February 9, 2014

The Effects of Varied Experiences

As already noted, it is clear that the three generations previously characterized have had markedly different liturgical experiences.  If one were to inquire about liturgical preferences there would be an incredible diversity of opinion among the generations.  This would have been unheard of fifty years ago.  Yet today this diversity all sits within the same pews at Sunday Mass, week in and week out.  Whose tastes should be accommodated?  Whose preferences should be imposed on the whole?  These are the questions that characterize our current situation. 

The answer is fairly simple.  Nobody’s mere tastes and preference should be imposed on the whole.  Although there are a variety of experiences, there is still only one set of liturgical norms.  Therefore parish life in the Latin Church would be well served if all the lay faithful were to trustingly surrender to the established ritual norms and set aside his/her liturgical preferences. 

As for pastors of the Church, we have a responsibility to abide by them explicitly noted in the oath of fidelity that is taken upon our installation:

…with great care and fidelity I shall carry out the duties incumbent on me toward the Church, both universal and particular, in which, according to the provisions of the law, I have been called to exercise my service.

In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.

I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church and I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law… (Oath of Fidelity)

Not only is it incumbent upon us to do so, it is also the only remedy to the impossible and fruitless task of trying to please everyone’s sensibilities.  By following the norms, there are no winners or losers in liturgical battles.  There are simply the norms for which we set aside our preferences for the sake of unity. 

As to the areas that require discretion in the implementation of liturgical norms it is the proper role of the pastor to make decisions regarding execution of the rites.  Such discretionary judgments are outlined in the norms and include matters such as communion line routes, altar appointments, the need for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, etc…  With all of the norms adhered to, the pastor looks to be informed by the official mind of the Church, sound reason, practicality, sacred tradition and the like.  In this way he makes a conscionable decision for the good of the faithful. 

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