Archive for July, 2008

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and the reception of Holy Communion in the Hand

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Mother Teresa of Calcutta: 1st Class Relic

The following is from Father George William Rutler’s 1989 Good Friday sermon on the “Seven Last Words” at St. Agnes Church, NYC.   Father Rutler is currently the Pastor of the Church of the Most Holy Savior in Manhattan.  A precise transcript taken from a tape of his talk is available from St. Agnes Church.

“Not very long ago I said Mass and preached for their Mother, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and after breakfast we spent quite a long time talking in a little room. Suddenly, I found myself asking her — don’t know why — ‘Mother, what do you think is the worst problem in the world today?’ She more than anyone could name any number of candidates: famine, plague, disease, the breakdown of the family, rebellion against God, the corruption of the media, world debt, nuclear threat, and so on.

“Without pausing a second she said, ‘Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.'”

Editors note: Please refer to June 27th’s post on the restored practice at Papal Masses.  Quoting the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini: “It is necessary not to forget that the distribution of Communion in the hand, from a juridical standpoint, remains up to now an indult,” which is an exemption from a general requirement that is granted by the Vatican to the bishops’ conferences which have requested it. He said the pope’s adoption of the traditional practice of distributing Communion (to kneeling communicants who receive on the tongue) “aims to highlight the force of the valid norm for the whole church.”  However, the pope’s preference for the traditional practice is not meant to “take anything away from the other” permissible form of standing or receiving the Eucharist in the hand, he said.


Ministry Schedule Page UPDATED

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

The August, 2008 Ministry Schedule (for Altar Servers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Lectors and Ushers) is posted.

Another post on the Communion Rail…and the definition of the liturgical space of a church

Friday, July 18th, 2008

The following was written by Father John Zuhlsdorf and published on April 7, 2008 on his blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say   (  ,,,W.D.T.P.R.S.

A note about Communion Rails and definition of the liturgical space of a church.

St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) explained that Christ speaks in every word of Scripture.  Sometime Christ is speaking with the voice of the Head of the Body which is the Church, sometimes He speaks as the Body.  At times He speaks as Christus Totus, the Body with the Head, together.

This is a useful way to understand in a healthy way something about the outward expression of “active participation” during Holy Mass.

As we have said on WDTPRS a zillion times, true “active participation” begins with our baptism, which places a new character on our soul and makes us members of the Church.  As John Paul II expressed in his letter on St. Augustine, the Church is not just Christ’s Mystical Body, it is Christ’s Mystical Person

Moreover, the true Actor of the sacred action of Holy Mass is Jesus Christ the High Priests, raising words and deeds to the Father.   Sometimes He acts and speaks in the person of the alter Christus the priest (Head), sometimes in the words and actions of the congregation (Body), sometimes when the priest and people act and speak together (Christus totus).  Christ makes our hands and voices His own in the sacred action, but He is the actor and speaker. 

It may be that the Novus Ordo manifests this reality somewhat more clearly.  The older form of Mass may demonstrate more clearly how the priest as the head of the liturgical body can himself alone speak for the whole.

However, the building of the church itself (which is a sacramental building, a sacred and consecrated place) also manifests this three-fold distinction. 

The sanctuary, at the head of the floor plan, is the place where Christ the Head of the Body speaks and acts, the nave is the place of the congregation, the Body.  Having a Communion rail is not only practical, but it defines the space.  Some might claim that the Communion rail then becomes a barrier for the laity in the congregation to keep from away from the holy of holies.  I don’t see it that way at all.  That rail helps to point out that, in the church building’s layout, the congregation has its own proper character and dignity that must not be compromised or violated by “invasion”, so to speak, by the priest – except in those defined moments such as the Vidi aquam we have now in Easter season.  The congregation has its own important role and this is defined in the building.

There are some consequences. 

  • If the priest is seen this way, then his role is far more than that of a mere “presider”.
  • The congregation must have its moments to speak: making good responses is important (they need not be loud, but they must be spoken).
  • Pulling lay people inappropriately into the sanctuary is really a violation of their dignity as lay people.  It is as if to say that they are not “good enough” as they are and have dignity only when they are doing what pertains to the priest.
  • Kneeling at the Communion rail is not only a sign of reverence in the Real Presence before reception of Communion, but – for that close encounter of priest (head) and congregation (body) – is a reverent acknowledgement of the Christus totus in action in the sacred mysteries.

