Doxology Grammar; New Missal

And More on Which Ordinary to Mention

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ROME, OCT. 11, 2011 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: In the doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, why do we say, «All glory and power is yours»? Since glory and power are plural, shouldn’t we say, «All glory and honor are yours»? Also, I celebrate Mass in our local nursing home twice per month. Recently I was asked if we can continue to use the present words of the Mass for our nursing home Mass, after the changes take effect at the beginning of Advent. The elderly people are used to the prayers and responses that we have been using for so many years now, and they will find it very difficult to change. Are we allowed to continue to use the Mass in its present form after the new translation of the Roman Missal takes effect? — J.L., Pittsfield, New Hampshire

A: While no grammarian, I believe there may be several possible explanations that would justify the use of «is.»

Fowler’s Modern English Usage, in addressing «Number,» states that while compound subjects usually take the plural, there can be exceptions: «a singular verb is … sometimes legitimate when it conveys a single notion.» I believe that the use of «all» before «glory and power» acts as a modifier unifying the two concepts.

In a «Catholic Answers» forum on this subject, an expert linguist suggested that some insight could be gleaned by «changing the verb from a ‘be’ form (is, are, am, etc.) to another verb:

«‘All glory and honor belong to you.’

«‘All glory and honor belongs to you.’

«In the first example, we’re saying, ‘All glory belongs to you and all honor belongs to you.’ In the first example, ‘glory’ and ‘honor’ are counted as two separate items, thus justifying the plural verb form (the two things belong to you; the two things are yours).

«In the second example, we’re assuming that ‘glory and honor’ is a unit — one thing — that ‘belongs to you’ and this ‘is yours’: ‘All glory and honor is yours.’

«So the question comes down to this: Do we treat ‘glory’ and ‘honor’ as two separate nouns (the way we’d treat the plural countable nouns ‘dogs’ and ‘cats’) or do we treat ‘glory-and-honor’ as a collective noun — two things taken as one entity? It all depends on ‘all.’ ‘All indicates a totality of items. The component units are part of an unbroken mass.’

«Thus, where ‘all’ is used, it’s assumed that the nouns following it are treated as a unit, as one entity: ‘honor-and-glory’ not (1) ‘honor’ and (2) ‘glory.'»

I think this is sufficient to justify the «is» in the doxology.

With respect to the second question, in principle the use of the new missal will be obligatory throughout the world. However, in the case of a nursing home or other similar situations in which many people might be unable to learn new formulas, I think it falls within the province of the diocesan bishop’s authority to dispense from introducing the new people’s parts for a number of years.

Similarly, I think a bishop could permit an elderly or infirm priest, above all if he has difficulty reading, to continue to use the current missal.

An analogous dispensation was granted by Pope Paul VI to elderly priests (St. Pio of Pietrelcina among them) when the new missal was first introduced.

* * *

Follow-up: Which Ordinary to Mention at Mass

In the wake of our remarks on which bishop to mention in the Eucharistic Prayer (see Sept. 27), several readers asked for clarifications.

A reader from Scotland wrote: «You stated, ‘When priests are traveling, they only mention the bishop of the place where they happen to be celebrating Mass, and never their own ordinary, even if they are celebrating for groups from their own diocese.’ In the only official document (Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, decree, Oct. 9, 1972) that I have found on this point, it states that priests celebrating [outside of] the diocese with groups from their own diocese should mention both their own bishop and the local bishop (Paragraph IV.c). The same is true of bishops [outside of] their territories (Paragraph IV.d). Do you think that this document is still in force or has it been superseded? The rule about bishops mentioning local bishops is continued in the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal (No. 149 of the Scottish edition), so I wonder if one could presume that the other rule is also still in force? The GIRM makes no mention of this.»

GIRM 149 states: «The diocesan Bishop or anyone equivalent to him in law must be mentioned by means of this formula: una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Episcopo (or Vicario, Prelato, Praefecto, Abbate) (together with your servant N., our Pope, and N., our Bishop [or Vicar, Prelate, Prefect, Abbot]).»

