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Frequently asked questions
Concern is often raised about the continuing practice of communicating the assembly at Mass from the sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. The Constitution on the Liturgy, art 55, states: "The more complete form of participation in the Mass by which the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's body from the same sacrifice, is strongly endorsed." This is supported in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 56-h, which states that "it is most desirable that the faithful receive the Lord's body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the instances when it is permitted, they share in the chalice. Then even through the signs communion will stand out more clearly as a sharing in the sacrifice actually being offered."
The reason for which the Church reserves the Eucharist outside Mass is, primarily, the administration of viaticum to the dying and, secondarily, Communion of the sick, Communion outside Mass, and adoration of Christ present in the sacrament (see Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass, no. 5). Only under rare circumstances of necessity should the assembly at Mass communicate from the reserved sacrament in the tabernacle.
November 29, 1999 Copyright © United States Catholic Conference
The following guidelines were prepared by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy and presented to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for discussion at the June 1994 Special Assembly on Thursday, June 16, 1994. The suggested guidelines may be used as a basis for developing diocesan guidelines.
- Although institution into the ministry of acolyte is reserved to lay men, the diocesan bishop may permit the liturgical functions of the instituted acolyte to be carried out by altar servers, men and women, boys and girls. Such persons may carry out all the functions listed in nos.98-100 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The determination that women and girls may function as servers in the liturgy should be made by the bishop on the diocesan level so that there might be a uniform diocesan policy.
- No distinction should be made between the functions carried out in the sanctuary by men and boys and those carried out by women and girls. The term "altar boys" should be replaced by "servers". The term "server" should be used for those who carry out the functions of the instituted acolyte.(1)
- Servers should be mature enough to understand their responsibilities and to carry them out well and with appropriate reverence. They should have already received holy communion for the first time and normally receive the eucharist whenever they participate in the liturgy.
- Servers should receive proper formation before they begin to function. The formation should include instruction on the Mass and its parts and their meaning, the various objects used in the liturgy (their names and use), and the various functions of the server during the Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Servers should also receive appropriate guidance on maintaining proper decorum and attire when serving Mass and other functions.
- Since the role of server is integral to the normal celebration of the Mass, at least one server should assist the priest. On Sundays and other more important occasions, two or more servers should be employed to carry out the various functions normally entrusted to these ministers.
- Servers should normally be vested. this is within the tradition of the Church and prevents difficulties regarding appropriate dress for these ministers. All servers should wear the same liturgical vesture.(2)
- Servers carry the cross, the processional candles, hold the book for the priest celebrant when he is not at the altar, carry the incense and censer, present the bread, wine, and water to the priest during the preparation of the gifts or assist him when he receives the gifts from the people, wash the hands of the priest, assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary.
- Servers respond to the prayers and dialogues of the priest along with the congregation. They also join in singing the hymns and other chants of the liturgy.
- Servers should be seated in a place from which they can easily assist the priest celebrant and deacon. The place next to the priest is normally reserved for the deacon.
- Servers may not distribute holy communion unless they have been mandated for this function by the bishop.
- The Order for the Blessing of Altar Servers, Sacristans, Musicians, and Ushers (Book of Blessings, nos. 1847-1870) may be used before servers first begin to function in this ministry .
(1) Number 70, para. 1, the second sentence no longer applies (this restricted the liturgical functions in the sanctuary only to men).
(2) The alb is the preferred vestment for servers (see General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 339.)
November 29, 1999 Copyright © United States Catholic Conference
The following is from paragraph #105 of Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship:
“Many published works are protected by national and international copyright laws, which are intended to ensure that composers, text writers, publishers, and their employees receive a fair return for their work. Churches and other institutions have the legal and moral obligation to seek proper permissions and to pay for reprinting of published works when required, even if copies are intended only for the use of the congregation.”
- The Archdiocese of Seattle must observe all copyright laws.
- Permission to use copyrighted works must be obtained from the copyright holder in writing.
- Literary works
- Musical works, including any words of accompaniment
- Dramatic works, including any musical accompaniment
- Pantomimes and choreographic works
- Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- Sound recordings
- Computer software
Concerning the bread used for the celebration of the Eucharist, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no.283, states that, "The nature of the sign demands that the material for the eucharistic celebration truly have the appearance of food." The present discipline of the Latin Church is that bread for the Eucharist be made only of wheaten flour and water. According to a statement made in 1980 by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the addition or substitution of other ingredients can affect the validity of the sacrament.
