The Ecumenism Blog

Home » Posts tagged 'liturgy' (Page 2)

Tag Archives: liturgy

Prayer for Christian Unity?

One of the most well advertised annual events during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome has nothing to do with ecumenism.

At least, not explicitly.

Every night at 8:00pm during the WPCU, there is a liturgy at Santa Maria in Via Lata, just off the Via del Corso. Instead of inviting in the Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant communities in Rome to lead worship in rotation, every one of these liturgies is Catholic. The unique aspect of the series, however, is that each is celebrated according to a different liturgical rite, sponsored by different of the Churches sui iuris that make up the Catholic communion.

It is a great idea, but the question is whether it is appropriate for the week of prayer that is meant to focus on the restoration of unity with other Christians. Is it a celebration of the unity-in-diversity that already exists in a real but imperfect way in the Catholic Church? Does it smack of uniatism, or of Catholic imperialism? Is it enough to remind Roman Catholics that not all Catholics are Roman, that we do not all do things the same way, and therefore demonstrate a fundamental principle of ecumenism – that unity does not mean uniformity?

This year’s schedule includes most of the major liturgical traditions – though the East Syrian, or Assyrian/Chaldean rite is notably absent for some reason:

  • January 18: Byzantine Rite, Greek Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Greek College)
  • January 19: Byzantine Rite, Ukrainian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Basilian Fathers of St. Giosafat)
  • January 20: Byzantine Rite, Romanian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Romanian College)
  • January 21: Maronite Rite, Maronite Catholic Church
    (organized by the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
  • January 22: Latin Rite, Roman Catholic Church
    (presided by Archbishop Piero Marini)
  • January 23: West-Syrian Rite, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Damascene College)
  • January 24: Armenian Rite, Armenian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Armenian College)
  • January 25: Ge’ez Rite, Ethiopian Catholic Church
    (organized by the Pontifical Ethiopian College)

First, I have to say it is a great opportunity to celebrate the liturgical diversity of the Catholic Church. In a way it recalls Bl. John XXIII’s decision to open Vatican II in the Ambrosian Rite rather than in the Roman – a reminder that there is always more than one way to be Catholic.

It is also helpful for us Latins to remember that the Catholic Church is actually catholic, and not simply an extension of Latin-Roman/Western culture. All Roman Catholics are Catholic, but not all Catholics are Roman Catholic.

(It should go without saying the ecumenically obvious statement that not all catholics are Catholic, either, but that does not merit calling all Catholics ‘Roman Catholic’. Capisce?)

One caveat is that it can reduce the respective churches of the Catholic communion merely to their liturgical patrimony, as if the Catholic Church simply enjoys liturgical diversity in a single monolithic ecclesial entity, rather than in fact being a communion of churches.

Another is that such a celebration during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity could communicate an unintended model of unity, some kind of liturgical uniatism – or, as one my first ecumenical dialogue partners, an avid Trekkie, would put it, this model makes the Catholic Church out to be the Borg, with a simple message: “Your patrimony will be absorbed and added to our own. Resistance is futile.”

Certainly, that is not ecumenism according to the Catholic Church. (Though there is at least a hint of receptivity!)

Nevertheless, it is a celebration of Christian Unity – to be precise, of Catholic unity – to be able to celebrate the same Eucharistic mystery in such varied and ancient liturgical traditions, all of which are found within the Catholic Church. It just is not the kind of Christian Unity, or not the whole scope of the kind of unity, envisioned by the Week of Prayer.

It might be more fitting, however, if the week included Anglican, Protestant, and Orthodox Eucharistic liturgies, in which it is precisely our inability to share communion that compels us to strive for the unity for which Christ himself prays. Or let us celebrate the rich diversity of the Catholic communion in the same manner, but in a different week: perhaps the Pentecost octave. Then at least we would have time to participate in both!



Imposed (Ir)reverence?

Can you force someone to be more reverent? Is it possible to compel reverence from someone by demanding a particular prayer, position, or facial expression?

We can cultivate reverence. We can create environments that aid people in prayer. We can counsel others, offer spiritual companionship and direction, and inspire liturgical involvement and devotional piety in a way that encourages reverence. But I do not think it is possible to make people more reverent by making them do something which they are not ready to do. In fact, trying to do so would more often have the effect opposite of the intent, and instead impose irreverence.

Yet it is precisely in the language of “increasing reverence” during the Eucharist that there has been discussion in recent years of imposing particular postures – including how one receives communion. It has always been my position – as someone who has spent a decade instructing Eucharistic ministers and prepared adults and children to receive their first communion – that you should receive communion reverently.

