Gathering around the altar...from Ask the Apol. forum

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JJ_B

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In the Ask the Apologist forum, a member asked if it is ok for the congregation of their church to gather around the altar during the preparation of the gifts. At this member’s church, the priest invites the congregation to gather around the altar where they sing the Our Father and later receive communion. The Apologist (Peggy Frye) replied by saying this activity is prohibited by the Holy See. While she (Peggy) was correct in her answer, I think their needs to be some clarification on this matter.

My church also practices this wonderful new tradition (in fact, they may have started it…) but only because the Eucharist is not kept near the altar. The tabernacle is located “down the hall” if you will. That’s also why we do not genuflect when reaching our seat (though we do bow befor the altar). For this reason, my priest allows the congregation at the teen mass (evening mass) to gather around the altar during the preparation and dissemination of the gifts. Basically, Peggy Frye stated the correct rule, it’s just our church found a way to tweak the rule without breaking it.
 
Standing (not allowed) around the altar (not allowed) during the Eucharistic prayers and Consecration.

The Eucharist or Blessed Sacrament is not just “near the altar” during this time but is in fact “present ON THE ALTAR”! Not down the hall.

I would tend to think that the rule was broken (ignored) not tweeked. Since I believe both the GIRM and the Instruction note that only those MINISTERS with a specific liturical function are to be in the sanctuary area during this time. Also note that all other persons except the celebrant and the con-celebrating priests should also be kneeling when the faithful are required to kneel during the Eucharistic prayers and Consecration, no matter where they are located.
 
JJ B:
My church also practices this wonderful new tradition (in fact, they may have started it…) but only because the Eucharist is not kept near the altar. The tabernacle is located “down the hall” if you will. That’s also why we do not genuflect when reaching our seat (though we do bow befor the altar). For this reason, my priest allows the congregation at the teen mass (evening mass) to gather around the altar during the preparation and dissemination of the gifts. Basically, Peggy Frye stated the correct rule, it’s just our church found a way to tweak the rule without breaking it.
Hmmmm…
Peggy Frye:
in Ask an Apologist ] “During the liturgy of the Eucharist, only the presiding celebrant remains at the altar. The assembly of the faithful take their place in the Church outside the “presbyterium,” which is reserved for the celebrant or concelebrants and altar ministers.” [Notitiae 17 (1981) 61]
Could you explain more clearly how the practice you describe “tweaks” the rule rather than “breaks” it…? :confused:
 
tee, Br. Rich,

I was under the impression that our church “get’s away” with having people stand around the altar because the tabernacle/sanctuary is not located near the altar. Now that I’ve researched a little I see that I may have been wrong. The location of the tabernacle does not appear to be an issue. Interesting.

However, I thought that most churches with a Life Teen mass practice this (new) tradition. So I’m wondering if this rule may not be strictly enforced???

P.S. I apologize to Peggy for implying (even in a small way) that she was wrong. I should learn not to question Apologists.
 
I had also asked a while back about the Teens being invited up around the Altar. Our family asked the LifeTeen director about this after we attended one Mass. She told us that the Holy Father gave special permission to LifeTeen to do this.
I was told on the forum that this is not correct.

We have pulled our two oldest out of LifeTeen.
 
JJ B:
However, I thought that most churches with a Life Teen mass practice this (new) tradition. So I’m wondering if this rule may not be strictly enforced???
Sigh … 😦 … another example of liturgical abuses associated with Life Teen, a program that does not have any sort of exemption from the rubrics.

Fr. Peter Stravinskas, writing in “The Catholic Answer,” said that he saw a Life Teen Mass (on video, as I recall) and thought it was the most scandalous and abuse-filled Mass he ever had seen. I have seen portions of a video of a Life Teen Mass (it may have been the same video), and I would have to concur.

The video I saw apparently was of a Mass led by the priest who founded Life Teen and was taken at his parish in Phoenix, so defenders of Life Teen can’t very well say that the Mass as celebrated was unrepresentative of Life Teen Masses. (I recognized the parish from once having spoken there, well more than a decade ago.)

I have not followed Life Teen closely, but I find it hard to imagine that any long-term good can come from a program that so profligately ignores the rules governing the Mass.

When the rubrics are broken repeatedly, and when the Mass so often is reduced to a clownish theatrical performance (as was the one in the video), the teen participants must sense that they are being pandered to, and people who are pandered to are not likely to stick with the institution that does the pandering.

As the teens turn into young adults, they are likely to think they were cheated by people who robbed them of a chance to grow up with a reverent liturgy and who thought they were too stupid to appreciate a Mass that is properly celebrated.

My guess is that a survey taken ten years from now will show that most one-time Life Teen participants will no longer be living the Catholic faith.

