Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With the flu season upon us, Bishop Caggiano has, as you know, recommended that parishes suspend the practice of distributing Holy Communion under the species of wine. We have an opportunity to reflect sincerely on the nature of the Mass and what it means to receive Holy Communion reverently and well. Therefore, I would like to invite you to a serious study of the Church’s liturgical norms over the next few weeks, which will either be published in this column or in another place in the bulletin.
As we reflect on the nature of the Church’s liturgy, we need to remember an important point. The Church’s liturgy is not a matter of opinion, though we all have plenty of opinions about Mass. Rather, the Church Universal governs the celebration of the liturgy so that there may be unity in worship for all Catholics throughout the world. While there are naturally differences because of culture, language, and human personalities, the goal of liturgical norms is to ensure that the sacred mysteries we celebrate are a visible sign of unity for all Catholics. Thus, as we reflect on what the Church says about the celebration of Mass, we should be willing to suspend our tendency to judge something as good or bad, our tendency to think of our personal preferences first, and instead receive the facts as information worthy of prayerful reflection. We should also remember that the Church’s norms for the celebration of Mass are for our good and safeguard the reverence due the holy things we celebrate.
In some cases, we have seen things done that seem to be in conflict with the Church’s norms. The Church provides norms so that we can properly celebrate Mass. Abuses of the liturgy, even if they are common or seem to make us feel good, ought to be corrected. Spiritual writers, theologians, and philosophers, have reflected on the idea of the Mass being “play.” The games we play have rules that help us to enjoy the game and play it fairly and correctly. If I were watching people playing baseball and saw that they had the three strikes rule correct, but were allowing eight balls instead of four, I would be right to correct them and help them play the game as it ought to be played. In the same way, we should happily correct mistakes in the celebration of Mass, not to be legalistic, but to help us “play” correctly and beautifully. We should also rejoice in those things that need no correction.
As we move forward then, I invite you to enter into a deeper understanding of the Mass and the Church’s liturgy. When we gather as a community of faith, we come to worship the God who made us, who knows us, who loves us. We are mystically united in prayer to all those Catholics throughout the world, and even to those in heaven who worship the Lord face to face. Let us continue, then, to worship our God reverently and well, for it is right and just to give Him thanks and praise in all places and circumstances!