"...make with the left a throne for the right hand, which recieves the King" -Cyril of Jerusalem, c. 313-386 AD

The Latin church itself prescribes two forms for this, in the hands and on the tongue. Dioceses and bishops’ conferences may add or stress elements of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, such that in some places we are asked to bow before receiving, as we proclaim ‘Amen’; others suggest a sign of the cross immediately after; in the Archdiocese of Seattle we remain standing throughout the communion procession as a sign of reverence, honoring the presence of Christ and the assembly’s act of communion with Him (and the Church), and honoring the liturgical integrity of the procession itself.

The Holy Father has himself weighed in on this, especially since he has been seen to prefer to administer communion in a particular fashion, and some commentators interpreted this to mean he was indicating a change. This is not entirely the case, however:

I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself.

The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point. One important reason is that there is a great danger of superficiality precisely in the kinds of Mass events we hold at Saint Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir.

In recent months, it seems this last, unique concern has trumped general liturgical principle, and since the beginning of Advent 2010, at St. Peter’s Basilica during papal masses (and only at papal liturgies, as far as I have seen) communicants are refused communion unless they receive on the tongue.

The first time this happened to me, it was quite jarring. There has been no announcement that I have found, it was just a change. In fact, it seemed that many of the Eucharistic ministers (who are always priests during the papal liturgies, though not necessarily so at other liturgies there) had not been informed. I thought, actually, that it was just the priest at my station “imposing reverence” as he saw fit. He even looked a bit smug. Looking up and down the aisle, some priests were still serving the host according to the communicant’s desire, and others were refusing ‘in the hand’.

Clearly, this did not instill reverence, but rather robbed the moment of its usual spiritual peace. As I watched people’s reactions, from tourists to young Italians, to one elderly nun in full habit, more than three-quarters went to receive on the hand and when they were refused, responded in surprise, confusion, or even disgust (the septuagenarian sister looked ready to ‘have words’ with the young priest, but then decided against it).

The second time I went to a papal mass with this new practice, the priest at my communion station was a friend and classmate. I was prepared, and this time noticed every minister serving in the hand only, and this time it was the ushers who were gesticulating to everyone to make it clear that communion was only available orally. My friend looked apologetic, and the priest next to him was confused, clearly not having been informed of this new rule, either. Again, though some people would have received this way in any case and others had been recently enough to know what to expect, others looked disconcerted, distracted, or dissatisfied. None appeared more reverent.

Then again, reverence is an interior orientation, not an exterior expression, so maybe they were.

Guest response to ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ in the Church

My blog posts appear on my Facebook wall, and sometimes get comments there. A friend and former parishioner of mine, Colleen Walsh, shared this reply to my quote from Fr. Ladislas Orsy on ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ in the Church. I would like to see continued conversation on this idea, and will add some of my own thoughts soon, but I asked Colleen if she would allow me to repost her comments here on the blog so a broader audience could take up the theme, and she kindly agreed. [I have made some minor copy and formatting edits, but not edited content]

As always, replies, comments and critiques are welcome, but only respectful contributions will be approved!

Colleen and her husband, Pat

A.J., I think there is actually a post-Vatican II split, some would call a schism of sorts, that is not being considered in this article.

I would have to ask this: If the people who like the Tridentine Mass would be considered the conservatives, and my group could be considered the faithful liberals, due to being post Vatican II, then what would you call the folks that seem to be more liberal than me? There are many examples of this, but I will only mention two for illustrative purposes. One example would be the people in the church that want women priests. Another group of people would be those who seem to actually embrace integrating eastern religious ideas and rituals into the Catholic church. I have had contact with many people of both these beliefs, neither of which, I would wish to be grouped with, if a line is being drawn.

The latter of these groups baffle me. I mean, If Jesus is the real thing, and our church is the One True Church, then it appears that one who believes in the integration of Eastern religion is implying that God somehow goofed and left something out when He started our church. How can that be if we are the One True Church? Last I checked, God doesn’t make mistakes. He picked males to lead his church from the beginning and He also chose His Son to be our saviour, who could bring us to His Father, God. God didn’t expect us to go through some guru to in order to have a relationship with God. If Jesus is the way and no one can come to His Father but by Him, then why do these people feel all paths lead to God? God is a loving God, so why would He ask His only begotten Son to die for us, a horrible painful death, if there were going to be other paths to Him anyway? God would not do it if He thought there was another way. God, in His infinite wisdom, is way smarter than us, and knows the weight of our sin, and it is very, very, heavy! Just look at abortion, for example.

