By Father Edward McNamara
ROME, SEPT. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- As we have just celebrated this column’s first anniversary I would like to thank all of our readers for the great interest they have shown in my attempts to answer their questions.
I have been quite astonished at the reception accorded this little effort and I hope that it has been of some use to those who take the pains to read it. At the same time I wish to ask forgiveness of those many readers who are still patiently awaiting a reply and whom I have not yet been able to address.
Because of the amount of e-mails that arrive, it is materially impossible for me to respond personally to every correspondent. And so with the generous help of ZENIT’s editorial staff I try to select questions that represent the interests of the widest possible range of readers and a variety of topics.
That said, I will try to give brief answers to some questions waiting in line.
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Q: How is the procedure regarding the solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? In one of the parishes in Malta, for example, on the first Fridays and first Saturdays, the priest exposes the Blessed Sacrament. When it is time for Mass, the priest reposes the Blessed Sacrament and exposes again after Mass. This is done during all the Masses celebrated during the day. Is it permitted to do this? — J.G., Gozo, Malta
A: The procedure described is perfectly correct, as liturgical norms do not allow the Blessed Sacrament to remain exposed in church during Mass.
The procedure followed is that described in the liturgical books for veneration of the Eucharist outside of Mass.
It may be possible to have perpetual adoration if there is a separate chapel specially dedicated for this purpose.
Such a chapel should ideally be accessible without the adorers having to pass through a congregation participating at Mass and should be sufficiently soundproofed so that silent prayer is possible while Mass is being celebrated.
Finally, the exposed Host should not be visible to the congregation at Mass.
If these conditions cannot be met, then the proper solution is to reserve the Blessed Sacrament during Mass.
Both reservation and exposition after Mass are done in the simplest possible form with no need to use incense or song.
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Standing During the Eucharistic Prayer
Q: Our parish insists on having the children stand during the Eucharistic Prayers at school Masses, although there are kneelers in the pews. The children stand from the prayers of the faithful until the end of the “Lamb of God.” They then kneel before and after Communion. This has been going on for about three years in order to teach them “the new way.” Is this happening globally? — D.R., Joliet, Illinois
A: Whoever invented this “new way,” it was not the U.S. bishops.
The norms for kneeling in the United States are the following, as found in the approved adaptation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 43.
“In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise.”
The universal norms for the Roman Missal indicate kneeling during the consecration, from the epiclesis to the acclamation after the consecration. This is the common practice in Italy and some other European and Latin American countries.
There is no provision in the Latin Church allowing for standing during the whole Eucharistic Prayer except in the exceptional conditions mentioned in No. 43.
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“The Lord Be With You”
Q: The other day, I was at Mass and the priest kept saying, “The Lord is with you” instead of “The Lord be with you.” The use of the indicative mood rather than the imperative sounded to me like an attempt to de-emphasize the unique, sacramental role of the priest (which was especially pronounced when coupled with the mistranslation “And also with you,” which, I understand, is about to be replaced by the correct “And with your spirit”). I am not a Latin scholar, but can “Dominus vobiscum” be properly translated “The Lord is with you,” and does the celebrant have the authority to render such a translation? — P.S., Columbia, South Carolina
A: Even if it were a correct translation, the priest should not change on his own authority any approved text from the missal. Even if he were an expert Latinist and the official translation were blatantly erroneous he would not be authorized to change it.
In the case at hand the two phrases do not have the same meaning.
“The Lord be with you” expresses a desire that the Lord become ever more present both in the assembly and in each individual member.
“The Lord is with you” is not a desire but a statement of fact, which the priest has no way of knowing whether it is true.
It is probably true of the assembly in virtue of Christ stating that he would be present in any gathering in his name. But the phrase reduces this presence to a static presence whereby the desire of an increasing presence in the assembly is not necessarily implied.
With respect to the individual members of the assembly, there is no way of knowing if the Lord is really with each and every one. The state of their souls is unknown to the celebrant. To be fair, though, it is also true that, on another level, Christ never totally abandons his wayward children while life lasts.
The desire that the Lord “be” with each one is also a prayer that the fruits of the celebration effectively reach each one, in some cases to move toward conversion, in others to deepen their relationship with him.
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Follow-up: Gluten-free Hosts
I received several comments regarding the use of low-gluten hosts (see Sept. 14). One reader wrote that the problem he sees with the “low-gluten solution is that one could eventually reach 0.00000001% gluten content, and then would the Church still recognize it as valid? It seems that this is chasing a chimera.”
All I can say is that I have no idea how low a level would be acceptable to the Church. But I am sure it is a question that only the Church can decide.
What is clear is that with no gluten the substance is simply no longer bread and is incapable of becoming Christ’s Body.
Reciting the words of consecration over such a substance would be at best a farce and at worst blasphemy and idolatry.
This brings me to another correspondent from Ohio who directly addressed the original case of the young girl whose first Communion was declared invalid because her host did not contain gluten.
He wrote: “I see this as yet another attempt by mere mortals to presume to place restrictions on the power of Almighty God. Even you said in your response of Sept. 14, 2004, ‘The Church’s power over some elements of the sacraments is not absolute.’ When Christ directed his disciples to prepare for his final Passover meal, I don’t recall him saying, ‘… and by the way, make sure there is gluten in that bread or the deal’s off!’
“You can preach ‘gluten’ to me until the day I draw my last breath and I will never believe that Christ was not present for that little girl on the joyful day of her first Communion! And then, to tell her after the fact that Jesus did not come to her after all is unconscionable. Still bearing the pain and embarrassment of the sexual abuse of children, must we Catholics now witness, and attempt to defend, the spiritual abuse of a child?
“How does an ordinary person like myself get the message to the powers that be that in this, the 21st century, we do not single out or exclude individuals who face physical challenges every day of their lives? Perhaps our bishops could begin by revisiting Mark 10:13-15, ‘Let the little children come unto me …'”
I think that our correspondent has some valid points, especially regarding the difficulty that the Church has in explaining the importance of what seems to many people to be obtuse hairsplitting.
I would first observe that the Communion was not declared invalid because the bread had no gluten, but rather, as we have seen above, because it was not bread.
Second — it saddens me to say so — if there has been an act of spiritual abuse to this child, it was done by the priest who performed an invalid consecration when he should have known better or should at least have consulted with the bishop before proceeding in a doubtful situation.
No amount of concern for the sentiments or feelings of a person, nor the legitimate desire not to single out people who suffer physical challenges, can justify performing an invalid sacrament.
Just think of the consequences if priests and bishops were to apply the same criteria to baptisms, confessions, confirmations, anointings, weddings and ordinations.
If the Church cannot be sure of the validity of her sacraments, her whole structure would be fatally weakened.
The bishop who declared the first Communion invalid certainly had no desire to hurt this little girl. But he did his duty because he understood that something larger was at stake than hurt feelings.
I also fear that our reader misunderstood the argument regarding the Church’s power over the sacraments.
The argument was that the Church is limited by Christ’s will in instituting the sacraments. So, just as Christ accepted the limits of space and time by becoming man, the external aspects of some sacraments are similarly limited through a direct connection with the time when Christ walked upon this earth. Thus they serve as a constant reminder of the concrete historical reality of the Incarnation itself.
Over these elements, and the requirement of bread for the Eucharist is one of them, the Church has no power to change.
Our reader is actually talking about something else: God’s power to act outside of the sacramental system as such.
Whether Christ became in some way present to that little girl when she received what she believed to be her first Communion, nobody has any way of knowing.
Almost certainly she would have received some special grace.
However, she certainly did not receive sacramental Communion.
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