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Therefore, the priest, while placing at the service of the Eucharistic celebration all his talents to make it come alive in the participation of the faithful, must abide by the rite stipulated in the liturgical books approved by the competent authority, without adding, removing or changing anything at all 297. Thus his celebrating truly becomes a celebration of and with the Church: he does not do “something of his own”, but is with the Church in dialogue with God. This also promotes adequate active participation on the part of the faithful in the sacred liturgy: “The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure the actuosa participatio. The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (cf. 1P 2:4-5.9) 298.—Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, New Edition (2013), p. 95.
297. Cf. Ecumenical Council Vatican II, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22; C.I.C., can. 846, § 1; BENEDICT XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, 40.
298. BENEDICT XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, 38.
This teaching of the Church's Magisterium provides also the foundations for a renewed and more profound understanding of the "participatio actuosa" (active participation) of the faithful in the liturgy, which is not merely external, but also, and more importantly, internal. From this perspective one also understands better why from the Carolingian period to the reform of Vatican II, and also today in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, the celebrant priest prays the Canon in silence. As the then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explained, thus communion before God is not denied: "It is not quite true that the uninterrupted recitation in a loud voice of the Eucharistic prayer is the condition for the participation of everyone in this central act of the Eucharistic celebration. My proposal then was: on one hand liturgical education must be such that the faithful know the essential meaning and the fundamental tendency of the Canon; on the other, the first words of the individual prayers should be pronounced in a loud voice as an invitation to the whole community, so that, then, the silent prayer of each one makes its own the intonation and can bring the personal dimension into that of the community, and that of the community into the personal dimension. Whoever has experienced personally the unity of the Church in the silence of the Eucharistic prayer has experienced what truly full silence is, which represents at the same time a deep and penetrating cry addressed to God, a prayer full of spirit. Here we truly pray all together the Canon, though in connection with the particular task of the priestly service."
For priests, the celebration of the Eucharist is the most important moment of every single day. All other activities, indeed all aspects of their sacerdotal existence, must be intimately connected to the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. Here we find the heart of the priesthood and indeed of the whole sacramental nature of the Church, as the theologian Joseph Ratzinger put it so well: "In order that an event that occurred in the past is made present, the words must therefore be pronounced: This is my Body - This is my Blood. But in these words it is assumed that the I of Jesus Christ speaks. Only He can say these things; they are His words. No man can pretend to declare the I of Jesus Christ as his own. No one can say here r (sic) many communities can transmit, rather it can only be founded on the "sacramental" authorization given to the whole Church by Jesus Christ himself. [...] And this is exactly the 'Priestly Ordination' and the 'Priesthood.'"
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ALTAR SERVER'S PRAYER
Eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I humbly beseech You to guide my actions
in Your holy sanctuary and everywhere at all times.
Create in me a heart entirely given to Your Holy Sacrifice.
Grant me the grace to serve with steady hands.
May my service this day
in all that is done for You.
This I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Amen.
faithful defender of the Blessed Sacrament
and patron of servers: pray for me.
AN ARTICLE FROM ROMANITAS PRESS
Are “those who have custody of the sacred furnishings” clerics exclusively, or does the phrase include laymen and religious, Sisters or lay brothers, who have charge of the sacristy? Writing before the promulgation of the Code , Wernz says that in the course of time the ancient rigor in the matter of touching the sacred vessels was relaxed, so that lay brothers and religious, Sisters and laymen acting as sacristans were permitted to touch the sacred vessels.[ff 57—2] Blat [ff 58—3] and Vermeersch-Creusen [ff 59—4] apply the above phrase also to lay sacristans.
…The Council of Trent desired that, according to the old canons, clerics should hold such offices; but in most churches, on account of the difficulty or impossibility of obtaining clerics, laymen* perform many of the duties of the sacristan and under-sacristan. [*NB: as we shall see attested below, here the term laymen is being used in a gender-neutral manner to include both men and women like the word mankind.]
- ushers (Porter)
- bell ringers (Porter)
- cantor (or clerk) during various liturgical services (Lector)
- altar servers—and by application the liturgical schola (Acolyte)
§1 Curandum ne calyx cum patena et ante lotionem purificatoria, pallae et corporalia, quae adhibita fuere in sacrificio Missae, tangantur, nisi a clericis vel ab iis qui eorum custodiam habent.