Many folks think I am conservative because I like taking communion on the tongue and am glad that they put kneelers back the churches around here. I am opposed to the idea of inclusive language, don’t agree with the idea of women priests and am against using female altar servers. (I think female altar servers helped contribute to our dwindling number of vocations to the priesthood) I also really like that Mother Angelica and Fr. Corapi and Priests for Life are not afraid to stand up for the sanctity of life in this culture of death. I believe nuns should be happy to wear the habit, and should not be hiding their light under the bushel basket of street clothing. They shouldn’t be afraid to show their Catholic identity! I also do not like round churches as I believe we should be focused on the miracle of the Mass, the Eucharist, not the people across the room from us. That is a distraction. I believe the tabernacle belongs behind the alter, not in a separate room adjacent to the sanctuary like it’s some sort of a side show in a circus. The Eucharist is central to our faith and should not be kicked to the side of the building somewhere. I think a crucifix belongs inside the sanctuary at all times, not these statues of the risen Christ, because as Catholics, not only is it part of our identity, but it is an important reminder that we should see often. (Jesus loves us THIS MUCH, and suffered for us THIS MUCH) We are only human and need that reminder! The devil wants us to forget this. Seeing Jesus crucified helps to form a good sense of Catholic guilt. Contrary to popular belief, Catholic guilt can be a good thing. 🙂 It should be an integrated part of every conscience. It helps us to make the right choice. It helps us make a good examination of conscience. I think the risen Christ status are beautiful and would be a fine, even welcome addition, to today’s church, as long as they are not being used to replace the crucifix. They could be set up at the end of the stations of the cross to finish the story. 🙂 As for stained glass windows, I think it is a shame my first parish, sold their beautiful building in the 80’s to build a new round, visually plain, modernized church without kneelers. The old building had previously been a seminary and the stained glass and mosaics told stories of Saints and the Bible along with a beautiful stations of the cross. This beauty, along with the presence of the Eucharist in the tabernacle behind the altar, and the crucifix in front of the congregation which was a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice, created a beautiful setting for Mass, even with the folky guitar music I so enjoyed at the time. It was the perfect mix of old and new, in my opinion.

On the other hand, I have friends who think I am way too liberal because I do not want to go backwards to a complete Latin Mass. I think it’s important to hear the Word and understand it in ones own native language. (on a side note, I have to say, I dislike the bilingual masses our archdiocese is into doing. It seems there is always something lost for those who don’t speak both languages fluently, since they flip flop between the readings and songs. The only REAL bilingual part is the fact that the homily is said in both languages.) I attended a Latin Easter Vigil Mass once and although we could read along in English with every reading, the only part in a English was the homily. Even though the music was pretty, I wanted to sing along and was frustrated that it was mostly only the schola choir allowed to sing during the Mass. I think the part that got me most is that I felt a need to go back home and read the readings all over again in English because I still felt hungry for the Word! I have heard that I picked an extreme Mass to go to for my first Latin Mass, and that it was not typical to do every reading in Latin during many Masses, but I felt it really was not my worship style.

I very much enjoy Lifeteen Mass music, and am not opposed to clapping during songs in Mass. I have even sung with some of the “modern” music groups at different parishes and was even part of a Catholic handbell choir at a local parish before I moved up north. I listen to the local a Christian music station, and I even let my kids watch some secular TV shows, which would be considered taboo for some of my Tridentine friends, many of which don’t believe in even having a TV in the house at all. I am not opposed to holding hands during the “Our Father” and have been known to cross aisles and even give hugs during the sign of peace. Although, I try to wear my Sunday best, but I have to confess that on some occasions I find myself having to wear jeans to Mass. When this happens, I try to at least wear ones that are not too faded and can be sort of dressed up with a nice shirt and some shoes other than tennis shoes, after all it IS the King we are going to see! (Bishop Eusebio reminded me of that when he was our pastor at St. Elizabeth prior to becoming a bishop. It was kinda funny cuz I was so pregnant my feet wouldn’t fit my dress shoes, so I wore my fake birkenstocks the next week so as not to get reprimanded by Father. LOL) My Tridentine friends are almost never seen without a skirt, even on the playground and would never go to Mass without a veil. I do have to say that I am appalled at the fact that so many altar servers in our diocese that wear jeans and tennis shoes under their albs. I think it is not only tacky and distracting, but disrespectful to serve like this. Waiters at restaurant dress nicer than most of these boys!

I have been to charismatic gatherings over the years and have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and very much see the need to reach out to our protestant brothers and sisters and those of other traditions, though I do not believe we should be hiding our Catholic identity by trying to look like protestant churches. I believe music is a great place to find some common ground, both biblically and culturally in our liturgy without losing our Catholic identity in today’s world.

