Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More on the Communion Procession and How Liturgy Committees Should Spend Their Time

Thanks to all of you who commented here and on my own Facebook page, as well as on the Gotta Sing Gotta Pray Facebook page. If you wouldn't mind, why not click the link and, if you haven't done so already, "like" that page. Thanks.

I was not surprised at how many comments were generated yesterday. One of the parishes that I visit sometimes in another state has also developed a rather odd approach to music and the communion procession. The cantor and organist join the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in the sanctuary and receive communion then. And the last time I was there, it took at least two minutes for that to occur. Then the organist plays an introduction and the cantor sings a solo for the first part of the Communion procession. The last time I was there, the cantor sang Panis Angelicus. After the solo, the congregation was invited to sing I Am the Bread of Life and the organist stopped after two verses and improvised for the rest of the time until the eucharistic bread was returned to the tabernacle. I have been told that this is pretty much the weekly practice in this parish. To say that this is odd would be an understatement.

In my experience at my former parish here in Chicago, Saint James, we had an interesting discussion one evening during a liturgy committee meeting (you probably don't want me on your liturgy committee!). The group was trying to decide what the "theme" for Advent would be that year. "Oh, last year our theme was 'Bethlehem, House of Bread,' should we go with that again?"

I simply stated, "Why can't we make this Advent a time when we follow the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, say, for the introductory rite?" The pastor's jaw dropped and everyone else looked very surprised, as if to say that this was not actually the work of a creative liturgy committee. That year, as Advent began, we started the practice of the celebrant singing the sign of the cross and the greeting as Mass began. And after the "let us pray" before the opening prayer, we actually stood there in silence before the server brought the missal to the celebrant. Reverence, holiness, and a sense of Advent longing was palpable.

After working in many parishes, both as the director of liturgy and music and as a volunteer parishioner, I have come to realize that the real work of a liturgy committee is to study and reflect upon the Church's liturgical documents in the hope of bringing the Church's wisdom into creative conversations to help shape the liturgical life of the Catholic parish. Frankly, I think I have wasted lots of time at lots of meetings trying to figure out "what kind of flowers we should use this year to create the ring around the base of the paschal candle!"

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Brian Michael Page said...

Which is why I don't get the purpose of the existence of a "liturgy committee", except so that they can "do their thing" at Mass instead of just "do Mass".
It doesn't take a "committee" to implement Mass.

Alan Hommerding said...

While I never intentionally wear my "liturgical critic" persona when celebrating Sunday Eucharist as a member of the assembly, I don't think that the occasions when we find ourselves being critical (in every sense of that word) are necessarily a time we need to beat ourselves up. The way I look at it, if I know a really good piece of lasagna, I'm also going to know when it's not a good piece of lasagna. Same at liturgy - if I've experienced a good communion rite done as GIRM intends, then I'm going to know a not-so-good one.

The purpose that liturgy committees can serve is to assist the celebrating assembly in learning what lasagna is supposed to be. Not to figure out creative tinkerings, but helping form and catechize those who come to worship.

When we're in places that aren't following communion procession norms or trying to improve on the Missal's entrance rite, we must recall that the people celebrating there don't know anything else; maybe the ministers serving them don't know another way to do it. To build a bridge from that liturgical experience to the one envisioned by the rite is a task that could fruitfully consume the energies of a liturgy committee.

Joe Potillor said...

yep, sing the Mass, not sing at Mass. Just sing the propers that belong to the Liturgy…throw a prelude and motet during the offertory and call it a meeting.

Jean Ceithaml said...

Oh to be in that realm again. How I miss Chicago ODW and all you wonderful people at World Library!