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Sense of sacred

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 Contents - Aug 2013AD2000 August 2013 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Church's clear opposition to all same-sex unions
Holy See announces canonisation of Blessed John Paul II - Peter Westmore
News: The Church Around the World
University: In the lions' den: Catholic ministry on secular campuses - Br Barry Coldrey
Lumen Fidei: The great gift of Faith: Pope Francis' first encyclical - Damian Wyld
Understanding Syria's religious war - Fr Paul Stenhouse
Common good: St Basil the Great: outstanding doctor of the Church for our time - Jordan Grantham
Sacra Liturgia 2013: Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith: interview on liturgy - Zenit News Service
National Assembly: Order of Malta renews and grows - Damian Wyld
Letters: Sense of sacred - Cedric Wright
Letters: Liturgical abuses - Michael Apthorp
Letters: Pope's advisory board - Ken Bayliss
Letters: Catholic statistics - John R. Barich
Letters: Christian example - Arnold Jago
Letters: Humanae Vitae - Frank Mobbs
Books: FRANCIS: POPE OF A NEW WORLD, by Andrea Tornielli - Br Barry Coldrey (reviewer)
Books: CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS: a course in religion for Catholic high schools - Michael E. Daniel (reviewer)
Books: FROM BROTHERHOOD TO PRIESTHOOD: Memoirs of Msgr William A. Mullins - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: ALIVE IN THE SPIRIT, by Fr Ken Barker MGL - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: Order books from
Reflection: Benedict XVI's Assumption homily: 'In God there is space for man' - Benedict XVI

From time to time, questions are raised about the standard of behaviour at Holy Mass - the lack of real reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, immodest or over-casual dress, and sloppy behaviour by lay persons assisting the priest. Paul MacLeod very rightly points this out in his thought-provoking article ("The Elephant in the Sanctuary," June AD2000).

In the modern context, the shortage of priests dictates that lay persons have to assist in the celebration of Mass as altar servers, readers (lectors) and in distributing Holy Communion, but there doesn't seem to be any standard of discipline involved. As the article indicates, sloppiness in dress and/or behaviour by these assistants diminishes "the sense of the ... sacred" in the minds of the congregation. I would also take issue with noisy, over-exuberant, pop-music-style presentation of rather pathetic modern "hymns", many of which really do not belong in Church hymnals.

I have sometimes wondered whether it would help if the Church hierarchy introduced a third-order category of sub-deacons to assist at Mass, particularly when some distributing the Blessed Sacrament appear at the altar in casual, and even immodest, clothes. They should have to wear a standard white surplice to add to the dignity of their service and have some level of training, religious standing (regular confession, for instance) and consecration. Much the same applies to readers they, too, should wear a simple vestment, and be trained to read the prayers and Biblical texts properly. Too often, a person with a soft voice takes the stand, and mumbles his or her way through, reading too fast.

This does not imply a restriction on devout Catholics who wish to volunteer to assist at Mass, but they must be able to serve properly. I may be accused of being a hypocritical prude in making these suggestions, but I do believe that giving lay assistants training and semi-official status will heighten their sense of holiness and responsibility, and add to the glory of the Mass for all who attend.

Mt Warren, Qld

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 26 No 7 (August 2013), p. 14

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