RDCA III, 1: Dedication of a Church in Which Mass is Already Being Celebrated Regularly

Today we start Chapter III, “Dedication of a Church in Which Mass is Already Being Celebrated Regularly.” What does that mean? The first numbered section of the chapter spells it out:

1. In order to bring out fully the symbolism and the significance of the rite, the opening of a new church and its dedication should take place at one and the same time. For this reason, as was said before, care should be taken that, as far as possible, Mass is not celebrated in a new church before it is dedicated {see chapter two, nos. 8,15,17). 

Nevertheless in the case of the dedication of a church where the sacred mysteries are already being celebrated regularly, the rite set out in this chapter must be used. 

Moreover, a clear distinction exists in regard to these churches. In the case of those just built the reason for a dedication is obvious. In the case of those standing for some time the following requirements must be met for them to be dedicated:

  • that the altar has not already been dedicated, since it is rightly forbidden both by custom and by liturgical law to dedicate a church without dedicating the altar, for the dedication of the altar is the principal part of the whole rite;
  • that there be something new or notably altered about the edifice, relative either to its structure (for example, a total restoration) or its status in law (for example, the church’s being ranked as a parish church).

This chapter would be an example of sensible Roman pragmatism. There are ideals t0 which the Church devotes a full treatment. And in many cases, the church recognizes situations that do not fit the ideal. In this brief chapter, the Church treats the situation in which an older church has been significantly renovated, or a chapel is upgraded to a church, or similar situations in which the building is up, and already in use.

I suspect that this is how the old Crystal Cathedral in California will be dedicated. Technically, it has hosted worship–just not the Catholic Mass. A new altar would be dedicated, of course–we’ll get to that chapter in a few days. It will be interesting to see how this unusual case is handled by the bishop and the liturgy people of the Diocese of Orange. Comments?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to RDCA III, 1: Dedication of a Church in Which Mass is Already Being Celebrated Regularly

  1. David Gregory says:

    Great series. I’m a long time reader.

    Another possible reason for the Dedication of a Church in long use would it being raised to the status of Basilica (rare, but we are only discussing rare cases) as generally Basilica’s are required to have been dedicated or a non-dedicated parish church to cathedral status. Historically, the term pro-cathedral was sometimes used for non-dedicated cathedrals (sometimes pro-cathedral sometimes is used in place of proto-cathedral for the first but no longer in use, cathedral of a diocese). Before Vatican II many churches weren’t dedicated/Consecrated (I’ve seen two explanations, one related to paying off of debts and one related to the extreme length of the ritual, I suspect both reasons applied equally often)

    I’m curious to see with the Crystal Cathedral, I personally bet they might go with the regular dedication rite. My thinking is that much of the parts about transferring keys and the taking over of the new community do apply. The church in use ritual seems to assume it is the same community before and after the dedication and that won’t be the case for the Crystal Cathedral.

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