By John Norton
With only very rare exceptions, if you're looking to spark a debate in any random gathering of Catholics, start talking about liturgy: likes and dislikes, old and new, reforms and regressions, even short and long (usually in reference to homilies!).
A couple of stories in recent weeks underscore the point.
First, a prominent Italian vaticanista, or journalist assigned to cover the Vatican, reported that the Vatican's liturgy congregation recently submitted recommendations to Pope Benedict XVI to boost the sense of sacredness at Mass -- including curbing the practice of receiving Communion in the hand. After a flurry of commentary on Catholic blogs, the Vatican's secretary of state and a spokesman separately denied that any program of "reform of the reform" of the Second Vatican Council was on the way. But that did little to dampen blogosphere speculation.
Here in the United States this summer, it came to light that Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., has restored the practice of facing away from the congregation -- known as ad orientem, "toward the East" -- when he celebrates Mass in his cathedral. In a column in his diocesan magazine, he said the older practice can help remind Mass-goers that they're not just observers; they, too, with the priest "offer the Eucharistic sacrifice" during the liturgy.
"It's incorrect to think that only the priest offers Mass," he said. "All the faithful share in the offering, even though the priest has a unique role."
In August, Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate released the results of a survey that found that a quarter of Catholic Americans favor the increased availability of the Traditional Latin Mass, 12 percent oppose it and 63 percent have no opinion. Pope Benedict made it easier two years ago for parishes to offer the traditional liturgy.
Last -- but probably most significant for Catholic Americans -- the U.S. bishops' conference launched a Web page introducing revised wording in the Mass prayers that have been approved after a multiyear effort to come up with more accurate translations of the original Latin texts.
We have a story previewing the changes, which are expected to be launched at the start of Advent 2010, on Page 6, and will be providing you other resources and tools over the coming months.
Even for those who are open to it, change is never easy. Greater familiarity with what is coming will help ease the transition, and we'll also do our best to let you know the "whys" behind some of the more jarring changes; for example, "and with your spirit" instead of "and also with you." Stay tuned, and let us know if you have ideas for our coverage.
As always, I await your input and suggestions at email@example.com.
Please note: Comments left online may be considered for publication in the Letters to the Editor section of OSV Newsweekly.
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