Clarification on Posture of the Faithful Following Individual Reception of Holy Communion
During recent months, the Secretariat for the Liturgy has received numerous inquiries concerning the proper posture of the faithful after each communicant has individually received Holy Communion at Mass.
Many Bishops have directed that the appropriate posture of the faithful during the distribution of Holy Communion is to stand. They have based this on the text of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 431 which states that the people stand until the period of sacred silence following the reception of Holy Communion has begun. But when does this period of sacred silence begin? GIRM, no. 86 notes that “the singing [of the communion song] is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.” The period of sacred silence would seem to begin, therefore, once all have received Holy Communion; hence, the appropriate posture of the faithful during the distribution of Holy Communion is standing.
However, because of the widespread and longstanding practice of individuals returning to their places to kneel or sit in private prayer after having individually received Holy Communion, this provision has caused controversy in many dioceses.
In an effort to clarify the situation, Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Chairman of the Committee on the Liturgy, submitted a dubium concerning this matter to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on May 26, 2003. On June 5, 2003, Cardinal George received the following response (Prot. n. 855/03/L) from Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:
Dubium: In many places, the faithful are accustomed to kneeling or sitting in personal prayer upon returning to their places after having individually received Holy Communion during Mass. Is it the intention of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, to forbid this practice?
Responsum: Negative, et ad mentem. The mens is that the prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, no. 43, is intended, on the one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.
In the implementation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore, posture should not be regulated so rigidly as to forbid individual communicants from kneeling or sitting when returning from having received Holy Communion.
June Meeting of the Committee on the Liturgy
On June 17-18, 2003 the members, consultants and advisors of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy met at the Hyatt Union Station Hotel in Saint Louis, Missouri. The Committee on the Liturgy began with a discussion of several recent projects, including The Forum on the Fortieth Anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pope John Paul II’s recent encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the upcoming Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, ICEL’s recent work on translating the Missale Romanum, and BCL initiatives to facilitate an effective reception of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia.
Revised Statutes of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy
In accordance with the publication of Liturgiam authenticam, no. 103, the ICEL Episcopal Board has re-drafted the ICEL Statutes. On June 1, 2003, Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. sent a copy of the latest revision of the ICEL statutes to all Bishop members of the USCCB in order to facilitate a discussion at the June plenary meeting. In that correspondence he wrote: “Liturgiam authenticam, no. 93 recommends that the member Episcopal Conferences of a mixed commission deliberate the composition of its statutes before they are submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for approval. Your consideration of this matter is, therefore, appreciated by all those who have worked for the reform of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy according to the requirements of Liturgiam authenticam.” The Committee on the Liturgy discussed the statutes at some length, noting their close correspondence to the requirements of Liturgiam authenticam and recommending their presentation to the Holy See by the ICEL Episcopal Board. The next day, the full body of Bishops deliberated the same statutes and, in a voice vote, unanimously endorsed the Committee’s motion.
The Revision of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest
On June 2, 1988, The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments promulgated the Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest (SCAP). On November 7, 1989, Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, in English and Spanish, was approved by the NCCB in accordance with no. 41 of the Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. During the years 1996 -1997, the BCL and the FDLC sponsored a series of national workshops on Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. In the fall of 1998, the FDLC passed an urgent resolution that the BCL appoint a task force to revise this liturgical book. On March 19, 2001, the BCL passed a resolution unanimously calling for the formation of a task group to complete a revised draft of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest: Leader’s Edition. This task group finished its work at a meeting held in Washington, DC, May 21 -23, 2003 and the Most Reverend George V. Murry, SJ, Bishop of the Virgin Islands and chairman of the task group, presented the results to the BCL. The revised text, which was approved by the BCL for submission to the November, 2003 plenary session of the USCCB, includes significant revisions to the introduction, including an expansion of the book’s pastoral, theological and liturgical notes. The effectiveness of ritual distinctions regarding lay presiders, the selection and use of Sunday collects, and efforts to clarify the distinction between Sunday Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, Sunday Celebration of the Hours, and the Rite of Distributing Holy Communion Outside Mass were addressed. Finally, certain questions of translation and layout were considered.
Resource on the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament Outside Mass
On March 17, 2003, the Committee on the Liturgy considered a draft resource entitled, Twenty-Five Questions On Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for publication in the BCL Newsletter. Following that meeting, the Secretariat for the Liturgy incorporated into the draft text the observations of the Committee members, as well as excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s recent encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. At its June, 2003 meeting, the BCL further revised and expanded the document, which will appear as a bi-lingual resource, entitled, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: A BCL Resource. Excerpts from this resource will appear in the August, 2003 edition of the BCL Newsletter.
