Immaculate Conception School Dedication Mass Report
October 12, 2003
This is my report of the Holy Mass for the Dedication of the new school for Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne, MO on Sunday, October 12, 2003. Normally, these types of Masses are very solemn and inspiring, particularly when a parish is graced to have one of the local bishops as Celebrant. Please note that I am using the term school rather than “Catholic Education Center” because it’s shorter and takes less time to type.
The Celebrant for the Mass was Most Reverend Robert Hermann, Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis. Concelebrants included Rev. Robert Reiker, Pastor, and Rev. John Caffe, Senior Associate Pastor. Also assisting were Rev. Mark Rivituso and Deacon Don Schiffman.
The Entrance Procession included everyone who was anyone in the parish such as: Parish Staff, Faculty, PSR Staff, Parish Council, School Board, Knight of Columbus, Ministers of the Liturgy, and Ministers of Danced Prayer.
This procession was led by one carrying what seemed to be some sort of felt or cloth banner with streamers of various colors hanging from it. Some carried bowls of incense held high above their heads. After the Bishop and priests reached the altar, the “Ministers of Danced Prayer” stood on the steps of the sanctuary performing their danced movement to the Gathering Song, “Let All the Earth”. Liturgical music was accompanied by either piano, guitar or both. (A side note here: before Mass, the altar was stripped and was bare until the Offertory).
Fr. Reiker introduced Bishop Hermann prior to Mass and Bishop Hermann proceeded with the Introduction and Penitential Rite. At the Gloria, the “Ministers of Danced Prayer” proceeded to the steps of the sanctuary, six on each side, and performed once again. They were dressed in red alb-like clothing, except for the two adult women leading them, who were dressed in red and white outfits.
At the First Reading, a lector approached the lectern and began reading from the Book of Wisdom, which was the reading of the day. About this time five children, went up in front of the altar on the steps leading up to it and began reciting various sentences from the reading – each child reciting a different sentence. It began with one child, who when reciting the sentence, used various hand and arm gestures for illustration purposes, I suppose. When the first child finished, the second began reciting a his or her sentence and making gestures. This continued until the last child. After the last child completed, the first child started again-complete with hand and arm movements, and after she had said her part the second child began. Now there were two children speaking and gesturing – each speaking something different. Momentarily the third began, then the fourth, then the fifth. I was struck by the Babel-like confusion, unable to understand any of them. Then they stopped and the lector began reading again. After she finished reading, the children performed one last time as before.
At the Responsorial Psalm, the “Ministers of Danced Prayer” (i.e., liturgical dancers) went to the steps leading to altar once again. They performed their “danced prayer” to the Psalms and when finished returned the their seats.
The Second Reading (from Hebrews) was read by another lector without any sort of performance.
At the Gospel Acclamation, I do not recall what happened. I can only refer to the Dedication booklet. It lists six children’s names as participating in a Gospel Procession. Perhaps this was taking the Book of the Gospel from the altar to the ambo?
Our deacon read the Gospel of the day from the Book of Mark.
Bishop Hermann delivered the homily.
Things proceeded normally through Profession of Faith and the Prayers of the Faithful which were given by four children. The most difficult part of this, it seemed, was getting the microphone positioned so the little ones could speak into it.
At the Offertory, there were a number of people involved. Either one or two people carried up the altar cloth and draped in on the altar. As I said above, the altar was stripped before Mass. Another person carried up the Corporal. After the altar cloth was placed on the altar, the corporal was put in its proper place, the Bishop and his assistant came down to receive the bread, wine and offertory gifts.
After this, things proceeded as they do at most concelebrated Masses. At Communion, there were approximately fourteen extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to assist the Bishop, three priests and a deacon in the distribution of Holy Communion to about 800-1000 (my estimate) people. The Communion Song was “Lead us to the Table”. The meditation song was “We Are One Body”.
After Holy Communion and before the procession to the new school, several people were recognized and honored by Fr. Reiker for their commitment to Catholic Education at the parish, including past students. Bishop Hermann also blessed a new, beautiful crucifix, a Bible, and a wall hanging to be placed in the new facility.
After the final blessing, all processed out with some carrying bowls of incense and the Ministers of Danced Prayer employing streamers. The recessional song was “Shine, Jesus, Shine”.
After Mass and some Thanksgiving prayers, I left and did not attend the blessing of the new school.