Detail of Altar RailDetail of Altar Rail

Saint Michael the Archangel

Friday, July 18th, 2008

An anonymous donor, after securing the permission of the Pastor, commissioned this magnificent wood-carving of Saint Michael the Archangel in honor of St. Mary’s upcoming quasquicentennial celebration in 2010, and in Thanksgiving for the Pontificate of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.  Carved in South America, the statue arrived at the Omaha airport a few weeks ago, and was brought to Salem on Wednesday, July 16.

At the end of September, when we celebrate the Feast of St. Michael, the statue will be blessed and placed in church.

SANCTE Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude. Amen.

SAINT Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

This prayer was composed by Pope Leo XIII after he experienced a horrifying vision. On October 13, 1884, while consulting with his cardinals after Mass, Pope Leo XIII paused at the foot of the altar and lapsed into what looked like a coma. After a little while the Pope recovered himself and related the terrifying vision he had of the battle between the Church and Satan. Afterwards, Pope Leo went to his office and composed this now famous prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and assigned it to be recited after Low Mass, a position it occupied until Vatican II. It was recently recommended by Pope John Paul II in a speech to a crowd of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday April 24, 1994 as a prayer for the Church. (See L’ Osservatore Romano, April 27, 1994).


Restoration Update:

Friday, July 18th, 2008

The photo gallery below shows the arcade above the center aisle, including a few of the newly-framed murals:

New Church of St. Katherine Drexel in Sioux Falls

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

On Friday, July 11, I was able to tour the new St. Katherine Drexel, two days before His Excellency, Bishop Paul J. Swain dedicated it.  Congratulations to Father Joe Vogel and the good people of St. Katherine’s for building a church to the glory of God.

The Crucifix, Stations of the Cross, Tabernacle, Sanctuary Lamp and candlesticks are antigues from closed churches (outside of the Diocese of Sioux Falls). 

The red oak pews are magnificent, and have kneelers (unlike the church from which St. Katherine’s was formed).  When all of the pews are installed, the church will seat 1,000 persons.

Thanks be to God.

For more information, please visit St. Katherine Drexel Parish website:


Sunday, July 6th, 2008

The Church Restoration Page photo gallery has been updated, thanks to young photographer and altar server, John S.

Please check it out by clicking on the link to the right.

Pope Benedict XVI on the Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Holy Father and Patriarch Bartholomew I

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

The altar and the direction of liturgical prayer is explained by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the following excerpt from chapter three of his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy:

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s, The Spirit of the Liturgy (English edition, trans. John Saward) San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. 232 pages. $19.95.

Copyright © 2000 Ignatius Press

Chapter 3

The re-shaping so far described, of the Jewish synagogue for the purpose of Christian worship, clearly shows — as we have already said — how, even in architecture, there is both continuity and newness in the relationship of the Old Testament to the New. Expression in space had to be given to the properly Christian act of worship, the celebration of the Eucharist, together with the ministry of the Word, which is ordered toward that celebration.

Plainly, further developments became not only possible but necessary. A place set aside for Baptism had to be found. The Sacrament of Penance went through a long process of development, which resulted in changes to the form of the church building. Popular piety in its many different forms inevitably found expression in the place dedicated to divine worship. The question of sacred images had to be resolved. Church music had to be fitted into the spatial structure. We saw that the architectural canon for the liturgy of Word and Sacrament is not a rigid one, though with every new development and re-ordering the question has to be posed: what is in harmony with the essence of the liturgy, and what detracts from it? In the very form of its places of divine worship, which we have just been considering, Christianity, speaking and thinking in a Semitic way, has laid down principles by which this question can be answered. Despite all the variations in practice that have taken place far into the second millennium, one thing has remained clear for the whole of Christendom: praying toward the East is a tradition that goes back to the beginning. Moreover, it is a fundamental expression of the Christian synthesis of cosmos and history, of being rooted in the once-for-all events of salvation history while going out to meet the Lord who is to come again. Here both the fidelity to the gift already bestowed and the dynamism of going forward are given equal expression.

Posture and God’s universality

Modern man has little understanding of this “orientation”. Judaism and Islam, now as in the past, take it for granted that we should pray toward the central place of revelation, to the God who has revealed Himself to us, in the manner and in the place in which He revealed Himself. By contrast, in the western world, an abstract way of thinking, which in a certain way is the fruit of Christian influence, has become dominant. God is spiritual, and God is everywhere: does that not mean that prayer is not tied to a particular place or direction? Now we can indeed pray everywhere, and God is accessible to us everywhere. This idea of the universality of God is a consequence of Christian universality, of the Christian’s looking up to God above all gods, the God who embraces the cosmos and is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. But our knowledge of this universality is the fruit of revelation: God has shown Himself to us. Only for this reason do we know Him, only for this reason can we confidently pray to Him everywhere. And precisely for this reason is it appropriate, now as in the past, that we should express in Christian prayer our turning to the God who has revealed Himself to us. Just as God assumed a body and entered the time and space of this world, so it is appropriate to prayer — at least to communal liturgical prayer — that our speaking to God should be “incarnational”, that it should be Christological, turned through the incarnate Word to the Triune God. The cosmic symbol of the rising sun expresses the universality of God above all particular places and yet maintains the concreteness of Divine Revelation. Our praying is thus inserted into the procession of the nations to God.

The Church’s living altar

But what about the altar? In what direction should we pray during the Eucharistic liturgy? In Byzantine church buildings the structure just described was essentially retained, but in Rome a somewhat different arrangement developed. The bishop’s chair was shifted to the center of the apse, and so the altar was moved into the nave. This seems to have been the case in the Lateran basilica and in Saint Mary Major well into the ninth century. However, in Saint Peter’s, during the pontificate of Saint Gregory the Great (590-604), the altar was moved nearer to the bishop’s chair, probably for the simple reason that he was supposed to stand as much as possible above the tomb of Saint Peter. This was an outward and visible expression of the truth that we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Lord in the Communion of Saints, a communion spanning all the times and ages.

The custom of erecting an altar above the tombs of the martyrs probably goes back a long way and is an outcome of the same motivation. Throughout history the martyrs continue Christ’s self-oblation; they are like the Church’s living altar, made not of stones but of men, who have become members of the Body of Christ and thus express a new kind of cultus: sacrifice is humanity becoming love with Christ.

Arrangement of Saint Peter’s copied

The ordering of Saint Peter’s was then copied, so it would seem, in many other stational churches in Rome. For the purposes of this discussion, we do not need to go into the disputed details of this process. The controversy in our own century was triggered by another innovation. Because of topographical circumstances, it turned out that Saint Peter’s faced west. Thus, if the celebrating priest wanted — as the Christian tradition of prayer demands — to face east, he had to stand behind the people and look — this is the logical conclusion — toward the people. For whatever reason it was done, one can also see this arrangement in a whole series of church buildings within Saint Peter’s direct sphere of influence.

The liturgical renewal in our own century took up this alleged model and developed from it a new idea for the form of the Liturgy. The Eucharist, so it was said, had to be celebrated versus populum (towards the people). The altar — as can be seen in the normative model of Saint Peter’s — had to be positioned in such a way that priest and people looked at each other and formed together the circle of the celebrating community. This alone, so it was said, was compatible with the meaning of the Christian Liturgy, with the requirement of active participation. This alone conformed to the primordial model of the Last Supper.

These arguments seemed in the end so persuasive that after the Council (which says nothing about “turning to the people”) new altars were set up everywhere, and today celebration versus populum really does look like the characteristic fruit of Vatican II’s liturgical renewal. In fact it is the most conspicuous consequence of a re-ordering that not only signifies a new external arrangement of the places dedicated to the Liturgy, but also brings with it a new idea of the essence of the Liturgy — the Liturgy as a communal meal.

Misunderstanding of meal symbolism

This is, of course, a misunderstanding of the significance of the Roman basilica and of the positioning of its altar, and the representation of the Last Supper is also, to say the least, inaccurate. Consider, for example, what Louis Bouyer has to say on the subject:

The idea that celebration versus populum was the original form, indeed the way the Last Supper itself was celebrated, rests purely and simply on a mistaken idea of what a banquet, Christian or even non-Christian, was like in antiquity. In the earliest days of Christianity the head of table never took his place facing the other participants. Everyone sat or lay on the convex side of an S-shaped or horseshoe-shaped table. Nowhere in Christian antiquity could anyone have come up with the idea that the man presiding at the meal had to take his place versus populum. The communal character of a meal was emphasized by precisely the opposite arrangement, namely, by the fact that everyone at the meal found himself on the same side of the table (54f).

In any case, there is a further point that we must add to this discussion of the ‘shape’ of meals: the Eucharist that Christians celebrate really cannot adequately be described by the term ‘meal’. True, Our Lord established the new reality of Christian worship within the framework of a Jewish (Passover) meal, but it was precisely this new reality, not the meal as such, which He commanded us to repeat. Very soon the new reality was separated from its ancient context and found its proper and suitable form, a form already predetermined by the fact that the Eucharist refers back to the Cross and thus to the transformation of Temple sacrifice into the reasonable worship of God.

Not from the meal alone

Thus it came to pass that the synagogue Liturgy of the Word, renewed and deepened in a Christian way, merged with the remembrance of Christ’s Death and Resurrection to become the ‘Eucharist’, and precisely thus was fidelity to the command “Do this” fulfilled. This new complete form of worship could not be derived simply from the meal, but had to be defined through the interconnection of temple and synagogue, Word and Sacrament, cosmos and history. It expresses itself in the very form that we discovered in the liturgical structure of the early Churches in the world of Semitic Christianity. It also, of course, remained fundamental for Rome.

Once again let me quote Bouyer:

Never and nowhere before (that is, before the sixteenth century) is there any indication of the slightest importance being attached, or even attention given, to the question of whether the priest should celebrate with the people behind him or in front of him. Professor Cyril Vogel has proved that, “if anything was stressed, it was that the priest should recite the Eucharistic Prayer, like all other prayers, turned towards the East Even when the orientation of the church allowed the priest to pray facing the people, we must not forget that it was not just the priest who turned to the East, but the whole congregation with him” (p. 56).

“Unprecedented clericalism”

Admittedly, these connections were obscured or fell into total oblivion in the church buildings and liturgical practice of the modern age. This is the only explanation for the fact that the common direction of prayer of priest and people got labeled as “celebrating towards the wall” or “turning your back on the people” and came to seem absurd and totally unacceptable. And this alone explains why the meal — even in modern pictures — became the normative idea of liturgical celebration for Christians.

In reality what happened was that an unprecedented clericalization came on the scene. Now the priest — the “presider”, as they now prefer to call him — becomes the real point of reference for the whole Liturgy. Everything depends on him. We have to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His creativity sustains the whole thing.

Not surprisingly, people try to reduce this newly created role by assigning all kinds of liturgical functions to different individuals and entrusting the “creative” planning of the Liturgy to groups of people who like to, and are supposed to, “make a contribution of their own”. Less and less is God in the picture. More and more important is what is done by the human beings who meet here and do not like to subject themselves to a “pre-determined pattern”.

The self-enclosed circle

The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is locked into itself. The common turning toward the East was not a “celebration toward the wall”; it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people”: the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian Liturgy the congregation looked together “toward the Lord”. As one of the fathers of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy, J.A. Jungmann, put it, it was much more a question of priest and people facing in the same direction, knowing that together they were in a procession toward the Lord. They did not lock themselves into a circle, they did not gaze at one another, but as the pilgrim People of God they set off for the Oriens, for the Christ who comes to meet us….

But is this not all romanticism and nostalgia for the past? Can the original form of Christian prayer still say something to us today, or should we try to find our own form, a form for our own times? Of course, we cannot simply replicate the past. Every age must discover and express the essence of the liturgy anew. The point is to discover this essence amid all the changing appearances. It would surely be a mistake to reject all the reforms of our century wholesale. When the altar was very remote from the faithful, it was right to move it back to the people. In cathedrals this made possible the recovery of the tradition of the altar at the crossing, the meeting-point of the nave and the presbyterium. It was also important clearly to distinguish the place for the Liturgy of the Word from the place for the strictly Eucharistic liturgy. For the Liturgy of the Word is about speaking and responding, and so a face-to-face exchange between proclaimer and hearer does make sense. In the Psalm the hearer digests what he has heard, takes it into himself, and transforms it into prayer, so that it becomes a response.

Turn to the East is essential

On the other hand, a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of accidentals, but of essentials. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off towards the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer….

The image of God in man

[An] objection is that we do not need to look toward the East, towards the crucifix, that, when priest and faithful look at one another, they are looking at the image of God in man, and so facing one another is the right direction for prayer. I find it hard to believe that the famous reviewer thought this was a serious argument. For we do not see the image of God in man in such a simplistic way. The “image of God” in man is not, of course, something that we can photograph or see with a merely photographic kind of perception. We can indeed see it, but only with the new seeing of faith. We can see it, just as we can see the goodness in a man, his honesty, interior truth, humility, love — everything, in fact, that gives him a certain likeness to God. But if we are to do this, we must learn a new kind of seeing, and that is what the Eucharist is for….

The sign of the Son of Man

A more important objection is of the practical order. Are we really going to re-order everything all over again? Nothing is more harmful to the Liturgy than constant changes, even if it seems to be for the sake of genuine renewal.

I see a solution to this in a suggestion I noted at the beginning in connection with the insights of Erik Peterson. Facing toward the East, as we heard, was linked with the “sign of the Son of Man”, with the Cross, which announces Our Lord’s Second Coming. That is why, very early on, the East was linked with the sign of the cross. Where a direct common turning toward the East is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior “East” of faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community.

In this way we obey the ancient call to prayer: Conversi ad Dominum, “Turn to the Lord!” In this way we look together at the One whose Death tore the veil of the Temple — the One who stands before the Father for us and encloses us in His arms in order to make us the new and living Temple.

Moving the altar cross to the side to give an uninterrupted view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more important than Our Lord?

This mistake should be corrected as quickly as possible; it can be done without further rebuilding. The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history. That is why there can be a cross of the Passion, which represents the Suffering Lord who for us let His side be pierced, from which flowed blood and water (Eucharist and Baptism), as well as a cross of triumph, which expresses the idea of Our Lord’s Second Coming and guides our eyes towards it. For it is always the One Lord: Christ yesterday, today, and for ever (Heb. 13. 8).

Fr. Jay Scott Newman on Turning Together Towards the LORD, part 5 of 5

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

5. In the last four bulletin columns, we’ve seen that:

+ until the 1960’s the vast majority of Christians in every time and place offered the sacrifice of the Most Holy Eucharist with the priest and people standing together on the same side of the altar

+ this ancient and universal practice of offering the Eucharistic Prayer ad orientem, or facing East (whether geographical or liturgical East), is rooted in Judaism and the practice of the first Christians and emphasizes the vertical dimension of worship by opening the circle of priest and people to the presence of God among us in the sacred liturgy. For this reason, the custom of facing East is also described as praying ad Deum or towards God.

+ when properly understood and celebrated, this form of prayer not only does not constitute an impediment to the full, conscious, and active participation of the people in the sacred liturgy, it actually enhances that possibility by removing the priest from the center of the action and allows him to be once again merely a steward of the Sacred Mysteries rather than a host charged with entertaining his guests

+ the II Vatican Council said not one word about the direction in which the priest should face at the altar, and even now the rubrics of the modern Roman Missal are written with the assumption that the priest is facing East at the altar. Moreover, the Congregation for Divine Worship has clarified that facing East and facing the congregation are both equally lawful and that no special permission is needed for the priest to face the East, a fact underscored recently by Pope Benedict’s public celebration ad orientem, something he does everyday in his chapel.

For all of these reasons, we will begin to celebrate Mass ad Deum at St. Mary’s sometime between Easter and Pentecost, after all the clergy and servers have been prepared for the logistical changes which will attend this development. We will celebrate the Mass in this fashion for several months until both priests and people have had the opportunity to grow accustomed to a practice that is unfamiliar to us, despite being the norm of Christian worship for nearly all of our history. After a suitable period of acclimation, we will evaluate our progress and review the best practices for our parish, and during the months of testing, I ask only that everyone (no matter whether you support this decision, oppose it, or have no opinion) exercise patience, prudence, and charity. This return to our own tradition is not an exercise of change for the sake of change; it is, rather, an effort to respond to the leadership of our Holy Father, who reminds us that what has been held sacred by all generations of Christians is to be held sacred by us. Let’s work together in this retrieval of an ancient and noble part of Christian prayer to see how it might strengthen our union with the Lord Jesus and deepen our capacity to worship the Father in Spirit and truth.

Grave of 1st Pastor, Fr. J. Henry Juetting

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

St. Mary Catholic Church was established in 1885 by the Right Rev. Martin Marty, Vicar Apostolic of Dakota, who sent the Rev. J. Henry Juetting to be the first parish priest (pastor). Fr. Juetting immediately set out to make plans for a church, but died on January 24, 1886 at the age of 45, months before it could be built.

The first church was completed the following year under the second pastor, the Rev. Joseph Weixelberger, and dedicated by Bishop Marty on November 10, 1887, the feast of St. Andrew Avellino, Confessor, and the commemoration of Ss. Tryphon, Respicius, and Nympha, Martyrs. However, November 10 was also the Vigil of St. Martin, the great soldier-turned-bishop of Tours and heavenly patron of Bishop Martin Marty.