holy Week in Rome 2016

Holy Week in Rome: There are so many opportunities in Rome during Holy Week, I have highlighted just a few in Italian and English, including the normal Roman Rite, and a few exemplars from the “Extraordinary Form”, Byzantine Rite, and Anglican rites. All of the Station Churches and Papal Liturgies are noted.  

I would welcome input from anyone who is aware of others of particular interest, especially where good liturgy can be found – including good music, good preaching, good aesthetic, etc.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

  • Station Church: San Giovanni in Laterano – 0700 (English); 1730 (Italian)
  • Papal Liturgy: Piazza San Pietro – 0930


  • Station Church: Santa Prassede all’Esquilino – 0700 (English); 1800 (Italian)
  • Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800


  • Station Church: Santa Prisca all Aventino – 0700 (English); 1800 (Italian)
  • Anglican Centre 50th Anniversary Eucharist/Chrism Mass – 1245 (English)
  • Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
  • Evening Prayer with Sant’Egidio Community – Santa Maria in Trastevere 20:30


  • Station Church: Santa Maria Maggiore – 0700 (English); 1730 (Italian)
  • Seven Churches Pilgrimage of St. Filippo Neri (a devotional tradition since 1559)
    • Join the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in a tour of the Seven Churches, starting with the morning station mass at Santa Maria Maggiore. It is about 22km walking total and will take all day. Pack a lunch or plan to stop along the route:
      • Santa Maria Maggiore
      • San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura
      • Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
      • San Giovanni in Laterano
      • San Sebastiano
      • San Paolo fuori le Mura
      • San Pietro al Vaticano
  • Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
  • Office of Tenebrae
    • Paul’s Within the Walls (Episcopalian) – 1830 (English)
    • Santissima Trinita’ dei Pellegrini (extraordinary form) – 2030 (Latin)

 Holy Thursday

  • Papal Liturgy: Chrism Mass – Basilica San Pietro – 0930
  • Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Beginning of the Paschal Triduum Liturgy)
    • San Giovanni in Laterano – 1730 (Italian) – Station Church
    • Santa Maria in Trastevere – 1730 (Italian)
    • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio al Caravita – 1800 (English)
  • Altars of Repose pilgrimage – Roman devotional tradition is to walk around the city after the liturgy ends for the evening, visiting the beautifully decorated altars of repose in (at least seven) different churches.

Good Friday

Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion with Veneration of the Cross:

  • Station Church: Basilica Santa Croce in Gerusaleme – 1500 (Italian)
  • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio al Caravita – 1500 (English)
  • Papal Liturgy: Basilica San Pietro – 1700 (Italian)
  • Santissima Trinita’ dei Monti – 1800 (French)

Stations of the Cross devotion, with Pope Francis at the Colosseum, 2115

Holy Saturday

The Great Vigil of Easter

  • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita – 2000 (English)
  • Papal Liturgy: Basilica San Pietro – 2030 (Italian)
  • Station Church: San Giovanni in Laterano – 2100 (Italian)
  • Venerable English College – 2130 (English)

Easter Sunday

Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection

  • Byzantine Divine Liturgy – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – Midnight
  • Papal Liturgy: Piazza San Pietro – 1000 (Italian)
  • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita – 1100 (English)
  • Station Church: Santa Maria Maggiore – 1800 (Italian)

Pope Francis Urbi et Orbi Blessing – Piazza San Pietro – 1200 (Multilingual)

Solemn Vespers (concluding the Paschal Triduum)

  • Chiesa di Sant’Anselmo al Aventino – 1700 (Italian)
  • Byzantine – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800

Easter Week Station Churches (Italian):

  • Monday – San Pietro – 1700
  • Tuesday – San Paolo fuori le Mura – 1730
  • Wednesday – San Lorenzo fuori le Mura – 1800
  • Thursday – XII Apostoli al Foro Traiano – 1830
  • Friday – Santa Maria ad Martyres (Pantheon) – 1700
  • Saturday – San Giovanni in Laterano – 1630
  • Divine Mercy Sunday – San Pancrazio – 1600
    • Conclusion of the Station Churches pilgrimage

ICEL 50th Anniversary

On 17 October, the Vatican celebrated the 50th anniversary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) with a mass at the altar of the chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Eucharistic celebration on the 50th anniversary of ICEL

Eucharistic celebration on the 50th anniversary of ICEL

Given recent discussion that the Council of Cardinals may be suggesting reform of the liturgical apparatus of the Vatican first (after the Synod) in its recommendations for the reform of the Curia, it is an event worth reviewing. Especially since one well-established vaticanist referred to it as “farce”.

