21 August 2002. Recommending Q&A: The Mass by Dennis Smolarski S.J. and outlining disagreements, corrections and suggestions. 


About John Lilburne



Q&A: The Mass by Dennis Smolarski, SJ

This book by Father Smolarski uses a question and answer approach to discuss contentious questions in the Mass of the Roman Rite. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only published book on Catholic liturgy which takes into account the 2000 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). This fact alone should put it ahead of others in purchasing decisions.

I am also very impressed by the practical ideas put forward for doing the ceremonies the way the liturgical books describe them. For example he has suggestions for how to have silence after the readings and having the Communion song begin when the priest receives communion.

Given the contentious nature of the questions addressed it is not surprising that there are points where I disagree with him or have suggested improvements. There are also points where the 2002 GIRM is different to the 2000 GIRM.

What follows is my attempt to make a good book better.

Page 4. The direction the processional cross should face in the entrance procession is discussed. I agree that the "front" of the cross should face the same direction as the person holding the cross. But it is surprising that no mention is made of what the "front" is -- the side of the crucifix with the body of Jesus on it. This was emphasized in the 2000 GIRM 117, with the addition of the words in describing the cross "adorned with the figure of Christ crucified".

Page 7. Some of the suggestions for the rite of sprinkling holy water are not the same as in the Roman Missal. For a large assembly he suggests:

After the presider blesses the water, he and others sprinkle different sections of the church. In a smaller group, the entire assembly could process to the bowls of blessed water and sign themselves.

The Roman Missal makes no provision for this. The instructions in the 1975 Roman Missal are:

Taking the sprinkler, the priest sprinkles himself and his ministers, then the rest of the clergy and people. He may move through the church for the sprinkling of the people. (Appendix 1, n. 4).

The 2002 Roman Missal seems unchanged regarding this (page 1251).

The Roman Missal encourages signing during the sprinkling. But it is made clear that the Gloria should not be sung at this time. I disagree with Father Smolarski putting forward "Some parishes sing the Gloria during the sprinkling."

Father Smolarski suggested: "Used regularly on Sundays, it can keep the opening rites oriented toward praise and joy." But the 2000 GIRM 51 has:

On Sunday, especially in Easter time, in place of the customary penitential rite, the blessing and sprinkling with water may occasionally be performed to recall baptism.

This is from the unofficial Study Translation which may be disagreed with. But clearly regular use of Sundays is not intended.

Page 11. Father Smolarski wrote: "The tabernacle is ideally to be in a chapel separated from the main body of the church". It would be reasonable to say this for a Cathedral, following the 1984 Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 49:

It is recommended that the tabernacle, in accordance with a very ancient tradition in cathedral churches, should be located in a chapel separate from the main body of the church.

But for a normal church the 2000 GIRM does not suggest an ideal place for the tabernacle. Its placement is according to the judgement of the diocesan Bishop, in the sanctuary or in a chapel.

Page 25. The 2000 GIRM 64 is correctly quoted "The sequence is sung after the Alleluia". However the 2002 GIRM 64 changed to have the sequence before the Alleluia.

Page 32. I find this sentence confusing: "The revised rubrics of the sacramentary (based on the rubrics in the Ceremonial of Bishops) explicitly state that these introductory intentions are to be announced by the deacon rather than by the presiding priest (as had been the custom in the Tridentine Missal)."

He seems to be saying that the 2000 GIRM is different to the 1975 GIRM, reflecting changes in the 1984 Ceremonial of Bishops. But the 1975 GIRM 132 had "After the priest introduces the general intercessions, the deacon announces the intentions at the lectern or other suitable place." The 2000 GIRM 177 also has the deacon saying this.

Page 33. Father Smolarski suggested the intercessions be sung. "If this is not possible, an alternative is for the cantor to sing the concluding invitation and response even if a deacon or other minister recites the intentions."

No provision is made for this in the Roman Missal. This approach is contrary to 2000 GIRM 109:

"If there are several persons present who are empowered to exercise the same ministry or office, there is no objection to their being assigned different parts to perform. For example, one deacon may take the sung parts, another assist at the altar; if there are several readings, it is better to distribute them among a number of readers. The same applies for other ministries. Indeed, it is not at all appropriate that several persons divide a single element of the celebration among themselves, e.g., that the same reading is divided into two parts for two readers, unless it is Passion of the Lord."

