November 2003 Meeting of The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met from November 10-12, 2003 in Washington D.C. and approved several liturgical items in the course of their meeting. A revised edition of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest was agreed upon by a vote of 221 to 20. A total of 176 votes were needed for canonical approval. This edition will now be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the requisite confirmation. The Bishops also approved a revision of the USCCB Guidelines for Concelebration of the Eucharist by a unanimous voice vote. Those guidelines are available at httn://www.usccb.org/liturgy/concelebration.htm, or may be ordered from USCCB publications.
November 2003 Meeting of the Committee on the Liturgy
The USCCB Committee on the Liturgy met in Washington D.C. on December 9, 2003 and considered a wide range of liturgical matters, including final action on amendments by individual Bishops to Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest and the USCCB Guidelines for Concelebration of the Eucharist. A proposed edition of the BCL Newsletter, addressing the use of low gluten hosts and mustum at Mass, was revised and approved (see November, 2003 BCL Newsletter), as were plans for a BCL Formation Week for Diocesan Liturgical Personnel. Also discussed were a possible USCCB pastoral plan for ministry to the sick and dying, as well as various issues surrounding the construction of confessionals, and the revision of scriptural readings for the books of the Roman Ritual. Reports were also heard on the work of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the BCL Subcommittees on Hispanic Liturgy and Music and the Liturgy, and Task Groups on the Lectionary for Masses with Children and the Review of the Lectionary for Mass.
Subcommittees of the Committee on the Liturgy
The Hispanic Liturgy Subcommittee met at St. Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park, California on September 29-October 1, 2003. Bishop Carlos Sevilla, Chairman, led the group. The bulk of the meeting was spent reviewing a translation into Spanish of the Rite of Baptism for Children (Ritual del Bautismo Para Nines). This translation has been completed and sent for final proofreading. A draft of the Ritual del Matrimonio (Rite of Marriage) has also been completed and is awaiting the final edition of the English text from the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. For its next project, the subcommittee will focus on 52
the completion of the Lectionary texts for the Bendicional (Book of Blessings). Preparations for the Leccionario continue as contracts for copyright permissions are prepared.
Bishop Allen Vigneron convened a meeting of the Music and Liturgy Subcommittee in Saint Louis, Missouri on June 21, 2003 in his capacity as chairman of that group. The subcommittee has completed initial research and is beginning a first draft of a Directory of Music for use in the Liturgy in accord with the instruction Liturgiam authenticam, no. 108: "Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing." After the directory has been completed and approved by the Committee on the Liturgy, it will be presented for consideration by the full body of Bishops. The Directory will eventually require approval by two-thirds of the Latin Bishops of the USCCB and subsequent confirmation by the Holy See.
Influenza and the Liturgy
In the May, 2003 BCL Newsletter, the Committee on the Liturgy addressed the spread of.SARS disease and the Liturgy. In recent weeks, an early onset of the annual influenza epidemic has provided the opportunity for reflection on similar issues in regard to certain liturgical practices. After an extended consultation on this important pastoral issue, the Secretariat for the Liturgy offers the following questions and answers of clarification.
What is influenza?
According to the Centers for Disease Control "influenza (commonly called `the flu') is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Infection with influenza viruses can result in severe illness and life-threatening complications. An estimated 10% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year: an average of 114,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications and 36,000 Americans the each year from complications of flu."
Why is there particular concern for the spread of influenza this year?
Various concerns with the availability and efficacy of influenza vaccines, early onset of the disease and preliminary indications that the spread of the disease might be more significant this year contribute to increased caution. In its latest report, ending December 6, 2003, the CDC has stated that "twenty-four state health departments reported widespread influenza activity, fifteen states and New York City reported regional activity, six states reported local influenza activity, and five states and Guam reported sporadic influenza activity."
What is the best way to prevent the transmission of the influenza virus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, "as with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important and appropriate preventive practices is careful and frequent hand hygiene. Cleaning your hands often using either soap and water or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizers removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission"
How is the influenza virus transmitted?