Why the harsh language? Apparently, none of the members of ICEL prior to its “refounding” a decade ago were even present, and it is not very surprising. Few things epitomize the depths to which the curia had sunk than the bungled handling of ICEL a decade ago and the resulting mess. Though many of the conferences did the best they could given the situation (one can look to the US or England and Wales as examples), bad process always spoils even the best of products.

The advantage of our age is the great access to social media and broad communications, so we can get information quickly, and provide formation broadly. The USCCB and others showed this to great success in 2011 when implementing the new translation of the Roman Missal.

The disadvantage of this same gift is an even shorter memory. The first official translation came in 1972, after about six years of work. It was understood to be rather temporary, and by the end of the decade, work began on a much more serious translation. Everyone agreed the 1972 version was not perfect, but for forty years, the local bishops’ conferences had trusted the work to ICEL in accord with the principle of Sacrosanctum Concilium. After long years of work, the new and improved English translation was finally ready… not in 2011, but in 1998. The English-speaking bishops of the world had approved it, it should have been signed, sealed, and delivered, but something unbecoming of church leaders was afoot.

Over the next five years, all the hard working bishops, liturgists, experts and consultants who had given so much to the Church they loved felt a “cold wind” blowing from Rome, as none-too-subtle (and none-too-kind) change was imposed by a relatively small number of power brokers and their allies.

By 2003, ICEL had been effectively disbanded and replaced by an entirely new commission, Vox Clara, quite different from the mission and composition of the first. It would have been more honest to just say so, and not act as though ICEL had continued as the same entity it was before Vox Clara came on the scene. To quote the late Msgr. Fred McManus, the American peritus at Vatican II who helped the bishops establish ICEL and suffered greatly as he saw it dismantled: “They could at least have the decency to change its name.”

From an impetus to the encounter of the liturgy with culture and cultures, and the reception of those into the liturgy, the focus had moved to a fixation on the Latin language and the culture of Rome. Translation is no longer about bringing the liturgy into new cultures,  but about bringing diverse experiences of liturgy into the closest approximation of the Latin as possible.

Sound like a made-for-TV drama or a Dan Brown novel? It can certainly be dramatized… but truth is so often stranger (and sadder) than fiction. Even in the Church.

Whatever you think of the translations, the 1998 or the 2011 versions, the process by which the current version was introduced was inappropriate and embarrassing for the Church, and for the loyal sons and daughters of the church who put so much effort in, as directed, and then were so harshly dismissed.

To read the documents, the history, and the full story of ICEL and what happened to the long-sought after New and Improved English Translation – and why it was replaced by a relative rush-job that was rolled out with great fanfare as the best thing since sliced bread – I recommend some serious reading here, compiled by one of the experts involved in the more recent iteration, appointed to ICEL in 2005.  

Some of the disgruntled ask if Pope Francis would completely overturn the translations. I doubt it, and do not think that is the way to go.

What is needed is an honest accounting and a healing of memories. Apologies offered and credit given where it is due. Only then can the repair and reform of the liturgy move forward, which i suspect should include a serious reconsideration of Liturgicam Authenticam (which is deficient not least for its ecumenical shortcomings) and a move to bring the best of both the 1998 and 2011 translations into a single, common Missal. Let the “old mass” inform and enrich the “new”.

Church Reform Wishlist: Liturgy


  • Actually, i do not have too much to say. So much has been said, and liturgy is probably the best case of successful, ongoing reform, despite the bumps. So just a couple small things: put into law that which theology and history holds to be evident. Or, where we have two practices that go back centuries, the older one should be the norm,  for example:
    • The most ancient form of receiving communion is in the hand. Make this the norm, and receiving in the tongue, a later practice, an accepted alternative.
    • Communion under both species as the norm, with exceptions as appropriate
    • Translate the universal version of the GIRM into each language on the Vatican website – currently the English is actually the adaptations for the USCCB and does not reflect the original, universal, Latin version. It leads to some confusion.
    • The Eucharist is the Sunday Liturgy, it should be more or less limited to Sundays. The rest of the week should have the liturgy of the hours publicly celebrated in parishes.
    • The Creed should be recited without the Filioque, as a norm, in all liturgies.
    • The portions of Liturgicam Autenticam which violate previous ecumenical agreements  should be abrogated.