It is possible to reconcile these two norms and produce larger loaves of bread made entirely of flour and water. When such bread is used in parish celebrations, catechesis should be given so that all of the faithful are aware that the bread used is in conformity to the norms established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
November 29, 1999 Copyright © United States Catholic Conference
For a number of years, those suffering from celiac-sprue disease have been able to obtain low-gluten hosts from only one source in the United States: the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The Secretariat of Divine Worship has now been made aware of two additional suppliers of low-gluten hosts for those with gluten intolerance — Parish Crossroads and Gluten Free Hosts Inc.
Individuals wishing to receive holy Communion with these new low-gluten hosts should contact their parish offices, and are also strongly advised to check with their personal physicians in advance.
Parishes may purchase the hosts via the following approved sources.
Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
Altar Breads Department
31970 State Hwy P, Clyde, MO 64432-8100
Phone: (800) 223-2772
Website: www.benedictinesisters.org or Email: email@example.com
Yes. For those who are unable to consume alcohol, churches may use mustum instead of wine. (Mustum is grape juice which contains no additives, is not pasteurized, and has a very low alcohol content because the fermentation process has been arrested shortly after its start. Mustum contains less than 1% alcohol.) Mustum may be obtained from the Mont LaSalle Altar Wine Company (phone 800-447-8466), Ranelle Trading/Ojai Fresh Juice Corporation (phone 877-211-7690), and locally through Kaufer's Religious Supplies (phone 800-426-3320).
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states the following with regard to the use of candles: "Candles are to be used at every liturgical service as a sign of reverence and festiveness" (no.269; see also no.79). In a 1974 interpretation of GIRM 269, the Congregation for Divine Worship noted that the GIRM "makes no further determination regarding the material" of which candles are made "except in the case of the sanctuary lamp, the fuel for which must be oil or wax." The Congregation then went on to recall "the faculty that the conferences of bishops possess to choose suitable materials."
Since the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has never employed the above-noted faculty to permit the use of materials other than wax in the production of candles, the use of such other materials either as a substitute for or in imitation of candles is not permitted in the liturgy. Therefore, oil lamps may be used only "in the case of the sanctuary lamp," as indicated above. Candles made of wax are to be used in the celebration of the Mass and other liturgical rites. Furthermore, because of their very nature, imitations of candles should not be used in the liturgy as, for example, "permanent" paschal candles, nor should electric bulbs be used in liturgical celebration. In the interests of authenticity and symbolism, it is likewise unfitting that so-called electric vigil lights be used for devotional purposes.
November 29, 1999 Copyright © United States Catholic Conference
Over the past several years a number of questions have been raised regarding the practice of perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The Liturgy Committee discussed the issues raised several times and decided to submit a series of questions regarding perpetual exposition to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The following responses were received from the Congregation at the beginning of July. As these responses indicate, those who are responsible for perpetual exposition should carefully review the norms contained in nos. 82- 100 of Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass.
1. Should perpetual adoration or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament take place in parishes?
RESPONSE: The Roman Ritual: Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass (HCWEOM), no. 90, states that, according to their constitutions and regulations, some religious communities and other pious groups have the practice of perpetual eucharistic adoration or adoration over extended periods of time. If by "perpetual eucharistic adoration" is meant prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, this involves no special permission. However, if by "perpetual eucharistic adoration" is meant adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the ciborium or monstrance, the permission of the local Ordinary is required.
Perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is a devotion and practice which is permitted to those religious communities that have it as an integral part of their communal life and to pious associations of the laity which have received official recognition.
If a pious association of the laity, which has perpetual exposition as a part of its constitution, is established within a parish, the activity of that association should be seen as separate from that of the parish, although all members of the parish are free to participate in it.
2. May perpetual exposition take place in the parish church?
RESPONSE: Because perpetual exposition is a devotional practice of a religious community or a pious association, it should normally take place in a chapel of that religious community or association. If for some good reason perpetual exposition must take place in a parish church, it should be in a chapel distinct from the body of the church so as not to interfere with the normal activities of the parish or its daily liturgical celebrations.
When Mass is celebrated in a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, the Eucharist must be replaced in the tabernacle before the celebration of Mass begins.
3. May perpetual exposition take place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?
RESPONSE: Groups authorized to have perpetual exposition are bound to follow all the liturgical norms given in Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass, nos. 82-100. Under no circumstances may perpetual exposition take place during the Easter Triduum. There should always be a sufficient number of people present for eucharistic adoration before the Blessed Sacrament is exposed (see HCWEOM, no. 88). Every effort should be made to ensure that there should be at least two people present. There must absolutely never be periods when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and there is no one present for adoration. It may prove necessary to expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration only at stated times when members of the faithful are present.
