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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

When the GIRM conflicts with local "tradition"

Last week, I learned, with some sadness, of the death of my former pastor.  He was a kind priest who was much-loved at my former parish.  A flood of memories inundated me as I recalled some of the good and some of the bad associated with my time there.  I decided to conduct an online search to ascertain the whereabouts of some of his brother priests, as my former parish is staffed by a North American order.

I learned that one of the priests whom I was close to is now back home, in the northeast, in outreach ministry, something that he had longed to do.  I knew him when he was a seminarian and was so proud of him when he returned to us upon ordination.  He has a good heart and is an excellent preacher.  I am sure that he is doing well.  He remains a constant in my prayers.

While perusing through the parish's site, I noted something that was a little unsettling.  My friend and I have had our share of differences, especially where liturgical practices are concerned.  The phrase in the website's liturgical tab left me with some questions.

Let us be patient and attentive to the Spirit as we work to implement this change with integrity to our membership in a universal church as well as our local values. We will continue to, as much as we can, use language that is inclusive of both women and men. We will continue to hold the values of hospitality, outreach and inclusivity.
While I understand that the parish's goal, a laudable one, is to welcome members and visitors, there is something to be said about the manner in which the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is treated.  Reading the website, I posed this question in my mind: at what point do we make what we do at the local level more important than what is mandated by the Universal Church?  Inasmuch as I believe that the pastor is sincere in his efforts to implement the Roman Missal wtih integrity to the Church, there is a concern that perhaps, in trying to foster a spirit of "hospitality, outreach and inclusivity" some things may have been introduced that are not necessarily in line with the GIRM.  These may have been done with the best of intentions, but, at some point, where does worship of God fit into all of this?

In reading through the parish's interpretation of the GIRM, there are some areas of concern.  The first one centers around the posture of the faithful during the Eucharistic Prayer:

All remain standing throughout the Eucharistic Prayer.
The GIRM notes that:

In the Dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause. However, those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the Priest genuflects after the Consecration.
I have seen pictures of the center.  There are wooden chairs, although I cannot ascertain if they have any kneelers.  The community seems to be young; thus, there cannot really be a good reason as to why one cannot kneel.  From what I read, there were some rennovations.  Why kneelers weren't put in is beyond me.

Another matter concerns the posture that the faithful use during communion.  According to the website:

As a symbol of our Eucharistic unity, all stand, if one is able, until all members of the assembly have received communion.
According to the GIRM, it is the local Ordinary who can set the posture (although, the Congregation for Divine Worship has noted that there should not be so much rigidity concerning Holy Communion).  Looking at the archdiocesan policy, while it does note that standing is the posture employed to receive Holy Communion, there is nothing mandating that the entire assembly must remain standing until all have received. 

There is also the matter of "inclusive language", which is what I think is an attribute to not only the parish, but, to many in the religious order that staffs it and other centers.  Here, there seems to be a resistance to accepting the text of the Roman Missal as the Church has given it to us. When referring to the matter of inclusive language, the parish's Roman Missal implementation team notes that:

The translators were instructed, however, not to change terms considered gender inclusive such as "man" - a translation of the Latin word homo which more generall means "person " or "human."  Adhereing too closely to the Latin tradition also creates problems for other words that may, in fact, be grammatically feminine or neuter in Greek or Hebrew, but masculine in Latin.  Spirit, which has no grammatical gender in English, is an important example of this.  Translators have consistently translated the Latin word spiritus as a masculine entity, because the word spiritus is grammatically masculine.

During my years  at my former parish, I experienced the subtle changes that the staff made to the liturgy.  The word "Father" was sometimes omitted during the Mass (with the exception of the Pater Noster), the pronoun "He" (used when referencing God) was also routinely omitted as well.  In fact, in some of the prayer books, the word "men" was scratched out of the Creed ("for us men and for our salvation") and was omitted by not a lot of folks.  This bothered me a lot when I was in college.  Now, as I get older, it is more than a nuissance.  It is something serious.  We do not have the right to take the words that the Church gives us and make wholesale edits simply because we do not think that the wording is "inclusive" enough.  It's almost as though we are letting our pride get in the way of our worship, as if to say that we are better than the Church. 

While I respect the outreach that this particular parish is doing, none of us have the right to add or subtract things to the Roman Missal nor the GIRM based on a misguided notion of inclusivity.  The center does a lot of good work, especially when it comes to reaching out to the marginalized and the poor of the community it serves.  However, if they sincerely regard the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the source and summit of their lives as members of the Church, they need to respect the liturgical integrity of the rite.  If we get the celebration of the Mass wrong, then everything else that we do falls short.  Loving God means offering Him the fitting worship that is proper to Him.  We cannot make it about ourselves.


1 comment:

  1. I love your blog, especially this particular post!