Babies in the Offertory Procession

And More on the Doxology

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ROME, JUNE 1, 2010 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I want to know if it is appropriate to include newborn babies in the offertory procession and after which the priest would take the baby around the altar three times. I ask this because I know that you cannot add or subtract anything from the Mass. Also, is it usually permitted to go for adoration on Sunday after attending Mass, which is the greatest act of Catholic worship? I know that during the consecration when the host and chalice is raised we have the privilege to adore Christ. — D.A., Accra, Ghana

A: Regarding the offertory, in 2004 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments published the instruction «Redemptionis Sacramentum.» This document gives precise indications regarding the presentation of the gifts:

«[70.] The offerings that Christ’s faithful are accustomed to present for the Liturgy of the Eucharist in Holy Mass are not necessarily limited to bread and wine for the eucharistic celebration, but may also include gifts given by the faithful in the form of money or other things for the sake of charity toward the poor. Moreover, external gifts must always be a visible expression of that true gift that God expects from us: a contrite heart, the love of God and neighbor by which we are conformed to the sacrifice of Christ, who offered himself for us. For in the Eucharist, there shines forth most brilliantly that mystery of charity that Jesus brought forth at the Last Supper by washing the feet of the disciples. In order to preserve the dignity of the Sacred Liturgy, in any event, the external offerings should be brought forward in an appropriate manner. Money, therefore, just as other contributions for the poor, should be placed in an appropriate place which should be away from the eucharistic table. Except for money and occasionally a minimal symbolic portion of other gifts, it is preferable that such offerings be made outside the celebration of Mass.»

After the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist Benedict XVI continued this reflection in his apostolic exhortation «Sacramentum Caritatis»:

«47. The Synod Fathers also drew attention to the presentation of the gifts. This is not to be viewed simply as a kind of ‘interval’ between the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. To do so would tend to weaken, at the least, the sense of a single rite made up of two interrelated parts. This humble and simple gesture is actually very significant: in the bread and wine that we bring to the altar, all creation is taken up by Christ the Redeemer to be transformed and presented to the Father. In this way we also bring to the altar all the pain and suffering of the world, in the certainty that everything has value in God’s eyes. The authentic meaning of this gesture can be clearly expressed without the need for undue emphasis or complexity. It enables us to appreciate how God invites man to participate in bringing to fulfillment his handiwork, and in so doing, gives human labor its authentic meaning, since, through the celebration of the Eucharist, it is united to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.»

Both of these documents tend to discourage the excess use of symbolic offerings that are unconnected to the Mass or to charity toward the poor. While newborn babies are certainly a gift to be extolled, the offertory is not the appropriate moment since our attention should be drawn toward the greatest gift of all, the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Some countries have a long-standing custom of placing newly baptized infants at the foot of an image or upon a side altar dedicated to Our Lady or, occasionally, to Our Lord, in a symbolic gesture of offering. It is good to maintain this custom even for baptisms within Mass. I recently saw this done with great pastoral effectiveness at a Marian shrine in Bohemia, in the Czech Republic.

With respect to adoration after Mass: It is true that participating at Mass is the greatest possible act of adoration and that no amount of adoration could ever substitute a single Mass. Eucharistic adoration, however, is one of the most suitable means of prolonging the thanksgiving offered at Mass as well as preparing for the next Mass. Hence, there is no contradiction in promoting Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass.

The need for both elements is admirably expressed in the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy, «Sacrosanctum Concilium»:

«10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper.

«The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with ‘the paschal sacraments,’ to be ‘one in holiness’; it prays that ‘they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith’; the renewal in the eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.

«12. The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret; yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle, he should pray without ceasing. We learn from the same Apostle that we must always bear about in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame. This is why we ask the Lord in the sacrifice of the Mass that, ‘receiving the offering of the spiritual victim,’ he may fashion us for himself ‘as an eternal gift.'»

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Follow-up: Kneeling Through the Doxology

Related to the reply on the doxology (see May 18), a reader from Singapore had asked: «In the Order of the Mass, the response to the doxology, ‘Through him, with him, in him …’ is ‘Amen.’ However, a popular musical setting commonly sung by choirs in many parishes has the response, ‘Amen, Alleluia, forever and ever, Amen.’ Is it proper for the response to be modified in this way? After all, it is mentioned in canon law No. 846 that ‘The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority, are to be faithfully followed in the celebration of the sacraments. Accordingly, no one may on a personal initiative add to or omit or alter anything in those books.'»

I believe that, as well as the aforementioned canon, the principles involved in responding to this query are elucidated in the following documents.

The Holy See’s 2001 instruction on liturgical translation, «Liturgiam Authenticam,» says the following regarding setting liturgical texts to music:

«60. A great part of the liturgical texts are composed with the intention of their being sung by the priest celebrant, the deacon, the cantor, the people, or the choir. For this reason, the texts should be translated in a manner that is suitable for being set to music. Still, in preparing the musical accompaniment, full account must be taken of the authority of the text itself. Whether it be a question of the texts of Sacred Scripture or of those taken from the Liturgy and already duly confirmed, paraphrases are not to be substituted with the intention of making them more easily set to music, nor may h
ymns considered generically equivalent be employed in their place.»

More than two decades earlier, in 1973 the U.S. bishops’ liturgy committee had replied to a similar query regarding a changed version of the Our Father:

«In determining the suitability of sung settings of liturgical texts, a threefold judgement must be made: musical, liturgical and pastoral (see Music in Catholic Worship, number 25). While the musical and pastoral appropriateness of this particular piece of music is debatable, strictly liturgical considerations are very clear.»Regulation of the liturgy and approval of liturgical texts is clearly described by the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, paragraph 22). All liturgical texts used in the dioceses of the United States of America must be approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and subsequently confirmed by the Holy See.»In keeping with these norms, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the current text for the Order of Mass in 1973, a decision which was confirmed by the Holy See the following year. These texts, including the text of the Lord’s Prayer, may not be changed by anyone except the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and then only with confirmation by the Holy See ….»

In the same spirit, the 2007 guidelines issued by the U.S. bishops’ «Sing to the Lord» address this question in No. 109: «Composers who set liturgical texts to musical settings must respect the integrity of the approved text. Only with the approval of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship may minor adaptations be made to approved liturgical texts.»

Although our reader writes from Singapore, the text referred to was originally published in the United States and before the present norms came into force.

Although I am unaware if this modification has received any form of official approval, I do not believe that it is just a minor adaptation that can be approved by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship but rather a change that would require eventual approval from the Holy See. A minor change could be the triple repetition of this Amen, which is quite common even at the Vatican, or a small variation in the order of words that does not impinge on meaning. Adding words not in the original text would not usually be considered minor.

In the case of the doxology, I would say that the previously mentioned addition probably weakens the simple and direct force of the faithful’s concluding «Amen» («so be it») to the whole Eucharistic prayer.

* * *

Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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