Advice for Liturgists

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I am not enamored of change for the sake of change. But change can be a good and healthy response when it deals merely with discipline and practice and not doctrine.

However, in the past several months we've undergone two significant changes to the liturgy as the diocese finally got in gear and implemented the GIRM. As part of this, it was determined, but not particularly well announced that we would all stand after the Agnus Dei until the last person had received communion. (This was the instruction prior to November.)

In November a new instruction was released which was not announced or implemented in my parish until about three weeks ago. This one restored the kneeling during communion, but had an odd assortment of kneelings and risings between the Agnus Dei and communion. (If I understood the instruction properly we are to stand during the Angus Dei, kneel during the "Lord I am not worthy", stand between the end of the "Lord I am not worthy" and kneel or sit after reception.) Once again the instruction was communicated in the bulletin but not "taught" so as a result in and around communion we have people doing everything imaginable, standing, kneeling, sitting, riverdance--you name it.

Now, I have no idea why we received two sets of instructions so close together. But it little matters. If we are to do them, we must know and understand them. And if we are to celebrate as one body, everyone should be doing the same thing at the same time. This is where I plead with liturgists and with those who are in charge of instructing the people--please do so. Don't rely on the bulletin--evidence indicates that fewer than half the people read it, or at least half do not understand it. Perhaps in the weeks following the instruction it would not be remiss to ask the priest or the deacon or even the cantor (if they are readily visible) to use hand signals to indicate whether or not we should be standing. (There might still be confusion of kneeling/sitting, but at least we'd have the worst of the confusion done away with.)

I also know that there are limits as to what can be done by a liturgist without being disruptive. But what could be more disruptive than having your neighbor lean over and say "You're supposed to be standing," when you know for a fact that it said you were supposed to be kneeling?

If change must occur--an in a living liturgy it CAN and will occur, then it should be introduced and gently guided in a way that all will know what is expected. As I said, I have no real problem with change, but a severe problem with not knowing what the change is or what I'm supposed to be doing--worship and adoration are difficult when you're busy thinking about standing/sitting/kneeling and trying to decide who actually got it right.

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Announcements like this, appearing in the bulletin, may indicate what that the changes were mandated at the diocesan level, but the pastor doesn't approve. That happened in some parishes in my diocese — and, after an initial outcry against some changes, a few more were made some months later, to fine-tune the change.

Of course, the real fun is that our diocese banned kneeling from the end of the EP to the end of communion (exactly as in your parish), and in recompense we were to have a period of silence after communion, during which one could sit or kneel and pray silently.

Instead, kneeling during communion (and apparently after the Agnus Dei as well) was subsequently re-permitted, while I have rarely, if ever, seen a priest observe a moment of silence after communion. As soon as communion ends, they start making announcements, or whatever it is they do when the music stops.

After the chaos of the last few years, I think Rome should revoke the American Bishops' authority to monkey with the liturgy, and we all end up doing what's in the standard GIRM, and liturgists be d-mned.

Dear Jack,

I tend to agree. On the other hand, as I said, I'm not opposed to change, merely resistant, and my resistance expands exponentially when the change is improperly delivered and everyone is left wondering what it is we're supposed to be doing.

I also agree that this diocese by diocese thing may not be the best practice because we've now ceased to have anything remotely resembling Catholic practice even within the United States. At one time I could go to a Church and count on knowing what I was supposed to do, but now I have serious doubts and that is a very serious problem in present practice.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 21, 2005 8:40 AM.

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