§2 Purificatoria, pallae et corporalia, in Missae sacrifice adhibita, ne tradantur lavanda laicis etiam religiosis, nisi prius abluta fuerint a clerico in maioribus ordinibus constituto; aqua autem primae lotionis mittatur in sacrarium vel, si hoc desit, in ignem.
- No positive law exists against the use of female sacristans—though certain restrictions apply (equally as well to non-clerical male sacristans).
- No distinction is made between acting as a sacristan in a convent versus a parish church.
Canon Regulations; Sacred Vessels, Utensils, Vestments; The Handling of Sacred Vessels. Canon 1306. Section 1: “[concerning the chalice, paten and their linens]...are touched only by clerics or by those who have charge of these things.” (...) “The laymen* may touch the ostensorium, ciborium, and custodia.” Church Property and Its Management; Rev. H.A. Frommelt (Bruce 1936), p 81. [*NB: here again,laymen is being used in a gender-neutral sense.]
Canon 1302: Custody of the Sacra Supellex; p 279: The pastors are responsible in a particular manner for the condition of the “sacra supellex”, which must not be left exclusively in the hands of laymen or even Sisters. The pastor may, or course, entrust his curate or assistant with this duty.[ff 29] [ff 29: Rit. Rom., I. c., n. 3.]. A Commentary on the New Code of the Canon Law; Rev. Charles Augustine Bachofen, O.S.B. (Herder, 1920).
Sacred Places, Canon 1185, Personnel, pp 643-644: Appointment of Personnel. The sacristan, singers, organist, altar boys, sexton, grave diggers, and other subordinates, with due regard to lawful customs and agreements and to the authority of the Ordinary, are appointed, controlled, and dismissed exclusively by the rector of the church (c. 1185).Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Revs. T. Lincoln Bouscaren, S.J. and Adam Ellis, S.J. (Bruce 1961).
- A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Rev. Stanislaus Woywod, O.F.M. (Herder, 1946); Volume II, Part III (Of Divine Worship), XVIII (Of Sacred Furnishings); The Handling of Sacred Furnishings, pp 82-83.
- Jus Decretalium (ad usum praelectionium in scholis textus canonici sive juris decretalium), Rev. Franz X. Wernz, S.J., III (Rome—ex Typographia polyglotta S. C. de propaganda fide, 1907), n. 503, note 7.
- Commentarium, III, n. 177.
- Epitome, II, n. 635.
- Robert Appleton Company, 1913.
- A difference would be the sacristan—presumably a priest, but also possibly a minor cleric, religious brother, or even layman—during a Pontifical or Papal Mass who actually exercises a liturgical function (in actu functionis); e.g., the praegustatio rite.
- For example, during the Divine Office or the lessons on Good Friday and Easter Vigil, however, not during Mass.
- E.g., the laity singing in the pews, or the songs rendered by a mixed choir.
- Per the 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 813, §2, the Sacred Congregation of Rites’ rescripts 27458 and 40156, and all rubricians that deal with this point.
- The practice of situating the spouses (and their bridal party) in the sanctuary during the entire Mass is actually prohibited and thus an abuse; cf. The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, Dr. Adrian Fortescue (St. Austin Press, 1996), p 377, ff 4 and 373, ff 5, and The Celebration of Mass: A Study of the Roman Missal, Canon J.B. O’Connell (Bruce, 1964), p 73, ff 126.
- Which is actually a subset of canon law; cf. The Celebration of Mass (ibid) concerning liturgical law, rubrics and rubricians, pp 19-32.
- Another was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who for a time was not only an assistant sacristan, but wrote to her brother in June 1689 (letter #102) encouraging her sister and nieces in their role as sacristans: “The desire the Sacred Heart gives her of taking care of His chapel fills me great joy. I urge her not to spare herself. She, herself, and my dear nieces should always be sacristans there. She should consider herself very fortunate in this burden because she will be rewarded a hundredfold.” Extracted from The Letters of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Rev. Clarence Herbst, S.J. (reprinted by TAN Books, 2009).
- “There are altar societies in connection with most parish churches. The duties of members vary according to circumstances, in some instances including those which ordinarily fall within the sacristan's province, such as the vestments and altar vessels, making ready for the priest's Mass, and so on…” The Catholic Encyclopedia (Robert Appleton Company, 1913).
- Even in the Eastern Rites, which are usually stricter in regards to women’s roles in the Church, widows (showing the ancient Church’s predilection for this important rank) are engaged to make the hosts and after having received a special blessing from a bishop, to enter and clean the sanctuary.