4. Who is responsible for overseeing perpetual exposition?
RESPONSE: The local Ordinary has the responsibility for the regulation of perpetual exposition. He determines when it is permissible and establishes the regulations to be followed in regard to perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. He normally entrusts the superior or chaplain of religious communities or the local pastor or chaplain, in the case of pious associations, with the responsibility of seeing that the liturgical norms and his regulations are followed.
5. Must the local bishop permit perpetual exposition?
RESPONSE: The bishop is responsible for all matters pertaining to the right ordering of the celebration of the Eucharist and adoration and devotion to the Eucharist outside Mass. It is his duty to promote and guide the liturgical life of the diocese. Consequently, he alone determines the pastoral appropriateness of perpetual exposition in his diocese and accordingly may permit it or not and may limit the number of places where it takes place.
In addition Volume II of the Liturgy Documentary Series: Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist was developed by the Secretariat for the Liturgy as an aid to bishops, priests, deacons, and those persons responsible for planning and directing eucharistic devotions. A full description of this and other volumes of the Liturgy Documentary Series is available through the Office of Publishing and Promotional Services.
With permission of NCCB, BCL
As Catholics, we believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of our oneness in faith, life and worship. Members of churches with whom we are not yet fully united are therefore not ordinarily invited to participate in holy Communion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on this teaching.
Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, "have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders." It is for this reason that Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible for the Catholic Church. However these ecclesial communities, "when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper ... profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1400)
Members of the Orthodox churches and the Polish National Catholic Churches share a more intimate bond with us, however. They may receive the Eucharist when they ask for it and they are properly disposed (cf Canon 844). Again, I would refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Eastern churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church celebrate the Eucharist with great love. "These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all — by apostolic succession — the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy. "A certain communion in sacris ... is not merely possible but is encouraged." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1399)
When other Christians who believe what the Catholic Church teaches concerning the holy Eucharist are deprived of access to a church of their own denomination for a significant period of time, they too may be admitted to Communion in the Catholic Church in exceptional circumstances (cf, Canon 844 §4). These exceptional circumstances are also described by the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
When, in the Ordinary's judgment, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1401)
On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) approved the following guidelines on the reception of Communion. These guidelines replace the guidelines approved by the Administrative Committee of the NCCB in November 1986. The guidelines, which are to be included in missalettes and other participation aids published in the United States, seek to remind all those who may attend Catholic liturgies of the present discipline of the Church with regard to the sharing of eucharistic communion.
As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged forall.
For our fellow Christians
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).
For those not receiving Holy Communion
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
With permission of NCCB, USCC
The operative question seems to be who properly interprets the ambiguous last sentence found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, number 21.
"For the sake of uniformity in movement and posture, the people should follow the directions given during the celebration by the deacon, the priest or another minister. Unless other provision is made, at every Mass the people should stand from the beginning of the entrance song or when the priest enters until the end of the opening prayer or collect; for the singing of the alleluia before the gospel; while the gospel is proclaimed; during the profession of faith and the general intercessions; from the prayer over the gifts to the end of Mass, except at the places indicated later in this paragraph. They should sit during the readings before the gospel and during the responsorial psalm, for the homily and the presentation of gifts, and, if this seems helpful, during the period of silence after communion. They should kneel at the consecration unless prevented by the lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason.
But it is up to the conference of bishops to adapt the actions and postures described in the Order of the Roman Mass to the customs of the people. (Footnote SC 39) But the conference must make sure that such adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of the celebration."
As you know, in 1969 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops adapted article 21 for masses celebrated in the United States of America. Their adaptation appears at #21 of the Appendix to the General Instruction for the Dioceses United States of America:
"At its meeting in November 1969, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops voted that in general, the directives of the Roman Missal concerning the posture of the congregation at Mass should be left unchanged but that number 21 of the General Instruction should be adapted so that the people kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, before the Lord's Prayer."
This adaptation, read alongside GIRM 21, renders the following order: The assembly is to stand from the prayer over the gifts, through the Sanctus. The assembly is to kneel after the Sanctus and stand after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer. They then kneel following the Lamb of God until it is time to go forward for Holy Communion.
GIRM 21 does, however, allow for those instances when the assembly is prevented from kneeling "by the lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason." When there is doubt concerning whether the conditions described in GIRM 21 exist, it is the bishop, as moderator of the liturgical life of his diocese, who should make the determination.
In accordance with the guidelines issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, it is the decision of Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett that in the Archdiocese of Seattle, the American flag may be displayed in an appropriate place in the church building outside the sanctuary area at the discretion of the pastor.
