By the end of January, I’ll have reached the conclusion of our examination of the Catholic funeral rites. Every time I reach the completion of one of these ritual books, I breathe a sigh of relief. I’m sure ICEL did too.
With the Pastoral Care rites, RCIA, and the OCF, we’ll have reached the end of the published work of the best years of ICEL. It was in the 1980′s that this committee set to work translating, composing, and adapting the Church’s second editions of the various rites for English-speaking Catholics. Unfortunately, such good work was not to continue. Even ICEL critics will have to concede we’ve seen very little in terms of liturgical upgrades in the past decade–compared to the pace a generation ago. So it will be time for a shift.
In the 1980′s, pastors, liturgists, and pastoral ministers saw little or no controversy as new ritual books were rolled out to replace the hastily implemented texts of the previous decade. We were mostly happy in those days. We had more to work with, and more experience in parishes with our respective ministries to guide us in a fruitful adaptation where needed. The quality of language in the prayers and music was, even if largely unnoticed by the rest of the laity, a quiet improvement we’ve all experienced when sick, when welcoming new believers, or when burying the dead. And unfortunately, there has been room for some ministers, priests included, to do little or nothing to develop their liturgical ministries to the sick, the dead, the mourners, or to new Catholics. Using the old books from the 70′s is not unheardof. Failing to implement lay ministries, especially music, is more widespread.
That brings me, and hopefully you, to a determination as to the next direction. In February, perhaps, it will be time to look at the second generation of Vatican II implementation. Remember the first set of instructions on the liturgy (check the sidebar for our commentary): Inter Oecumenici (1964), Tres abhinc annos (1967), Musicam sacram (also 1967), and Liturgicae instaurationes (1970). After twenty-four years, the CDWDS seemed to think we needed more instruction on liturgy, so we received a document on inculturation Varietates legitimae followed in 2001 by Liturgiam Authenticam, the one that set the tone for translation of the liturgy, albeit a number of years after it began to be enforced.
Implied in these last two documents is that we were doing it all wrong before the 90′s, as each of these instructions was subtitled, “for the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.”
Obviously, the GIRM 2000 edition (English, 2002) is on the list, too. As would be Redemptionis Sacramentum, the 2004 document policing problems as Rome views them. John Paul’s writings on liturgy, especially his 1998 apostolic letter Dies Domini, would be fair game, too. When you consider the two USCCB efforts on architecture and music (making a neat liturgical trilogy with Fulfilled in Your Hearing, which was devoted to preaching) there would seem to be enough liturgy documentation to keep us busy well into 2012.
My approach with these examinations of liturgical documents is serious, but not intended to be burdensome to non-academics. (Frankly, it’s been a long time since I was in a theology school setting.) The discussion points are all similar to what I would be presenting if you readers were in one of my parish’s adult faith formation sessions. You’ll get an occasional outrageous remark to make sure y’all are awake. And you’re more than welcome to go deeper than I do into the particulars.
Long ago, a reader suggested I tackle Humanae Vitae. To be honest, I would prefer to recruit a different moderator for such a discussion. I know many others are more expert than I in moral theology. I don’t think Neil is inclined to do it (though he’s certainly welcome). My preference would be for a married lay person to dissect that document and offer a regular series of posts (minimum once or twice a week, but no more than daily). I have it downloaded into my draft files on the site. So if some other enterprising soul, active blogger or not, would like to take a stab at it, contact me and make an offer I can’t refuse.
While I’m on the subject, I would welcome serious additional commentators. Having blogged here for seven years, I do confess a certain fondness that this site retain a certain style. But building on tradition, especially in a creative way, would pump fresh life into the effort to offer a sensible take on Catholicism. That said, I also appreciate the many e-mails I get from Jimmy Mac and Liam to keep me abreast of things of interest to them. If anyone wants to suggest I have a public take on something, feel free to contact me on that, too.