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How Will You Pray for Peace on Saturday?

Resources from a friend…

Simone Brosig

Rome Vigil and Prayer Booklet

Prayer adapted from Catholics Confront Global Poverty by USCCB

Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.

O God of hope and Father of mercy,
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for…

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From Conciliaria: Back to the Future (of the Liturgy)

Reposted from Conciliaria

The Future of the Liturgy:
Liturgical Week to open at Seattle World’s Fair tonight

Original publication, 20 August 1962, by Seminarian Michael G. Ryan

From Seattle, a report on the upcoming National Liturgical Week by Michael G. Ryan, a seminarian at St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, Wash.

This is an exciting time to be in Seattle. I never imagined that our city would host a World’s Fair, but now the “Space Needle,” as they are calling it, rises at the foot of Queen Anne Hill, and the sprawling modern buildings of Century 21 have taken the place of the quiet neighborhood where my dad once taught me to drive. For Catholics, it is an especially exciting time, since Seattle will also be hosting the National Liturgical Week from August 20 to 23 at the World’s Fair Arena.

The Century 21 exhibits are all about the future—there are displays about Sputnik, space exploration and new inventions (including telephones with push-button pads instead of dials – amazing!). But good as these inventions are, we know that this endless advancement is not the purpose of life. Our Archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Northwest Progress, reports:

We Christians are not indifferent to these works of human genius. We too are thrilled to find ourselves now at the very threshold of untold new worlds. But in all this we must be reminded again that our eternal hope lies still not in any works of man’s doing, but in the ageless Victory of the Risen Christ: in the triumph of Life over death.

We live always in the “last days,” preparing for no other future than the Coming of Our Lord and the lasting triumph of His Kingdom. These truths, which are the constant theme of the liturgy throughout the year, will be developed in the major talks of this Liturgical Week and will be applied to our practical Christian living. (April 13, 1962)

It is fitting, then, that the theme chosen for Seattle’s Liturgical Week is “Thy Kingdom Come: Christian Hope in the Modern World.”

What is a Liturgical Week?

The first Liturgical Week, sponsored by the National Liturgical Conference, was held in 1940, in a room in the basement of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. It was attended by just a handful of people, mainly priests. But these days, it is clear that the Liturgical Movement is not just a fad or a trend, nor is it only for priests. Pope Pius XII, and his successor, our beloved Pope John XXIII, have embraced the Liturgical Movement as the work of the Church itself. Last year’s Liturgical Week in Oklahoma City drew about 5,000 people–priests, religious, and laity–who came together to pray together and to learn more about the Church’s worship and to explore displays, listen to lectures, view demonstrations and art exhibits, and even take part in a contest for the best church design. This year’s Liturgical Week in Seattle is expected to be the largest yet, with as many as 6,000 participants. The added attraction of the World’s Fair, and the excitement about the forthcoming Ecumenical Council, both have something to do with the surge of interest in the Liturgical Week.

Feverish Preparations Underway

All of us seminarians are glad the Liturgical Week is happening in August, because it means we are free to join in these exciting events. Most of us are helping out in some capacity or other, as it will take hundreds of volunteers to pull together this three-day event. There are dozens of drivers to bring special guests to and from the events. Others are forming a typing pool during the conference. About a hundred men and women will join in a National Choir. And then dozens of volunteers are needed as ushers and greeters at all the events.

A young Michael Ryan helps at the info booth at the 1962 Liturgical Week

I have been assigned to host some of the guest priests in the mornings, and then to help at the information desk at the Arena in the afternoons. One of my seminarian classmates and I will be responsible for preparing for the priests’ morning Masses at the temporary altars which will be set up in lower level of the Mayflower Hotel downtown. It should be pretty exciting for us to serve the Masses of these liturgical luminaries whose names we have seen on the covers of books, but whom we never dreamed we would meet in person: Father Frederick McManus, the President of the Liturgical Conference, Father Gerard Sloyan of the Catholic University of America, and Father Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, to name just a few.