Oh, and by the way: There is no such thing as a “new tradition.” By definition traditions are long-standing customs. I hope Life Teen’s style of the Mass doesn’t last long enough to warrant the label “tradition.”
 
This question has been on my mind a lot lately. The School where I teach began having students come up to the altar and stand directly behind the priest during the Liturgical Prayer. The students would bow/genuflect with the priest during the prayer and then join hands with him for the Our Father.

Through my research I found that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) specifically prohibits Extraordinary Ministers from approaching the altar before the Priest takes communion himself. If EME’s, who have a valid need to approach the altar at one point, are prohibited from approaching prior to this, then how could there be a valid exemption for children to concelebrate with the Priest (and in my opinion, that is exactly what is going on with people around the altar).

A posting on the EWTN site also offered excellent insight into why it is the Priest at the altar and not the laity. During this part of the Mass the priest is offering the sacrifice in the place of Christ, who instituted it and offered it himself the first time. Symbolically then the Priest is in the place of Christ and his place in that capacity is at the altar. The laity represents the Church. Our place for the sacrifice is in the knave (which I believe means “body”). We are participating fully in the Mass by being in the Church. We are reserving to ourselves something which is not ours to reserve if we approach the altar or in some why symbolically concelebrate with the Priest. Both roles are important.

I lost my argument at the Church, by the way. I didn’t fight it very hard, I’m afraid. I did explain to my students the proper place for us in the Mass, and I did not allow my own children to approach the altar when their classes were called. But most people seemed to think the whole thing was “cute” and “inclusive”.
 
JJ B:
tee, Br. Rich,

However, I thought that most churches with a Life Teen mass practice this (new) tradition. So I’m wondering if this rule may not be strictly enforced???

P.S. I apologize to Peggy for implying (even in a small way) that she was wrong. I should learn not to question Apologists.
I want to thank Peggy for her answer. I don’t know how widespread the Life Teen program is, but the Life Teen Mass at our parish also does the “gathering” at the altar. Since we’re on the opposite end of the continental U.S., I’d be willing to bet that someone in a position of authority has taken a liberty he/she(?) was not at liberty to take in endorsing this abuse. This is not a local issue. How do we stop it?
 
As I said in my other post (without specifically looking) I believe that this action was addressed in both the GIRM and the Instruction. It is up to the Bishops to correct this, however they must be made aware of it. Start writing!
 
I know there’s something in the GIRM (or elsewhere?) that for Masses with Children, some kind of invitation is available. The exact phrasing escapes me right now; but I’m sure it’s abused (like what’s going on at Life Teen “Masses”). Anyone have that phrase or location?

-JohnDeP.
 
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JohnDeP:
I know there’s something in the GIRM (or elsewhere?) that for Masses with Children, some kind of invitation is available. The exact phrasing escapes me right now; but I’m sure it’s abused (like what’s going on at Life Teen “Masses”). Anyone have that phrase or location?

-JohnDeP.
The only thing I know that it allows for is for a children’s Eucharistic prayer to be said, a specific prayer approved by the USCCB (and the rest of the magesterium, I believe). No other such allowances are made.
–Ann
 
I have not followed Life Teen closely, but I find it hard to imagine that any long-term good can come from a program that so profligately ignores the rules governing the Mass.
Karl, I have a question for you. If you had the opportunity of creating a Youth Ministry program, what sort of things would the youth ministry do? What would be your vision of youth ministry? Do you agree with the Bishop’s vision? How would you implement it?

I would love to hear your ideas, as a master adult catechist, of what Youth Ministry should be like.
 
JJ B:
My church also practices this wonderful new tradition (in fact, they may have started it…) but only because the Eucharist is not kept near the altar. The tabernacle is located “down the hall” if you will. That’s also why we do not genuflect when reaching our seat (though we do bow befor the altar). For this reason, my priest allows the congregation at the teen mass (evening mass) to gather around the altar during the preparation and dissemination of the gifts. Basically, Peggy Frye stated the correct rule, it’s just our church found a way to tweak the rule without breaking it.
Can “traditions” actually be new?

Why is the Eucharist down the hall?

Why do you bow before the altar yet not genuflect?

What is the difference between “tweaking” and breaking?

Is it a “rule” or Church teaching through the Rubrics?

What is wrong with the way our traditions teach us to celebrate the Mass?
 
I think another important point is having the Sanctuary “down the hall”…Cardinal Arinze of the Congregation for the Liturgy stated in an interview that the Sanctuary, while not required to be behind the altar, should be in a prominent place visible and recognizable from the entrance within a few seconds…this is one of the things that bugs the heck out of me when I visit what seems to be a Catholic church slowly being turned into a convention center.