Believe it or not, there is a very large group that is often stereotyped as ultra-conservative, pre-Vatican II, but to the contrary, actually embraces the liberating aspect of hearing God’s Word spoken in a way that is meaningful to them in their own language. It is a group that appreciates the ability to sing praise to God with all the zeal given to us by the Holy Spirit, even, if it means clapping, and using guitars and drums! Yes, there is actually quite a large group of us conservative, yet modern (or as this article seems to call us, ‘faithful liberals’) post -Vatican II folks who are out there. We enjoy the ability to participate in Mass with a more modern worship style. The problem is that some people would like to throw us all into one category with the pre-Vatican II crowd just because we appreciate some of the beauty the old church had to offer, some of the same beauty you get to experience every day while you are in Rome. While we embrace the changes in liturgy given to us by Vatican II, we cling to whatever beauty and traditions we still have in today’s church, sometimes due to a deep understanding of the meaning behind the tradition and other times due to fear that before too long, the Church will be purged of all that identifies Her: throwing the baby out with the bathwater in an attempt to make Her more inviting to non-believers. It would be a sad day if they renovated Rome, yanked out all the crucifixes and kneelers, stripped the buildings of all the stained glass and mosaics in the name of Vatican II.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011

Mother Lurana White, SA

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has its origins in the Church Unity Octave, started in 1908 by the founders of an Anglican religious order, the Franciscan Society of the Atonement. The dates were chosen to run the week from the Feast of the Chair of Peter (18 January) to the Feast of the Conversion of Paul (25 January).

18 January was in fact one of two Feasts of the Chair of Peter on the Tridentine calendar, the other being 22 February. Some distinguished these as the Chair of Peter in Rome and the Chair of Peter in Antioch, though it is not clear that that was the original intent of the two dates. Since 1960, only the later date has been celebrated in the Roman calendar as the feast of the Chair of Peter, but the dates for the Week of Prayer remain the same.

(As an interesting aside, with the resurgence of interest in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, since Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum allowing more widespread use of the 1962 missal, some liturgical traditionalists observe the January feast date. However, this appears to be incorrect, as the 1962 missal was produced after the change to the calendar mentioned above.)

Fr. Paul Wattson, SA

The original octave focused on Anglican-Catholic reunion, and the themes as approved by Pope Pius X were a great example of what is now known as the “ecumenism of return” – which was common in the post-Vatican I period at the beginning of the last century (and which some fear is making a resurgence in these days… but more on that in a later post).

In fact, even before the Church Unity Octave was established by Father Paul Watson, SA, and Mother Lurana White, SA, there were calls for a time of prayer for Christian Unity. The Lambeth Conference, the decennial synod of the world’s Anglican bishops, in 1878 called for a period of prayer for unity around the feast of the Ascension. In 1895 Pope Leo XIII agreed, establishing a novena for Christian Unity from Ascension to Pentecost.

Since 1935, the Church Unity Octave began to expand to a more comprehensive Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, including prayer for the unity of all Christians. By 1957, there was quasi-official participation in the planning for the worldwide celebrations by a Catholic organization from Lyons, and in 1966 the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity officially became a joint project of the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. The materials used throughout the world have been prepared each year by a Joint Working Group of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Additionally, a local ecumenical community prepares the theme and symbols for the Week of Prayer, and this year’s local planners were the churches of Jerusalem.   The theme chosen for 2011 is: “One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer” (cf. Acts 2:42).

Each day of the Week has a different theme:

  • 18 January: The Church in Jerusalem.
  • 19 January: Many Members in One Body.
  • 20 January: Devotion to the Apostles’ Teaching Unites Us.
  • 21 January: Sharing, an Expression of Our Unity.
  • 22 January: Breaking the Bread in Hope.
  • 23 January: Empowered to Action in Prayer.
  • 24 January: Living in Resurrection Faith.
  • 25 January: Called for the Service of Reconciliation.

Compare that to the themes of the original Church Unity Octave, as approved by Pope Pius X just one century ago, to see “development in continuity” in practice for the Catholic Church’s teaching on the ecumenical movement. Unity is still the goal, in obedience to Christ and for the sake of the Church’s mission, but our understanding of this constant truth has clearly matured!

Note, not only the the marked difference in tone, but also the inclusion of prayer for the Jews both then and today, except that now it is on a day preceding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Note also the distinction between European Protestants and American Christians.

Church Unity Octave daily themes (c.1911)

  • 18 January: The Union of all Christians in the one true faith and in the Church
  • 19 January: The Return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See
  • 20 January: The Reconciliation of Anglicans with the Holy See
  • 21 January: The Reconciliation of European Protestants with the Holy See
  • 22 January: That American Christians become one in union with the Chair of Peter
  • 23 January: The Restoration of lapsed Catholics to the sacramental life of the Church
  • 24 January: That the Jewish people come into their inheritance in Jesus Christ
  • 25 January: The missionary extension of Christ’s kingdom throughout the world

Dignitatis Humanae and an aside

The final full day of our Russell Berrie Fellowship Orientation program began with a trip to the Centro Pro Unione, the historic library and ecumenical center that sits above the Piazza Navona. Director Fr. James Puglisi, who also serves as director of the ecumenical section at the Angelicum and Minister General of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, lead a presentation on the academic responsibilities and processes of the section in addition to an introduction to the Centro.

