Father Edward McNamara, professor of
liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, answers
common questions on liturgical norms, as published by ZENIT, the
international news agency reporting from Rome.
Paschal Candles; Lights On at Vigil
Only one paschal candle may be blessed at
the Easter Vigil. Lights are turned on at the Vigil after the third
The first evidence of priests being privileged to celebrate three Masses
on Christmas is found in the 12th century. Before that the privilege was
reserved to the Pope.
7 Candles at a Bishop's Mass
There is no relationship between the seven candles lit when a bishop celebrates Mass and the menorah of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Ablutions with Wine and Water
Reference is made in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal to the purification of the sacred vessels with wine as well as water. The use of wine is required in the Extraordinary Form, but water alone suffices in the Ordinary Form.
of, Why No Chicken
Specifically forbidden on days of
abstinence is "flesh meat," which is to say, the flesh of warm-blooded
Father observes that insufficient
provision for people with disabilities is usually due to lack of
resources rather than lack of concern.
Mysteries of the Rosary
The Church gives wide leeway in the choice of mysteries to be celebrated
in praying the Rosary, though one's choice should not conflict with a
major liturgical celebration.
Names in Eucharistic Prayers
Names may not be inserted in Eucharistic Prayers I, II, or IV, but only
in III, or in one of the Eucharistic Prayers for various needs.
Adoration and Mass
While it is true that "the highest act of adoration is the Mass itself," so that the Blessed Sacrament may not be exposed during Mass, there is no reason why the Sacrament may not be exposed for adoration after Mass.
Adoration Without Exposition
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, both in the tabernacle and in
exposition, are encouraged by the Magisterium.
Either of the two variants (traditional and critical forms) of the
eucharistic hymn Adoro Te Devote may be used according to local
Advent Prayer and
Advent prayers referring to
Christmas as a celebration of the Incarnation should not be taken as
strict biological or chronological statements, prejudicial to Christ's
Incarnation beginning at the Annunciation.
Advent Wreathes and Penitential Rites
Father discourages lighting the Advent wreath during the penitential rite, but makes other suggestions of how it may be lighted.
Church is Attacked
After a church has been desecrated, worship may not be conducted there
until a rite of reparation has been celebrated.
Dei, Beyond the Norms
The Agnus Dei is intended to be sung or said during the rite of
fraction, but the same melody may be used with added invocations during
Alb Alone; Delayed
Apart from a special dispensation, a single celebrant or principle
celebrant at Mass must wear a chasuble. Acceptance of a penance is
necessary for validity of the sacrament; delay in performing it does
not, though may be sinful if due to neglect.
Albs, Stoles and
Although the norm is for a priest
to wear the stole hanging down, he may wear it crossed if covered by a
planeta (chasuble). A priest may not celebrate Mass without being vested
in alb, stole, and chasuble.
All About Indults
In response to a question about indults, Father informs us that they are (often temporary) exceptions to Church laws, granted in view of special circumstances.
All Souls' Commemoration
Father traces the history of celebrations of all the faithful departed, concluding that there is no truth to the notion that All Souls Day was instituted to counter pagan festivals honoring the dead.
Although the extraordinary form
of the Roman Rite specifies three altar cloths, the ordinary form
requires only one. Symbolical interpretations of the number of cloths
are not uniform.
Where They Should Face
An altar crucifix should be "located on, next to, immediately behind or
suspended above the altar," so as to be visibly related to the altar in
the view of the people.
Altar of Repose
The place of repose, after Mass of the Lord's Supper, "should
be as beautiful as possible and should be sufficiently prominent so as
to allow for adoration..."
A plexiglass cover is not allowed to cover the white altar cloth during
celebration of Mass, and the corporal should not be left on the altar
Altar Rails, Removal
Altar rails may be removed, if they are an obstacle to distribution of
Communion, but "great care must be taken before altering churches of
certain historical value or even particular elements of a church that
may have particular artistic merit."
Altars, Use of by
The Ecumenical Directory allows for use of a Catholic church and altar
by a non-Catholic community, with authorization from the local Bishop.
Alternative English Texts for Mass
Different forms of the same Mass prayers are accounted for by the fact
that there are currently more than one English translation of the Roman
Missal in use throughout the world.
And Also With You
At the words, "And also with you," it is not appropriate for members of
the congregation to extend their arms, in imitation of the priest.
And With Your Spirit
The new translation of Et cum spiritu tuo, as "And with your spirit," refers to the presence of the Holy Spirit with the celebrant at Mass, to enable him to preside at the Sacrifice.
Angelus Right After
The Angelus may follow Mass as may other private or community devotions.
Anointing of the
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick should not be administered
indiscriminately, but is "ordered toward the gravely ill from a physical
Anointing for Mental Disorders
According to Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum, 53, "Those who are judged to have a serious mental illness and who would be strengthened by the sacrament may be anointed."
Anonymity in the
"If a penitent desires anonymity, the priest should respect this desire
and in the vast majority of situations he should never have any need or
right to inquire as to the identity of the penitent."
Antiphons and the Graduale Romanum
The reason that texts sometimes differ between the Roman Missal and the Roman Gradual is that the latter offers a wider choice of musical possibilities.
There may be occasions, in certain cultures, when applause is not out of
place during the liturgy, but in Western parishes its regular practice
is not encouraged.
Two considerations determine a suitable penance, the nature of the sin
(how grave) and the nature of the penitent (how well instructed).
After the Gospel: No Communion
One should attempt to be present at the whole Mass, not just in time for
the Gospel, to receive Communion in good conscience.
According to Father, "it is not permitted to anticipate the blessing and distribution of ashes to Monday or to Shrove Tuesday and such an anticipation is pastorally unnecessary."
Ashes for Children and Non-Catholics
There is no restriction placed by liturgical books on who may receive ashes on Ash Wednesday.
Attending Mass at Other Parishes
The faithful should attend Mass at their own parishes, except where
defects of doctrine and practice endanger the Christian's faith.
Ave Maria at Funerals
Opinions differ as to whether classical settings of the Ave Maria (such as Schubert's) are acceptable within Catholic liturgy, and there is nothing official on the subject.
in the Offertory Procession
"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."
Jesus in the Crèche
On a public thoroughfare, it is better to
place the Infant in the crèche from the beginning, but in a liturgical
setting, at the Midnight Mass.
Overhead Projectors and PowerPoint Displays
There are few specific laws regarding overhead projectors and powerpoint
displays, but the general principle is that nothing be introduced which
distracts from the liturgy.
Baptismal Font Near Altar
It is best that the baptismal font be placed in relation to the
Eucharist, but in a distinct space, to express the "journey through
waters to the altar."
and Presentation of Our Lord
The Baptism of the Lord precedes the feast of the Presentation, because
the latter feast, following the Jewish precedent, occurs 40 days after
His birth, while the Baptism is treated as a part of His manifestation,
and so associated with Epiphany.
of the Lord and Ordinary Time
As to whether the Feast of the
Baptism of the Lord belongs to the Christmas season or Ordinary Time, it
brings Christmastide to a close.
Bells at the
The GIRM makes bell ringing at
the consecration optional, but though it is not required, there are
reasons for retaining it.
Benediction by a Bishop
Although the old rite did call for a triple sign of the cross when a
Bishop gave Benediction, the present rite is unclear.
Birettas and Academic Hats at Mass
The biretta was traditionally worn "in a way analogous to the bishop's miter: when the priest was seated or preaching or processing within the church."
as a Concelebrant
Under normal circumstances, a bishop concelebrating Mass is not to cede
the role of principal celebrant to another priest.
Bishops' Interpretations of Liturgical Law
The Bishop has wide authority to make norms for his diocese in several areas of liturgy, but he should not forbid what the universal law permits, nor permit what the universal law forbids.
Bishop's Letter in Lieu of Homily
When a bishop's letter is read at Mass in place of the homily, it should be read by a priest or deacon, not a lay person.
Blessed, Masses in
Honor of the
Mass may be celebrated in honor
of a Blessed in a locale where the Holy See has authorized his/her
inclusion in a diocesan, regional, or national calendar, or, if the
Blessed belonged to a Religious Order, in chapels or oratories of that
Order anywhere in the world.
Sacrament Under Glass
The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a tabernacle which is
immovable, of "solid and inviolable material," not transparent, and
locked. Violation of these prescripts should be reported to the Bishop.
Blessing of Salt
The third edition of the Roman Missal does retain the option of adding salt to blessed water, as found in the second appendix.
Blessings at First Masses
A plenary indulgence is still granted for attendance at a priest's first
Mass, but it is no longer associated with a special "Apostolic" blessing
imparted by the priest.
Blessings at Holy Communion
Although a formal decision has
not yet come from the Holy See, it seems that a blessing given in place
of Holy Communion is inappropriate for extraordinary ministers.
There is nothing in the rubrics which permits or prevents the blessing
of non-communicants. However, due reflection should be given regarding
the custom's "pastoral utility."
Blessings Without a
The stole is an "eloquent symbol of the priestly condition and
ministry," but it is not necessary for the validity of sacramentals.