According to the CDC, "influenza viruses are spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and spreads virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus. When these viruses enter the nose, throat, or lungs of a person, they begin to multiply, causing symptoms of the flu. The viruses can also be spread when a person touches a surface with flu viruses on it (for example, a door handle) and then touches his or her nose or mouth. A person who is sick with the flu can spread viruses – that means they are contagious. Adults may be contagious from 1 day before developing symptoms to up to 7 days after getting sick. Children can be contagious for longer than 7 days."
How can the spread of the influenza virus be prevented?
While the single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each fall, the CDC recommends these other ways to prevent the flu: "Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too; Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness; Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick; Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs; Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth."
What has the Church done in localities where the outbreak of influenza is most significant?
In those localities where the outbreak of the disease has been the most significant, Bishops have introduced several liturgical adaptations in regard to such practices as the distribution of Holy Communion and the exchange of the Sign of Peace in order to limit the spread of contagion.
What measures should be taken in Roman Catholic liturgies in the United States of America?
Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be especially reminded of the need to practice good hygiene. Ministers of Holy Communion should be encouraged to wash their hands before Mass begins, or even to use an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion
What about further adaptations or the restriction of options at Mass?
The Diocesan Bishop should always be consulted regarding any changes or restriction of options in the celebration of Roman Catholic Liturgy. While in some heavily affected locales, Bishops have introduced extraordinary measures, the need for the introduction of widespread liturgical adaptations for the prevention of the transmission of influenza in the dioceses of the United States of America is not evident at this time.
What is the Secretariat for the Liturgy doing to address this question?
The Secretariat will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide the best advice possible to Diocesan Bishops and their Offices for Worship. The Secretariat likewise appreciates whatever information Diocesan Offices for Worship are able to provide concerning local conditions and the pastoral responses developed by Diocesan Bishops. Continuously updated information is available from the Centers for Disease Control at htto://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
The Observance of Ember and Rogation Days
The General Instruction of the Roman Misssal, edido typica tertia in nos. 373 and 394 asks each diocesan bishop, in consultation with his diocesan liturgical commission, to set aside days or periods of prayer for the fruits of the earth, prayer for human rights and equality, prayer for world justice and peace, and periods of penitential observances outside of Lent. The days of these observances correspond to "Rogation" and "Ember Days" in the former liturgical calendar. In selecting these days, the Lord's Day is to be preserved as separate, and all other directives for the establishment and approval of liturgical diocesan calendars must be respected.
A Brief Historical Reminder
In the calendar of the Church in the Latin West, there were four days set aside traditionally for solemn processions to invoke God's mercy. The Major Rogation Day of April 25 (coinciding with the feast of St. Mark) was to plead for protection of the crops against blight that was caused by rust. This day was marked by a procession to St. Peter's Basilica, as the litany of the saints was sung. The three days preceding Ascension Day were regarded as the Minor Rogations. These Rogation Days had their origin in Gaul in 469 when Bishop Mamertus of Vienna ordered that a fast be kept and special intercessions made because of the earthquake and poor harvests afflicting his city. Processions were also held on these days as the litany of the saints was sung.
According to an even earlier practice, Ember Days (or "change-of-season" observances) were held at the start of winter, spring, summer and autumn. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday were set aside as days of fast and abstinence. They tended to be agrarian-centered, seeking God's blessing on the fruits of the harvests that would provide grain, wine and oil. Ember Days also became associated with intercessory prayer for those to be ordained to ministry.
Pastoral Approach to Rogation Days
Many already consider January 22nd (a day of penance for violations to human dignity as a result of abortion), July 4th (American Independence Day), Labor Day and Thanksgiving Day as modem-day equivalents to Rogation Days. However, this does not preclude a diocese from observing other Rogation Days.
Pastoral Approach to Ember Days
In many coral dioceses, days are already set aside for asking God's blessing on the harvest, the granting of sufficient rain and a general protection against storms. However, the notion of an "Ember Day" may be understood from a broader perspective.
Dioceses could begin consideration of Ember Day observances by consulting the Roman Missal, and especially the Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions. In line with their specific needs, dioceses might then set aside one day in each season (with or without fast and abstinence) and encourage special intentions to be prayed for accordingly. In this way, the many and varied needs of the Church can be addressed flexibly and practically.