This was followed by a roundtable discussion on Dignitatis Humane with our previous guests Thomas Casey, SJ and Miguel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ and introducing Maltese Dominican Joseph Ellul, who is an expert on Islamic thought and its encounter with eastern Christianity. The rest of the day was spent in administrative issues and a group discussion around the praxis of interreligious dialogue, and a closing celebration of the Eucharist.


One of the interesting aspects of the week was the number of priests living in the house. Obviously, the Lay Centre only has one or two priests for Eucharist, whoever has been invited to preside. It is always a little strange to have as many concelebrants as other members of the assembly! This provided an interesting side discussion with one of my cohort, a presbyter. If a priest is celebrating the Eucharist, must he do so as presider or concelebrant, or may he do so as a member of the assembly – “in choir” in other words. And if so, does it “count” if the priest feels an obligation to celebrate mass daily?

There is clearly a movement that seems recent which indicates a priest should vest and actively concelebrate every time he is at mass. At the same time, one need look no further than papal liturgies at St. Peters to see that often, most priests and bishops are attending in choir only, not concelebrating. As at home, it seems some are asked to concelebrate for certain occasions, but it should not be assumed – and it certainly does not necessitate a private mass to be celebrated later!

I know it is not about interreligious dialogue, but, thoughts, anyone?

Pentecost at the Pantheon

One of the sights to see in Rome is Pentecost at the Pantheon. Since my Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome, they have set up pews and dressed up the altar to bring further attention to the fact that this most-famous of pagan temples is also (since the 6th century) a consecrated church. For the feast of Pentecost, at the end of the liturgy Rome’s fire department drops thousands of red rose petals from the oculus to the floor below, an image of the Spirit appear like tongues of flame around the apostles gathered in the Upper Room. To add to the effect, the sun was clearly cutting through the coouds of incense smoke, and a white bird chose just that moment to fly in and start flying circles around the falling flowers. (One person in the assembly gasped, “look, a dove!” which would have been fitting, but it was just a seagull…)

Paschal Triduum 2010

The first time I participated in the Easter Triduum was also my altar serving debut. I was in third grade, nine years old. My training was held right after school by Sr. Mary Thorne, if I recollect correctly, and a few hours later I was serving my first mass, on Holy Thursday. That was twenty-three years ago and I have never intentionally missed any part of the Triduum.

Holy Father washing feet of 12 presbyters at Holy Thursday Mass

In fact, I can only remember missing the whole thing once, because I was sick – but I had already done all the planning and training for the liturgies, and had very reliable volunteer lay liturgical ministers to rely upon in absentia. One other year, I was in the ER during the Easter vigil with a friend. Other than these two, I have worshipped during the high holy days, and usually as a server, lector, or liturgist and master of ceremonies. Even in my last interim parish ministry, where I was not the primary liturgist, I still had a contingent of catechumens to bring through the rites.

That said, it is kind of nice (but also a bit weird) to be absolutely and completely free of responsibility throughout the Triduum, and to be in Rome. There are three places where every Catholic should spend Holy Week at least once, in my opinion: Jerusalem, Rome, and Notre Dame. Though not necessarily in that order.

Latin and Greek Deacons in Gospel Procession, Holy Thursday, Archbasilica San Giovanni

Throughout my four years at Notre Dame, I was an altar server in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and sometime assistant MC there and sacristan/liturgy coordinator at the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Keough Hall. Triduum was always a great deal of work, but always masterfully done, accompanied by beautiful music, and in the words of one visiting curial cardinal (who so enjoyed Holy Week at ND he came back twice while I was there), “This is better than Saint Peter’s!”.

I am inclined to agree, but with qualification. To be clear, I am disappointed in nothing of the Triduum here in Rome, except for the mob (the Romans’ answer to the queue, or line).

Way of the Cross - my view was not this blurry

This is, after all, the first church (not in chronology, but in order). The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday was celebrated at the Pope’s Cathedral, the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, Mother-Church of Rome.  The Service of Our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter were celebrated at the Vatican Basilica of Saint Peter. All were presided by the Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI, and he was homilist at the first and last (Raniero Cantalamesa, OFM Cap., the preacher of the papal household, had the homily on Good Friday, as you may have heard.) I prayed the Way of the Cross from the edge of our property, a bluff overlooking the Coliseum with clear line-of-sight of the Holy Father about 300 meters away.

Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., Papal Preacher on Good Friday

The prayer guides are published pocket-sized booklets, illustrated with prints of 15th and 16th century frescoes from Italian churches. The liturgy was celebrated in Latin, the mass parts chanted in Gregorian style, and deacons blessed with angelic voices chanted the gospel – on Thursday it was proclaimed twice, once each in both Latin and Greek! (Presumably in honor of the fact that this year, Passover and Easter on both the Julian and Gregorian calendars all coincide). The prayers of the faithful throughout the three-day liturgy were offered in French, Spanish, English, Polish, German, Portuguese, Russian, Tagalog, Swahili and Arabic. Readings were in Italian, Greek, Latin, French, English, German, and Spanish.

Deacons Proclaiming the Passion

The exultet in Latin is amazing. The Passion on Good Friday in slowly chanted Latin is impressive, but also a little hard on the back. (OK, yes, the very act of complaining about listening to the passion, when it is after all, the passion, is a sin I will publicly confess here and now: Mea culpa, ego sum mereum humanum.)

I found this interesting, though: Over the last few years in liturgical circles we have been encouraged to discourage the reading of the Passion in parts, as it is often printed in the missalletes and music books, and instead just have three deacons or readers proclaim the reading in turn. At the papal liturgy at San Pietro, with the ‘new’ Marini in charge, they had each deacon proclaim different parts (Narrator, Jesus, Peter/others) and the choir as the crowd/assembly.

Pope Benedict during the Great Vigil's Service of Light

This touches on one of the great reasons to be in Rome: The liturgical diversity. I do not just mean the fact that there are representatives of all the major rites of the Church here in the city (Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Byzantine, Chaldean, and Latin), but also that within the Latin rites, within the Roman rite specifically, you have diversity. Just between the Roman Cathedral (San Giovanni) and the Vatican Basilica (San Pietro), with the same pope presiding and the same papal MC, you find different ways of celebrating and different customs.

One small example, during the Eucharistic prayer: At San Giovanni, we do not kneel, and there is no bell during the epiclesis and the two elevations, but there is incense. At San Pietro, we kneel from the epiclesis to the mystery of faith, and there is a bell for the epiclesis and two elevations, but no incense.

Easter Vigil 2010 San Pietro

Another interesting note, if a little random. While the Mass of the Lord’s Supper traditionally commemorates the institution of the Eucharist in the form of the Last Supper, it has traditionally been called the institution of the priesthood, through the act of the washing of feet. Historically, of course, and theologically, this is not entirely accurate so back home we had long since opted away from this simplistic phrasing lest it require a great deal of explanation. However, in the pre-liturgy announcements at San Giovanni, there it was “The Institution of the Eucharist and of the ministerial priesthood”.

Twelve presbyters were the mandatum at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, whose feet the Holy Father washed, though none of this was visible to me. The diplomatic corps were invited to communion with the Holy Father as minister, which they recieveed kneeling and on the tongue, or, they recieved a blessing instead of communion, if appropriate; but everyone else recieved communion along the aisles (standing, and in tongue or hand as the communicant prefered).

After returning to the Lay Centre for dinner, a group of us spent the evening in an adoration pilgrimage of seven churches during the traditional period until midnight: Basilica San Giovanni e Paolo, Basilica Santa Maria in Domnica, the Baptistry of San Giovanni, Archbasilica San Giovanni, Basilica Sant’Antonio di Padova, Basilica Santi Quattri Coronatti, and the Chapel of the Holy Trinity.

San Tommaso in Formis, with Dr. Orsuto and Dr. Hagstrom

St. Peter’s has a capacity of over 60,000 roughly the same as Notre Dame Stadium before the 1997 expansion. That plus room for another 400,000 in the piazza makes for a somewhat larger assembly than the 2500 or so who can fill the Basilica of Sacred Heart at Notre Dame. For an experience of the Church universal in the heart of the Church, you cannot beat Rome. But for that Church universal manifest in a local church, I do not think even Rome can beat Notre Dame. To a degree, its like apples and oranges. The assembly is different, and the considerations are different. One aims for a liturgy that represents the whole church, which is probably represented pretty well by those present. The other aims for a liturgy of the local church being wholly church in its place. For Latin and the biggest of big liturgy, it is Rome. For best liturgy captured in a particular church, music that is beautiful, reverent and accessible, it is Notre Dame. I am happy to have had my four years at ND, and hope to get a few more here in Rome!

Church of San Tommaso in Formis

For Easter Sunday, between the full papal Triduum experience and the rain, I decided to go to the little church served by the Trinitarian Fathers, Chiesa San Tomasso in Formis (St. Thomas in Chains), literally just outside our front gate and around the corner. About 30 people filled the church, including two priests and two other Lay Centre folk, director Donna Orsuto and visiting scholar Dr. Aurelie Hagstrom, chair of the theology department at Providence College in Rhode Island who is here for a month of Marian research. Such a different experience after the big liturgies to be in a small community! The only space for the after-mass social was the tiny sacristy behind the altar, as long as we entered from one side and exited the other!

