Tag Archives: Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Sign of Peace at Mass

Recently, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a Circular Letter entitled “The Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass” (July 8, 2014).  Pope Francis approved and ordered its publication. The letter deals with the question of the Sign of Peace resolving the question whether the Holy See would move the Sign of Peace to an earlier part in the Mass; a question bantered around by liturgists for years. As a note, the Eastern Churches place the Sign of Peace before the Eucharistic prayer; I am speaking about the Western Church here.

At the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, the synod fathers raised the question of the moving of the Sign of Peace because of the perceived disruption of what the Sign of Peace  has become. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI noted in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritas (2007), stated:

“[D]uring the Synod of Bishops there was discussion about the appropriateness of greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly just before the reception of Communion. It should be kept in mind that nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one’s immediate neighbors.”

The Church made the decision to leave the Sign of Peace where it is. The Letter explains:

In the Roman liturgical tradition, the exchange of peace is placed before Holy Communion with its own specific theological significance. Its point of reference is found in the Eucharistic contemplation of the Paschal mystery as the “Paschal kiss” of the Risen Christ present on the altar as in contradistinction to that done by other liturgical traditions which are inspired by the Gospel passage from St. Matthew (cf. Mt 5: 23: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”).

The ritual gesture needs to cohere with the theology. The Church makes a crucial distinction that we need to be aware of: the sign of peace at Mass refers to the Risen Christ’s gift of His peace, it is paschal in nature. The fitting-ness of this rite is placed just before the moment when Jesus will feed His people with His own Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Jesus Christ is our peace, and only from Him is our peace known, lived and an invitation to our conversion. The sign of peace, as a minor rite in the Mass, must reflect this divine gift and not distract us as we prepare to receive that gift of Christ’s peace in the Holy Eucharist. The exchange of peace in many places is done with a superficial and sentimental bearing no mind to who is before us.

 Too often the sign of peace is a breaking of contemplation, a turning away from the Eucharistic Lord present before us on the altar; too often the focus is on the person and community.

Now with the Circular Letter the application of the rite calls for the need to be reverent and sober in the exchange of a sign of the Lord’s peace. It gives “practical guidelines. . .to better explain the content of the exchange of peace and to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion.”

Moreover: “If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly due to specific circumstances or if it is not considered pedagogically wise to carry it out on certain occasions, it can be omitted, and sometimes ought to be omitted. It is worth recalling that the rubric from the Missal states: ‘Then, if appropriate, the Deacon of the Priest, adds: Let us offer each other the sign of peace.’”

The Sign of Peace, therefore, is not required at Mass. The Holy See is clearly concerned that this optional rite has become the occasion for all sorts of problems and distractions. The Letter lists “abuses” that we must “definitively avoid”: singing a song of peace during the exchange of the sign of peace, people moving around the church to exchange the sign of peace with others, the priest leaving the altar to give the sign of peace to the faithful in the pews, and the not uncommon practice of using the sign of peace at special Masses such as weddings or funerals as an “occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences among those present.”

The faithful accustomed to a more free manner of the sign of peace will say that “this is a key moment of connection with others at Mass, it helps to focus on what we are doing, I like saying hello to my friends, and meeting new people,” or some such thing. At a local parish the people are now waving at each other, which is yet another problem. While all of these things are good, they are not fitting in the praying of the Mass. Let me say decisively, we are not under attack from Rome; we are asked to consider what we are doing, why we are doing it, and to be coherent in liturgical practice and tradition.

Liturgical order in Mass is important in the worship of God. I have come to worship the Trinity; not to be distracted.

Baptismal rite changes

One of the last significant changes made in our Rite of Baptism was made shortly before the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI. This is the news that Sandro Magister speaks of in his article today, “Pope Benedict’s Parting Shot.”

The official vernacular texts are not yet available, but you can read all of what is expected in Magister’s article. Antonius Cardinal Cañizares, the Prefect of the Congregation For Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments signed the decree on 22 February 2013. The decreed was effective on 31 March 2013.