Use of blue liturgical vestments is permitted in the Latin Rite to
certain Marian shrines and to certain countries, esp. Spain, and
countries once ruled by Spain.
Hands at Elevation of the Host
Although the GIRM of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite doesn't
specify, the presumption is that the priest should use both hands at the
elevations of Host and Cup, as obliged in the Extraordinary Form.
When there is a large number of communicants, bowing behind the person
receiving communion is appropriate.
Bowing While Kneeling
Although not prescribed, bowing while kneeling, as when the priest genuflects after elevating the Host and Cup, is not out of place.
Bows in the Extraordinary Form
In the Ordinary Form, Canon Law permits an infirm priest to substitute gestures (such as bows) for those (such as genuflections) that he finds difficult. This would seem to apply to the Extraordinary Form as well.
Breaking the Host
The host should not be broken during the Eucharistic Prayer, because it is forbidden by Redemptionis Sacramentum, 55, but rather at the Agnus Dei, according to the tradition of the Church.
Breaking the Host
To break the Host prior to consecration is not only a departure from
custom and contrary to liturgical law, it confuses the meaning of the
Breast-Beating During the Confiteor
Although the rubric in the new translation of the Roman Missal does not specify that the breast be struck three times, rather than once, in the Confiteor, it seems implied.
Breviary and the New Missal Translation
While no norm has been published on the subject, it seems probable that the new English translation of the collects for Mass may be used in the breviary, where collects for the day are called for.
Brides, How They
"Many dioceses and even parishes do have guidelines in order to respect
Christian values such as modesty and a respect for the spirit of Christian
Bringing Pets into Church
Although the decision lies with the priest, pets should not normally be brought into church. They do not benefit from the celebration and may be a distraction to worshipers. Service animals are another matter.
Broadcasting the Parish Mass
Since full liturgical participation requires physical presence in a
single assembly, broadcasting the parish Mass to other spaces would not
Brothers or Sisters
In the Confiteor, "brothers" alone may be used in a male community, but "sisters" alone in a female community would be out of place, since at least one brother is present, the celebrating priest.
Buddhist Singing Bowls
The use at Mass of Buddhist "singing bowls," or of any other instrument not of "longstanding local usage," is to be submitted for approval to the Bishops' Conference.
Calendars of Religious
Fr McNamara answers the question of which liturgical calendar is to be followed, the Diocesan or the Franciscan Calendar, in a parish staffed by Franciscans.
at the Gospel Reading
The lighted candles accompanying
the reading of the Gospel at Mass are not dispensed with in Eastertide,
despite the presence of the Paschal candle.
Canonizations and Infallibility
The decision of a consistory, that a Blessed is worthy to be proclaimed a Saint, is not infallible. Infallibility awaits the actual proclamation by the Pope at the canonization ceremony.
Celebrating in an Eastern Rite
Before allowing Latin priests to use both a Latin and an Eastern rite,
the Church seeks to verify both the pastoral necessity and the priest's
Celebrating the Mass Silently
A priest celebrating alone or
with an acolyte may use a subdued voice, but he may not "say" the Mass
Celebrating the Memorial of John Paul II
Father gives the norms on when and where memorials of blesseds may be inserted in the liturgical calendar, in particular, the memorial of Blessed John Paul II.
Central Focus at Mass
The central focus at Mass is Christ Himself, who is represented by the altar.
What To Do with Them
Ceramic vessels, taken out of sacred use according to the instruction
against nonmetalic chalices or ciboria, may not be put to a common use.
Chair of the Priest
In theory, the most appropriate place is behind the altar, facing the
people. In practice, however, this position is often impracticable.
Chalice Received at
Altar by Religious
Redemptionis Sacramentum 94 forbids a person, other than the
celebrating priest, to administer Holy Communion to himself from the
Changes in Musical Compositions
New musical compositions should be approved by proper authority before being used at Mass.
Changing the "Pray,
The rubrics of many Missals in
the vernacular permit the substitution of other phrases for "Pray,
Changing the Presider
There is no occasion when one priest celebrant may replace another during Mass, other than the case when the original celebrant is physically unable to continue.
Children: Let the Little Children Run?
"There should be a certain degree of balance
between the presence of families at Mass and the overall atmosphere of
reverence proper to the celebration."
of the Word
It is permitted for children to have their own Liturgy of the Word, for
Children's Liturgy of the Word
The new edition of the Roman Missal does not abolish any of the special directories issued in earlier times regarding the Children's Liturgy of the Word.
Omission of the Eucharistic Prayers for Children in the new translation of the Roman Missal does not mean they can no longer be used for children, but are printed in separate books as not for general use.
Children's Sunday Liturgy at Midweek
The 1973 Directory for Masses with Children allows for much flexibility, though the next Sunday's liturgy may not be the best choice.
Children Writing Lists of Their Sins
Making lists of sins for confession is permitted, but in the case of children, care must be taken that the lists are destroyed after they receive absolution.
Attendance at a State-Sponsored
Mass in China is permissable, if a church in full communion with the
Holy See is unavailable.
Christmas Cribs in Church
Although there is no magisterial instruction on the subject, the
Directory of Popular Piety, as well as ancient custom, indicates
that the Christmas Crib has an honored place in the church.
Decorations, Overdoing Them
Christmas trees in the sanctuary
are not encouraged, and decorations in general should not distract from
the altar and ambo.
Decorations, When to Set Them Up
Customs vary on when to decorate for Christmas, but short of waiting
till Christmas Eve, an appropriate time would be December 17 (except for
the image of the Child), when liturgical preparation for the Birth of
Christmas Play After the Homily
Although there is some flexibility allowed for children's Masses, it does not extend to allowing extra-liturgical dramatizations during Mass.
Christmas Trees in the Sanctuary
"Christmas trees are preferably located outside the sanctuary and church proper, and are best left in vestibules or church grounds."
Christmas Vigil Masses; Options on Readings
Regarding readings for Christmas Masses, it is permitted to choose among
the readings for the three Masses for Christmas Day, depending on
Dedicated and Consecrated
The dedication of a church is the same as what was its "consecration"
prior to the liturgical reform. Only permanent houses of worship are
Churching After Childbirth
The churching of women has fallen into disuse, though the revised Rite of Baptism for Children has incorporated the blessing of the mother after childbirth.
Father lists a number of factors which determine whether a civil
marriage is valid.
Civil Marriage Ceremonies
In reply to a question of whether a civil wedding ceremony in the US, followed by a religious ceremony in Ireland, would be permissable to the Catholic Church, Father answers that there seems no reason why a religious ceremony carried out in Ireland would not be civilly recognized in the US.
and Food in the Sacristy
Having food and beverages in the sacristy is usually unnecessary and
detracts from spiritual atmosphere of the place.
Cohabiting Brides and Grooms
Cohabiting couples should be informed that "their situation is not
conducive to an adequate preparation for a Catholic wedding."
Color of the Veil for the Cross
The traditional color of the cloths with which crosses and images are veiled on the Fifth Sunday of Lent is violet.
of Cassocks and Altar Cloths
On the vestments of acolytes, altar servers, readers, and other lay
ministers, the color may vary according to local custom, subject to the
will of the Bishop.
Combining Stations and the Passion Liturgy
"Manifestations of popular piety, either by time or the manner in which the faithful are convoked, do not become a surrogate for the liturgical celebrations of Good Friday."
Commemorating Saints in Lent
During Lent all memorials of saints, even if obligatory outside of Lent,
are deemed optional, and their commemoration limited to the collect.
The role of the commentator at Mass is primarily to help the people
understand unfamiliar rites.
Communion and the Divorced and Remarried
Although care of the divorced and remarried is under study, readmission to the sacraments is unlikely without an annulment or the death of the first spouse.
Communion for Late
We should be present at Mass from beginning to end, but a late arrival may
be excused by circumstances.
at Papal Masses
At Papal Masses, special provisions are sometimes made to accommodate
places and numbers of communicants.
Service Instead of Mass
Attendance at a Communion Service does not substitute for
assistance at Mass on Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation except for a "grave
Services Before Daily Mass
A daily Communion Service, led by
an extraordinary minister before Mass, is not "in conformity with the
spirit of present Church legislation."
Communion Through a Feeding Tube
In a case where a person cannot eat or drink normally, the local chancery should request an indult from the Congregation for Divine Worship permitting reception of the Precious Blood through a stomach tube.
Completing the Rites of Baptism
"Following the rite for emergency baptisms there is a rite of bringing a baptized child to the church," in case the child recovers.
Complications of 2 Forms in 1 Rite
When both forms, ordinary and extraordinary, of the Latin Rite are
celebrated in the same parish, the complications arising will be
addressed by the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" in the near
Concelebrants From Different Rites
Priests from different rites concelebrate according to the rite of the
principal celebrant. There is to be no mixing of rites, though each
should wear the vestments of his own rite.
Receiving Previously Consecrated Hosts
A Mass is not invalidated by concelebrating priests receiving Communion
from previously consecrated Hosts, but the practice is illicit.