After a quick cappuccino and cornetto to celebrate the end of Lenten fasting, we watched the Urbi et Orbi on TV and prepared for a mid-afternoon Easter feast. Only a couple guests joined us, making us about fifteen in all – a perfect way to spend a drizzly Easter afternoon.

Holy Land Seminar Day #3

I woke up to the sun rising over the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee). We celebrated the Eucharist on the shore on an outdoor altar. Father Fred Bliss served as presider and homilist, with all eight of our presbyters concelebrating. Matthew and I served as lectors, and as I read the Isiah passage and the psalm, and especially as I listened to the gospel of the day, I could not but wonder at the small miracles that happen in the Holy Land. We could not have planned it better than to be in this place on this day in the cycle of readings.

(In case you forgot:

We then left the Lake, with a brief stop at a popular baptism location on the Jordan river, west to Nazareth, the main site of which is the Church of the Annunciation, the largest in the Holy Land, sitting on top of a crusader church, on top of a byzantine church, on top of a cave thought to be Mary’s house. We were also treated to what may be the most famous restaurant in Israel, Diana restaurant in Nazareth serving traditional Arab food, and lots of it!

On our way, we pass by Cana. In ancient times as today, the valleys serve as the major roads. Merchants, armies, caravans, people of the world come through the valleys, such as the way past Cana, which was a small town. But Nazareth was a tiny village, tucked away in a closed-off valley. In relating to my own childhood, I was struck by thinking of Cana as parallel to North Bend, a small town on the side of a big highway going from much larger places to other cosmopolitan ends. Nazareth was more like Duvall. Or Stillwater. Today, it’s a thriving Arab town, popular with pilgrims and tourists.

After lunch we drive along the Yizre’el valley to Mt. Tabor, the traditional site associated with the Transfiguration, atop of which is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen, though relatively new, and a commanding view of the region.

The evening we spent returning to Jerusalem, though we went by a different route, and once back at the hotel had dinner and settled in.

It’s a Small (Catholic) World After All

I think John Allen, Jr. said that if you stand in the same place in Rome long enough, you will meet every Catholic you have ever known, or at least someone who knows them.

Nancy left for home on Thursday after three weeks here in Italy, and I spent the next day sleeping to recover from vicarious jetlag! As Sunday approached I had not yet decided where I would be worshipping in my quest to pray in as many of Rome’s different churches as possible (without becoming just a liturgical tourist). So when Donna asked me to deliver some propaganda for Lay Centre events to the “Caravita”, the oratory of St. Francis that Nancy and I had been to a couple weeks ago, I agreed, still thinking I should be going somewhere new.

The Spirit works in little ways too.

When I arrived at del Caravita, I looked around for someone to ask about the material – where to put it, if we could announce the events, etc. As I watched two people seemed to be the “go-to” folk, one was a woman clearly preparing to serve as lector, and the other a tall, thin, bald guy who seemed to know everyone. So, i approached him with, “you seem to know whats going on around here, who would I talk to about this?” He offers to introduce me to the lector, “Cindy”, who would know. Here’s a transcript:

Me: Hi, my name is AJ Boyd, and I’m from…

Cindy: Oh my God! You’re AJ! I’m Cindy… Me: [Shocked expression] Cindy: …Woodin!

Me: Oh that Cindy!

Cindy: So you’re at the Angelicum right? Are you in Don’s class [indicating tall, thin, bald guy]?

Me: No, I just met him.

Cindy: He’s teaching a course on Methodism, and he’s just been named bishop of Saskatoon

Me: That’s Don Bolen?! I didn’t recognize him! I am taking his class… it starts tomorrow.

Ok, so it was more comical in real life. Cindy is a college friend of one of my parishioners from St. Brendan, and when I decided to come to Rome, she decided to put the two of us in touch. Cindy and I had been exchanging sporadic emails since July, and just had not yet met in person. She has lived in Rome for 20 years as part of the Catholic News Service Vatican Bureau.

Monsignor Don Bolen recieving the Cross of St. Augustin from Archbishop Rowan Williams

Monsignor Don Bolen is the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and former staff of the Anglican/Methodist desk at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Over Christmas break his election as bishop was announced, which I followed and even posted on Facebook. He’s teaching the second half of our course, Methodism and its Dialogue with the Catholic Church. He was the presider and homilist for the Sunday Eucharist, and was clearly loved by the people who had known him there from his time in Rome.

First impressions – after one mass and one class – is that the people of Saskatoon are blessed among Canadians. Home of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, it seems like a great fit, and any diocese would welcome a bishop who is so genuine, humble, intelligent and obviously a gifted ecumenist. A good preacher and teacher too!