What Pope Benedict does is to tighten up our sacramental and ecclesiological theology by changing those phrases that have vague or merely generic language. I am not a generic Christian: I am a member of the Catholic Church in all the fullness that it implies. The sacrament of Baptism as lived in the Catholic Church is clear: the baptized person is made a member of the Body of Christ –the Catholic Church, he is an adopted child of God, his is washed of Original Sin and he is given a pledge of eternal life.

The decree’s opening paragraph reads:

“The gate of life and of the kingdom, baptism is a sacrament of faith, by which men are incorporated into the one Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.”

The push back from some may come down to saying that the Pope emeritus was being overly fussy or causing more ecumenical controversy or exerting more ecclesiastical power. All of which, in my opinion, criticism that is not well-placed.

I am curious, as Sandro Magister is, why the Holy See has been quiet about this change. While it is not appropriate to second guess the Holy See but it seems like there is something of goof here by not letting the rest of the world know about the change in the rite of Baptism. Remember: Baptism is the gateway sacrament to all else in our personal and ecclesial history of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Adding the name of St Joseph to the Eucharistic Prayer

St Joseph with child.jpg

The Prefect and Secretary of Congregation for Divine Worship have prepared a decree, Paternas vices (Prot. N. 215/11/L), indicating that in praying Eucharistic prayers II-IV, the priest is to insert the name of Saint Joseph. The decree states: “henceforth” and “… by virtue of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff FRANCIS, is pleased to decree that the name of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is henceforth to be added to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, IV….”

Blessed John XXIII added the name of Saint Joseph to the Roman Canon in 1962.

At this point, no effective date has been determined for usage (See CIC 8). However, the cover letter from the USCCB General Secretary mentions that it is to be done “as soon as possible.” There is, however, a significant question as to when the priest can legitimately make the change in the Eucharistic Prayer.

The Latin:

II: “ut cum beáta Dei Genetríce Vírgine María, beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, beátis Apóstolis”
III: “cum beatissíma Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María, cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, cum beátis Apóstolis”
IV: “cum beáta Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María, cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, cum Apóstolis”

The English:

II: that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with Blessed Joseph, her Spouse, with the blessed Apostles

III: with the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, her Spouse, with your blessed Apostles and glorious Martyrs

IV: with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God with blessed Joseph, her Spouse, and with your Apostles

The Spanish:

II: con María, la Virgen Madre de Dios, su esposo san José, los apóstoles y…

III: con María, la Virgen Madre de Dios, su esposo san José, los apóstoles y los mártires…

IV: con María, la Vigen Madre de Dios, con su esposo san José, con los apóstoles y los santos…

Ite ad Ioseph


Joseph EP Paternas vices decree.jpg

The Spirit of the Liturgy from Benedict to Francis

Abbot Michael C. Zielinski OSB, undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, discusses what is being taught by the most recent pontiffs. Abbot Michael notes the continuity and distinctions in celebrating of the sacred Liturgy by Popes Benedict and Pope Francis. But there are some things that Abbot Michael notes that are not liturgical per se, “the spirit” can be a bit vague some ways. Moreover, there are things that are already expected as the result of the theology and upheld by the rubrics. More reflection on what the synthesis and art of celebrating means, teaches and how it sanctifies. Here is a beginning… The Catholic News Service provides the video feed.

Benedictine Father Michael Zielinski appointed Head of Office for the Pope’s Worship Office

zielinski-sisinono.jpgThe Pope appointed Benedictine Abbot Christopher Michael John Zielinski to the be the Head of the Office (office manager) of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on Saturday, 24 November 2012. He is the number 3 person in the Congregation serving with Antonio Cardinal Cañizares, Archbishop Arthur Roche and Father Anthony Ward, SM.

Dom Michael, 59, a native of Lakewood, Ohio, is a monk of the Olivetan Congregation of Benedictines having professed monastic vows in 1972, who studied at Sant’Anselmo and ordained in 1977. Dom Michael is a past religious superior of the Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Pecos, NM). Until now and since 8 May 2008, he’s been the vice president of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology.
He is also a consultor to the same Congregation. 
Dom Michael gave an interview that covered his thinking on the Tridentine Mass in 2007.
Saint Benedict, pray for us.
Saint Bernard Tolomei, pray for Abbot Michael in his new work for the Church.
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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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