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LITURGY Q&A: Special Liturgical Privileges

And More on Proper Posture at the Sequence

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Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

 Q: More than 20 years ago during the first year of my priesthood, I joined a society, via mail, called the Near East Society. There was a fee of $200. There were a few privileges for joining. I remember two of them. One was if you travel more than 50 miles you can substitute the rosary for the Liturgy of the Hours. I don’t recall ever doing this. The other privilege was to be able to offer Mass on a Greek antimension; one was included with the membership certificate. I would use the antimension when I traveled (but have long ago lost it). Is this society still in existence? If so, are the privileges still in effect? I’m just curious. — J.H., Austin, Texas

 A: The Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association does exist. It is a meritorious organization having among its trustees Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, and several other American and Canadian prelates.

 Its web page can be found at

 According to this page:

 “Across the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) works in places where poverty, war, and displacement shatter innocent lives. As an agency of the Vatican, we provide funds to ensure the Eastern churches and devoted religious sisters — who run clinics, schools, orphanages and other sanctuaries — have enough money to do their vital work. By doing so, we help them assist and protect families, the elderly and the disabled. We support the vocations of future sisters and priests. We fund pastoral programs that strengthen Christian communities. And we’ve been doing it all since 1926. CNEWA isn’t a massive global relief organization. But in more than a dozen countries — with support from good people like you — we send kindness to all who need it, regardless of their faith.”

 I have been unable to find much regarding the substitution of the rosary for the Liturgy of the Hours. I suppose it was granted in other contexts when traveling 50 miles was something of a challenge rather than a daily commute from suburbia in an air-conditioned car. While it may not be abolished I think it would be out of context to use it today in countries such as the U.S., and priests should pray the Liturgy of the Hours – and the rosary.

 We wrote about the antimension in an article on December 8, 2015. We defined it as:

 “An antimension, from the Greek for ‘instead of the table,’ is among the most important furnishings of the altar in Byzantine Christian liturgical traditions. It is a rectangular piece of cloth, of either linen or silk, typically decorated with representations of the entombment of Christ and the four Evangelists and scriptural passages related to the Eucharist. A small relic of a martyr is sewn into it. The Eucharist cannot be celebrated without an antimension that must be consecrated by a bishop and indeed is given to the priest by the bishop as a witness to his permission to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.

 “The antimension is a substitute for the altar table. A priest may celebrate the Eucharist on the antimension even if the altar table is not properly consecrated. In emergencies, when an altar table is not available, the antimension serves a very important pastoral need by enabling the use of unconsecrated tables for divine services outside of churches or chapels.”

 With respect to the privilege given to the CNEWA, to use it in the Latin rite, in 1975 the Right Rev. Archimandrite Januarius M. Izzo, O.F.M., published a scholarly study at the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome, called: “The Antimension in the Liturgical and Canonical Tradition of the Byzantine and Latin Churches An Inter-ritual Inter-confessional Study.”

 In this study, he comments on the privilege granted the association for using the antimension.

 “The Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches has given apostolic indults to various individual Priests and Bishops of the Latin Rite allowing them to celebrate Mass on the Byzantine antimension, instead of the Latin portable altar stone, not only in churches of the Oriental Rite but even ‘because of their special merit in regard to the Oriental Churches, but even outside of these, whenever there would be some inconvenience in using the Latin portable altar, during a voyage as long as they observe the Latin Rite in its integrity in all other particulars, and place a Corporal on top of the antimension.’

 “The same faculty as granted to Latin Rite Bishops adds the clause: ‘The same faculty, by the present letters, is conceded to one or two Priests, who in the same circumstances accompany His Excellency, the Bishop N.N.’

 “The same Sacred Congregation, on January 26, 1928, granted this privilege to the members (and those who would in the future be enrolled) of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (C.N.E.W.A.), an association dedicated to prayer and charitable assistance in behalf of the Oriental Churches and the needy of the Near East; this seems to be the first time that a general indult in this matter was given to a relatively large group of persons instead of to single individuals. Many diocesan and religious Priests of the United States and Canada have enrolled themselves in the C.N.E.W.A. in order to avail themselves of the privilege of the portable altar using the Byzantine antimension. The antimension itself they have obtained either from the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches, some Byzantine Rite Bishop, or from the C.N.E.W.A.”

 In general privileges, once granted, are usually valid unless voluntarily surrendered by the possessor or explicitly revoked by the authority which granted them, or unless circumstances have changed so radically that the privilege cannot be exercised in any way. Since, at least as far as I know, none of these circumstances is pertinent to this privilege, I can only surmise that the society still holds it.

