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Monday, February 14, 2011

A Tip from Tyler

One of the best things about the Society for Catholic Liturgy Conference was the opportunity to network with folks in other dioceses to see how they are doing things.  Such networking leads to learning.

Such was the case at the SCL Conference.  A solid contingent from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, attended the conference.  Their bishop, the Most Rev. Alvaro Corrado del Rio, SJ, served as the featured speaker Thursday night.  Because I had arrived late Thursday evening (more like 1AM Friday morning), I missed his address.  However, having spent some time with the Tyler contingent, I can certainly see why Bishop Corrado was chosen to deliver the keynote that night.

Tyler is a young diocese, 24 years old, to be exact.  It is a vibrant diocese, as evidenced by its healthy representation.  It is also a diocese that takes its liturgy seriously, thanks to Bishop Corrada's leadership.  Here is a shepherd who has taken the time to reinvigorate the faithful in the beauty of the liturgy.  Here is a shepherd who has taken the initiative to formulate guidelines for his diocese so as to ensure the integrity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

A visit to the diocesan website yielded a treasure trove of liturgical documents that Bishop Corrado has issued throughout his tenure as Tyler's ordinary.  One such document that leapt out at me was one that he issued concerning the Mass as a Communal Celebration.  There seems to be a trend that has permeated throughout the Church in the United States concerning Children's Liturgies of the Word and Youth Masses.  Here is Bishop Corrada's directive on this matter:

Special interest focused liturgies are problematic and should not be encouraged. Youth-focused liturgy has to be careful not to send a message that youth are more involved if they serve as ushers and lectors and other ministries of service. Rather, we must consistently call all the faithful to full conscious active participation.

Therefore, in the Diocese of Tyler there should not be Masses in the parish that are targeted to particular segment of the community, like so called 'youth-focused' Masses. People of all ages are to be welcomed at any Mass. Every Mass should be open to incorporating properly trained people of all ages in service of the liturgy.

It is not that Bishop Corrada is against children or the youth.   The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Church's universal prayer.  The Mass is for everyone.  In his directive, he also reminds parents that they are the primary teachers of their children in the Faith:

In the Diocese of Tyler, there shall be no practice of having a "Children's Liturgy of the Word" wherein the young people are taken out of the church to have a 'special' liturgy of the Word. It is appropriate that children be with their parents/guardians who are their primary teachers.

Bishop Corrada has also issued other directives to help ensure the proper celebration of the Mass, especially during the season of Lent and Holy Week.  One such directive, effective this Holy Thursday, specifically mandates that the ancient custom of washing the feet of 12 men during the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper be maintained.

The main celebrant is to wash the feet of men (adult males). Generally 12 men are selected, but the ritual does not require 12 (may be adjusted for example to accommodate a small space). In the context of the Holy Thursday liturgy, the ritual of washing the feet of men suggests that strong connection between Christ’s washing His Apostles’ feet and the institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. Christ chose on this occasion the twelve men he had chosen to be Apostles. We must conclude, then, that the ritual is intimately connected to the priesthood and the institution of the Eucharist. Its symbolism cannot be reduced to a general theme of service to the whole Church. Therefore, the priest should wash the feet of a select group of men only. Other types of "washing", i.e. washing of hands or members of the congregation washing each other’s feet is not allowed.
These directives are not meant to restrict and constrain parishes; rather, they are meant to provide them with the proper means of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The fact that Bishop Corrado has taken the time to formulate policy is something to be commended.  

Certainly the Tyler approach could very well be the model for many diocese throughout Texas to follow, including my own. 

May God bless Bishop Corrado for his leadership!

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