Authentic Implementation Required

March 6, 2008

Tridentine Mass Requires A More Authentic Implementation of Vatican II

By Hugh McNichol |

March 6, 2008 – There seems to be many stirrings around the Church about the return of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII. Seemingly, the desire to celebrate this liturgy is spreading in the Catholic world. Maybe now is the best opportunity for the Church to declare a renovation moratorium on all of the Catholic Churches in the world, so an effective study of current liturgical design and the implementation of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII might be best integrated.

Since the end of the Second Vatican Council, the Church worldwide has been involved in extensive renovation projects that have modified our Holy places to such an extent that it some cases it is difficult to celebrate the ordinary and the extraordinary rites of the celebration of the Eucharist conveniently in one place.

In the post-Vatican II world many Churches removed their fixed altars and, in most cases, replaced them with freestanding altars. With the return of the Tridentine Rite we need to make our Catholic Churches once again acceptable for the celebration of both forms of the Sacred Liturgy.

A freestanding altar offers the best opportunity for the celebration of either of these forms, because the celebrant is able to adapt the posture ad populum or ad orientem for the liturgical celebration.

In addition to the altar there are other considerations such as the capability of the reception of Holy Communion with an altar rail and in the kneeling posture, and a re-appreciation of the sacred space of the sanctuary as part of the ritual observation.

The concomitant reevaluation of our liturgical practices to coincide with the re-evaluation of the physical space is also underway. The Holy See has issued renewed guidance with regard to the use of non-ordained extraordinary ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion. There have also been recent statements by one Cardinal suggesting the re-evaluation of the practice of Communion in the hand.

The rite of the celebration of the Eucharist according to John XXIII did not offer the possibility of the reception of Holy Communion in the hand, nor did it envision the usage of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. One discussion that rightly needs consideration is the further consideration by the Holy See and the Bishop’s Conferences are the need to truly implement the teachings of Paul VI and provide for a stable ministry of instituted acolytes and instituted readers in our parish communities.

The abolition of the minor orders and the restoration of the “lay ministries” of Reader and Acolyte are significant because the Second Vatican Council provided for these as another form of participation for the laity, right down to a parochial level in regards to the proclamation of the Sacred Word and the distribution of the Holy Eucharist.

Unfortunately, these ministries are often considered as obligations and offices–picked up on the way to deaconate and priesthood. However, the stable exercise of the ministries of reader and acolyte provide for a sense of greater responsibility and help inculcate a real-life understanding of the importance of specific roles in the ministry of the Church.

One misconception that needs to be clearly corrected is the notion that everyone has the right to participate in the Church’s ministry. This is perhaps the strongest and most erroneous interpretation of Christian rights and responsibilities since Vatican II.

In conclusion, the return of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII, and the permission for its widespread use, requires the re-evaluation of not only our sacred spaces and liturgical practices but a fuller, more authentic implementation of Vatican II.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes freelance works on topics that involve Catholicism. He writes a daily column,


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