Page 38. In answer to the question "Can members of the assembly offer spontaneous intercessions during the general intercessions at Mass?" by answer would be "No". Father Smolarski provides lots of information to support this, but he concludes with limited approval:

"In Masses for smaller groups, including smaller weekday Masses, participation by members of the assembly in announcing the prayer intentions can be a grace-filled time, especially when the assembly comes to know the faith of its members as individuals who pray for those in need, both in the local community and in the wider community that makes up our church and world."

I do not see this as helpful. It sounds like "allow it if your people are competent, but not if they are incompetent". The 2000 GIRM 138 had:

"Then the deacon, or the cantor, the reader or another person may announce the intentions from the ambo or other suitable place while facing the people who for their part make a reverent response."

This requirement to be facing the people helps clarify the issue.

Page 47. Father Smolarski wrote "a single broken piece of bread should be raised over the chalice (2000 GIRM, 157). The presiding priest should not try to piece a host together, pretending as if it were not broken."

2002 GIRM 157 has:

"At the conclusion of the prayer, the priest genuflects, takes the Eucharistic bread, and, holding it slightly above the paten or above the chalice, while facing the people, says: This is the Lamb of God. ..."

This is the Study Translation. On his main point, of a single piece of consecrated bread, I am unsure of the translation. But clearly another option is raising it (them?) over a paten, not just the chalice.

Page 62. Father Smolarski presents excellent reasons for not holding hands during the Our Father. The following runs counter to what he wrote and I disagree with it:

"I would not suggest that holding hands at the Our Father should be dropped immediately in those places where it has become well established. Stopping the practice could be detrimental to those to whom it has become meaningful. It will be difficult to explain eliminating a gesture that was introduced as a sign of unity. Yet I think that no one should be compelled to participate in this gesture. How one communicates this option is a mystery to me, however ..."

Page 70. Father Smolarski wrote "the Introduction to the Lectionary explicitly allows the priest to sit at the chair and preach the homily (#26)." This option was removed in the 2000 GIRM 136:

The priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo, or, when appropriate, in another suitable place gives the homily ...

So this changes the Lectionary for Mass, n. 26:

The priest celebrant gives the homily either at the chair, standing or sitting, or at the lectern.

It is now clear that the option of sitting for the homily is only for a bishop, as given in Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 42: "seated in the chair (cathedra), unless he prefers another place in order to be seen and heard by all."

Page 81. Regarding whether books should carried in the entrance procession and at the end of Mass two important points are not made.

According to the introduction to The Book of the Gospels, n. 22 "The Book of the Gospels is not carried in the procession at the end of Mass." (I found this instruction at www.catholicliturgy.com).

The 2000 GIRM 120 (d) has:

"a reader, who may carry the Book of the Gospels elevated slightly. The Lectionary is never carried in procession;"

Page 91. Regarding who may cleanse the communion vessels, Father Smolarski wrote:

"Thus one should not jump to any conclusion that the omission of the explicit mention of "extraordinary ministers" in the list of those who can cleanse the vessels should be seen as a prohibition of this practice. The 2000 GIRM does not prohibit this practice any more than the 1975 GIRM did!"

I disagree. Rather than saying things are OK unless prohibited, my approach is to follow the instructions. 2000 GIRM 192 has:

Likewise, a formally instituted acolyte helps the priest or deacon to cleanse and arrange the vessels after communion.

The term "formally instituted acolyte" is a translation of "acolythus rite institutus". It highlights that this ceremony means there should have a distinguishing role for a instituted acolyte from a normal altar server.

Page 95. Father Smolarski suggests things that are practical for small groups.

"For example, it is relatively easy for a group of twenty or so to move in procession from one location (where the liturgy of the word might be celebrated) to another (for example, to surround the altar for the liturgy of the eucharist)."

The 2000 GIRM 295 makes it clear that there should not be separate locations for the two.

"The sanctuary is the place where the altar stands, the word of God is proclaimed, and the priest, deacon and other ministers exercise their offices."

By J.R. Lilburne, 21 August 2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain. Q&A: The Mass is by Dennis Smolarski, SJ (Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, 2002). The Roman Missal is copyright "apud Administrationem Patrimonii Sedis Apostolicae in Civitate Vaticana". The Roman Missal translation is copyright ICEL. The Study Translation is by the USCCB BCL (Washington, 2000).

Other sites:

Q&A:The Mass at ltp.org