Discussing the rituals of life and the rituals of the Catholic Church – a little something for everyone!

Hey folks,
my apologies for leaving you hanging after only cover 2 of the 5 rituals for this most holy time. As many of you can attest to, this season is also the most hectic for those of us involved in the planning and executing of these once-a-year rituals. The good news is we will celebrate them again next year so I will pick them up where I left off — and I’ll do it earlier so that those of you who plan might get some ideas you can use in your own parishes. Sound good? I hope so. So please stay with me – I’m only human and I will disappoint at time.

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For the first ten years of my ministry in the Church, I functioned as a Cantor at Cathedral liturgies and learned early on to appreciate and love those rituals that are particular to the diocesan Mother Church. The yearly Chrism Mass is one of those forgotten or unseen by most regular Catholics because it it is only celebrated at a Cathedral and usually at a time deemed most inconvenient for working folks.  Originally meant for the morning of Holy Thursday, at least in the United States it is usually moved to an early time during Holy Week to allow all clergy in a diocese to attend without having to hurry back to their parishes for the evening start of Triduum.  Of the six Dioceses that are within an hour of my home, two of them (Providence & Springfield) celebrated this ancient rite on Monday evening while the other four (Boston, Fall River, Norwich and Worcester) chose various times on Tuesday for their rituals.  This year, due to my work schedule, I was unable to attend in person but thanks to those wonderful folks at CatholicTV (you really should sign their petition to bring that great channel to your cable system or, better yet, watch them on the web) I was able to record and playback the Mass yesterday while I was home practicing for the three days ahead.

The Chrism Mass serves a dual purpose in the life of the Catholic Church – to renew the promises made by priests at their ordination and to bless and consecrate the Holy Oils (Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism – the latter from which is ritual takes its name) used by parishes during the year. Unfortunately, because it is probably the largest clergy gathering of the year (in my estimations it usually surpasses most ordinations – your mileage may vary) it has and continues to become a lightening rod for supporters of women’s ordination.  Ok, here’s my rant of the day (please feel free to scroll down if you’re not interested – thanks) –> Ladies, as one of you who can understand your pain, let’s be rational here – the Church is not going to change its mind on this issue any time soon so picketing, shouting and processing down the middle aisle at any point during this celebration just serves to make things worse.  I learned early on that no one – male or female – has a RIGHT to ordination.  It is a CALL to service and while it is not open to us at this time we as women ARE called to service in this Church and in more areas now than ever before in its history.  Let us focus on that, do our very best at what God is calling each of us to do and wait upon the Spirit to move in its time, not ours.  This is a time in our Church where we need to be united with our clergy, not heaping more coal upon their heads as they try to do what they are called to do. (“Have I said too much? There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you…”) Rant complete for today.
Back to the ritual – After the Homily, the Bishop asks the priests to stand and renew their priestly commitment before the assembly, who he then asks to support himself and these priests in their ministry.  This exchange takes the place of both the Creed and the General Intercession.  After this, the Procession of the Oils and the Gifts of Bread and Wine takes place so that the oils may be blessed and consecrated at this time.  There is a little known (and hardly ever used in these parts) tradition that has the Oil of the Sick blessed at the end of the Eucharist Prayer while the others are blessed and consecrated after Communion but I believe most dioceses in this country prefer the ritual after the Liturgy of the Word and before the Eucharistic Prayer.  So, once the procession reaches the sanctuary, those who are carrying the vessels with oil – and there are usually two bearers for each container because they are usually large, ornate and decently heavy once filled – wait to be called forward to place their vessel on the table setup somewhere appropriate in the space.  Both the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens are blessed, while the Sacred Chrism is first mixed with balsam which gives it its distinctly sweet smell and then breathed upon by the Bishop in a calling down of the Holy Spirit. Then all the priests extend their right hands toward the Chrism in solidarity to finish the prayer yet it is the Bishop who actually consecrates this most sacred of oils.  Once this is done, the Mass continues as usual.
Of all the Masses I’ve ministered or attended in my adult years, this one is up there as one of my favorites and I try my best to attend when I can.  Since this blog appears on Thursday afternoon, I hope my humble musings will make you think about possibly attending your own diocese’s ritual next year. Put a reminder in your iDevice now with an alarm set for the beginning of Lent so that you can give yourself a chance to visit your Cathedral and experience this sacred tradition.

