Babies in the Offertory Procession

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Babies in the Offertory Procession

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

Q: I want to know if it is appropriate to include newborn babies in the offertory procession and after which the priest would take the baby around the altar three times. I ask this because I know that you cannot add or subtract anything from the Mass. Also, is it usually permitted to go for adoration on Sunday after attending Mass, which is the greatest act of Catholic worship? I know that during the consecration when the host and chalice is raised we have the privilege to adore Christ. — D.A., Accra, Ghana

A: Regarding the offertory, in 2004 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments published the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum." This document gives precise indications regarding the presentation of the gifts:

"[70.] The offerings that Christ's faithful are accustomed to present for the Liturgy of the Eucharist in Holy Mass are not necessarily limited to bread and wine for the eucharistic celebration, but may also include gifts given by the faithful in the form of money or other things for the sake of charity toward the poor. Moreover, external gifts must always be a visible expression of that true gift that God expects from us: a contrite heart, the love of God and neighbor by which we are conformed to the sacrifice of Christ, who offered himself for us. For in the Eucharist, there shines forth most brilliantly that mystery of charity that Jesus brought forth at the Last Supper by washing the feet of the disciples. In order to preserve the dignity of the Sacred Liturgy, in any event, the external offerings should be brought forward in an appropriate manner. Money, therefore, just as other contributions for the poor, should be placed in an appropriate place which should be away from the eucharistic table. Except for money and occasionally a minimal symbolic portion of other gifts, it is preferable that such offerings be made outside the celebration of Mass."

After the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist Benedict XVI continued this reflection in his apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis":

"47. The Synod Fathers also drew attention to the presentation of the gifts. This is not to be viewed simply as a kind of 'interval' between the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. To do so would tend to weaken, at the least, the sense of a single rite made up of two interrelated parts. This humble and simple gesture is actually very significant: in the bread and wine that we bring to the altar, all creation is taken up by Christ the Redeemer to be transformed and presented to the Father. In this way we also bring to the altar all the pain and suffering of the world, in the certainty that everything has value in God's eyes. The authentic meaning of this gesture can be clearly expressed without the need for undue emphasis or complexity. It enables us to appreciate how God invites man to participate in bringing to fulfillment his handiwork, and in so doing, gives human labor its authentic meaning, since, through the celebration of the Eucharist, it is united to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ."

Both of these documents tend to discourage the excess use of symbolic offerings that are unconnected to the Mass or to charity toward the poor. 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.

Some countries have a long-standing custom of placing newly baptized infants at the foot of an image or upon a side altar dedicated to Our Lady or, occasionally, to Our Lord, in a symbolic gesture of offering. It is good to maintain this custom even for baptisms within Mass. I recently saw this done with great pastoral effectiveness at a Marian shrine in Bohemia, in the Czech Republic.

With respect to adoration after Mass: It is true that participating at Mass is the greatest possible act of adoration and that no amount of adoration could ever substitute a single Mass. Eucharistic adoration, however, is one of the most suitable means of prolonging the thanksgiving offered at Mass as well as preparing for the next Mass. Hence, there is no contradiction in promoting Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass.

The need for both elements is admirably expressed in the Second Vatican Council's constitution on the liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium":

"10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

"The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with 'the paschal sacraments,' to be 'one in holiness'; it prays that 'they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith'; the renewal in the eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.

"12. The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret; yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle, he should pray without ceasing. We learn from the same Apostle that we must always bear about in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame. This is why we ask the Lord in the sacrifice of the Mass that, 'receiving the offering of the spiritual victim,' he may fashion us for himself 'as an eternal gift.'"

* * *

Follow-up: Eucharistic Adoration [6-15-2010]

The June 1 column, which focused on the practice of including babies in the offertory procession, also dealt with the topic of Eucharistic adoration. A reader from Virginia noticed that my reply said, "It is true that participating at Mass is the greatest possible act of adoration and that no amount of adoration could ever substitute a single Mass.” The reader asked, "Can you please identify where this is actually written? I do not ask this for the sake of having you prove yourself, but for the sake of knowing its source, that it may increase one's knowledge and faith and spiritual development."

This doctrine is solid in virtue of the infinite value of the Mass, insofar as it is the very sacrifice of Christ himself. At the same time, the doctrine it is not always expressed so directly in Church documents as I stated in my column.

The Catechism says:

"1378. Worship of the Eucharist

In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession."

"1379. The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent, outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament."

From this it can be seen that the foremost means of adoration is during Mass. Other forms of adoration developed later and derive from that of the Mass.

The site contains a wealth of documents on Eucharistic doctrine that readers might find useful.


This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
© Innovative Media, Inc.

ZENIT International News Agency
Via della Stazione di Ottavia, 95
00165 Rome, Italy

To subscribe
or email: with SUBSCRIBE in the "subject" field

Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210