Monday 30 August 2010

And you thought you were nitpicking?

Liturgical minutiae at its best!

22nd November, 1906.


Allow me to answer a question that has occasionally been put to me, Why have I sanctioned the publication for use in this diocese of a version of the Prayers after Mass, containing a manifest error?

The 'manifest error' in question is the use of the form, 'Through Christ our Lord,' instead of 'Through the same Christ our Lord,' in the termination of the prayer beginning, 'God, our refuge and our strength.' For, in that prayer, as it has more than once been pointed out to me, our Lord, although not specifically named, is distinctly referred to and is indeed mentioned in the clause, 'through the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God.'

The form 'Through Christ our Lord,' as distinct from 'Through the same Christ our Lord,' should no doubt be at once ruled out as inadmissible if the liturgical rule on the subject is as clearly unqualified as writers on the liturgy generally assume it to be. I take, for instance, the latest edition of De Herdt (Louvain, 1902). There I find the rule stated thus: 'si oratio dirigatur ad Patrem, et . . fiat mentio Filii in principio aut medio orationis, sub nomine Filii, Salvatoris, . . Dei, cum addito Genitricis Mariae, . . concluditur . . Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.'

But the matter cannot be so easily disposed of. It so happens that it was through me, during the prolonged illness of the late Primate, Most Rev. Dr. M'Gettigan, that the order for the recital of the prayers prescribed to be said after Mass was sent to Ireland by the Holy See. And I have before me, as I write, the official copy that was thus forwarded to me from Rome. I may add indeed that there were forwarded two such copies, separately printed, one of them a particularly large one, apparently intended for use on the occasion of some special ceremonial. Now in both of these copies the ending of the prayer is printed simply: Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Was this the result of an oversight? To me it would seem very strange indeed if such a thing could occur by oversight. Surely a rule of the liturgy if, upon the point in question, such a rule existed, well-known and absolutely unqualified, is by no means likely to be overlooked at the Holy See, and not merely to be overlooked, but to be openly transgressed, and this in the official publication of a prayer prescribed for use throughout the Church.

Some publishers, indeed, apparently taking it for granted that a mistake had been made, whether by the Roman authorities or by some diocesan authority, seem to have taken it upon themselves to set matters right, by boldly printing the termination: Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.

I mention this point as to the publishers because there is connected with it a fact not without significance in the case.

During my last visit ad limina, in the spring of 1905, I happened to say Mass in a certain parish church, where, at the end of Mass, there was handed to me a card with the prayers printed in the form I have just now described. But the word 'eumdem' had been carefully and completely obliterated. It was clear, then, that the authorities of the church in question were not of opinion that the prayer, as issued with the termination 'Per Christum Dominum nostrum,' without the 'eumdem' had been issued in error.

On making some enquiries about the matter I was informed that, towards the end of the late Pontificate, the point in question had been brought under the notice of the S. Congregation of Rites, by some one who, from his knowledge of the definite rule formulated by the rubricists, took it for granted, as many have done, that there was really no question to be considered. But what was the result ? The S. Congregation declined to decide the point formally, and preferred to dispose of it informally, by intimating to the querist, through the Secretary to the Congregation, that in view of the general structure of the prayer in question, not, be it observed, in view of the absolute unqualified rule of the liturgical writers, the form 'Per eumdem' etc., was the correct one.

This, as far as it went, was satisfactory. But it could hardly be regarded as a sufficiently authoritative declaration to warrant the setting aside of a form of prayer officially issued by the Propaganda for public use in this country.

Furthermore I learned that subsequently, during the present Pontificate, another effort had been made to obtain from the S. Congregation a formal decision on the subject, but, as in the former instance, without success.

Ultimately, the following course was taken. The prayer, printed with the ending, 'Per eumdem,' etc., was sent in with the request that the Secretary of the S. Congregation would officially attach to it a certificate of correctness, in the recognized form: Concordat cum originali. This was acceded to, and the printed form, the accuracy of which is thus formally attested, is now in my possession.

I am, therefore, at length in a position to regard the amended form as sufficiently attested to justify me in setting aside the form of prayer originally sent to us from the Holy See, and I have accordingly instructed Messrs. Browne and Nolan to have the prayer, as now amended in accordance with the certificate of the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites, printed for use in this diocese.

The issuing of the card in its amended form affords a suitable opportunity of printing, after the prayers already prescribed, the short ejaculatory prayers, to the recital of which by the priest and the people, indulgences have been attached by our present Holy Father. As the card doubtless will come into use in dioceses other than this, it should be noted that the addition of those ejaculatory prayers, inasmuch as it is not prescribed by the Holy See, is a matter to be regulated by each Bishop for his own diocese.

I remain, Very Rev. and Dear Sir,
Faithfully yours,

Archbishop of Dublin.

You may be wondering why such a, um... boring post. I intended to post the decree of patronage for St. Rose of Lima, this being her traditional feast day but I mislaid it. Then I was thinking of posting the liturgical vesture of bishops for an Ecumencial council but I mislaid that also. Then I thought about pre-Pian shortcuts to saying the breviary, but that was too long for me to type and look up. So I settled on this one after trying to decide whether I should post on the equally famous contention of whether the Leonine prayers had to be said iunctis manibus (with joined hands) or holding the chalice.

Published in August, 2007


Shandon Belle said...

Well I guess its important to get it right!

Gareth O'Flaherty said...

Ah, those were the days!
Could you possible post on wether the Leonine prayers have to be said iunctis manibus or holding the chalice? I have served Masses where I have seen both. Thank you. Keep up the good work.

Convenor said...

Ritualist has asked me to remind everyone that these posts are merely republished and that Ritualist will not be posting or reviewing comments - at least for now.

God bless you!

Quis ut Deus said...

I love it! Was a time when Priests were professionals and took a pride in the minutia. Would be great to know about the junctis manibus if you get the time.

Anonymous said...

Well, yes, and now I think you're nitpicking too!

Harrier Burke said...

This is a real insight into another era. Today they wouldn't be bothered with the text. They would make it up on the spot.

Anonymous said...

Looks like some people just dont get ur soh Rit!

Anonymous said...