OK ... So you heard about the new Norms for Mass during the homily last weekend and still aren't quite sure what Father was talking about?
Let me try to explain ...
Back in May, the Bishop and the Council of Priests of the Diocese of Raleigh approved some changes to the way Mass is celebrated in the Diocese. Many of these are just reaffirming what came out in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal back in 2011, but others of them define what options are going to be used in the Diocese and which are not.
Taking a step back, the purpose behind these changes is to help each of us focus more intently on what is happening during Mass and to avoid anything that might be a distraction from wholehearted worship -- just like those jewels on the walls of the Temple in this past Sunday's Gospel were originally meant to draw people into worship but ended up being a distraction for them (Luke 21:5).
So with that in mind, the Diocese published new Norms for Mass back in May, and the different parishes began to implement them on a schedule that was convenient for them. At St. Michael, we like to make changes around Advent, since that's a natural time in the liturgical year to start new things. Some of the changes we're going to make beginning this weekend will be more noticeable than others, but here's a quick summary. In case you're an eager beaver and want to read the whole document yourself, I've put the reference paragraphs in the Norms for Mass at the end of each point.
- As we have begun to do already this fall, we will continue to focus on quiet time before Mass starts. We invite all our parishioners and visitors to talk to each other and to build community in the gathering space before and after Mass, but to reserve the sanctuary as a silent space for those who need a quiet refuge to be with the Lord (par. 7).
- In the past, people have held various postures during the praying of the Lord’s Prayer; beginning this weekend we ask people to hold their hands folded in prayer during the Our Father – not outstretched, and also not holding hands – in order to focus on our own internal response to the Eucharistic Prayer (par. 80).
- As we move from the Our Father into the Sign of Peace, we ask everyone to offer the Sign of Peace to those around them in the pews and not to move around in the church, in order to keep a quiet and reverent atmosphere before Communion (par. 81).
- The Communion Procession is a time to come forward to receive Holy Communion and to show our oneness in Christ and His Church – in other words, it is a “single purpose procession.” To demonstrate this truth, the Bishop has ended the option to come forward for a blessing in the Communion line (par. 89).
- At the same time, however, we recognize that there are circumstances when someone will need to come forward in the Communion Procession without receiving Communion – young children accompanying their parents, for example – and in these cases, the minister of Communion (whether an ordained Priest or Deacon, or a lay person) will not offer a blessing but may smile and say “God bless you” to these people.
- The purpose of this distinction is to not embarrass someone who comes forward unknowingly in the procession, while maintaining the primary purpose of the Communion Procession as the moment to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord as those united in the Catholic Faith.
- Although it is not a change from previous teaching or practice, the new Norms for Mass reiterate the teaching of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that all Catholics attending Mass in the United States should receive Communion in a standing posture (par. 92). All those receiving Communion have the option to receive on their tongue or in their hands, but everyone is reminded that we receive Holy Communion; we should never reach for, grab for, or “one-hand” our reception of the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion.
- Finally, we will be focusing particularly on the important moments after we receive Holy Communion when we are able to unite ourselves most perfectly to the Lord and pray for ourselves, our loved ones, and the whole world. Thus, we will begin to keep a few moments of sacred silence after Communion and before our Song of Praise to allow all of us to spend some time uniting ourselves to Christ Jesus Whom we have just received (par. 95).
I hope this was a help, and I'll see you at Mass!