I do realize some places, such as military base chapels, require the Blessed Sacrement to be located someplace. Perhaps this was the case here.
 
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mom26sofar:
I had also asked a while back about the Teens being invited up around the Altar. Our family asked the LifeTeen director about this after we attended one Mass. She told us that the Holy Father gave special permission to LifeTeen to do this.
I was told on the forum that this is not correct.

We have pulled our two oldest out of LifeTeen.
The drector was wrong. No special exemptions fro te Pope. Although if enough parishes begin this abuse he’d probably make it the norm. 😃

There are plenty of Life Teen Masses out there that will not engage in this (or any other) abuse.

James
 
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Exalt:
Karl, I have a question for you. If you had the opportunity of creating a Youth Ministry program, what sort of things would the youth ministry do? What would be your vision of youth ministry? Do you agree with the Bishop’s vision? How would you implement it?

I would love to hear your ideas, as a master adult catechist, of what Youth Ministry should be like.
I am not Karl, but I’d like to chime in here.

I have been doing YM for abt 5 years. I try to focus on helping the kids fall in love with Jesus Christ. It’s simple, yet very difficult to execute. It is definitely easiest to operate in the context of total obedience to the Church – that is part of why my parish does not do Life Teen.

The #1 problem for me is that catechesis and consciences are a little lacking in the homes of my students. Students are not encouraged by parents to go to youth group, nor are they taught a consistent Catholic message at home. It’s hard to talk about modesty, for example, and be effective when a lot of the girls’ moms buy daisy dukes and such for both mother and daughter. Ugh.

We should start a thread on CCD and youth ministry.
 
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karisue:
I am not Karl, but I’d like to chime in here.

I have been doing YM for abt 5 years. I try to focus on helping the kids fall in love with Jesus Christ. It’s simple, yet very difficult to execute. It is definitely easiest to operate in the context of total obedience to the Church – that is part of why my parish does not do Life Teen.
There is a huge flaw in your logic, however. You make it sound like you can’t have LT and be obedient to the Church. It is not only possible but relatively easy to do. If something is an abuse then don’t do it. It’s as simple as that. Just becuase some LT parishes engage in abuses it doesn’t follow that those abuses are part of LT.

James
 
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Exalt:
Karl, I have a question for you. If you had the opportunity of creating a Youth Ministry program, what sort of things would the youth ministry do? What would be your vision of youth ministry? Do you agree with the Bishop’s vision? How would you implement it?

I would love to hear your ideas, as a master adult catechist, of what Youth Ministry should be like.
  1. I’m not going the read the “vision” document you cite–I have more urgent things not to do.
  2. Young people like to be countercultural. Instead of trying to placate them by intruding secular elements into the Mass, why not challenge them by having them work on a Mass that incorporates more of the traditional elements than their parents have seen in a decade? This really would be countercultural!
Imagine a parish where teens and college-age youth are trained, over a period of weeks or months (whatever it takes) to sing traditional hymns with gusto and to use extensive chant …

Where they do the readings in a stately and modulated way …

Where they bring in the incense (lots of it!), processional candles, and the like …

Where they ring joyous altar bells joyously …

Where they dress up (prom-quality, but modest) instead of down …

Where they bow deeply before the altar and genuflect gracefully before the tabernacle …

Where it looks as though their every motion were choreographed by Agnes De Mille …

Where those who are altar servers are in albs with black shoes instead of tennis shoes poking out at the bottom …

I think all this is possible. Years ago, when I visited Lincoln, NE, then-bishop Glennon Flavin invited me to attend the 10:00 p.m. weekday Mass at the University of Nebraska Newman Center. Well aware of the reputation of Newman Centers, I was not expecting to be edified.

Quite the contrary. That probably was the most reverent Mass I ever have attended, in terms of the reverence of the congregation. I was so impressed that I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on at the altar–I couldn’t believe how well the college students had been trained.

Something similar–and even more impressive–could be done at any parish, if there were a will to do so.
 
I think the new document on the Mass addresses Lifeteen quite well:
[114.] “At Sunday Masses in parishes, insofar as parishes are ‘Eucharistic communities’, it is customary to find different groups, movements, associations, and even the smaller religious communities present in the parish.”[202] While it is permissible that Mass should be celebrated for particular groups according to the norm of law,[203] these groups are nevertheless not exempt from the faithful observance of the liturgical norms.
 
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James0235:
There is a huge flaw in your logic, however. You make it sound like you can’t have LT and be obedient to the Church. It is not only possible but relatively easy to do. If something is an abuse then don’t do it. It’s as simple as that. Just becuase some LT parishes engage in abuses it doesn’t follow that those abuses are part of LT.

James
I suppose this is true – thing is, I’d have to convince my pastor of this. I don’t see that happening any time soon.
 
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