Nativity of the Lord: Christmas Mass at Midnight

Preparing for Jill's Feast: AJ, Greg, Karina, Jill, Natalie

Nancy and I, and a small group from the Lay Centre started Christmas Eve with a traditional Italian dinner hosted by Jill, another Domer I discovered at the Angelicum. It was incredible! Antipasti and prosecco to start the night off, followed by soup, pasta, fish… and each prepared and served in proper order, it was almost a pity we had to leave for the mass! Seriously, aside from theology, ministry, and guiding tours of Rome she could open her own trattoria. Not only was it all delicious, it was presented so beautifully, it really made a special evening even more delightful.

Standing on the confessionals at St. Peter's, Midnight Mass 1944

It is from Jill that I learned that Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s is actually a relatively new phenomenon. Until 1944, the last time the bishop of Rome had celebrated Christmas midnight mass at St. Peter’s is believed to be for the coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. Otherwise, the traditional location in Rome had been Santa Maria Maggiore – which makes a lot more sense given the indispensible role Mary played in the Nativity, and the location there of the relics of the Nativity including what was believed to be the manger in which the Christ child was laid. Since Pius XII’s celebration just after the liberation of Italy during WWII, the popes have celebrated midnight mass at St. Peter’s; but the Romans still go to Mary Major while the Americans and other pilgrims go pray with the pope – though we were not standing on the confessionals this time.

The line begins outside the Basilica of St. Peter

Jill’s place being mere minutes from Piazza San Pietro, we took some liberty with our arrival time. For the first time, what has traditionally been a Midnight Mass was moved up to 10:00pm so we were advised to arrive three hours early – we got there at 7:30 and got into a line that already wrapped around the entire Piazza and had started doubling up on itself. Waiting just ahead of us in line was an American, a theatre professor from Miami, who was hoping against hope to find a ticket to get into the papal mass. (His name is James Brown. No, really – you can look him up.) As it happens, I had had a friend arrange to get four tickets for us before we knew we would be getting enough through the Lay Centre, so Natalie had borrowed three for friends, and there was just one left over – the Spirit works in small ways too! Unfortunately, we lost Jim in the mass crush when our part of the line finally got inside the Basilica, but in a couple hours of waiting in line at least got to make a new friend.

View from our seats, taken after the liturgy

Once inside, we found the massive line had filled the seats in the nave and it looked as if we might have to stand – until they opened the transepts. We got the leftover seats from the “reserved” section in the south transept, directly to the side of the altar. We couldn’t see the pope as he sat in the presiders chair, but had a great view of the liturgy of the Eucharist.

We were placed directly between two of the massive pillars supporting Michelangelo’s Dome, looked over by Sts. John of God and Mary Euphrasia Pellettier on one side and Sts. Juliana Falconieri and Angela Merici on the other. Because of this we could not see very far down the nave toward the main doors. About the time we thought the music was changing from prelude to procession, we heard something like screams, a pause long enough to ask each other what that was about, then cheering. “Ah, they were cheering for the pope like a rock star!” We did not realize that Benedict had been knocked down until after the liturgy and we met up with some students who had been in that part of the Basilica. We did see Cardinal Etchegaray being wheeled out on a gurney behind us, and thought perhaps he had fallen or something. His Holiness did not mention it, and did not even seem fazed by the time we saw him.

Presepe at Piazza San Pietro

The liturgy was beautiful. Last time I was in Rome, for the close of the Jubilee, midnight mass had been held outside, in the Piazza. This was my second papal Eucharist inside St. Peter’s this year, and both times there has really been a sense of reverence and participation in the liturgy, even despite the size of the church and the numbers of people celebrating. The mass parts were in Latin, the readings in Spanish and English, the gospel sung in Latin and the pope’s homily delivered in Italian, the prayers of the faithful in Russian, French, Tagalog, Portugese, and German. The music is increadible, of course: the only places outside Rome I have seen compare for quality liturgy and liturgical music is the Basilica of Sacred Heart at Notre Dame and St. James Cathedral in Seattle. (The National Shrine in D.C. sometimes makes the cut, too…) Nancy was tempted to record the entire liturgy, but we settled for trying to get some of the music.

Afterwards we stood in front of the presepe (crèche, Nativity scene) at the foot of the obelisk in the middle of Bernini’s piazza, listening to a group of sisters singing carols. After an hour of trying to hail a taxi, we got a couple to take us back to the Lay Centre without trying to rip us off (Thank you, Karina!!)

On returning to the Lay Centre, Donna had prepared for us an “American breakfast” – pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, eggs, bacon, and orange juice – the most proper way to celebrate the birth of Jesus at 2:00am! And, to be honest, I do not think I have ever appreciated American fare so much!

%d bloggers like this: