Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Absolutely Cool Mass

was less than good in Vatican eyes

Non-ordained "Presider"

ROME, JAN. 22, 2008 ( by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I was present at a Mass where a male, non-ordained religious was seated in the sanctuary amid a large group of priests who were concelebrating at a Mass celebrated by a bishop. The religious was the president of the school and was listed as "presiding." Is this in accord with liturgical norms? Can a religious or layperson ever be permitted to preside in the sanctuary at a Mass? -- W.F., New York

A: This is perhaps a demonstration of the ambiguity and limitations of the noun "presider" to refer to the celebrant or presiding concelebrant of a Mass.

Only an ordained minister can, strictly speaking, preside at any liturgical act. In the case at hand it was certainly the celebrating bishop who presided at the Mass.

While I have no more information on the role of the non-ordained religious than contained in the question, I would suppose that the Mass formed part of a series of liturgical and non-liturgical acts on an occasion such as a graduation or the inauguration of an academic year.

In such a case, reference to the religious as presiding probably referred to the totality of the acts. It would certainly be incorrect to refer to him as presiding at the Mass.

It is possible for laypersons to be seated in the sanctuary, usually when they have a specific ministry to fulfill, such as reader and server or in some cases when they receive a sacrament.

There are also some specific customs allowing for persons having some civil or non-ordained ecclesiastical dignity to be seated in the sanctuary area during Mass. This would appear to be the case regarding the president of the school.

The general tendency of the liturgical norms is to move away from such special protocols, but some are legitimately preserved out of long-standing custom.

In such cases the person should have a place that is distinct but clearly separate from that of the concelebrating priests and other lay ministers so as to avoid any confusion.

This kind of distinction honours a person's particular function rather than the individual as such. It does not, however, mutate or enhance the person's role as a member of a hierarchically constituted liturgical assembly.

1 comment:

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

Cool in this world....HOT in the next!