Concelebrating at Additional Masses
When a priest gives the homily at more than one Mass, as in a special
appeal, having already celebrated, he is not expected to concelebrate at
the additional Masses.
Concelebrating in an Unfamiliar Language
A priest should not concelebrate in a language he cannot or understand or properly pronounce.
Prayers of the Faithful
The priest celebrant is called upon by the rubrics to offer the
concluding prayer in the Prayers of the Faithful.
Confession Before Baptism
It is neither necessary nor beneficial for catechumens to go to confession prior to Baptism. Baptism itself forgives all sins, and without Baptism, no other sacrament can be received to good effect.
Some impediments to a valid confession are matters of Church law rather
than divine law, such as the impediment limiting absolution to those
already in full communion with the Catholic Church. It may be suspended
for those about to enter the Church.
Doesn't Know Penitent's Language
Where penitent and confessor lack a common language, the confessor may
make a prudential judgment as to the sincerity of the penitent's
confession, or an interpreter may be used.
and the Laity's Role
While the prayer of the whole assembly is called upon during
confirmation, the administration of the sacrament is reserved to the
bishop or priest who presides.
When Youngsters Request It
Although bishops may designate an
age for Confirmation, it should be flexible enough to allow Confirmation
at an earlier age, when canonical conditions have been met.
Host, When It Falls
A fallen host should be picked up immediately, consumed if clean,
dissolved is soiled, and the water poured into the sacrarium.
"Second Batch" of Hosts
It is never correct to consecrate new species, either of bread, wine, or
both together, within a Mass.
The change from bread and wine to Body and Blood is not gradual, but
at a Distance
"Liturgical norms require that all that is to be consecrated be present
before the priest on the altar and upon a corporal."
Consecration of Both Species at Mass
If Mass is interrupted after consecration of the bread, the consecrated
bread is the Body of Christ, but there is no sacrifice, i.e., no Mass,
without consecration of the wine as well.
Why "For All"?
On the translation of pro
multis as "for all," in the consecration of the Cup, it carries the
biblical sense better to modern ears than "for many" does.
Copes, Humeral Veils and Blessings
A white cope is normally worn for Benediction, but if immediately preceded by a solemn celebration of Liturgy of the Hours, the cope may be either white or the color of the day or season.
Corporal, On Changing the
The GIRM does not require a new corporal for each Mass, but only that
the corporal be folded with due care after Communion, and not left open
on the altar.
Counting Ordinary Time
Father responds to the question of why Ascension Sunday is counted among Sundays in ordinary time by explaining how the weeks in ordinary time are numbered.
Covering the Crucifix
While it is not strictly prohibited to cover the main crucifix behind the altar during the seasons of Christmas and Easter, so long as there is another crucifix visible near the altar, it seems wrongheaded to do so.
The Creed may be omitted from Mass only on special occasions, as the
Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, when baptismal promises are renewed.
Creed, Why It
Doesn't Mention the Eucharist
The Creed doesn't mention the Eucharist, since it wasn't a topic of
controversy when the Creed was composed, but faith in the Real Presence
is expressed throughout the Mass, especially at the consecration.
Criteria for Preparing the Altar
Although complete uniformity in dressing the altar is unlikely, there are certain basics, such as described in the GIRM.
Crosses on the 14 Stations
A legitimate Way of the Cross consists of 14 crosses, to which images or
sculptures representing the stations may be added.
Ideally those who fulfill a ministry in the celebration should occupy a
place within the sanctuary, but not so as to overcrowd or distract from
Bows and Celebrants' Palms
(1) The crucifix is essential at celebration of Mass. (2) The
priest bows to the altar, rather than the crucifix. (3) Concelebrants'
hand gesture at consecration may vary, as do theories of its meaning.
Cup Instead of Chalice
The word "cup" was retained in the memorial acclamation, rather than "chalice," probably to conform to the common translation of 1 Corinthians 11:23-28, echoed in the acclamation.
Deacons and Exorcisms
A deacon can exorcise in the general sense, as in Baptism, but in deliverance from possession, the exorcist must be a priest.
Deacons and the Chrism Mass
At the Chrism Mass, might not deacons renew their commitment to the
diaconate, as priests renew their commitment to the priesthood? Another
occasion would be better, since the priesthood is the focus of the
Deacons and the Passion Narrative
If both priest and deacon are present for reading the Passion, the
priest need not take part at all, leaving the part of Christ to be read
by the deacon.
Readers and Servers
While deacons may perform other functions where necessity dictates, the
norm is that each ministry take its own proper role.
Duties and Gestures
A deacon raises the chalice at the doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer;
he does not spread his hands at the dismissal; and he may give the
Eucharistic Benediction when a priest is not available.
Position at Consecration
According to GIRM, the Deacon's proper position during consecration is
near the priest but slightly behind.
Deacon, What He Can Do
A deacon may preside at Benediction, if a priest is absent or impeded,
but never if a priest is present.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal, nos. 304ff., provides
guidelines for decorating the sanctuary.
Degrees of Blessings
As to whether an object once blessed is permanently blessed, there are degrees of blessings, and not every sign of the cross is a blessing.
Denying Communion to Someone
Holy Communion may be publicly refused to a person who has been publicly excommunicated, or to one who obstinately perseveres in manifest grave sin.
Deviations in Holy Week
Rearrangement of parts in the liturgies of the Triduum is prohibited by Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Disposing of Old Missals and Sacramentaries
Old missals and sacramentaries may be disposed of by burial either on church grounds or in a Catholic cemetery, either intact or after burning.
Communion to Concelebrants
In large celebrations, deacons may present patens and chalices to
concelebrants, but not administer Communion to them.
Divine Mercy Sunday
On Divine Mercy Sunday a plenary indulgence is offered, under the usual
conditions, to all who "take part in the prayers and devotions held in
honor of Divine Mercy."
In Rite of Benediction, the Divine Praises customarily precede
reposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.
The double Alleluia is used at
the end of Masses during the Easter Octave and on Pentecost Sunday.
Doxology Grammar; New Missal
The singular verb "is" is used in the doxology ("All glory and honor is yours"), because "glory and honor" is treated as a collective noun.
Dress for Lectors
Standards for appropriate attire should be set ahead of time, to avoid
situations that may offend or cause scandal.
Eastern-Rite Children and Holy Communion
Eastern Rite children, when worshipping in a Latin Rite church, are permitted to receive Communion according to the discipline of their own Rite, though they have not reached the age at which Latin Rite children are permitted to receive.
Eastern Rites and Orthodoxy
Latin-rite Catholics may participate in the rites of an Eastern-rite
Catholic Church, and vice versa, and so fulfill their Sunday/Holy Day
obligation, but they can't formally change rites without a formal
Eastertide Holy Water and Statues
On Easter Sunday the holy water
used in the rite of sprinkling is that blessed at the Easter Vigil and
should not be blessed again.
Difference Over Priestly Celibacy
Roman and Eastern Churches have distinct traditions on the subject of
priestly celibacy, and both are legitimate, deserving of equal respect.
Electric Sanctuary Candles
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal calls for a sanctuary lamp
fueled by oil or wax. An electric lamp would be permissible in certain
Elevating the Host and Chalice
Father provides rubrical instruction, as well as rules of thumb, for the three elevations during Mass.
Empty Tabernacle at a Bishop's Mass
The tabernacle is empty when the Metropolitan or local Ordinary celebrates, as "a sign that Christ grants the Eucharist through the episcopal ministry as the fullness of the priesthood and so reflects the Church's nature as a sacramental communion."
Ending a Homily
While there is no prohibition against ending a homily with the trinitarian formula, it is probably better to end it with an exhortation or prayer of intercession.
Ending the Morning and Evening Prayer
There is no blessing at the end of Morning Prayer when Mass follows, nor
at the end of Evening Prayer when Benediction follows.
Although the Book of the Gospels is treated with honor during the
Liturgy of the Word, enthronement of the Gospel is not "foreseen" as
taking place during Mass.
Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer I
While it may appear that, in Eucharistic Prayer I, the epiclesis of consecration is performed twice, the first is actually a blessing of the elements before consecration.
A Catholic is not permitted to receive Communion at a Protestant
liturgical celebration: to do so would be to testify in favor of a
defective understanding of the Eucharist.
Episcopalian Eucharist (2)
Some Anglicans/Episcopalians have seemingly Catholic beliefs about the Eucharist, but since their Orders are presumed invalid, so too is their Eucharist.
Eucharist for Non-Catholics
It is not possible to give Communion to
Protestants, except in certain clearly defined cirumstances.
Exposition by a Lay Person
Solemn exposition is reserved to a priest or deacon, but a simple
exposition may be done in certain circumstances by an authorized
extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
for the Celebrant(s) Alone?
The Eucharistic Prayer is
reserved to the priest-celebrant alone, among other reasons, because
Christ is the ultimate celebrant, and the priest represents Him to the
Prayer IV, When It Can Be Used
Eucharistic Prayer IV, which has its own Preface, can be used when no
proper Preface is required for the Mass of the day.
Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation
Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation may be used during Lent, provided
one respects the proper prefaces stipulated for certain Lenten Sundays.
Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation
On use of Eucharistic Prayers for
Reconciliation during Lent, they may be used either with their own
prefaces or with the Lenten prefaces. However, the Lenten prefaces must
be used on Sundays of Lent, during the Fifth Week, and in Holy Week.
Eucharist vs. the Word
There is no competition between
Scripture and the Eucharist; the Eucharist is the goal toward which
Exorcism of Salt and Water
Although the exorcism of salt and water, to be mixed in forming Holy Water, is not provided for in the current Book of Blessings, the Holy Father has permitted the use of rites in effect in 1962.
Explaining the Mass During Mass
There are four moments when brief explanations of what is taking place
in the Mass may be offered.
During Stations of the Cross
While there is no restriction on following the Way of the Cross when the
Blessed Sacrament is in the Tabernacle, during exposition, the Sacrament
should be the focus of attention.
Exposition of the Precious Blood
Exposition of the Precious Blood is not permitted on Holy Thursday, or at any other time.
Extent of a Bishop's Authority
A Bishop has a authority to limit options offered by the Roman Missal,
such as celebrating Mass facing East, for serious pastoral
reasons, but not to establish these amendments as particular law.
Extra Kneeling; Monstrance on Holy Thursday
The rubrics do not call for kneeling during the penitential rite in
Lent; solemn adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is forbidden past
midnight when Good Friday begins, because the Church's attention is then
directed to the Cross.
Extraordinary Form; Book of Blessings
Recent changes to the discipline of the celebration of the sacraments, e.g., female altar servers, lay extraordinary ministers, are not to be introduced into the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
The services of extraordinary ministers are supplemental, where necessary,
to the services of ordinary ministers, a bishop, priest or deacon.
Extraordinary Ministers and Both
Species of Communion
Other considerations, than preference for distribution of Holy
Communion by ordinary ministers, should determine whether distribution
is under both kinds, requiring the use of extraordinary ministers.
Ministers and Communion Under Both Species
Norms for training of extraordinary ministers are given by the diocesan
bishop. An extraordinary minister may give the Precious Blood when no
priest or deacon is available and Communion under both kinds is permitted.
Face-to-Face Confessions, and Other Queries
Responding to a list of traditional practices departing from the
liturgical norms or customs since Vatican II, Father tells which are
Fasting Before Mass
The law of fasting, one hour before Communion, is the same for priests as for the laity.
Faulty Trinitarian Formula
While an erroneous Trinitarian formula would render a baptism invalid, it would probably not render invalid a profession of vows, since a specific mention of the Trinity is not required.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
When a holy day, falling on a Sunday, is transferred to Saturday or Monday, the obligation to attend both Masses remains, unless the obligation for the holy day is dispensed.
The Holy See permits female servers, while commending the custom that
reserves the role to boys.
Female Altar Servers in the Extraordinary Form
In the extraordinary form, the restriction of altar servers to males
would seem to remain in force.
First Friday Devotion to Sacred Heart
When a priest is not available for Mass on a First Friday, a Communion Service may be arranged for on that day.
For All vs. For Many
The fact that, in some countries, the change in translation of pro multis, from "for all" to "for many," as not yet arrived, would not justify a priest staying with the former translation, in a country where the change has been mandated.
The rubrics in the new English translation of the Roman Missal emphasize the Fraction, without changing the order of the action vis-a-vis the Agnus Dei.
Frequency of the Extraordinary Form
There are various ways in which celebration according to the
extraordinary form, if desired, may be harmonized with the ordinary
celebration of Mass in the parish.
Father responds to a question regarding frequent confession: what should one confess when one is not conscious of having sinned either venially or mortally since his last confession.
Friday Abstinence and Local Solemnities
When a parish patronal festival falls on a day of abstinence and is celebrated as a solemnity in that parish only, one may visit the parish and eat meat on that day, though properly only if attending the patronal Mass also.
Formula at Priest's
As interpolations in general are not permitted in the liturgy, so an
interpolation in the Eucharistic Prayer at a priest's funeral is out of
Funeral Masses are withheld from notorious apostates, heretics, and
schismatics; those who chose cremation for reasons contrary to the
Faith; other manifest sinners for whom funeral Masses could not be
celebrated without scandal.
for a Suicide
Suicide does not automatically debar a person from a Funeral Mass and
Religious Burial. Cases are examined individually.
Absolution in a Nursing Home
Proximity of a large number of
people in a nursing home gathered for Mass does not warrant a general
absolution. Confessions can be heard beforehand in the patients' rooms.
Genuflections and Ciboria
Where practicable, the faithful should receive from hosts consecrated in the same Mass. No genuflection is called for when removing ciboria for Communion from a tabernacle behind the altar, since Christ is already present on the altar.
If concelebrants approach the altar to receive the Body and Blood, then
they genuflect before receiving. If the paten and cup is passed to them,
they do not genuflect.
Though not strictly prohibited, glass is of doubtful suitability for a
Gloria's Sin and Agnus Dei's Sins
There is no difference in the Latin original, being peccata
(sins) in each instance, but only in the English translations.
Good Friday, Ensuring Enough Hosts for
Regarding the extra Hosts
consecrated on Holy Thursday for Good Friday, it is preferable they be
consecrated in the same church where the Good Friday liturgy is to be
Prostration and Vestments
In the Good Friday liturgy, prostration is the preferred posture for
priest and deacon on approaching the altar, though kneeling is
Gospel Acclamation, Before and After
On whether a Gospel Acclamation is sung after, as well as before the
Gospel, the answer is, not normally.
by a Layperson?
A layperson may not give a homily or any substitution for the homily at
"Gregorian chant may be used in any parish, even when Mass is celebrated
in the vernacular."
Present regulation of Gregorian
Masses, 30 consecutive Masses for a soul in purgatory, allows
interruption of the sequence for sufficient reason.
Gregorian Masses; Multiple Intentions
Gregorian Masses (a series of 30 consecutive celebrations for a particular intention) may not be offered if a previously announced intention would interrupt the series.
Guarding Against Swine Flu
The Bishop does have the
authority to place restrictions, in response to a pandemic, on "passing
the peace," receiving Communion on the tongue, receiving from the
Chalice, and even attendance at Mass.
Hand Sanitizer at Communion Time
"Health situations and concrete possible dangers change from year to year, and the pastoral response must change according to the situations."
Coverings for Women
Canon Law no longer requires women to cover their heads in church,
because it no longer has the same cultural significance as it had in St.
Celebration of the Mass for the Sick is permitted, as provided in the
Roman Missal, but prayers for the sick may not be inserted in a Mass
where not liturgically provided.
Hearing Confessions During Mass
It is not forbidden for confessions to be heard during Mass, if by a
priest other than the celebrant.
He Descended into Hell
Father explains why the literal translation of "he descended into hell," was restored in the Apostles' Creed in the new English transation of the Roman Missal.
There is no liturgical norm calling for hand-holding during the Our
Father, and there are reasons against it.
Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit
"Holy Ghost" and "Holy Spirit" were used interchangeably prior to Vatican II, though "Holy Ghost" predominated. After Vatican II, "Holy Spirit" has come to predominate, largely because of current popular associations with the word "ghost."
A simple, silent Holy Hour is generally possible, when the Sacrament is reposed in the tabernacle. When there is a prolonged exposition, there are further opportunities for silent adoration.
Holy oils should not be stored in the altar, lest they be confused with
relics, but rather in an ambry, located in the baptistry, sacristy, or a
Holy Water, Abstinence and Mimes
Holy Water fonts not to be emptied in Lent until the Triduum; Friday
abstinence in Lent, on pain of sin, venial or mortal; mimes allowed at
extraliturgical events, not at Mass.
Homilies at Communion Services
Outside of Mass, in the absence of a priest or deacon, a competent layperson may preach during a Liturgy of the Word if authorized by the diocesan bishop.
The GIRM does not strictly forbid walking while preaching the homily,
though if it draws attention away from the message to the priest's
personality, it tends toward showmanship.
Honoring the Book of the Gospels
If a Book of the Gospels in the vernacular of the Mass is not available,
the Book in another language may be shown the traditional honors,
together with any additional honors approved by the
Bishops of that country.
Hosts From the
Extraordinary ministers are supposed to receive from the hands of a priest
or deacon the vessels containing either species of the Holy Eucharist.
The Church does not have authority to alter a sacrament instituted by
Christ. But a person with celiac disease may receive the Precious Blood or
possibly a very low-gluten (0.01%) bread recently approved.
If Not Ready for the New Missal
The date for the introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal is determined by the bishops' conferences of the various English-speaking countries. If, for economic or other reasons, a country is not ready, it is up to their bishops' conference to set a later date.
Impediments to Ordination
In response to a question on impediments to ordination, Father outlines the principal concepts found in Canons 1040-1049.
Incensing the Congregation
In the Roman rite, the congregation is incensed by a deacon, instituted
acolyte, or altar server, in order of preference.
Incensing the Host, Altars, Etc.
Here Father lists the objects, occasions,
and methods of liturgical incensation.
