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Recorded Music in Mass?
Q. I thought I had read that it is not liturgically proper to use recorded music during the Mass to lead the congregation in singing. Could you please confirm this? Thank you!
R. A., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
None of the Church documents that regulate the liturgy specifically prohibit the use of recorded music during the Mass. The 1967 Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, Musicam Sacram, as well as the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (2002) and the more recent Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), each promote beautiful liturgical music and give pride of place to Gregorian Chant and the pipe organ. But they are silent about the use of recorded music to lead the congregation in singing.
Nevertheless, the use of recorded music is not within the tradition of the liturgy and should not be used to replace the active singing of the faithful, just as it would not be proper to have pre-recorded responses of the faithful. Participation has to be actual.
At the same time, if no organist is available, and the congregation is musically challenged, a pre-programmed digital electronic organ can be a great help in adding majesty and solemnity to the Mass and could be used as an aid to the singing. This is not pre-recorded music, but the use of a pre-programmed instrument for an actual rendition. Whether or not this is “proper” is a matter of opinion; but it is not prohibited.
Non-Catholics Receiving the Eucharist?
Q. First: I love my issues of TCA.
My question is on the Eucharist. I believe that those who can receive the Eucharist are practicing Catholics, without mortal sin, and in communion with the Catholic Church. But I was told by a few of my Catholic friends that the Church now lets our non-Catholic friends, such as Lutherans, receive also, if they believe it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord.
I suggested that this might make a mockery of our new candidates coming into the Church on Easter. But it was five against me, so I decided I needed to be completely accurate before I pursue this dialog again, which I plan to do. I guess I was a little shocked (maybe not) that some of us don’t want to know the truth if it is uncomfortable.
Thank you for your answer.
S.B., via email
A. Thanks for the encouraging words about our magazine. I love my TCA, too!
Your friends are wrong if they mean that non-Catholics (Protestants in particular) are free to receive the Eucharist in a Catholic Church any time they please as long as they believe it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. Under normal conditions, only Catholics can receive, as Canon Law specifies: “Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone …” (Can. 844 §1; emphasis added).
However, Canon Law does allow for exceptions under certain rare and carefully defined conditions, as prescribed here:
“Can. 844 §3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches [Eastern Orthodox Christians] which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches. [The Protestant denominations are not among these churches; they are “ecclesial communities.”]
§4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians [including Protestants] not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed” (emphasis added).
So the conditions for a Lutheran, for example, to receive Communion licitly in a Catholic church include much more than having a “Catholic faith” about the reality that it is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ. He would also have to be in danger of death or in some other situation of grave necessity as judged by the local bishop or conference of bishops; he would have to be unable to receive Communion from a Lutheran minister; he would have to seek it out on his own accord; and he would have to be properly disposed. Such strict conditions are rarely met.
I would encourage you to refer your friends to the “Guidelines for the Reception of Communion” published by the United States bishops in 1996, which are included in the missalettes used in most Catholic parishes. That statement provides this brief explanation for denying Communion to non-Catholics:
“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.”
To admit non-Catholics to Communion under ordinary circumstances would be to proclaim a unity that doesn’t yet exist, and would thus be dishonest—a sin against both truth and charity.
Q. My traditional Catholic calendar noted May 14, 16 and 17 as “Ember Days.” What are they?
H.K., via email
A. The origin of the English label “ember” for these days is uncertain, though it may be a corruption of the Latin phrase Quatuor Tempora, “four times.” In the traditional Church calendar, Ember Days are days occurring at the beginning of the four seasons, prescribed by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They are set aside as times to thank God for the fruits of agriculture, to recall that we should use such gifts in moderation, and to share them with those in need.
Pope St. Gregory VII (c. 1071-1085) definitively arranged and prescribed Ember Days for the entire Church, to be observed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13th (feast of St. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost Sunday and after September 14th (feast of the Exaltation of the Cross). But the roots of the celebration are ancient. Roman pagans used to perform three annual religious rites to ask for the help of their agricultural gods: in June for an abundant harvest, in September for a bountiful vintage and in December for the planting. The Church adapted these occasions for Christian purposes, probably as early as the second century.
Documents of Pope St. Gelasius I (d. 496) indicate that by the fifth century, Roman Christians were observing Ember Days four times a year. This pope also allowed priests and deacons to be ordained on the Saturdays of each Ember week, which previously had taken place only on Easter.
After his time, the custom spread beyond Rome throughout Europe, though it is not a part of the Eastern Christian tradition.
Q. I have been discussing the rosary with a friend of mine who attends a different parish, and I came up with a question about the way we pray the rosary. Why do we pray the rosary with one Our Father and ten Hail Marys in each mystery?
Thank you for the opportunity to ask a question. I am new to this page, but I am glad that I found it. It is great — keep up the good work.
C. G., Dallas, Texas
A. Thanks for the kind words about our daily Q&A. We learn at least as much as our readers do by putting it together!
An old and uncertain tradition says that Our Lady gave the rosary as we know it to St. Dominic in the year 1214. But historians have found that Catholics were using prayer beads to pray repetitive prayers long before that time.
Beginning in ancient times, many monks prayed all 150 of the biblical Psalms each day. Lay people who wanted to imitate that devout practice, but couldn’t read or didn’t have the leisure to pray all the psalms daily, began to substitute 150 repetitions of the Our Father. Many of them counted the prayers on a string of beads or knotted rope called a paternoster (Latin for “Our Father”).
Meanwhile, as the Hail Mary prayer increased in popularity, some people began praying these words 150 times (or sometimes 50 times) instead of the Our Father. As early as the seventh century, St. Eligius was known to pray what was called “the Psalter of Blessed Mary,” which included a recitation of 150 Hail Marys. These prayers were often divided into groups of ten (decades), as is noted in a 12th-century rule for prayer among certain consecrated women in England.
The evolving rosary was prayed in various ways, but the method that eventually became “standard” (or at least most popular) featured decades of Hail Marys separated by a single Our Father. Each decade came to be devoted to a particular mystery in the life of Our Lord and Our Lady.
Graces Through Mary?
Q. What is the source of the graces that God bestows upon us through Mother Mary?
C. N., via email
Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
Recall what the Church teaches us about “grace” in general. Grace is “favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us.” Grace is in fact “a participation in the life of God.” Grace is “first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1996, 1997, 2003).
So when we speak of “graces” that come to us through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, we ordinarily mean special and specific helps.
The ultimate source of all grace, of all “graces,” by definition is God the Father. They come to us from Him through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. The intercession of others — and supremely that of the Blessed Virgin — provides further occasions for the bestowal of God’s grace.
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