Liturgical Directives

Author: Clementine Lenta

Liturgical Directives

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Is it celebrated properly and reverently in your parish? The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession): Is it administered properly and reverently in your parish?

The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion): Is it administered and received properly and reverently in your parish?

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

On April 3, 1980 the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship issued (Instruction on Certain Norms Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery) It was approved by Pope John Paul II on April 17, 1980 and was addressed to ail the Catholic Bishops of the world Its purpose is to prevent abuses and allay confusion. As its Introduction states:

"None of these things can bring good results. The consequences are—and cannot fail to be—the impairing of the unity of faith and worship in the Church, doctrinal uncertainty, scandal, and bewilderment among the People of God, and the near inevitability of violent reactions.

"The faithful have a right to a true liturgy, which means the liturgy desired and laid down by the Church . . . Undue experimentation, changes and creativity bewilder the faithful ... The Second Vatican Council's admonition in this regard must be remembered: 'No person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority'."

Since many people are indeed confused regarding certain practices associated with the Eucharist, here are a number of official statements issued and approved by the Apostolic See through , , the (1983) and other documents:

Adding to or Changing Liturgical Texts


"To modify the Eucharistic Prayers approved by the Church or to adopt others privately composed is a most serious abuse."

Non-Scriptural Readings During the Liturgy


"It would be a serious abuse to replace the Word of God with the word of man, no matter who the author may be."

Congregation Joining in the Eucharistic Prayer

"Through Him, with Him, in Him, etc."


"It is reserved to the priest, by virtue of his ordination, to proclaim the Eucharistic Prayer. It is therefore an abuse to have some parts of the Eucharistic Prayer said by the deacon, by a lower minister or by the faithful."

Homily Given by a Religious Sister, Brother or Lay Person :

"The reading of the Gospel passage is reserved to the ordained minister, namely the priest or deacon . . . The purpose of the homily is to explain to the faithful the Word of God proclaimed in the Readings and to apply its message to the present. Accordingly, the homily is to be given by the priest or the deacon."

Priest's Genuflections


"Three genuflections are made during Mass: after the elevation of the host, after the elevation of the chalice, and before communion.

"If there is a tabernacle with the blessed sacrament in the sanctuary, a genuflection is made before and after Mass and whenever passing in front of the sacrament."

Altar Girl Servers


"There are various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly including reading the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. However, women are not permitted to act as altar servers."

Use of Altar Breads or Wine


"The bread of the celebration of the Eucharist, in accordance with the tradition of the whole Church, must be made solely of wheat, and, in accordance with the tradition proper to the Latin Church, it must be unleavened . . . No other ingredients are to be added to the wheat flour and water . .. The wine for the Eucharistic Celebration must be of the fruit of the vine and be natural and genuine, that is to say, not mixed with the other substances."

The Liturgy and Dancing

) Vol. XI, (1975) pp. 202- 205 state>:

"Dance has never constituted an essential part in the official liturgy of the Latin Church. If local Churches have introduced the dance, at times even in the temples, this was on occasion of feasts in order to show feelings of jubilation and devotion. But the dance always took place outside the liturgical actions. Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance, as not befitting worship, and also because it could degenerate into disorders . . . hence, it is not possible to introduce something of that sort in the liturgical celebration; it would mean bringing into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements: and this would mean the same as introducing an atmosphere of profanity, which would easily suggest to those present worldly places and profane situations."

Place for the Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice


"The celebration of the Eucharist is to be performed in a sacred place, unless in a particular case necessity demands otherwise; in such a case the celebration must be done in a respectable place."

Liturgical Vestments


"In celebrating and administering the Eucharist, priests and deacons are to wear the liturgical vestments prescribed by the rubrics."

The Blessed Sacrament

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament


"Public and private devotion to the Holy Eucharist outside Mass also is highly recommended; for the presence of Christ, who is adored by the faithful in the sacrament, derives from the sacrifice and is directed towards sacramental and spiritual Communion."


