XIth Plenary Session of the Consilium of the Liturgy

Author: Very Rev. Annibale Bugnini, C.M.

Very Rev. Father Annibale Bugnini, C.M.

The following is a translation of an article by the Secretary of the "Consilium" for the Liturgy, Very Rev. Father Annibale Bugnini, C.M.

The eleventh session of the "Consilium" for the reform of the Liturgy has been meeting recently in the Vatican...


Notwithstanding the short time available, the scheduled programme was completed. On the subject of the Mass there were three reports: on the texts of the chant, the prayers and prefaces, and the "votive" Masses. These were the final matters to be dealt with before the preparation of the new Missal.

The texts for the "processional" chants in the present Missal (Introit, Offertory and "Communion") have been revised by two groups of experts. The first group dealt with the chant; and the changes in the texts of the present Gradual are very slight, almost insignificant. Consequently, there remains intact the rich Gregorian patrimony of the Roman Church—the Latin text and the Gregorian music.

The second group, composed of liturgists and pastors, dealt with the text to be used in the Missal for a said Mass. The changes proposed here are more considerable for they had to ensure that the texts would be "pastorally" suitable.

As regards the prayers and prefaces, the report merely presented the "corpus" which is now ready, and brought into line with the new calendar. Here it was not so much a case of new compositions but rather of drawing upon the rich heritage of the Roman liturgy and of all the Latin rites.


The title is not quite adequate. Pere Rouget, who made the report, divided the "votive" Masses as follows: ritual Masses (21); Masses and prayers for various needs; Votive Masses strictly so-called, that is to say, those celebrated for the special devotion of the faithful or the priest. These latter may be of the Mysteries of Our Lord, of the Holy Spirit, in honour of Our Lady and of the Saints. The revision of this immense amount of material was accurate and prudent, but Pere Rouget rightly insisted on re-affirming certain principles governing this whole sector in the face of the insistent requests for votive Masses for the most varied reasons and circumstances: 1. The future Missal will certainly be larger than the present one, and consequently, it is not opportune to enlarge it still further by including Masses which would only be said by a few; 2. If Masses for various needs are multiplied, this will militate against the unity, cohesion and universality of the Roman liturgy; 3. The purpose of the Mass is to render thanks to God by celebrating the Mystery of Salvation and not to instruct people about their duties and to console them in their tribulations. The Missal is not an "enchiridion" of religious and spiritual instruction to supply texts for preaching, but rather, preaching should be accommodated to the Mystery of Salvation and to its evolution throughout the course of the Liturgical year;

4. The innumerable requests for the preparation of Masses for children and young people, etc., are caused for the most part by the present rigidity of the rubrics.

A greater rubrical flexibility in the matter of the readings and of the prayers will lessen these needs. Nor should it be forgotten that many of them should be inserted in the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, while other more particular needs can be provided for in individual cases by episcopal conferences or by the bishops themselves.


Father Adrian Nocent, Professor at the Pontifical Liturgy Institute of San Anselmo, outlined to the "Consilium" the schema "On the blessing of an Abbot", a splendid example of accurate and painstaking scientific research. The schema, which received the unanimous approval of the Fathers, took care to avoid all confusion between the abbatial blessing and Episcopal consecration, that is, between a blessing and a sacrament, between the priesthood and an office of jurisdiction in a religious Community (the priesthood does not per se pertain to the abbatial office).

The rite follows that of Ordination, but after the homily it has been simplified, but it is clear and in complete harmony with all the other reformed rites.

On the sacrament of Penance there were examined the 31 articles of the "Praenotamina" which set out the theological, pastoral and juridical meaning of the rite.


The Divine Office was again discussed by the Fathers. As in the Missal so also in the Breviary, the old "General rubrics" have been omitted, and their place has been taken by the "Institutio generalis''. This is in fact a theological, juridical, rubrical and ascetical tract on the Divine Office. Certain problems have especially engaged the attention of the Fathers: the obligation of the Office, the choice of Office to be said, the calendar, the psalms, the patristic readings, the "preces" at Lauds and Vespers.