Indulgences at the Point of Death
Father affirms that a priest can grant an apostolic blessing on behalf of the Pope to one on the point of death, granting a plenary indulgence.
Indulgences are lost on the sale of an item. Whether a donation, instead
of a price, preserves the indulgence depends on the purpose of the
distributor, charitable or for personal gain.
Indult for 3 Daily Masses?
The canonical norm is that no more than two Masses may be celebrated by
a priest on weekdays, and no more than three on Sundays and holy days of
Infant Baptism in Lent
Although infant baptisms may be discouraged in some parishes during Lent, viewed as a season of preparation for Baptism, there is no canonical stricture against it.
Interrupting the Mass
As it is not licit to celebrate parts of the Mass at different times or in different places, so it is not licit to interrupt the Mass for discussion or any other purpose.
I Now Declare You Man and Wife
The words "I now declare you man and wife" were never a part of the Catholic wedding ceremony. A similar Latin formula, still existing in the Extraordinary Form, was dropped in the Ordinary Form, as suggesting that the priest was the minister of the sacrament, rather than the consenting partners.
Interpreting Liturgical Norms
Liturgical laws are generally understandable to non-experts, though on
disputed questions authentic interpretations may be provided by the
Congregation for Divine Worship.
Kissing at the Sign of Peace
The manner in which the sign of peace is given at Mass may vary according to local custom, where approved by the Conference of Bishops.
Kissing the Hands of a New Priest
Kissing the hands of a newly ordained priest, still practiced in some
places, signifies veneration for the priesthood, particularly associated
with priestly hand gestures.
Kneeling at the Final Prayer
The usual procedure in the Ordinary Form of the Mass is for the people to stand, rather than kneel, for the final blessing, likewise for the prayers in a solemn blessing.
Kneeling Through the Doxology
Whereas in other countries, the people stand after the Mysterium Fidei
in the Eucharistic Prayer, the Holy See approved the tradition in the
U.S. of remaining kneeling through the Doxology, because it was the
"Lamb of God," Substitutions for?
Only with warrant from the Holy See many any
words be added to the Liturgy.
Layman's Gestures During Eucharistic Prayer
As to whether laymen should imitate the celebrant, "the general
principle involved in gestures that accompany prayers is that they are
performed only by those who actually say the words."
Laypeople Distributing Ashes
There seems to be no prohibition
against a lay person helping to distribute ashes during Mass, provided
they have been blessed by a priest.
Laypeople's Use of Oil
"In no instance may the
non-ordained [extraordinary ministers] perform anointings either with
the Oil of the Sick or any other oil."
Preaching on Good Friday
Although the Good Friday celebration is not a Mass, the homily is still
reserved to an ordained minister.
Leavened bread (without special permission) is not licit matter for the
Latin Rite, though it is licit for Eastern Rite Churches. For validity,
the bread, whether leavened or unleavened, must be made from wheat.
Leaving Right After Communion
Leaving Mass right after Communion shows a lack of respect to God, and a
lack of understanding of one's part in the worship and mission of the
Lector in an
It is not permissible for a person who is impeded from receiving
Communion to have a public role in the liturgical assembly.
They Sit in Pews?
It is basically a practical question. Lectors, whether instituted or
commissioned, may have a place in either the sanctuary or the pews.
of Crosses and Images
The veiling of crosses and images, either on the eve before the Fifth
Sunday of Lent, or on Holy Thursday, has a long history as a sign of
the Day It Begins
Lent begins 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays. Easter falls on
the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21.
at the Lecturn
There is no authorization of lighted candles at at the ambo, during
Liturgy of the Word, and it tends to blur the traditional distinction
between reading of the Gospel and other scripture readings.
Lighting the Advent Candles
While there is no prescribed order in which candles of the Advent wreath should be lit (whether to the left or the right of the first candle), the same order should be followed consistently.
Lighting the Easter Candle
During Eastertide, the Paschal candle is lit for "liturgical acts
celebrated with some degree of solemnity."
Limited Veneration of the Cross
Although the Veneration of the Cross by all the faithful individually is preferable, other alternatives are countenanced.
Although permitted in some African and Asian cultures, liturgical dance is
not permitted in the West because of its profane associations there.
Liturgical Garb for Habit-Wearers
A priest wearing a religious habit should cover it with an alb and, if
necessary, an amice when celebrating Mass.
Managing a Large Missal
For the introductory rites at Mass, a chapel edition of the Missal could be more easily held by a server than the larger, heavier altar edition.
Marian Hymns at Offertory
Marian hymns at the offertory are not inappropriate, particularly if a
Marian feast is being celebrated, or the feast of a Saint noted for
Marian Masses in Lent and Advent
During Advent or Lent, substitution of Masses from the Collection of
Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the Masses assigned in the
General Roman Calendar, is normally permitted only at Marian shrines.
Marian Prayers Before the Blessed Sacrament
Praying the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament is entirely proper, since the Rosary itself, although ostensibly Marian, focuses on the Mysteries of Christ.
Mass and Benediction
If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for a period of adoration after Communion at Mass, the final blessing and dismissal are omitted.
Masses for Non-Catholic Officials
Masses may be offered for non-Catholic officials without necessarily
being offered for their intentions.
Masses for Priestly Vocations
Mass may be offered for priestly vocations as a stipended intention any
day of the year, excepting All Souls' Day, but there are restrictions on
when the liturgical form for vocations may be used.
Masses for the Election of a Pope
To the question of whether the Mass for the Election of a Pope may be celebrated, in place of the Mass of the day, in Lent, Father replies in the affirmative, with the Bishop's permission, though not on the Sundays of Lent, Easter, solemnities, Ash Wednesday, or the weekdays of Holy Week.
Masses for the Living and the Dead
Masses for the living are more effective in this regard, that they can
increase a person's sanctity, while Masses for the dead can only speed
Any Catholic may offer a Mass at which he/she attends for any good
intention, but special graces result from the offering of Mass by a
priest for the same intention.
Mass in 2
Mass in more than one language at a time should have a "congruent
reason," "usually involving a special occasion drawing members of two or
more nationalities for the celebration." Latin for the common, along
with the vernacular for the rest of the Mass, is always permissible.
Without a Priest
To the question of whether a catechist should start the Mass if the
priest is late, the answer is no. Also a question about whether a priest
may concelebrate from the pew.
For occasions when a priest is obliged to celebrate Mass alone, Father
provides a list what is omitted from the liturgy.
Mass with the Society of St Pius X
While the Masses celebrated by priests of the Society of St Pius X are valid, they are illicit. They should be attended by the faithful only if no other Catholic Mass is available.
Masters of Ceremonies
A master of ceremonies is not, properly speaking, "in charge" of a
celebration, but it is his responsibility to see that it is carried out
with grace, simplicity, and order.
Masters of Ceremonies at Papal Events
Father explains the role of the papal Master of Ceremonies, and of his assistants, at liturgical celebrations where the Pope presides.
May Crownings of Mary
The order of crowning in the
Rites of the Catholic Church, which is done once by a Bishop or his
delegate, is not the same as the annual May crowning, for which no
official rite is provided.
Meaning of Should
The word "should," in liturgical use, is not a strict canonical term,
but is to be taken in its ordinary meaning of obligation.
Membership in the Masons
Membership in the Masons is still forbidden to Catholics on account of
the fundamental principles on which the organization is founded.
Mentioning Bishops in the Eucharistic Prayers
Only those bishops with pastoral authority in the diocese are mentioned
by name in the Eucharistic Prayer, usually only the diocesan and one
coadjutor or auxiliary.
Mentioning Names at Communion
It is not licit for the priest (or other minister of Holy Communion) to address the communicant by name, thereby adding to the formula, "The Body of Christ."
Mentioning the Mass Intention
It is not required, but appropriate that the celebrant mention the
primary intention for which a Mass is being offered, particularly if the
person requesting the Mass is present.
Midnight Mass at 9 p.m.
Although the readings may be chosen from any of the four Masses for
Christmas, the Midnight Mass ought not to be anticipated.
Missing or Faulty Forms of Absolution
A shortened form of absolution, containing the words, "I absolve you
from your sins," would be valid, though the full formula should normally
and Unblessed Oils
In case of necessity, any priest may bless new oil for Anointing of the
Sick, but only in actual celebration of the sacrament.
Mixing the Forms
The mixing of the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite is not permitted, however, rubrics for the extraordinary form may provide guidance where the ordinary form is vague.
It is not lawful, and conveys the wrong message, for mothers to give
their children First Communion.
Musicam Sacram, though largely overlooked, is still in force,
except where superceded by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
Music During the Eucharistic Prayer
Songs should not be interpolated in the Eucharistic Prayer without specific approval from the Holy See.
Pre-recorded at Mass
Pre-recorded music at Mass is not expressly forbidden, but live
participation by choir and people is presumed.
Music, Non-Liturgical in Cathedrals
On the permissability of non-liturgical music in cathedrals, it may be
permitted by the Ordinary in individual cases, though if only not
contrary to the sacred character of the place.
Mustum, Use at
When a priest has permission to use mustum instead of wine at Mass, he
must also consecrate wine for concelebrants and communicants receiving
under both kinds.
