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 areand cannot fail to
bethe 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."
"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
The Liturgy and Dancing
) Vol. XI, (1975) pp. 202-
"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."
"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
"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 expositionshort, 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."
In His great and loving mercy, God has given us seven special giftsthe 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
"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
"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
"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'."
"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
Lay People Taking the Chalice from the Altar or Table and/or Handing it to One
"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 .
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
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
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
(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
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 IIDecember 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 forgivenessin my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and
dear brothers in the Episcopatefor 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
SECRETARIAT OF STATE
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
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,
23 East Buffalo Street
Duluth, Minn. 55811
Copyright (c) 1984 by Nina Publications
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Also available is "GREATER LOVE THAN THIS . . .". This important paperback
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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
His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Vatican City, Italy