"With regard to exposition of the Holy Eucharist, either prolonged or brief, and with regard to processions of the Blessed Sacrament, eucharistic congresses, and the whole ordering of eucharistic piety, the pastoral indications and directives given in the Roman Ritual are to be observed."


"It is recommended that in these same churches and oratories an annual solemn, exposition of the Most Holy Sacrament be held during a suitable period of time, even if not continuous, so that the local community may meditate and may adore the Eucharistic Mystery more profoundly, but this kind of exposition is to be held only if a suitable gathering of the faithful is foreseen and the established norms are observed."


"Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of Eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, hours of adoration, periods of exposition—short, prolonged, and annual (Forty Hours) — Eucharistic benediction, Eucharistic processions, Eucharistic congresses. A particular mention should be made at this point of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ as an act of public worship rendered to Christ present in the Eucharist (Feast of Corpus Christi) . . . All this corresponds to the general principles and particular norms already long in existence but newly formulated during or after the Second Vatican Council.

"The encouragement and the deepening of Eucharistic worship are proofs of that authentic renewal which the Council set itself as an aim and of which they are the central point . . . The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease."

Genuflecting Before the Blessed Sacrament


"The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained."

The Tabernacle in Which the Eucharist is Kept


"The tabernacle in which the Eucharist is kept can be located on an altar, or away from it, in a spot in the Church which is very prominent, truly noble and duly decorated, or in a chapel suitable for private prayer and for adoration by the faithful.

"The tabernacle should be solid, unbreakable, and not transparent. The presence of the Eucharist is to be indicated by a tabernacle veil or by some other suitable means laid down by the competent authority, and a lamp must perpetually burn before it, as a sign of honor paid to the Lord."

Respect and Care Due to the Sacred Vessels


"Particular respect and care are due to the sacred vessels, both the chalice and paten for the celebration of the Eucharist and the ciboria for the Communion of the faithful. The form of the vessels must be appropriate for the liturgical use for which they are meant. The material must be noble, durable, and in every case adapted to sacred use . . .

"Use is not to be made of simple baskets or other recipients meant for ordinary use outside the sacred celebrations, nor are the sacred vessels to be of poor quality or lacking any artistic style."

The Sacraments

In His great and loving mercy, God has given us seven special gifts—the Seven Sacraments. These sacraments, if properly used, are gifts of inestimable value in aiding us in our journey towards God. Unfortunately, they are not always appreciated, not always received as God intended and His Church directs. Sometimes they are even abused. Among these are the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion).

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)

The Necessity and Benefit


"To obtain the saving remedy of the Sacrament of Penance, according to the plan of our merciful God, the faithful must confess to a priest each and every grave sin which they remember upon examination of their conscience.

"Frequent and careful celebration of this sacrament is also very useful as a remedy for venial sins. This is not a mere ritual repetition or psychological exercise but a serious striving to perfect the grace of Baptism so that, as we bear in our body the death of Jesus Christ, His life may be seen in us ever more clearly. In Confession of this kind, penitents who accuse themselves of venial faults should try to conform more closely to Christ, and to follow the voice of the Spirit more attentively."

General Confession and Absolution


"Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of Confession.

"Particular, occasional circumstances may render it lawful and even necessary to give general absolution to a number of penitents without their previous individual confession.

"In addition to cases involving danger of death, it is lawful to give sacramental absolution to several of the faithful at the same time, after they have made only a generic confession but have been suitably called to repentance, if there is grave need ... This may happen especially in mission territory but in other places as well and also in groups of persons when the need is established.

"General absolution is not lawful, when confessors are available, for the sole reason of the large number of penitents, as may be on the occasion of some major feast or pilgrimage.

"The judgment and the decision concerning the lawfulness of giving general sacramental absolution are reserved to the Bishop of the diocese, who is to consult with the other members of the episcopal conference.