It was also announced that there was almost ready for publication a volume containing the Scriptural readings of the Office. This would be circulated to exegetes, pastors and liturgists so that they could submit their observations to the " Consilium" before it would be incorporated in the body of the Office.


Up to the present the rite of consecration to God in the religious life has been in accordance with particular rituals approved by the Sacred Congregation of Rites. The Liturgical books contain only the solemn rite, carried out by the Bishop, of the consecration and blessing of virgins which is used by some female monastic Orders. The other religious institutes, both male and female, make use of rites which are often inspired by outmoded conceptions of the religious life: which emphasize external and spectacular elements: separation from the world, putting off lay attire, etc.

Moreover, in general, greater prominence is given to the reception of the habit, than to profession which is reduced almost exclusively to a juridical act with little or no emphasis on the theological value of the religious life. The habit is the external sign of the giving of one's self to God. These two things should, therefore be linked together. Consequently it is recommended that the religious habit should not be given at the beginning of the novitiate, as normally happens, but rather on the day of profession. The novitiate is a time of probation, whereas the habit is the sign of a decision already taken, of a state of life. It should be given in a simple and private form without elaborate ceremony in order to enhance the act of profession itself.

The liturgical Constitution prescribes the revision of the rite for the consecration of virgins, contained in the Roman Pontifical, and it also ordains that a new rite for profession should be prepared for insertion in the Roman Ritual. It should be of a generic or basic form which would permit the incorporation of certain elements characteristic of each religious Institute. In this way provision would be made for both unity and diversity. In this spirit the Council decrees that this profession rite should be elaborated in such a way that it can take place during Mass and can be adopted by religious institutes which have no special customs or usages worthy of preservation.

To carry out this work a special study Group was set up in the "Consilium" comprising also 2 Consultors of the Congregation of Religious which, obviously, had an interest in the matter. After two years' work the Secretary of the Group, Father Ignatius Calabuig, O.S.M., presented to the Fathers of the "Consilium" the completed schema for the rites of religious profession. It contains two distinct parts: one for men and the other for women. The basic structure is identical, with slight changes in some texts and rites adopted to the different psychology of each.

Three cases are provided for: temporary profession, perpetual profession and renewal of vows—all to take place during Mass. An appendix contains the Masses to be said on the occasion of profession together with various Scriptural readings and different forms of the Prayer of the Faithful. For female religious there is a special section containing the revised rite for the consecration of virgins. According to the norm followed in the case of the other sacraments, the profession rite is placed between the homily and the offertory.

There are six fundamental parts: the call or presentation of the candidates; the celebrant's address and the interrogation of the candidate as to whether he freely embraces the religious life; the invocation of God, Our Lady and the Saints; the formula of profession; the blessing of the priest who invokes on the newly professed the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and finally the handing over of the Rule or of the other "signs" characteristic of the Community.

These rites are common both to temporary and perpetual profession, but with a certain difference. The liturgical sign is different in the two cases: by perpetual profession the individual binds himself forever to God, to the Church and to his Community. It is, therefore, endowed with a greater solemnity.

The new element in the rite consists, in the ordered development of its parts, in keeping with the style of the great blessings of the Roman liturgy, and especially in its greater richness and variety of texts.

It was used for the first time at the International Eucharistic Congress in Bogota when 400 Religious took part in the Mass celebrated in the Cathedral by Cardinal Ildebrando Antoniutti, Prefect of the Congregation of Religious. They all expressed satisfaction with the new rite. Similar approval was also expressed by numerous male and female Religious Superiors who had studied the rite, and whose observations, together with those of the Fathers of the "Consilium" will serve as a means of perfecting it further.


The rites of Holy Week, the heart of the liturgical year, enjoy a very special veneration on account of their tradition and significance. Their reform is a particularly delicate matter. An examination in depth of the changes proposed was made in the IXth and Xth Session. On this occasion the spokesman of the Group, Mons. Pasche of Munich, presented certain special questions with a view to making the definitive draft. The traditional rites of these days remain, but with certain adaptations to render them more suited to present conditions and to provide for easier participation by the faithful. For example, it was considered how to include "in every Mass" and not merely in that of the Blessing of the Palms, the mystery of Christ's Messianic entrance into Jerusalem; how to arrange better the adoration of the Cross on Good Friday; how to make the Easter Vigil—the most solemn and sacred in the liturgy of all the churches—more accessible to the great mass of people.