This concludes my report on the details of the Dedication Mass.
My Commentary on the Dedication Mass at ICD
I purposely attempted to make no (or as little as possible) commentary on my report of the Dedication Mass as described above. I sought, rather, to report as factually as I could, what occurred at this event. In this section I will comment on the things I saw, citing, in so far as I have knowledge, the relevant directives and rules of the Church, the steps I took when I learned what was being planned, and my analysis.
Nearly one month before this event, on September 15, 2003, I sent a letter of notification regarding the planned “liturgical dance” to Archbishop Justin Rigali, Bishop Robert Hermann, Bishop Joseph Naumann and the diocesan Office of Worship. In this letter ( see below), I provided documentation that “liturgical dance” is, indeed, illicit and asked for hierarchical intervention to see that the Holy Mass was celebrated with the dignity and reverence desired by the Church and the faithful.
The text of that letter follows below. Please see the last page.
Request Denied or Ignored?
As one may see from my report on the Dedication Mass, it appears that nothing was done to intervene on behalf of faithful, regardless of an advance notice of nearly 30 days. May we now safely assume that “Liturgical Dance” (or in the new liturgical language of our time “Danced Prayer”) is, indeed, not only licit, but something to be desired and encouraged, since it was permitted to be performed in the context of the Holy Mass, celebrated by an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese?
The performance at this Mass was such that any and all focus on our worship of God Almighty was instead distracted and misdirected to the various “ministers” and other “helpers”. Was this done so that the people in the pews, evidently being of feeble and simple minds, might grasp, not only the import of the various readings of the day, but also perhaps, how we should begin to pray at Mass? Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments is on record as saying, “There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass.”
The Awesome Power of “Danced Prayer”?
Some will insist that this “danced prayer” offers even higher glory and honor to God and thus, the focus is on God, not on the “performers”. Since these “performers” stand and “dance” in front of the congregation, how is it that our focus is somehow, magically, redirected to God as if it would be nearly impossible to do that if the “dancers” were not there? Cardinal Arinze further comments, “Why make the people of God suffer so much? Haven't we enough problems already? Only Sunday, one hour, they come to adore God. And you bring a dance! Are you so poor you have nothing else to bring us? Shame on you! That's how I feel about it.”
Frankly, I find it deplorable and appalling that the bishops of the diocese, having been advised well in advance of a planned liturgical abuse, would do nothing to stop it. Equally disconcerting is the fact that the Archdiocesan Office of Worship does not seem to have any jurisdiction in addressing these issues. This may cause some confusion to the average layperson seeking guidance particularly if one notices the informational blurb on the Archdiocesan Web Site which states that the Office of Worship: “Provides written directives and clarifications on liturgical matters as well as preparing, sponsoring, and presenting liturgical workshops throughout the year.”
Performance of the Readings
Further indications of the parish liturgical planning gone awry was the inclusion of the children during the first reading. It is difficult to understand why one would falsify the liturgy in a vain attempt to make the Mass “more relevant” as if the “relevancy” of the Mass, as the Church desires the Liturgy to be celebrated, needs to be “fixed” by priests and liturgists.
Furthermore, the existence of these various new “ministries” do not seem to be envisioned by the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). These other “ministries “ at ICD are not addressed in Nos. 100-107 of the General Instruction. Is it the one Holy Spirit, who inspires the creators of these special “ministries”, but as yet, has not enlightened the Holy See? And the aberration of the first reading with a lector and children is a direct violation of GIRM No. 109, which states, in part:
“But it is not at all appropriate that several persons divide a single element of the celebration among themselves, e.g., that the same reading be proclaimed by two lectors, one after the other, except as far as the Passion of the Lord is concerned.”
Let (Some of) Us Prepare the Altar
The last peculiarity I wish to address is the novelty of stripping the altar before Mass so that some of the laity may “actively participate” by preparing the altar with the altar cloth and corporal during the Preparation of the Gifts. GIRM No. 117 indicates that the altar is to be prepared with the altar cloth before Mass begins. It also requires that a crucifix and candles be on or near the altar, both of which may be carried in the Entrance Procession at the start of Mass. No indication is given that the altar cloth may be carried in the Entrance procession, let alone at the Preparation of the Gifts. Nor does it seem to be envisioned that the corporal be carried as one of the gifts in the procession.