"In order that the faithful may profit from sacramental absolution given to several persons at the same time, it is absolutely necessary that they be properly disposed. Each one should be sorry for his sins and resolve to avoid committing them again. He should intend to repair any scandal and harm he may have caused and likewise resolve to confess in due time each one of the grave sins which he cannot confess at present.

These dispositions and conditions, which are required for the validity of the sacrament, should be carefully recalled to the faithful by priests.

"Those who receive pardon for grave sins by a common absolution should go to individual Confession before they receive this kind of absolution again, unless they are impeded by a just reason. They are strictly bound, unless this is morally impossible, to go to Confession within a year. The precept which obliges each of the faithful to confess at least once a year to a priest all the grave sins which he has not individually confessed before also remains in force in this case too."

Place of Confession

Canon Law (1983)—Item No. 964 states:

"No. 1. The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is church or an oratory."

"No. 2. The conference of bishops is to issue norms concerning the confessional, seeing to it that confessionals with a fixed grille between penitent and confessor are always located in an open area so that the faithful who wish to make use of them nay do so freely."

"No. 3. Confessions are not to be heard outside the confessional without a just cause."

The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion)

Proper Disposition For Receiving Holy Communion


". . . We must always take care that this great meeting with Christ in the Eucharist does not become a mere habit, and that we do not receive Him unworthily, that is to say, in a state of mortal sin."


". . . Sometimes, indeed quite frequently, everybody participating in the Eucharistic assembly goes to Communion; and on some such occasions, as experienced pastors confirm, there has not been due care to approach the Sacrament of Penance so as to purify one's conscience. This can of course mean that those approaching the Lord's table find nothing on their conscience, according to the objective law of God, to keep them from this sublime and joyful act of being sacramentally united with Christ. But there can also be, at least at times, another idea behind this; the idea of the Mass as only a banquet in which one shares by receiving the Body of Christ in order to manifest, above all else, fraternal communion. It is not hard to add to these reasons a certain human respect and mere 'conformity'."

Daily Communion


"A person who has received the Most Holy Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only during the celebration of the Eucharist in which the person participates . . ." (Except in case of danger of death).

Use of Extraordinary Lay Ministers


"The faithful, whether Religious or lay, who are authorized as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist can distribute Communion only when there is no priest, deacon or acolyte, when the priest is impeded by illness or advanced age, or when the number of the faithful going to Communion is so large as to make the celebration of Mass excessively long. Accordingly, a reprehensible attitude is shown by those priests who, though present at the celebration, refrain from distributing Communion and leave this task to the faithful."

Lay People Picking Up Consecrated Hosts and/or Handing Them to One Another and Lay People Taking the Chalice from the Altar or Table and/or Handing it to One Another


"Eucharistic Communion is a gift of the Lord given to the faithful through the minister appointed for this purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated Host and the sacred Chalice; still less that they should hand them from one to another."

Holy Communion Under Both Species


"With regard to Communion under both kinds, the norms laid down by the Church must be observed, both by reason of the reverence due to the sacrament and for the good of those receiving the Eucharist, in accordance with variations in circumstances, times, and places.

"Episcopal conferences and ordinaries also are not to go beyond what is laid down in the present discipline: the granting of permission for Communion under both kinds is not to be indiscriminate, and the celebrations in question are to be specified precisely . .

Method of Receiving Holy Communion


"In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect toward the Eucharistic Species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful toward the Eucharist. It also happens, on occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the distribution of Communion in the hand has been authorized . . ."

(1969)— Item No. 1 states>:

"The new method of administering Communion should not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional usage."

Posture in Receiving Holy Communion


"The Church has always required from the faithful respect and reverence for the Eucharist at the moment of receiving It.

"With regard to the manner of going to Communion, the faithful can receive it either kneeling or standing, in accordance with the norms laid down by the episcopal conference . . ."

Thanksgiving After Communion


"The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make a proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration, with a period of silence, with a hymn, psalm, or other song of praise or also after the celebration, if possible, by staying behind to pray for a suitable time."

