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Are you dressed for the Lord’s Banquet

By Bishop Victor Galeone

Periodicallyparishioners write to me, requesting a Latin Mass in their parish. Theyare well aware that a Latin Mass is celebrated at Immaculate Conceptionevery Sunday, but they would like one closer to home. I am convincedthat what these parishioners truly desire is not so much Latin in theMass as a spirit of reverence - a sense that they have been in contactwith the sacred, while worshiping with their fellow parishioners.

Asevidence for my statement, I would like to quote from an article thatwas published less than four years after the new liturgy had beeninitiated. The article appeared kin the July 1974 issue of The Critic , a progressive, though now defunct, Catholic monthly:

"Latinwas discarded; the celebrant about-faced; laymen were permitted to makethemselves heard from the sanctuary; choirs were disbanded in favor ofcommunity sings. My God, it was beautiful! Or at least it would be, assoon as a few problems were worked out...By now, however, the evidenceindicating the current state of the liturgy is so overpowering thatonly a cleric could remain unconvinced...So, you ask, what can be doneabout it? Bring back the Latin Mass! However, I realize we can never goback...but surely something can be done to recover some small part ofthe enchantment that is so patently missing from the Mass today." - DanHer, " Stop Pushing " column

Yes, Dan,something can be done. For starters, the celebrant of the Mass shouldrealize that the liturgy is not his personal property. It belongs tothe whole church. Indeed, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ,the first document issued by Vatican II, clearly states that other thanthe Apostolic See, and as laws may determine, the bishop," otherperson, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in theliturgy on his own authority." (S.C. III, 22)

Second,all the ministers serving at Sunday liturgies should be dressed toindicate that they realize the importance of what they are doing. Ourdiocesan Liturgical Commission has drawn up a set of Dress Code Guidelines for Liturgical Ministers ,which I have approved. Therefore all liturgies ministers are expectedto follow these guidelines - lectors, cantors, extraordinary ministersof the Eucharist, ushers, greeters, etc.

I recallthe case of an usher in a parish up north, where I had recently becomethe pastor. This usher’s regular attire for a Sunday Mass consisted ofwalking shorts and a T-shirt. After a few weeks, I asked the head usherto inform him either to come properly garbed for his role as usher orto relinquish his position. During the week, "Joe Casual" wrote me astrong letter, informing me of his change of parish, and accusing me ofbeing a Pharisee, more concerned about the outside of the cup than theinside. I responded by wishing him well in his new parish, whilereminding him how Jesus had criticized his host, Simon, for overlookingthe basics of hospitality - the kiss of welcome, water for his feet andointment for his head. (Lk. 7:44-46)

And finally,you, the parishioners, can do so much to contribute to the sacredatmosphere of Sunday worship. Would any of us accept an invitation fromthe governor of our state, dressed as if we were going to the beach? Iam well aware that during July and August the humidity in our areabecomes almost unbearable. Still, most of us go from an air-conditionedhouse to an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned church. What acontrast between us, who enjoy so much of this world’s blessings, andthe poor people of Haiti that I personally witnessed, regularlyworshiping at Sunday Mass, dressed as if they were attending a wedding!

I could go on adding to the list of those things thatare counterproductive to the atmosphere needed for the celebration ofthe sacred liturgy - like chewing gum, and loud, boisterousconversations in church before Mass. Instead, I would simply like toclose by citing God’s complaint to his chosen people for offering lessthan perfect animals as their sacrifice:

"But youask, ’How have we shown contempt for your name?’...When you bring blindanimals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippledor diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to yourgovernor! Would he be pleased with you? - says the Lord Almighty."(Malachi 1:6-8)

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