While these things had no bearing whatsoever on the validity of the Holy Mass, they, most assuredly, are illicit and have an impact on, at least, some of the faithful and, perhaps, all of the children. People are thus conditioned to accept a multitude of liturgical abuses, becoming accustomed to “innovations”. This is a grave disservice not only to the faithful who have been unjustly deprived of their canonical rights to a sacred and holy Liturgy as the Church wishes and demands, but also to the Mystical Body of Christ - the Church as the body and Christ as the Head. The reasons, the symbolism, the depth of wisdom that the Church uses in the rites of the Sacraments is obscured or falsified by acts of liturgical malfeasance.
I Did It My Way?
It seems obvious that there are only two reasons for the myriad of liturgical abuses that have swept through the Church, in some places more so than in others. These reasons can be attributed to either ignorance or disobedience. For those who are living in ignorance, a presentation of the facts is usually all that is required to correct the deficiencies and unintended abuses that may occur at Mass. In the many instances of disobedience however, it seems futile to attempt to reason with those who, having seemingly chosen pride, wish to re-work the Holy Mass, the public worship of the Church, according to their own desires. Untold damage is inflicted upon the unwary faithful who may be led to anticipate new and progressive ways of participating in the “revised worship services” which render glory, not to God, but to the planners and performers.
Finally, with all respect and charity to our beloved Archbishop Rigali, there may have been some difficulties for him to adequately address the situation as described in my letter to him. He had recently been appointed as Archbishop of Philadelphia, and even more recently, he was selected by the Holy Father as the sole Cardinal-designate from the United States. Perhaps, had it not been such a busy and hectic time for him in this period of transition and travel, I feel confident that he would have addressed this situation as a very loyal and obedient shepherd of the Church.
My Letter to Archbishop Rigali and others on September 15, 2003
Most Reverend Justin Rigali September 12 2003
Archdiocese of St. Louis
4445 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108
About two years ago I wrote to you and offered my appreciation for your presence at the dedication of the new church in our parish. Today also, I wish to extend congratulations on your new appointment, even though you will be dearly missed. Your pastoral guidance in confirming some of our children, in restoring Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration throughout the diocese, the recent Eucharistic Congress here in St. Louis, and the hosting of the Holy Father’s visit are but a few reasons why you are so dear to the hearts of the faithful of the St. Louis region.
At this same time when I wrote to you, I voiced my objection to the desacralization of the Dedication Mass by the addition of “liturgical dance” which seriously detracted from the solemnity of this event. I noted that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has previously stated that it (liturgical dance) “cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.” . [Notitiae 11 (1975) 202-205, English Translation from The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82] This was reiterated by the United States’ Bishop’s Conference Committee on the Liturgy in the April, 1982 newsletter.
For the past few weeks, an article has been printed in our parish bulletin promoting the Dedication Mass of our new Education Center and School led by Bishop Hermann at 12:00 Noon on October 12, 2003. This announcement also includes an invitation for parishioners to participate in “liturgical dance” during the Mass. The planned “performance” of this “ministry” is to occur during the Entrance, The Gloria, The Responsorial Psalm, and The Recessional. Surely, no bishop of the archdiocese would approve of this?
I submit this letter to you well in advance of this scheduled Dedication Mass in the hope that you will bring to an end these types of liturgical abuses and fabrications. Not long ago, Cardinal Arinze was quoted as saying “The ‘do-it-yourself‘ Mass is ended. Go in peace.” Many of us pray for his statement to become reality. Your recent articles explaining the correct implementation of the new General Instruction are a blessing to all familiar with them.
Apparently, both the directives from the Holy See and your own, to this day are still ignored, which only continues to obfuscate the true reason we are at Mass. Rather than preparing us to be open to our transcendent God, liturgical dance merely occupies the attention of the community until something even more entertaining comes along.
If “liturgical dance” has been made licit, then I offer my apologies in advance and I request your assistance in helping me to understand the reasoning behind the change and when the change was made. If it is not licit, will you please spare us from this aberration during the Oct. 12 Dedication Mass?
Sincerely in Christ,
CC: Most Rev. Joseph Naumann, Auxiliary Bishop-St. Louis
Most Rev. Robert Hermann, Auxiliary Bishop-St. Louis
Rev. William McCumber, Director, Office of Worship
Rev. Tom Keller, Co-Director, Office of Worship