Pastors are to be guided in their decision by the following norms published by the United States Conference Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy on September 25, 2001:
The Display of Flags in Roman Catholic Churches in the United States of America
Surprisingly to many, there are no regulations of any kind governing the display of flags in Roman Catholic churches. Neither the Code of Canon law, nor the liturgical books of the Roman rite comment on this practice. As a result, the question of whether and how to display the American flag in a Catholic church is left up to the judgment of the diocesan bishop, who in turn often delegates this to the discretion of the pastor.
The origin of the display of the American flag in many parishes in the United States appears to have its origins in the offering of prayers for those who served during the Second World War (1941-1945). At that time, many bishops and pastors provided a book of remembrance near the American flag, requesting prayers for loved ones — especially those serving their country in the armed forces — as a way of keeping before the attention of the faithful the needs of military families. This practice has since been confirmed in many places during the Korean, Vietnam and Iraqi conflicts.
The Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy has in the past encouraged pastors not to place the flag within the sanctuary itself, in order to reserve that space for the altar, the ambo, the presidential chair and the tabernacle. Instead, the suggestion has been made that the American flag be placed outside the sanctuary, or in the vestibule of the church together with a book of prayer requests. It remains, however, for the diocesan bishop to determine regulations in this matter.
The role of the Knights of Columbus in liturgical celebrations is strictly speaking not a liturgical one. However, their participation is appreciated. Over the years, the Knights of Columbus have been of great support in the life of the Church — in our parishes, in our archdiocese and in our nation.
The following guidelines are offered for the participation of the Knights of Columbus at liturgies in the Archdiocese of Seattle:
|GUIDELINE 1||The Knights of Columbus take part in liturgical celebrations only when advance permission (preferably ten days prior) has been received from the pastor, or priest in charge of the ceremony. For archdiocesan liturgies, the advance permission is given by the archbishop but the Knights are directed by the archdiocesan Director for Liturgy.|
|GUIDELINE 2||At the liturgical celebration, the Knights of Columbus may form an honor guard for the procession into the church as well as the procession out of the church. No swords may be presented at any time. This is to be done in harmony with the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 32, which states: ”No special honors are to be paid in the liturgy to any private persons or classes of persons, whether in ceremonies or by external display.”|
|GUIDELINE 3||The Knights of Columbus will refrain from activity during the Eucharistic Prayer. No swords are to be presented during the Consecration or at Holy Communion.|
|GUIDELINE 4||During the celebration of the Eucharist, the members of the Knights of Columbus should be seated in an appropriate place in accordance with the directives of the pastor or priest in charge of the ceremony. Full liturgical participation is always expected.|
While the revised Code of Canon Law contains specifics on the use of the Holy Oils blessed by the diocesan bishop and distributed at the Chrism Mass, it does not contain explicit instructions for disposal of Holy Oils from the previous year which are being replaced.
The Book of Blessings, Chapter 32, Order for the Blessing of a Repository for the Holy Oils, Introduction, paragraph 1127 states:
Each year when the bishop blesses the oils and consecrates the chrism, the pastor should see that the old oils are properly disposed of by burning and that they are replaced by the newly blessed oils.
Burning the old oils may be accomplished by burning them in the Easter Fire at the Easter Vigil Mass. It is not fitting that the Holy Oils be burned along with trash or other non-religious refuse.
An alternative to burning is burying the unused oils in a sacred place. A fitting place would be on the church grounds. This can be accomplished by digging an appropriate size trench along the foundation of the church. This trench should be at least 12 inches deep and of a size that the oils will not be evident on the surface after the trench is filled. There is no environmental concern as the oils and chrism essence are non petroleum base and will eventually be absorbed into the ground.
If the quantity of oil is so large that burying them on the church ground is not feasible, then an alternative place to bury the oils is a Catholic cemetery near a statue which identifies the cemetery as Catholic or in the area where priests and religious people are buried.
A corollary subject is the cleansing of the ambry vessels or other containers that contained the old oils before newly blessed oils are added.
Ambry vessels and old containers should be cleansed with hot soapy water to dilute the olive oil and essence of chrism. This soapy water should be emptied into the sacrarium or emptied directly into the ground next to the church in a similar manner and location as recommended for burying old oils. After it appears that all traces of the old oils have been removed the ambry vessels and containers can be cleansed and dried in a normal fashion.
The octave of Easter concludes with the Second Sunday of Easter, which is now subtitled "Divine Mercy Sunday." The proper prayers and readings are those shown for the Second Sunday of Easter in the Sacramentary. No additional prayers or services are required that day; however, pastors may choose to have a Divine Mercy prayer service at a time later in the day. It is not appropriate to incorporate a Divine Mercy prayer service into a Mass or to attach such a service to the beginning or end of a Mass.