Mystery of Faith Responses
There is no official preference, seasonal or otherwise, between responses to the "Mystery of Faith" acclamation after the consecration at Mass.
Need for Annual Confession
The precept of the Church that we
must confess our sins at least once a year, is not limited to those who
have committed mortal sin.
Newly Ordained as Concelebrant
In reply to a question of whether newly ordained priests are concelebrants in their ordination Mass, Father answers, Yes. "All the presbyters concelebrate with the bishop in their ordination Mass."
Priests Blessing Bishops
Father responds to several questions on diverse topics, sent from a
priest in Bangladesh. A Bishop may ask for the first blessing of a
priest he has ordained, but it does not form part of the rites.
Distributing Precious Blood
Non-Catholics are not normally permitted to take a liturgical role the
Non-Catholics Preaching the Seven
The Good Friday reflection on the Seven Last Words is not an
appropriate venue for ecumenical or interreligious dialogue.
Non-celebrating Priests Reading the Gospel
The Gospel should be read by a deacon or, in his absence, a priest other than the celebrant. If, however, a deacon or another priest is not present, the priest celebrant himself should read the Gospel.
A layperson may, for good reason, be seated in the sanctuary, but he may
not preside at Mass.
Devotions During Mass
Novenas, nonliturgical litanies,
etc., may be recited immediately before or after Mass, but they should
not be introduced into the Mass itself.
Obedience to a
The presumption should be that directions from a priest are correct in
liturgical and devotional matters, though there is no obligation to obey
if he contradicts the Church's liturgical norms.
Obligation of the Liturgy of the Hours
Since the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours belongs to the public worship of the Church, priests and transitional deacons are morally bound to celebrate it, unless prevented by reasonable cause, on a daily basis.
Office of Readings, Combining with Morning
When the Office of Readings immediately precedes another Hour of
the Office, the hymn for that Hour may replace the hymn for the Office
Office of Readings the Evening Before
If the Office of Readings is anticipated on the evening before, it
should be read after Vespers for that evening, and preferably before
Oils in an Emergency
In case of necessity, a priest can bless any vegetable oil for the anointing of the sick. However, chrism and the oil of catechumens must be blessed by a Bishop.
Old Catholic and Polish National Catholic Churches
In cases of necessity, no Catholic priest being available, sacraments may be received from Polish National Catholic priests, as from priests of Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Old Testament Figures, Invoking
The historical process by which the liturgical calendar was formed
accounts for the absence of feast days honoring Old Testament Saints.
Omitting or Adding the Gloria
At a Mass of Ordination, the Gloria is sung/said, whether or not it is on a feast or solemnity, unless it is during Lent or Advent.
Where Bishops' conferences have authorized forms for the community
celebration of the Word in the absence of a priest or deacon, this is
liturgy, not paraliturgy. A paraliturgy is a celebration with a
quasi-liturgical format not determined by Church authority.
Options for the Washing of Feet
In case a priest cannot kneel for the Washing of the Feet, those whose feet are to be washed may be seated on an elevated platform, or else the rite may be omitted.
Orthodox, When He Joins the Catholic Church
An Orthodox Christian, already baptized, confirmed, and receiving the
Eucharist, can be received into the the Catholic Church by profession of
faith, after doctrinal and spiritual formation. He may also participate
in the Church's sacramental life even before formal incorporation.
Pio, Monsignor Escrivá and the Roman Missal
As to why Saints Pio and Escrivá are not included in the Roman
Missal, they were canonized after the current edition was published.
Papal "Coronation Oath"
Despite charges by sedevacantists that the Pope's so-called coronation oath was abolished after Vatican II, there is little evidence that any such oath was ever taken by a newly elected Pope.
Papal Funerals and the Sede Vacante
Father McNamara answers
questions, liturgical and otherwise, on the passing of the Holy Father.Father McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum
Pontifical Athenaeum, answers questions of general interest on
Papal Funeral Continued
Father McNamara answers further liturgical questions on the funeral of
Pope John Paul II.
Paper towels, whatever their quality, are not suitable for use as altar
Paschal Candle, Origin and Use of
The origin of the paschal candle is ancient, "probably inspired by the
Jewish custom of lighting a lamp at the conclusion of the Sabbath."
Father responds to a question about the role and title of a lay "pastoral administrator," where there is a shortage of priests.
Pedophiles and Ordination
Unfortunately, a mental or moral
disorder which would disqualify a man from the priesthood, would not
invalidate his ordination, if it should take place.
An Alb Alone
Apart from a special dispensation, a single celebrant or principle
celebrant at Mass must wear a chasuble. Acceptance of a penance is
necessary for validity of the sacrament; delay in performing it does
not, though may be sinful if due to neglect.
Penitential Rite in the Mass
Musical settings are provided for parts of the Penitential Rite, with the
exception of the "I confess" of the first form.
Rite, Its Efficacy
The absolution in the penitential rite at Mass forgives venial sins, but
not mortal sins, for which the Sacrament of Penance is necessary.
Martin Luther King in a Church
Canon 1186 permits public veneration of "only those servants of God whom
the authority of the Church has recorded in the list of the saints or
Pius V's 1570
Quo Primum, establishing the liturgy of the Mass "in perpetuity,"
was a disciplinary measure aimed at those who would change it without
When we label the Mass we
diminish its universal meaning as Christ's sacrifice renewed upon the
altar and the sacred banquet uniting us in His Mystical Body.
Sons, and the Priesthood
Although illegitimacy is not a canonical impediment to priestly
ordination, in some cultures there may be a social stigma that would
hinder a priest's pastoral effectiveness.
Pontifical Masses and the Exultet
Father answers questions on certain ceremonial acts of a Bishop in a
Pontifical Mass, and on the singing of the Exultet at the Easter Vigil.
Pope, When He
During an interregnum, there is no intercession for the Pope in the
Eucharistic Prayer; deceased popes are traditionally vested in red, the
color of the Apostles.
Pope's Processional Cross
The "new" pastoral cross carried by Benedict XVI originally belonged to
Blessed Pius IX.
Postures at Adoration
and After Communion
After Communion, it is best to follow parish custom on whether to
sit when the celebrant sits, or at some other time.
Prayers of the
"Generally, and especially on a Sunday, the intentions should be prepared
beforehand and approved by the pastor or celebrant."
Prayers Recited Quietly
Regarding prayers to be said
"silently" by the celebrant at Mass, the Latin rubric secreto
Praying for the Departed
Prayers for the faithful departed, that they be delivered from the Evil
One, most likely refer to the particular judgment, that the departed be
counted among the faithful.
Precious Blood for Children
There is no norm forbidding children from receiving the Precious Blood,
though it is advisable that they begin with intinction.
Prelude Music; Eucharist in Sacristy
During Lent, the organ should be played only to support the singing;
and the Blessed Sacrament should remain on the altar of repose after
Mass on Holy Thursday till Communion on Good Friday.
Corporal on the Altar
Altar servers may spread the corporal and otherwise prepare the altar for
Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Father lists criteria for pre-recorded Masses, televised for the benefit
of those prevented from attending a live Mass.
Priest at Kiss of
The priest is supposed to remain within the sanctuary for the kiss of
peace except (in the U.S.) in special circumstances.
If a priest is in mortal sin, he is obliged to confess before
celebrating any sacrament, though the sacrament is not thereby
invalidated if he is not in a state of grace.
In the procession at Mass, the Book of the Gospels is carried right in
front of the priest. The lectionary is not carried at all.
The priest may either stand or sit after Communion, while the deacon
gathers the remaining hosts into one vessel and carries it to the
Prostration at the Consecration
Although prostration at the consecration shows a deep reverence for the mystery, it is better that all the faithful should adopt the uniform posture of kneeling.
Protestant Events, Participation in
Catholics may take part in (other than eucharistic) Protestant services,
including reading of lessons.
Protestant hymns may be used in the liturgy provided they conform to
Catholic doctrine and are approved by episcopal authority.
How to Understand It
The word "purification" here refers to preparation of sacred vessels for
further use by reverently consuming all traces of Christ's Body and
Purification of Sacred Vessels in U.S.
Regarding purification of sacred vessels by extraordinary ministers, the
indult formerly permitting it has been withdrawn.
Vessels Away From the Altar
It is permissible, "especially if there are several vessels to be
purified, to leave them suitably covered on a corporal, either at the
altar or at the credence table, and to purify them immediately after
Mass following the dismissal of the people."
In a valid baptism, it is necessary for the same person to both pour the
water and speak the words.
Readers' Bows to the Presider
From liturgical texts, it does not seem that a reader's bow to the
celebrant, although appropriate, is obligatory.
Father addresses questions on the liturgical instruction, regarding use of
extraordinary ministers, joining other rites to the Mass, and gifts at the
The tradition of placing relics beneath altars should be
preserved, provided the authenticity of the relics can be determined.
Removing the Blessed Sacrament
Father responds to a question about removal of the Blessed Sacrament from the sanctuary when a concert or ecumenical prayer service is permitted in the church.