The above-mentioned 1972 decree, «Cum de nomine,» specifically states that it responds to a lack of clarity in the first edition of the revised missal, which says nothing regarding which bishop should be named. This vacuum was already remedied in part in the 1975 edition of the missal and was further clarified in GIRM 149, and in the rubrics of the third typical edition in 2002 with some slight but significant amendments in the 2008 reprint.

Since the decree was issued to cover an omission in the law, and a later law expressly fills the gap, I would suppose that the decree is now without legal force.

None of these editions repeats the norm in the decree regarding traveling priests. In fact, this norm contains an anomaly as it is the only case in which the local bishop would not be named first. I believe, therefore, that this norm was allowed to die.

An article published in Notitiae, the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship, would seem to confirm this. The article, written in Italian, was titled, «Regarding the Naming of the Diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer» (Notitiae 45 (2009) 308-320). This study, while not itself a legal document, reflects the mind of the congregation on this matter.

It first comments on a change in the redaction of GIRM 149 from the 2002 to the 2008 editions. In the earlier version, a bishop who celebrated outside of his diocese mentioned first himself («I, your unworthy servant») and then the local ordinary. In 2008 the order of mentioning was reversed, and the local bishop is named immediately after the Pope. The article points out that this adjustment confirms long-standing tradition and is grounded on solid ecclesiological principles (see Canon 369 of the Code of Canon Law). The article states: «Every legitimate Eucharistic celebration is directed by the bishop. This character of legitimacy derives from communion with the shepherd of the diocese in which the Eucharist is celebrated. Therefore, to recall, after the Pope, the name of he whom the Church has constituted Shepherd, means recognizing that the Eucharist, even when it is celebrated by a bishop outside of his own diocese, must be celebrated in communion with both the Universal shepherd, the Pope, and the shepherd of the particular Church, the diocesan bishop.»

Another small change between the 2002 and 2008 printings involves a footnote to each one of the Eucharistic Prayers at the moment where the bishop is mentioned. The 2002 version says, «Mention may be made here of the Coadjutor Bishop, or Auxiliary Bishop, or other bishop, as noted in the GIRM 149.» In 2008 the phrase «or other bishop» was removed. This was done largely because GIRM 149 makes no provision for the mention of other bishops but also, as the article notes, «to remove any doubt about the possibility of naming any other bishops except the diocesan and eventual auxiliary.»

Another question, from a Kansas reader, derives from the mention of abbots: «Do all abbeys use the name of their abbot instead of the local bishop? Or is that just for territorial abbots? The GIRM seems not to make a distinction to me.»

I believe that the key is found in GIRM 149 when it says,
«The diocesan Bishop or anyone equivalent to him in law.» Not all abbots are equivalent in law to a diocesan bishop but only those who effectively govern a diocese or similar territory. At the moment there are 11 still-functioning territorial abbeys, six in Italy, two in Switzerland, and one each in Hungary, Austria and North Korea. The territory of some of the Italian abbeys, such as Subiaco, has been effectively reduced to the monastery itself without, however, joining the abbey to a diocese.

Finally, another correspondent from Kokstad, South Africa, asked: «What does canon law say in situations where the local bishop is transferred to another diocese and consequently an apostolic administrator is appointed as a caretaker, who himself is a bishop of a neighboring diocese? Are the priests supposed to mention the name of this apostolic administrator during Mass? Some priests mention it while others do not.»

An apostolic administrator named by the Holy See is for all practical purposes the bishop of the diocese, even though his period of government is usually temporal. Therefore, he is named in the Eucharistic Prayer even if he also happens to be bishop of another diocese or is himself the former bishop of the same diocese.

A diocesan administrator elected according to the norms of Canon 413 of the Code of Canon Law is not named. In such cases, the clause mentioning the local bishop is omitted although mention could still be made of an auxiliary.

* * *

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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