Arranging facilities for Masses has occupied much of the energies of the organizers, since about 300 priests will be participating in the Liturgical Week and each of them needs an altar to celebrate his Mass each morning. About 100 of them will be saying their Masses at St. James Cathedral, where in addition to the Cathedral’s altars, temporary altars have been set up in the Cathedral Hall. There are also about 28 prelates in attendance, and Father James Mallahan, the Seattle priest in charge of local arrangements, has had the large task of borrowing 28 prie-dieus from neighboring parishes and chapels, and returning them again when the Liturgical Week is over.

It all begins tonight, with Mass at 5:00 p.m., celebrated by Father Fred McManus. It will be in Latin, of course, but there is a lot of talking and dreaming about a vernacular liturgy among the members of the Conference – even though one of our seminary professors told us recently that such a thing would never happen in our lifetime.

A first for Seattle, and most people present: Mass in the ancient form, facing the altar and the people.

But there will be one very noticeable change at the Conference Masses in the Arena: through a special indult from Rome, all of them will be celebrated facing the people! I wonder what that will be like. I’m especially wondering what it will be like at the concluding Mass when Archbishop Connolly is scheduled to be the celebrant. I’m not sure he is completely favorable to all the latest liturgical developments (which are really not new at all but far more ancient than what we have grown up with), but I suspect he’ll be a good sport and do his best. One thing is for certain: like the Space Needle and the other exhibits of the World’s Fair, the Liturgical Week promises to give us a glimpse of the future. It’s one I can’t wait to see!

Back to the future: The Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan is pastor of St. James Cathedral, Seattle.

Breaking Bad Liturgical Habits

George Weigel wrote this column in January for ‘the other’ NCR that recently piqued my liturgical antennae.

He has good points and bad, mixed together in an acerbic style that is by now pretty well known. It got me thinking about my own version, offered in contraposition and in complementarity, based especially on some of the “liturgical abuses” I have witnessed in Rome, as well as some of the “best practices”.

It has happened on occasion, even here in Rome, that I have been accused of being a true liturgist – in the sense of the old joke about the difference between terrorists and liturgists. I offer these as suggestions merely, humbly, and invite, as always, critique and commentary.

Some of the basic points I agree with Weigel are these:

“there is no “reform of the reform” to be found in lace surplices, narrow fiddleback chasubles and massive candles.”

Another great sage of liturgical aesthetic, the clock from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, put it this way: “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!” We are as done with Baroque as we are with orange shag carpeting and felt banners, thank God. Let us not idealize one period of the past at the expense of the entirety of Tradition, and the need for ongoing aggiornamento. Ecclesia semper purificanda, after all.

“Catholics who embrace the truth of Catholic faith do not enjoy clericalism.”

Clericalism is a systemic and personal sin that ought to be rigorously avoided and rooted out of ecclesial structures like the cancer that it is… but, that is a topic for another post.

“Music directors and pastors: As a general rule, sing all the verses of a processional or recessional hymn.”

Weigel seems to conflate his personal musical taste with some objective sense of quality, and goes on to express this rather rudely and without perspective – Compared to the angelic chorus, even the best of Palestrina, Bach, and Mozart, would sound like a ‘treacly confection’. That aside, this is one way we can remember we have left chronos and entered kairos.

I would just add that songs should be singable, for the most part, though there is room for a reflection or meditative hymn, it would be a tragedy if the entire liturgy were converted into a concert given by professional choirs in polyphonic chant that is impossible to follow without expert training. It is not without reason, and this is one of them, that more than one cardinal expressed to us while visiting Notre Dame that the Triduum liturgy there was done better than in Rome!

“Sacred space [sanctuary] is different from other space; the inside of the church is different from the narthex.”

True… but how many churches do not have adequate narthex space? Most I would say. At St. Brendan the Navigator in Bothell, WA, there is an excellent example of good use of narthex and sanctuary/nave in the same building.

He also offers a few points that I disagree, or would attenuate

“Celebrants (not ‘presiders’)”

Weigel channels Ratzinger when he insists that presider be called celebrant. The problem is simple, though. The entire assembly celebrates the Eucharist, but only the bishop (or presbyter-delegate) presides. This language goes back much further than that of “celebrant”, and we can see the title in Justin Martyr, before presbyters are even allowed to take on the role.

“Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are vastly overused in U.S. parishes, a practice that risks of signaling that the Mass is a matter of the self-worshipping community celebrating and feeding itself.”