Renewal of Marriage Vows
A form for renewal of marriage vows, while approved in some countries, "should avoid any expression that might hint at actually renewing the original sacramental bond."
Sacraments celebrated by a priest who has left the clerical state would be
at best illicit, and in some cases invalid.
Requiem Masses on Sundays of Advent
GIRM 380 permits a Funeral Mass to be celebrated on any day except for Solemnities which are holy days of obligation, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter.
Exposition of Blessed Sacrament
"Liturgical norms do not allow the Blessed Sacrament to remain exposed in
church during Mass."
The Precious Blood may not be reserved except for Communion of the sick
who cannot receive the Lord under the form of bread.
The rule is not absolute that the sign of the cross be made with the right hand, or genuflections on the right knee, but this is the immemorial custom, which is not difficult for left-handed people to observe.
Rite of Election of Catechumens
Regarding the progressive steps of the catechumenate, they are to
spiritually strengthen the catechumen, so they may receive the
sacraments of initiation with the greatest knowledge and commitment.
Rite of Marriage
In a nuptial Mass, the penitential rite is omitted, and Gloria and Creed
are included only if they would normally be used in the Mass for that
Sprinkling with Holy Water
It is not appropriate to replace the new rite of sprinkling before Mass
with the Asperges of the old rite.
Rosary During Eucharistic Adoration
The Congregation for Divine Worship, in an official response, states that it is permitted to publicly pray the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.
Sacristan, the Duties of
Father outlines the responsibilities of a sacristan, in preparing for
liturgical celebrations and providing for the upkeep of church
Saints' Prayers for Souls in Purgatory
We don't know whether the Saints, on their own initiative, pray for the
souls in Purgatory, but we can be confident they will if we on earth ask
them to do it.
To the question of why, in the phrasing of the current English
translation of the Latin Missal, the third "Holy" is joined with "Lord,"
rather than "Lord" with "God," the answer is that the Latin punctuation
Saturday Mass for Sunday
If there is danger of anyone
mistaking a ritual Mass, e.g., a nuptial Mass, on Saturday afternoon, as
valid for Sunday, then care should be taken that guests know in advance
that their Sunday obligation will not be covered.
Basis of the Mass as Sacrifice
Evidence that the Mass is a Sacrifice is found in the connection between
Old Testament sacrifices and the Lord's words at the Last Supper.
English language lectionaries differ in their translations of Scripture.
The selections from Scripture are made to convey essential elements of
Readings, Rhythm of
Here is explained the general structure of the schedule of readings at
Mass, for Sundays and weekdays.
Collection, When to Take It Up
The appropriate time for a second collection would be following the
Prayer after Communion and before the final blessing.
Service as a Substitute for Mass
A Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion may be substituted for Mass only on those conditions outlined in the Directory of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, issued by the Holy See in 1988.
Shades of Violet in Advent
"There is nothing in official norms requiring a distinction between the shades [of violet/purple] used in Advent and Lent — nor for funerals."
Shifting or Substituting the Sunday Liturgy
While permission may be granted for the Sunday liturgy to be celebrated
on a Friday or Saturday morning, it is not the case that Sunday itself
is a transferable feast.
Signers of a Baptism Certificate
The pastor of the parish where a baptism is celebrated is required to sign the register, whether or not he directly administered the baptism.
Sign of Peace
If there is no invitation to the sign of peace, it is not to be
exchanged by the people on their own initiative.
Liturgical silence encourages interior silence, which is a necessary state
of mind for full participation in the Eucharist.
Singing at the Elevation
As to singing at the elevation, as with any other addition to the liturgical text, it is unwarranted.
Singing the Alleluia at the Ambo
The Alleluia may be sung either at the ambo or at "some other suitable place."
One of the changes brought about by Vatican II's liturgical reform was
the possibility of a sung consecration. Until then, "the Latin rite was
practically the only one that did not sing the words of the
Singing the Gospel
"There is no rule which would oblige the Gospel to be sung in any particular season nor any norm that would restrict its being sung outside of these seasons."
Singing the Sursum Corda
There is no rule stating that, unless the Sursum Corda, Mystery of Faith, and concluding Doxology are all chanted, none may be chanted.
Slide Shows at Homilies
Slide shows may not replace the homily, nor, in general, are they to be
preferred to the spoken word.
Solemnities, Feasts, Memorials
Father McNamara explains how "feasts" are classified, and how their
classification is reflected in the celebration of Mass.
Songs with God in First Person
To the question of whether hymns should be sung in which God speaks in the first person, Father recommends examining each song in particular and judging it on its "doctrinal, literary and musical merits."
So Very Dry Liturgy
Liturgy, celebrated according to
rubrics, can seem dry only to those who haven't been instructed in the
meaning of the Mass and what actually occurs there.
Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman
A homily read by a layman, even if composed by a priest, is not
advisable, since it creates a false impression and lacks the personal
Spanish Translations for the U.S.
There is no definitive Spanish missal prescribed for use in the United States, although the new Mexican translation, once it is approved, will probably become the standard for this country.
Speaking in Tongues at Mass
As to whether speaking in tongues is permissable at Mass, it does not conform to the authentic charism of the Catholic Charismatic renewal.
Stamping the Faithful with Ashes
The use of a stamp in the imposition of ashes could distract from receiving the ashes as a sign of personal penance and conversion.
Standing at the "Pray, Brethren"
As to when the people rise at the "Pray Brethren," the rubric is not clear, beyond the fact that it should be in time for the conclusion of the people's response.
the Eucharistic Prayer
In dioceses of the U.S.A., the people should kneel from after Sanctus to
the Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Stipends and Mass Obligation
Unless obliged by their office of pastor, priests are not strictly obliged to celebrate Mass daily, though they are encouraged to do so. Father also answers a question on stipends.
Added to the Eucharistic Prayer
The Holy See may one day direct that St. Joseph be named in all
Eucharistic Prayers, but until that day, unauthorized insertion of his
name is not the way to honor the Patron of the Universal Church.
The chief celebrant should wear a chasuble, and concelebrants also, as far
as circumstances permit.
St. Pius Instead of St. Pio
Father responds to the question of why St Padre Pio's name, in the current edition of the Roman Missal, is Pius.
Stripping the Altars on Holy Thursday
All altars are to be stripped after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, not only the altar on which the Mass was celebrated.
Substituting the Psalm
The responsorial Psalm should be taken from the Lectionary, without
substitution from a nonscriptural source.
Sunday Mass on Mondays
Though the Mass for Sunday may, under certain circumstances, be transferred to another day, the Sunday obligation (met either on a Saturday evening or Sunday proper) cannot be transferred.
It Should Be
The Tabernacle may be either in the sanctuary or in a chapel visible from
the main body of the church.
Adoration and Double Genuflections
Genuflection on one knee may be used in
adoring Christ, either in the tabernacle or exposed on the altar, though
some countries have retained the double genuflection.
Table Wine for Mass
Table wine may be used at Mass if formal inquiry has been made to the
manufacturer, to insure that the wine meets canonical conditions for
Teens as Extraordinary Ministers
While the decision as to the minimum age of extraordinary ministers belongs to the Bishop, the recognized norms would preclude choosing young people just to keep them coming to Mass.
Most guidelines giving norms for televised Masses are issued by the
national bishops' conference. They are for the edification of the home
bound, do not substitute for those able to assist at Mass, and do not
fulfill the Sunday precept.
The Lord Be With
The priest is not authorized to change the approved text, "The Lord Be
With You," to, "The Lord Is With You," which is not approved.
Theology of Latin- and Eastern-Rite Liturgies
While there are differences in emphasis between the Latin and Eastern rites, in essence they are the same Mass.
The Te Deum
Te Deum, the ancient Latin hymn, is in the Divine Office and has been traditionally sung on important religious and state occasions.
Through Him, With
The GIRM (no. 151) clearly states
that the doxology, "Per ipsum," at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, is
to be said or sung by the priest alone.
Translating from the English Missal
With some latitude for less widely diffused languages, translations of the Roman Missal are to be made directly from the Latin, rather than from another already approved translation.
Translating Pro Multis
A letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship (10/17/2006) to all Presidents of the Conferences of Bishops stated that, from henceforth, the Latin pro multis in the words of consecration should be translated more literally as "for many," or their equivalent in the various languages.
Translating Visibilium Omnium et Invisibilium
In the Nicene Creed of the new Roman Missal, "visible and invisible" better expresses the totality of creation, including both physical and spiritual realms.
Translations of Marian Masses
On how and when to apply the new missal translation to the collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary in English, only the proper texts of each Mass of the BVM would be used, while the Ordinary would come from the new missal.
The question is addressed of whether a child ought to be baptized
without the parents' consent, and if the baptism would be valid.
Children Who Die
"...the celebration of funeral rites for an unbaptized child usually
requires the permission of the local bishop who considers the pastoral
The inverted Latin cross sometimes seen on the Holy Father's chair is the Petrine cross, from the tradition that St Peter was crucified upside down.
Use of a Hand Missal at Mass
Although the general preference is that the liturgy, including the readings, be heard rather than read, the use of hand missals is not discouraged if they assist in our understanding.