Children's Communion Before Confession

: this decree issued on August 8, 1910 by (Saint) Pope Pius X declared:

"The right time for beginning to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist is judged to be the age which, in Church documents, is called that of reason or discretion. This age, both for Confession and for Communion, is the point where the child begins to think, i.e., around seven years, more or less. From this time on he bears the obligation to satisfy the two commandments of Confession and Communion ... The custom of not admitting children to Confession or of never giving them absolution, although they have reached the age of reason, is certainly to be rejected ... It is expedient that the custom of putting Confession before First Communion should be preserved."

This document issued on April 11, 1971 by the Religious Instruction Committee of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Pope Paul VI reaffirms this decree.

This official document was issued on May 24, 1973 by the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, approved by Pope Paul VI, and signed by their respective prefects, Antonio Cardinal Samore and John Cardinal Wright. It strengthens these directives. The declaration stated that First Confession must precede the reception of First Communion. It also stated that all experiments regarding First Communion before First Confession must be halted by the end of the 1972-1973 scholastic year.


"It is the responsibility, in the first place of parents and those who take the place of parents as well as of the pastor to see that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the divine food as early as possible, preceded by sacramental confession . . ."

Holy Communion Administered to Non-Catholics


"If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed."

(It is evident from this Canon Law that the indiscriminate distribution of Holy Communion to Non-Catholic Christians is not permitted.)

The Role of the Hierarchy, the Clergy and the Laity



"The bishops, whose function it is to control, foster, and safeguard the entire liturgical life of the Church entrusted to them, will not fail to discover the most suitable means for ensuring a careful and firm application of these norms, for the glory of God and the good of the Church."



"... The priest as minister, as celebrant, as the one who presides over the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful, should have a special sense of the common good of the Church, which he represents through his ministry, but to which he must also be subordinate, according to a correct discipline of faith. He cannot consider himself a 'proprietor' who can make free use of the liturgical text and of the sacred rite as if it were his own property, in such a way as to stamp it with his own arbitrary personal style . . "


Among the documents of Vatican II is the which clearly defines the role and responsibility of the laity in the Church. The Council's (items No. 33-No. 38) also states pertinent information concerning the role of the laity. For example, item No. 37 declares (in part, "The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their sacred pastors the spiritual goods of the Church especially the assistance of the Word of God and the Sacraments . . . (he) is permitted and sometimes even obliged to express his opinion on things which concern the good of the Church . ."

The importance and the responsibility of the role of the laity was emphasized by Cardinal Luigi Ciappi, personal theologian of Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II. In a dialogue with reporters, Farley Clinton and Christopher De Sales, published in the , September 26, 1982, concerning some of the repudiated or abandoned fundamental aspects of the Catholic Faith, the Cardinal stated: "The faithful have a right to appeal to their pastors, their bishops and also the apostolic delegate to express their difficulties in these areas. If that doesn't work, they can write to the Holy See, to the competent authorities. They can also write to the Holy Father directly. Vatican II made it clear that the faithful have a duty to collaborate in assuring the

It is indeed apparent that there are abuses and neglect in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the administration and reception of the Sacraments, particularly regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

It is significant that Pope John Paul II, Christ's Vicar on earth, not only issued and - both of which contain directives relating to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Holy Communion and Adoration Or the Blessed Sacrament - but that he also chose "" as the topic of the 1983 Synod.

It is also noteworthy that the Holy Father has emphasized his concern about liturgical abuses and the need for correction in such statements as the following:

"As you well know, the theory according to which the Eucharist forgives mortal sin, without the sinner having recourse to the sacrament of Penance, is not reconcilable with the teaching of the Church. It is true that the sacrifice of the Mass, from which all grace comes to the Church, obtains for the sinner the gift of conversion, without which forgiveness is not possible, but that does not at all mean that those v. ho have committed a mortal sin can approach Eucharistic Communion without having first become reconciled with God by means of the priestly ministry."

Pope John Paul II—December 4, 1981

(From an address to the Italian Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Abruzzi and Molise on their 'ad limina apostolorum" visit on December 4, 1981. Published in the English edition of , January 18,1982 issue.)