First off, thanks to all those who contacted me offline to see how I was feeling after my tussle with the stomach bug.  I am now fully recovered (except for diminished appetite, which is good for losing some weight) and fully involved in my most favorite time of the liturgical year.  Never mind Christmas with its heavy commercial promotion – Holy Week, Triduum and Easter are more off of the pop culture radar and less controversial (unless you’re from my area where some have outlawed the “Easter Bunny” for, well, you can guess why…).  I’ll trade evergreens, carols and poinsettias for palms, chants and lilies any day!  In honor of my love for this holiest week of the Church’s year, I’ve also set out to redeem myself with my online readers and present a series of explanations on these complicated, once-a-year rituals.

Too ambitious a project for an overworked DRE & Liturgist?  Perhaps.  Am I certifiably crazy for trying this my first week back on the blog?  You betcha!

Anyway, I’m willing to give it a shot if you’re willing to read and comment.  I need your feedback to make this work so let’s begin with today special celebrations:

Holy Week begins with the Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem on what is to be titled in the forthcoming new translation as Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.  There are three different movements that can begin this ritual journey:
1) a full procession from a place distinct from the church of celebration before the principal Mass
2) a solemn entrance from the door or inside the church
3) a simple entrance like any other Sunday

Now, the first two would include not only movement around the church by those assembled but also the proclamation of the Gospel from either Matthew (year A) Mark or John (year B) or Luke (year C) on Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. I have discovered in the last 20-30 years that American Catholics either do not like to process or don’t know how to do so in a reverent way. Inviting them to start in a different place than their regular seat at Mass is met with indifference, indignation or the request is just plain ignored.  I grew up in a Azorean (Portuguese) American culture where processions (even out in the streets of my hometown) were a way of church life so one learned early how to do so with respect and precision.  That’s why I have a hard time comprehending why it takes so much coaxing and prodding to get folks to leave their seats and move around or from one liturgical space to another.  Processions are not done simply to move Bishops, liturgical ministers or sacramental candidates from point A to point B – they serve to remind us of the pilgrimages of old, when folks would take a trip to a holy place in order to learn something about themselves and their faith.  When that type of travel was made easier over the centuries, processions outside of our churches evolved into a reflection of our own spiritual journey that sometimes need to be publicly demonstrated.  Ritually, there are only three real processions in our church year that begs for everyone in the pew to become a part of – the one that opens Palm Sunday, the one that takes the reserved Eucharist to its place of repose on Holy Thursday and the one at the start of the Easter Vigil.  Some traditions include one on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ but those become ethnically driven, much like what I experienced as a child when we processed the “dead body” of Jesus after the Good Friday ritual or took to the streets in honor of the Holy Spirit around Pentecost.  In any case, I guess my hope is that if you are asked to move from your comfortable pew and “take a stroll” around the church this year, give it a sincere try – ritual movement is not just for priests, deacons and altar servers!

**gets down off her liturgical soap box now – that will happen occasionally**  Back to the subject at hand –

Once the palms are blessed and the Gospel is read, the rubrics suggest that a brief homily may be given – I believe the only time in our year that two different homilies can happen in one celebration. My pastor/boss chooses this time to speak on the importance of this day as the gateway to the Triduum and then, after the Passion, he encourages us to reflect on what we have just heard in silence.  As Hosannas are sung to accompany the procession, we move from the Hall to the Church where most folks have left something at their usual seat to tell others that it is occupied.  That works most of the time.  Now, if we begin with a solemn entrance, folks gather usually inside at the doors of the church while others are in their seats.  All of what happens during the first option happens here as well.  This is usually the choice if the weather outside is “frightful” or can be chosen at other parish Masses not considered the “Principal” Mass.  These days most pastors in my neck of the woods would not make that distinction outside of the 7 or 8am Masses in the morning, where they also would use the shorter version of the Passion.  FInally, the simple entrance is just that – simply how we begin Mass at any other time during the year without hearing the entrance Gospel.  I would hope this third option is used very sparingly because this Sunday and its pageantry sets the tone of the entire week and sets it apart from the rest of the liturgical year.