There may be some parishes where extraordinary ministers of communion are overused, but when I see hundreds upon hundreds of communion ministers at St. Peter’s here in Rome, whether priests, deacons, or extraordinary, it is hard to say that anywhere else overuses them. Most use what they need. And there is no connection between having too many communion ministers and making the mass a self-worshipping act. This is a nonsensical and unsupported assertion.

“no one outside of those in holy orders should “bless” in a liturgical context”

This is a matter under the authority of the local bishop, as legislator and liturgist of his diocese. Offering a blessing at communion, especially to those not in full communion, but who desire it, is a significant practice that should not be lost.

“And while we’re on the subject of the congregation, might we all reconsider our vesture at Sunday Mass?”

Absolutely. The entire assembly, at least those fully initiated with Baptism, Confirmation, and admission to the Eucharist, should be vested in albs, the white baptismal garment. Can you imagine the effect, if all the initiated were actually vested?

Bad habits in Rome

When in Rome, do as I want to do.

The cynical observer, or the realist, will tell you that the Romans do pretty much whatever they want. But when you come to Rome, observe the official practice, and the actual practices, and try not to impose your practice from Milan, Seattle, or London upon the community here. Observe and adapt.

At the same time, just because (some) Romans do it does not make it right. Here are a few observed practices of which I am wary:

Communion from the tabernacle during the liturgy.

The ideal situation is that each Eucharist should consecrate enough bread and wine for all those present, and maybe just enough for the sick and homebound. Ideal is not always pastorally possible. However, here, you can frequently see only one host consecrated, for the presider, and then everyone else served from the tabernacle.

Communion under one kind only.

While minimally sufficient, it should normally be under both species, or it lacks the fullness of the sacramental sign. Further, it is the choice of the communicant to receive on the tongue or in the hand. The latter is more ancient, the former is canonically the norm here in Italy. I have addressed these points here and here.

Confessions during the liturgy.

It is one thing in a giant basilica where you have mass in some side chapel, and confessions going on a football field away in another part of the building. Quite another when the 18th century wooden confessional is cozied up so close to the pews in the parish church that you can hear the penitent while you are sitting in reflective silence after the homily. When the liturgy begins, no other sacrament or devotion should be happening in the sanctuary, unless it is a part of the liturgy.

Many altars, many breads, no body.

One of the beautiful tragedies, or tragically beautiful moments, is if you go to St. Peter’s early in the morning (this happens rarely for me), and you see dozens of priests at dozens of altars all offering the Mass, separately, and with at most one assistant. It is easy to think of all the places in the world where people go days, weeks, or months without access to the Eucharistic liturgy. But it also begs the question, why not concelebrate? Why not have one mass, so that the few morning pilgrims could all join as well? Is a liturgy without the presence of the Church even a liturgy, or a private devotion of the presbyter?

Excessive Concelebrating.

I never thought I would agree with the Lefebvrists on much beyond the basic dogmas of the faith. But they have a certain point here, though for different reasons. Imagine a liturgy with twenty people. Fifteen are vested and concelebrating, and five are in ‘plainclothes’ and simply celebrating. Is it really necessary to have so many concelebrants? A priest may feel obligated to celebrate the Eucharist every day, and this is a worthy thing, but he need not do so vested every time, especially in such a scenario. There could be the presider, a deacon, and as many concelebrants as needed for communion, or for a preacher, etc. With occasional exceptions, less is more.

We stand for prayer, not for announcements.

The most elegant remedy to this I have seen is that the Prayer after Communion be offered at the end of the Communion procession, rather than at the beginning fo the concluding rites. That is, remain standing (or kneeling, or sitting, as the local case may be) for the entire communion procession, and as soon as everyone has received, the presider offers the communion prayer. Only then do we sit in silence (or with meditative hymn) for the post-communion reflection. Then, while still seated, any announcements can be made.

Christmas and Easter.

Midnight Mass is at Midnight. Not 10pm. Even if the pope does it. Then, you can still use the midnight readings, just do not call it midnight mass! At Easter, do not do as the Romans did last year…. At the Vigil, the lights came on entirely too early. Actually overheard behind me  “Well, that rather destroys the effect, doesn’t it?” or variations, from more than one voice. Let the service of light continue as long as it can, the readings can mostly be done in darkness, with only the paschal candle to light the ambo.

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