This rite has been on trial on all experimental basis since 1966. It was granted first to certain dioceses and later it was extended more widely at the discretion of the Episcopal Conference.

In the Xlth Session, the relevant study Group, under the direction of Father Pierre Gy, O.P., reported on two points: the outcome of the experiments, and the filling out of certain parts.

1) Experience has revealed that certain elements are perfectly satisfactory, while others require to be modified. In general the opinions expressed were favourable. The new rite has above all contributed to a deeper understanding of the paschal significance of the Christian's death. A certain difficulty has arisen, not so much from the rite itself, but rather from a still inadequate understanding of all its parts and of the possibilities which it offers. A certain touching-up is required as regards the structure of some parts: the liturgy of the Word, the use of psalms, the arrangement of the parts, and the place for the final leave-taking of the deceased, this latter a completely new element in the Roman liturgy.

2) To complete this section the following points were dealt with:

a) The Divine Office. In some places the Divine Office is still in use, either by custom or by foundation. It does not appear opportune that it should remain linked to the Mass, but it is well that besides the liturgical action of the funeral service, there should be other forms of prayer for the dead. Besides the Office, another way is indicated by experience, namely a service of the Word of God, making use of material provided by the new ritual.

b) Funerals of children. Consideration was given also to the funerals of baptized children. For these, the funeral rites for adults can be used, with special prayers. The case of children whose parents wished to have them baptized, but who died before receiving baptism was also dealt with. With the permission of the Ordinary, the funeral rites may be used also in these cases, but preferably in the home of the deceased;

c) Funerals of those who are cremated. This possibility was also considered, with appropriate safeguards, in conformity with the directives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


For two years now, principally in mission countries, the new rite of adult baptism, together with the liturgical catechumenate has been tried out. The time of preparation for baptism has been divided up by liturgical actions which symbolize, as so many stages, the progressive incorporation in Christ and in the Church. For the past year the rite of child baptism has been used experimentally in some places expressly authorized.

The Abbe Jacques Cellier, Director of the National Centre of pastoral liturgy in France and the Relator of this section, and Father Louis Ligier, S.J., of the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Secretary, submitted to the "Consilium" the complete draft of the rites of Baptism based on the results of these experiments.

It comprises two distinct parts: the baptism of adults and that of children, each of which is preceded by liturgico-pastoral norms, rubrical directions, instructions for the celebration of baptism and for the adaptations to be made by Episcopal Conferences.

An introductory part to both sections contains the elements common to both, concerning the meaning of baptism, the participation of the local community, the celebrations of the rite, etc.

Baptism of children has been adapted to meet the realities of the situation. It is not they who play an active role. For that reason it is not so much their will that is highlighted, but rather the action of divine grace and the obligations assumed by the parents, godparents and the community. It is to be hoped that baptism will be celebrated with the participation of the parochial community, or at least with a certain number of relations and friends. Moreover, it would be preferable to have a joint celebration of several baptisms together.

The rite evolves in four parts: first of all there is the presentation and acceptance of the child by means of a dialogue between the relatives and the priest. The meaning of baptism is explained in the liturgy of the Word and in the homily, concluding with the Prayer of the Faithful. Then there follows the renewal of the baptismal promises and the profession of faith made by those present in their own name. After that comes the administration of baptism, followed by certain concluding rites and the final blessing which embraces the newly baptized, the parents and all present.

The schema takes into account the variety of situations which may arise. After detailing the rite for baptism of several children, it then goes on to consider the cases of a single child, of a very great number to be baptized, of baptism administered by a catechist or in any case by a lay person, of baptism in danger of death. Each of these cases has its particular requirements.

Finally there are set out the rites to be supplied in the case of a child already baptized in danger of death.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
31 October 1968, page 6

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