After the opening Mass continues in the usual way until the reading of the Passion, which this year is taken from Matthew’s Gospel (this being Year A in our three year cycle).  Traditionally, it is meant to be chanted by three readers, but how many pastors, deacons and lectors do YOU know that can pull this off well and do it multiple times over the weekend?  While this is a lofty goal, it is usually not even attempted.  Rubrics in the new translation do not stay far from the old ones, which state that the Gospel can be “read by read by (lay) readers, with the part of Christ, if possible, reserved to the Priest.” (Instruction from Passion Sunday Mass – 1986 Sacramentary).  While I’m good with dividing this up between readers and even adding a musical refrain to have the an acclamation from the assembly now and then, I have never been a fan of the missalette or hymnal publishers who insist on having the pew folks read, mostly in a drone and with the flipping of pages, parts of the scripture in an attempt to “get them involved” in this long proclamation, especially if they are standing the entire time (I won’t touch upon the “pastoral” practice of sitting at this time – maybe in my Good Friday tome but not today).  In the Liturgy of the Word, scripture is supposed to be LISTENED to by proclamation of the Lector, Deacon or Priest.  It is NOT a participatory action at any other time of the year and I believe that doing so on these holy days doesn’t help Mass goers absorb any better than if they were listening attentively and singing an acclamation at appropriate intervals.  Three good proclaimers, rehearsed and engaged in their task, makes a much better impact and is more reverent to the task.

If there is one thing you will learn about me, it is that no matter what, I am faithfully to the liturgy and its movements.  It is a living entity which, while static on paper, is fluid and spirit-driven in practice, never experienced the same way twice by those who participate in it. Again, more on that at a later date – just giving you more insight into how I look at and respect what I do.

I’d like to know what your Passion/Palm Sunday experiences were this weekend in your part of the planet so please leave a comment or two for myself and  others to learn from.  I’ll be back in a day or two to talk about the one liturgy of Holy Week that few people get a chance to participate in — that is, unless you are part of the clergy – The Chrism Mass.

…ok, a LOT under the weather, so that is why there has not been a post from me this week. Caught that lousy stomach bug and have renewed my acquaintance with my red comfy couch, while food and I have not yet regained our mutual like for each other. If you get a moment please send a healing prayer my way so I can at least get back to my day job, say like, tomorrow? If I stay away too long they’ll figure out they can easily do without me (just kidding…or am I?). 😉

“I”ll be back…” (done in her best Ah-nold impression)

Some of the best ideas in this life start out as throwaway asides – you know, the “yeah, like that would really work” or “wouldn’t it be funny if we could…” type of statements made casually to friends or colleagues. However, it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually follow through with what seems like a cockamamie notion and turn it into something that could help others find Christ and His Church. Well, folks, about 10 days ago Greg Willits of The Catholics Next Door fame (Sirius 159/XM 117 — gregandjennifer.com) started musing about a day set aside to have everyone who possibly could promote Catholic New Media across the vast Internet universe. What may have started as an off handed comment on their radio show has now turned into a full-fledged media event complete with a contest to win a free iPad 2 (how totally New Media/Internet-ish!). Seriously, on this day 3/15/2011 all of us who either produce Catholic Media, consume Catholic Media or desire to know more about Catholic Media are being commissioned to “use Facebook, Twitter and blogs to promote all the great Catholic content that is out there on the internet.”

Tall order? You betcha! But according to Greg, “there’s strength in numbers – let’s get the word out on one day about Catholic New Media.”

Ok, Mr. Willits, you have thrown down a mighty heavy gauntlet but as someone who is not afraid of a challenge, I am picking it up and running with it! The assignment is to “list their favorite 3 blogs, 3 podcasts, 3 other media, 3 random Catholic things online, and their own projects” (and the number 3 is very Trinitarian, Greg – good touch!). I tried to think of sites and media that are not as well known but then I suppose what will be very common to some may be very new to others. No matter – it’s the “getting the word out” part that important so here are my selections with a little bit of commentary on the side:

Blogs —
Let Us Walk Together: Thoughts of a Catholic Bishop – this is a relatively new endeavor by an old friend who recently was ordained auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Bishop Chris Coyne, a definite overachiever, has also started a podcast to go with it – how many bishops do YOU know would even try something like that in their first few weeks?

Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray – Dr. Jerry Galipeau from World Library Publications shares reflections on current events in the Church and in the world that may be of particular interest to those serving the Church, including a focus on the upcoming translation of the Roman Missal every Tuesday and Thursday.

Whispers in the Loggia – who doesn’t love a good Vatican insider? Rocco Palmo has kept us all informed about the goings on in Rome and at home here in the US for quite some time. His blog was my first taste of Catholic New Media and one I read constantly.

Podcasts — (can all be found at iTunes)
The Break with Fr. Roderick (www.sqpn.com) – my first and favorite Catholic podcast!

Busted Halo Cast (www.bustedhalo.com) – Fr. Dave Dwyer, Brittany & the intern du jour answer questions from young (and not so young) faith-seekers.

Word on Fire (www.wordonfire.org)- one of the best preachers on the planet, Fr. Robert Baron, explains it all for you! Best 15 minutes of your week!

Other Media
The Catholics Next Door (Sirius 159/XM 117 The Catholic Channel from 10am – 1pm EDT daily) – I signed up for Sirius Satellite Radio just to hear them on the Catholic Channel after discovering their Rosary Army podcast. Best money I spend every month, that is, when I can find the time to listen. Darn parish job… 😉

The Catholic Guy Show (Sirius 159/XM 117 The Catholic Channel from 4-7pm daily) – I must admit I didn’t like Lino Rulli at first but he has grown on me (hey oh!). Best surprise I discovered on the Catholic Channel (it’s a celebration!). Maybe someday I’ll call in and take on Fr. Rob at “Do you watch more TV than a Catholic Priest?”

Grace Before Meals – Fr. Leo Patalinghug is reaching families through their stomaches – sorta like Jesus did. Check out his website, buy his cookbook, invite him to your parish. You won’t be disappointed – we certainly were’t!

Random catholic things — since I’m a Mac girl then how about APPS!
My 3 must have apps would be:

Divine Office – an audio with text version of the daily Liturgy of the Hours beautifully done and great for half hour commutes.

iCatholic – Catholic TV’s Digital Magazine complete with series listings and informative articles (do YOU have Catholic TV on your cable system? If not, sign their petition!)

iMissal – all the readings for everyday of the liturgical year and now includes Mass videos from Catholic TV! (looks really great on the iPad)

Now, I’m supposed to toot my own horn as well so toot I will! The Rite Stuff is a new blog dedicated to all things liturgical, ritual and sacramental — including and particularly the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal. I’ve also toyed with the idea of a podcast to go along with it (“anything you can do, I can do better…” – inside joke) but for now, given my real life restrictions, I think the blog will be all I can handle. If you’d like to see where I minister and what we do then point your browser to sstandctiverton.org and check out the dual parishes of St. Theresa and St. Christopher in picturesque Tiverton, Rhode Island. We’re neighbors to the iPadre himself, Fr. Jay Finelli (ipadre.net or holyghostcc.org) so go and check him out as well!

Well, I’ve certainly done my part – it’s up to you to check out some or all of my suggestions. Good luck and God Bless! (and ya’ll come back now, ya hear!)

…or want to watch the replay on Catholic TV with “color commentary” then click below!  It was a time of great praise & prayer as an old friend became, of all things, a Bishop!  Who knew?  Enjoy!

http://www.coveritlive.com/index.php?option=com_altcaster&task=siteviewaltcast&altcast_code=8c7a77130b

Looks like it’s a good day to ordain a bishop in Indy, eh?  Right after the Apple event @ 1pm EST drop on by here at 2pm for my first ever live blogging event – the Episcopal Ordination of Christopher J. Coyne. Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis.  If you’ve never experienced a Catholic ordination set one browser to www.archindy.org and watch it live.  Then set a browser here and I’ll try and explain everything that’s happening.  Just so you know, I used to be a cathedral cantor back in the day and participated in many of these – deacon, priest & bishop – so if I don’t know all the details at least I know where to look them up quickly!  Stop by later as we celebrate this great day for the Church of Indy and for all of “the Bish’s” friends back here in MA/RI.  Ad Multos Annos!