Use of Orthodox Holy Oils
In a case where holy oils are inaccessible to a Catholic priest, he may use holy oils provided by an Orthodox priest.
Using an iPad at the Gospel
Use of an iPad for the reading of the Gospel at Mass would not be appropriate, since the Book of the Gospels has been blessed and reserved for that holy use, whereas a tablet has many other than sacred functions.
Using Classrooms for Mass
There may be occasions when Mass in a classroom is desirable, but in
general it's best to have it in a sacred place.
Using Multiple Chalices and Patens
The main chalice and paten should be placed directly in front of the
celebrant, but if more chalices and patens are necessary, they should
have a place on the altar as well.
Using the Chalice Pall
Guidelines are given from common practice on when the pall should cover
the chalice during celebration of Mass.
Using the Purifier on the Lips
The purifier (purificator) is used to wipe the lip of the cup, not normally the celebrant's lips.
The substitution of ustedes for vosotros in the Mass has
been permitted in Mexico, and for pastoral reasons may be permitted by
bishops in other countries where Mexican faithful worship.
Venerating Relics at Mass
Genuflections are not made to relics, excepting only a relic of the True
Cross, or other relic of the Passion, when publicly exposed.
Veneration of Altar at End of Mass
Concelebrants bow to the altar, leaving the principal celebrant and
deacon to kiss the altar at the end of Mass.
Veneration of a Venerable
Public liturgical or
paraliturgical veneration of a Servant of God, not beatified, is
forbidden, though private, personal veneration is permitted.
Vestment Colors at a Concelebration
When sufficient chasubles of the color of the day are lacking at a concelebration, all but the main celebrant may wear white chasubles, or else stoles of the proper color over albs, or white stoles.
Vestments in Hot Climates
Vestments remind priest and people alike that he is a sacred minister, and should be worn even in hot climates.
Votive Offices in the Liturgy of the Hours
Although substitution of a votive office for the office of the day is permitted (except on solemnities and certain other days), it should be for pastoral, rather than devotional reasons.
Washing of Hands
"The washing of hands at the end of the offertory rites may never be
omitted at any Mass."
Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday
Although the Holy See made an exception for a particular United
States diocese, the norm is for men only to have their feet washed on
Water With Wine,
The custom of mixing water
with wine goes back to the time of Christ, and theological meanings have
been attached to this custom, so that it is absolutely forbidden to
neglect it at Mass.
the Cross Within Mass
"No priest has the authority to add or remove anything
prescribed in the liturgical books by his own decision."
Wearing Stoles Over the Chasuble
While exceptions have been made for some countries, the universal law of the Church is that the stole be worn under the chasuble.
While, apart from special circumstances, a priest should be readily
identifiable in public by his dress, the form of clerical garb differs
with culture and custom.
Wearing the Rosary as a Necklace
In our current culture, it is not advisable to wear a rosary as a necklace, unless one can wear it to the glory of God, and not merely as a fashion accessory.
Wedding, Why No Litanies
"...[I]t would not be correct to independently replace the prayer of the
faithful for a litany of the saints, as this would alter the established
rite of Christian marriage."
Weddings in Lent
The Church does not forbid weddings during Lent, but neither does she
particularly encourage them.
What a Concelebrant Must Recite
"For a concelebrant's Mass to be valid the words of consecration recited
in a low but audible voice is strictly necessary," though for
regularity, he is obliged to recite also all parts required by the GIRM.
What Consubstantial Means
The word "consubstantial," used in the new English translation of the Nicene Creed, although needing some explanation, is more accurate than "one in Being," as in the previous translation.
What Should Be Prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours
All Latin-rite priests and transitional deacons pray the entire Liturgy of the Hours. Permanent deacons pray that part of the office determined by the competent local authorities. Non-clerical religious and other consecrated souls pray that part of the office as determined by their particular legislation and personal commitments.
What to Use for Sprinkling Holy Water
For the rite of blessing with holy water, the sprinkler may be in the form of a hollow perforated ball, a brush, or a sprig of hyssop or other shrub.
When 2 Deacons Are Present
If there are two deacons taking part in the celebration, the one who is to preach is normally the one who reads the Gospel.
When a Baptized Child Enters the Church
To the question of whether a baptized child, being received into the Catholic Church, should receive Confirmation, Father replies, "if a child who has reached the age of reason is sufficiently aware so as to be able to freely desire and receive baptism, then it can be reasonably presumed that he or she is also ready for the other sacraments as well."
When a Bishop Doesn't Concelebrate at a Mass
When the diocesan bishop is present at Mass, he presides at the celebration, whether or not he is the celebrant.
When a Church is Desacralized
On how a church is desacralized, it is done by a formal decree of the
Bishop "with the consent of those who legitimately claim rights for
themselves in the church."
When a Concelebrant Takes Photos During Mass
A concelebrant should no more take photos during Mass than he would if
he were the lone celebrant.
When a Host Isn't Swallowed
When a Host, partially consumed by a sick person, needs to be disposed
of, it should be dissolved in water and poured into the sacrarium or in
When a Priest Lives in Public Sin
A priest in mortal sin should abstain, as far as possible, from celebrating the sacraments before receiving absolution.
When Putting Incense in the Thurible
During the Alleluia (or other chant), the priest should stand while putting incense in the thurible, rather than sit, as the Bishop does.
When Reading the Passion
Father answers a series of questions relating to the reading of the
Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
When the Faithful Take the Host Directly
Magisterial documents on the proper mode of intinction direct that the
people are not to take the Host directly from the ciborium or themselves
dip the Host into the chalice.
When the Holy See Is Vacant
When the Holy See is vacant, whether through the death of a pope or his resignation, "the pope's name, and the entire phrase referring to the pope, is omitted from the Eucharistic Prayer" until the election of his successor.
When the Liturgy of the Eucharist is Fast
Although the Liturgy of the Word takes longer, balance may be restored to the Liturgy of the Eucharist by increased use of incense, candles, and singing.
When the Mass Officially Begins
The Mass officially begins with recitation of the antiphon, or the
singing of a hymn or entrance chant.
When the Priest Should Receive Communion
The so-called "servant model" of distributing Holy Communion, in which
the priest receives after the people, is illicit.
When There's a
When a medical emergency interrupts Mass, the celebrant's response is
governed by no general rule beyond using common sense and pastoral tact.
When to Extinguish the Easter Candle
In the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the Paschal Candle remains in the sanctuary until Pentecost Sunday, although in the Extraordinary Form it is removed after the principal Mass on Ascension Thursday.
When Words Over the Host Are Repeated
If the celebrant is distracted, and doesn't use the proper words to
consecrate both species, he should be quietly informed before he
proceeds much further.
Where the Priest Should Begin Mass
The priest should begin the Mass at the celebrant's chair, which is most
appropriately placed to the side of the altar.
Where To Receive the Bread and Wine
As to where the bread and wine are to be received at the offertory, they are to be handed to the priest, who passes them to the deacon or other ministers, by whom they are brought to the altar.
Which English Translation to Use Abroad
While there are differences in the new translation of the Roman Missal for English-speaking countries, the differences are slight, involving the adaptations of each bishops' conference.
Which Ordinary to Mention at Mass
As to which Ordinary to mention in the celebration of Mass, in the Latin rite the criterion is territorial jurisdiction. Other rites may have other criteria.
Who Should Sing the Exsultet
The Exsultet properly is to be sung, and although the preferred minister is the deacon, a priest or cantor may do it if musically more competent.
Why Dates of Easter Differ
The question of why the Catholic and Orthodox dates of Easter differ is answered by reference to the difference between Gregorian and Julian calendars.
Why No Amen at End of the Our Father
The Amen, delayed after the end of
the Our Father in the Mass liturgy, should not be omitted when the Our
Father is said in non-liturgical contexts.
Only One Chrism Mass
Even where there are two co-cathedrals in the diocese, there should be
only one Chrism Mass, to signify the unity of the presbyterium with its
the Various Postures at Mass
Father gives the significance of the different postures at Mass,
relating them to the various parts of the Liturgy.
in Flask or Bottle
While not explicitly forbidden, neither is it authorized to consecrate
wine other than in a chalice/cup.*
Communion at Mass
At weddings and funerals, an announcement restricting Communion to
Catholics in a state of grace is sufficient to avoid indiscrimate
distribution of the Sacrament.
Within the Action
The rubric "Within the Action" (Infra Actionem), in Eucharistic Prayer I, refers to the commemoration of Saints (Communicantes) which precedes the continuation of the Sacrifice.
Women as Masters of Ceremonies
"Lacking any specific instructions to the contrary from the Holy See, a female master of ceremonies is possible from the point of view of liturgical law."
The GIRM 2000 gives the correct versicle(s) and responses at the beginning
and conclusion of the Gospel.
To gain the special plenary indulgence for saying Evening
Prayer and Night Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, they must both be
said, but not necessarily together. What an indulgence is is also
covered, and a list of other plenary indulgences is provided.
* An issue formally
decided with publication of Redemptionis
Sacramentum, 23 April 2004.