"It is necessary to recognize the existence of a certain crisis in the Sacrament of Penance. Many people no longer see in what way they have sinned, and even less, have possibly sinned seriously; nor, above all, why they should ask forgiveness before a representative of the Church; others give as an excuse that confessions were too tainted with routine and formalism, etc. There are, besides, serious reasons for astonishment and anxiety when one sees, in certain areas, so many of the faithful receiving the Eucharist when such a small number of them has recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On this point, good catechesis should lead the faithful to preserve the consciousness of their state of sinfulness and to understand the necessity and sense of a personal process of reconciliation before receiving, with the Eucharist, all its fruits of renewal and unity with Christ and his Church.

"The objection is sometimes made that priests, taken up with other tasks and often few in number, are not available for this kind of ministry. Let them remember the example of the saintly Cure d'Ars and so many other pastors who, even in our own day, thanks be to God, practice what has been called 'the asceticism of the confessional.' For we are all at the service of the members of the people of God entrusted to our zeal and, I would say, of each of them . . ."

(From an address to a group of French Bishops of the Eastern Ecclesiastical Region "ad limina apostalorum" visit, April 2, 1982. Published in the English edition of August 16-23, 1982 issue.)

Forgiveness for Abuses

Pope John Paul II concluded (Item No. 12) by stating: "... I would like to ask forgiveness—in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the Episcopate—for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through at times partial, one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament. And I pray the Lord Jesus that in the future we may avoid in our manner of dealing with this sacred mystery anything which could weaken or disorient in any way the sense of reverence and love that exists in our faithful people.

"May Christ Himself help us to follow the path of true renewal toward that fullness of life and of Eucharistic worship whereby the Church is built up in that unity that she already possesses, and which she desires to bring to ever greater perfection for the glory of the living God and for the salvation of all humanity."

This pamphlet was compiled by Clementine Lenta


Dear Miss Lenta:

Vatican City July 3, 1984

The Holy Father has directed me to acknowledge the letter and the Liturgical Directives pamphlet which you sent to him.

His Holiness appreciates the sentiments which prompted this devoted gesture and he wishes me to express his gratitude and to assure you of his prayers. He invokes upon you the peace and joy of Our Lord Jesus Christ and he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.

Sincerely yours,

E. Martinez

Archbishop Augustin Mayer, O.S.B. Pro-Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship

Thanks Clementine Lenta for having sent me the Liturgical Directives. This pamphlet can be very useful and I would be grateful to receive some more copies.

With best prayerful wishes,

June 9, 1984

Sincerely in Christ,

A. Mayer

Nina Publications 23 East Buffalo Street Duluth, Minn. 55811 1-218-728-2049

Copyright (c) 1984 by Nina Publications

1 - $1.00 25—$15.00 50 - $25.00 100 - $40.00 1,000 - $250.00

Also available is "GREATER LOVE THAN THIS . . .". This important paperback authored by Clementine Lenta presents understanding and appreciation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. Its Foreword is by Cardinal John Carberry.

In a vivid, fast reading style "GREATER LOVE THAN THIS . . ."

gives proof that Christ is indeed the Messiah; compares the connection between the Jewish sacrifice and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; explains why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is our greatest treasure; relates what Padre Pio, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and others say about the importance and power of daily Mass; relates the scientific proof of the miraculous manifestation of Our Lord's Presence in the Blessed Sacrament; relates why many people attend daily Mass; tells "what you can get" from the Mass; contains many photos

Price: $4.00 per copy postpaid.


Local Bishop Local Chancery (Pastoral Center) Address

Apostolic Delegate to the United States Most Rev. Pio Laghi 3339 Massachusettes Avenue, N.NV. Washington, D.C. 20008

Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship Most Rev. Augustin Mayer 10 Piazza Pio XII Rome, Italy

The Pope His Holiness Pope John Paul II Apostolic Palace Vatican City, Italy