A Formation Week for the Updating of Diocesan Liturgical Personnel
The Committee heard a report on plans for a formation week for diocesan liturgical personnel to be held in Rome in July, 2004. Jointly sponsored by the Committee on the Liturgy and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the twelve day program will include a review of current liturgical questions as presented by officials of the Congregation and the BCL Secretariat. Final plans for the program will be approved at the November, 2003 meeting of the BCL.
Holy Days of Obligation
The Committee reflected at length on the widespread confusion resulting from the present practice in the United States in regard to Holy Days of Obligation. While no proposal for USCCB action was approved at this time, the Secretariat was directed to pursue further research, especially in the area of the nature of perceptual obligation and its reception in the culture of the United States of America.
The Revision of the Lectionary for Masses with Children
A progress report was presented by the Most Reverend Blase J. Cupich, Bishop of Rapid City and Chairman of the Task Group for the Revision of the Lectionary for Masses with Children. Bishop Cupich reviewed the Introduction to the Lectionary completed in the course of the task group’s most recent meeting from May 9-11, 2003 in Washington D.C. The task group has also approved preliminary principles for the adaptation of the Lectionary for Mass as a basis for revisions in the Lectionary for Masses with Children and hopes to complete this revision by the Spring of 2004.
Revision of USCCB Guidelines for Concelebration of the Eucharist
On November 17, 1999, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to approve revised Guidelines for the Concelebration of the Eucharist. Earlier editions of these guidelines were previously approved by the Committee on the Liturgy in 1978 and 1987, and were published as a statement of the Committee on the Liturgy. With the publication of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, changes have been introduced into the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) which impact the Concelebration guidelines. The Committee, therefore, approved a revised edition of Guidelines for the Concelebration of the Eucharist for presentation to the November, 2003 meeting of the USCCB, incorporating changes found in the GIRM, 2000.
The Committee also discussed the means by which the promotion and staffing of International Eucharistic Congresses might best be accomplished. The BCL prepared a resource document on The Relationship of Eucharist and Penance which will be reviewed again at its November, 2003 meeting. Among other topics discussed was the 1975 statement of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on dance and the liturgy, and the authority of the Diocesan Bishop in regard to female altar servers. Reports were also heard from the Hispanic Liturgy Subcommittee, the Liturgy and Music Subcommittee, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, and the National Hispanic Institute for Liturgy.
Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls) - November 1-2, 2003
In 2003, the Solemnity of All Saints will fall on Saturday, November 1. In accord with the USCCB decision of November 1991, confirmed by the Apostolic See in July 1992, the precept to attend Mass on this day is abrogated. Since the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated, the funeral Mass may be celebrated on this day (General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 336). November 1, however, remains a Solemnity and ritual Masses are forbidden on this day (GIRM, no. 330). Since most marriages in the United States are celebrated on Saturdays, pastors should take care in scheduling weddings on this date. While the ritual Mass for marriage is forbidden on the Solemnity of All Saints, the Mass of the day with the nuptial blessing may be celebrated. In addition, one of the readings may be changed. The Rite of Marriage outside Mass may also be celebrated.
The Solemnity of All Saints begins with Evening Prayer I on Friday, October 31, and concludes with the celebration of Evening Prayer II of the Solemnity on November 1. The Liturgy of the Hours on Sunday, November 2, 2003, All Souls Day, is that of the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time. When Morning and Evening Prayer are celebrated with the people, however, these Hours may be taken from the Office for the Dead. If the Eucharist is celebrated on the evening of Friday, October 31, the Mass is that of the Solemnity of All Saints. If the Eucharist is celebrated on Saturday evening, November 1, the Mass is that of All Souls Day and is taken from the section, “Masses for the Dead,” in the Sacramentary. The following chart may be helpful in this regard:
|Date||Liturgy of the Hours||Evening Mass|
|Friday, October 31st||EP I of All Saints||Evening Mass for All Saints|
|Saturday, November 1st||EP II of All Saints||Evening Mass for All Souls|
|Sunday, November 2nd||MP and EP of the 31st Sunday in Ordinary time. When celebrated with the people, however, these hours may be taken from the Office of the Dead.||Evening Mass for All Souls|
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - December 8, 2003
In 2003, December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, will fall on a Monday. In accord with the USCCB decision of November 1991, confirmed by the Apostolic See in July 1992, the precept to attend Mass on this Solemnity is maintained, even when it falls on a Saturday or Monday. Therefore, Monday, December 8, 2003, will be a holy day of obligation for the faithful in the United States.
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception begins with Evening Prayer I on Sunday, December 7, and concludes with the celebration of Evening Prayer II of the Solemnity on December 8th. However, in light of the fact that Sunday evening Masses are a common occurrence in many parts of the United States, the Eucharist celebrated on the evening of Sunday, December 7th, may be either the Mass of the Sunday or of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, provided that this is made clear to the faithful in advance.
1 “The faithful should stand…from after the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren)…until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below.” In regard to this exception from standing, GIRM, no. 43 also states that the faithful “may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.”