 Whether our reader, after more than 20 years of apparent inactivity, is still officially enrolled in the society, and thus subject to the privilege, would depend on the internal membership rules of the CNEWA itself.

 * * *

 Follow-up: Proper Posture at the Sequence

 In the wake of our comments on the posture during the sequence (May 14), a Boston reader asked:

 “I have a related question on postures on other occasions when the omission of the Alleluia may occur. GIRM 63 reads, ‘When there is only one reading before the Gospel: a) during a time of year when the Alleluia is prescribed, either an Alleluia Psalm or the Responsorial Psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse may be used,’ there are comparable options in the Graduale Simplex (cf. Praenotanda 20) and Graduale Romanum (cf. Praenotanda 9).

 “If the Alleluia psalm is used (replacing the Alleluia), should the congregation stand after the first reading during the Alleluia psalm (perhaps analogous to the Easter Vigil)? Or should they stand after the Alleluia psalm, before the priest/deacon announces, ‘The Lord be with you’? Would there be any difference depending on whether the Alleluia psalm is sung or recited/read?”

 In order to put this query in context, it is necessary to quote the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Nos. 61-63, in full:

 “The Responsorial Psalm

 “61. After the First Reading follows the Responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and which has great liturgical and pastoral importance since it fosters meditation on the Word of God.

 “The Responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should usually be taken from the Lectionary.

 “It is preferable for the Responsorial Psalm to be sung, at least as far as the people’s response is concerned. Hence the psalmist, or cantor of the Psalm, sings the Psalm verses at the ambo or another suitable place, while the whole congregation sits and listens, normally taking part by means of the response, except when the Psalm is sung straight through, that is, without a response. However, in order that the people may be able to sing the Psalm response more easily, texts of some responses and Psalms have been chosen for the different times of the year or for the different categories of Saints. These may be used instead of the text corresponding to the reading whenever the Psalm is sung. If the Psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in a way that is particularly suited to fostering meditation on the Word of God.

 “In the Dioceses of the United States of America, instead of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary, there may be sung either the Responsorial Gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or the Responsorial Psalm or the Alleluia Psalm from the Graduale Simplex, as described in these books, or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, including Psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm.

 “The Acclamation before the Gospel

 “62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant laid down by the rubrics is sung, as the liturgical time requires. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the gathering of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel and profess their faith by means of the chant. It is sung by everybody, standing, and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated as the case requires. The verse, on the other hand, is sung either by the choir or by a cantor.

 “a) The Alleluia is sung in every time of year other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.

 “b) During Lent, instead of the Alleluia, the Verse before the Gospel as given in the Lectionary is sung. It is also possible to sing another Psalm or Tract, as found in the Graduale.

 “63. When there is only one reading before the Gospel:

 “a) during a time of year when the Alleluia is prescribed, either an Alleluia Psalm or the Responsorial Psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse may be used;

 “b) during a time of year when the Alleluia is not foreseen, either the Psalm and the Verse before the Gospel or the Psalm alone may be used;

 “c) the Alleluia or the Verse before the Gospel, if not sung, may be omitted.”

 A substantial part of these numbers of the GIRM are new to the instruction and drawn from the 1981 introduction to the lectionary. GIRM No. 63, in listing these options when there is only one reading, makes some changes to earlier versions of the Instruction.

 For example, it no longer permits the use of just the psalm or just the Alleluia (GIRM 1975 38a) but requires some form of combination of both. Likewise, during Lent, it is no longer possible to use just the acclamation before the Gospel.

 The reasons behind this are the greater importance that the GIRM No. 61 gives to singing, or at least reciting in a meditative manner, the responsorial psalm as an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word. Also important is the of singing the Alleluia or verse before the Gospel which may be omitted if not sung. Therefore the psalm must always be used even if the Gospel acclamation is omitted.

 Given this priority of the psalm and its essentially meditative quality, I would say that the proper posture would be naturally being seated. This would also be the case during Eastertide when Alleluia can be used as an alternative response to the usual refrain almost every day or when taking up the option of using an Alleluia psalm as mentioned in GIRM No. 63.

 The particular case of standing during the singing of Psalm 117 during the Easter Vigil is an exception to the general rule because it follows and expands upon the solemn triple Alleluia intoned by the priest.

 * * *

 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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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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