Mass changes rolled out to secular media

In an effort to reach Catholics who have not yet heard about coming changes to the Mass from the Catholic press, Church officials met with members of the secular media to explain the changes, which take effect on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30, 2003. A series of columns explaining the Mass changes have appeared in The Pilot since October.

Father Brian E. Mahoney, director of the Office of Worship, accompanied by Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, outlined a number of the changes at the Nov. 24 press conference, describing them more as clarifications than as major changes.

Father Mahoney said that the changes will affect “all places of worship in the archdiocese” and every diocese in the United States. Some changes, he said, will be implemented throughout the worldwide Catholic Church.

These changes are the result of revisions to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). According to Father Mahoney, the revisions affected approximately 20 percent of the missal’s text.

Changes to the Mass include: the congregation kneel at the conclusion of the Agnus Dei; communicants bow their heads before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ; the Lectionary should no longer be carried in procession; a period of silence will follow the proclamation of each reading and the homily; and distribution of consecrated bread and wine to the vessels will be reserved to priests and deacons.

The revisions seek to articulate three theological points: the communal, hierarchical and sacrificial nature of the Mass.

Father Mahoney explained that “different customs” of standing or kneeling at different points during the Mass have developed in parishes in the 34 years since the promulgation of the first general instruction. The revisions to the new general instruction will promote more uniformity in the Church through “common postures” that all parishes will put into practice, such as bowing before the reception of Communion.

"The common postures bring about a better sense of the theology" of the Mass and help Catholics more actively participate in the celebration, Father Mahoney said.

Another change affecting the archdiocese will be the observation of Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, as a day of penance for Catholics. Priests celebrating the special Mass for “Peace and Justice” that day will wear purple vestments rather than the green vestments normally worn. The change is the result of a petition by the U.S. bishops to change the Church calendar for the United States.

Father Mahoney spent the month of October meeting with priests, deacons and lay leaders throughout the archdiocese to explain these changes. He has also written The Pilot’s series of columns on the revisions. In addition, Father Mahoney has provided priests with materials that can be used as bulletin inserts explaining the changes.