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Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis

With regard to lay ministries I am disappointed with this 2007 Apostolic Exhortation.

The propositions from the Synod were encouraging. To quote extracts from them:
38 "Likewise, it is important to thank instituted ministers, consecrated men and women, extraordinary ministers ...".
18: "It is appropriate therefore that the readings be proclaimed with care, if possible by instituted readers."
25: "In particular, the role of deacons and the service of readers and acolytes deserves greater attention."

But the Apostolic Exhortation did not build on these themes. It had little to say about lay ministries and what it did say is likely to give readers mistaken understandings of them.

The word "ministries" is only used four times. Three times is in the following confusing passage, from n. 53:

"Associated with these ministries linked to the sacrament of Holy Orders, there are also other ministries of liturgical service which can be carried out in a praiseworthy manner by religious and properly trained laity. Footnote 162:
Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem, 24; General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 95-111; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (25 March 2004), 43-47: AAS 96 (2004), 564-566; Propositio 33: "These ministries must be introduced in accordance with a specific mandate and in accordance with the real needs of the celebrating community. Those entrusted with these liturgical services must be chosen with care, well prepared, and provided with ongoing formation. Their appointment must be for a limited term. They must be known to the community and be gratefully acknowledged by the community."

The likely confusion: two references to documents including instituted ministers, along with a proposition "Their appointment must be for a limited term."

The institution of acolytes and lectors is not for a limited term. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "903. Lay people who possess the required qualities can be admitted permanently to the ministries of lector and acolyte."

Does Propositon 33 suggest they become temporary? No. It is not referring to instituted ministers, but to other ministries in other parts of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Here is the full proposition from Zenit, with the paragraphs arranged as they are in Italian at www.vatican.va. The part in the Apostolic Exhortation is in bold:

"Proposition 33

The Presbyter and Liturgical Ministries

The tasks of the priest and of other liturgical ministries must be better clarified.

The true subject who acts in the liturgy is Christ risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit. Christ however includes the Church in his action and commitment. The priest is, irreplaceably, the one who presides over the whole Eucharistic celebration, from the initial greeting to the final blessing. This is because, in the Eucharistic celebration, he, in virtue of his priestly ordination, represents Jesus Christ, head of the Church and also, properly, the Church herself. The deacon, educating the faithful in the hearing of the Word of God, in praise and in prayer, can inculcate love of the Eucharist.

The collaboration of the laity in the liturgical service and, especially, in the celebration of the Eucharist, has always existed. With the Second Vatican Council (cf. "Apostolicam Actuositatem," 24) and the consequent liturgical reform, it has subsequently been urged (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, published on January 25, 2004, numbers 103-107). In these ministries, the Church is reflected as unity in the plurality of forms, and also expressed, in a representative manner, is a form proper to the "actuosa participatio" of the faithful. These ministries must be introduced according to their specific mandate and according to the real needs of the community that celebrates. The persons in charge of these lay liturgical services must be carefully chosen, well prepared and supported by permanent formation. Their appointment must be temporary. These persons must be known by the community and must receive grateful acknowledgment from the same. The liturgical norms and regulations serve to give a clear orientation on the economy of salvation, "communio" and the unity of the Church."

The ministries being referred to are those in 2002 GIRM n. 103-107. They can be looked up at romanrite.com/girm . It does not include instituted lectors or instituted acolytes which are in n. 98 and n. 99. Instead it is referring to the choir, musicians, cantor, sacristan, commentator, collectors, ushers, master of ceremonies and (in n. 107 which refers to n 100-106) readers who are not instituted, altar servers and psalmists.

The translation to English also seems to add to the confusion. The Zenit translation has "The persons in charge of these lay liturgical services must be carefully chosen, ...". The Italian is "Le persone incaricate di questi servizi liturgici laicali devono essere scelte accuratamente ...". At Babel Fish it gave me the translation: "The persons people in charge of these laicali liturgici services must accurately be chosen, ...". But in the Apostolic Exhortation it is: "Those entrusted with these liturgical services must be chosen with care ...". I do not know Italian. But it seems that intention was to refer to someone like the head of the choir, but it became, in English, anyone entrusted with a ministry.

Another message than seems a little lost in translation is the section "Respect for the Liturgical Books and the Richness of Signs", n. 40:

"... The eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms, making available the great riches found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Order of Readings for Mass. Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case. ..."

People will not find a book called "Order of Readings for Mass". It is called the Lectionary, and I guess it means its Introduction or Praenotanda. (Important instructions about instituted lectors in numbers 51 and 54.) It also has the wrong title for the book in Latin, with "atque Ordinis Lectionum Missae." The correct title is Ordo Lectionum Missae.

So it seems to prove the point of how little "our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources".

By J.R. Lilburne, 19 March 2007. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

At vatican.va

in English

in Latin

in Italian

Synod Propositions in Italian

Zenit translation of Propostions 31-36