Synod Prop 16: Lectionary

The sixteenth synod proposition is simply titled “Lectionary.”

It is recommended that an examination of the Roman Lectionary be initiated to see if the present selection and ordering of the readings are really adequate to the mission of the Church at this historic moment. Specifically, the relation of the reading of the Old Testament with the evangelical pericope should be reconsidered, so that it does not imply a too restrictive reading of the Old Testament or the exclusion of important passages.

Oh no. Are they really calling for yet another Lectionary revision? In the conservative/traditionalist indulgence for literal translations, I would agree with the bishops that Catholics have missed a more important assessment: does the revised Lectionary meet the spiritual needs of the Church? The TLM advocates clearly imply it doesn’t matter; they have the form of the traditional Mass and they–including the pope–don’t see the need to address Lectionary reform as the second Vatican Council discerned. And if they thought they had troubles when a few Good Friday prayers were edited, I’m sure they realize the riot they’d have on their hands if they seriously reformed the TLM Lectionary. I would be interested to hear from TLM advocates how and why they would address the synod’s propositions for their own form of the Roman Rite and what, if anything, that might entail.


That said, I don’t think it’s wise to rely on the “conventional wisdom” that the Lectionary has been a success, pat ourselves on the back, and move on to the Latin/vernacular issues. It would be good to know what is working in the new Lectionary, what’s not working, and bring in Scripture scholars, sociologists, psychologists, musicians, and others to help assess the overall effort.


Keep an ecumenical sensibility, the bishops reminds us:

The revision of a Lectionary could be done in dialogue with ecumenical counterparts who use this common Lectionary.


It is desirable that an authoritative examination of the problem of the Lectionary be carried out in the liturgies of Oriental Catholic Churches.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Synod Prop 16: Lectionary

  1. Jim McK says:

    Matching a 3 year cycle with the 3 synoptics, where the public ministry takes a single year, and with John, where it takes 3, is a brilliant idea. I hope that some people do more with it to bring out the genius of the individual gospels. Perhaps doing the same with the daily readings would make it even more effective , particularly in the lives of preachers.

    There have been abundant observations about the paucity of women in the lectionary, but there is one that I find particularly galling. “Wherever in all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” That sentence, which is both Mark and Matthew, is read only once, on Palm Sunday B. It seems to me that it deserves to be proclaimed more often, given the emphasis Jesus gives.

    An examination of issues like these should be welcome as a way to better preach the gospel. Hopefully it would not get hijacked by those who would redesign the lectionary to better teach dogma.

  2. Liam says:

    This proposition bears marks of compromise the form of aggregation. That is, there is a concern that, by linking the OT reading to the Gospel pericope, the Lectionary may be diminishing the ability of the Word of God to speak through the OT without an immediate gloss of a particular Gospel passage. That might be considered a somewhat progressive concern. The other concern has to do with the fact that this also tends to leave out other salient OT passages, ones without obvious connection to Gospel pericopes. While some progressive Catholics may read into this a desire to uncover things like the hidden women of the OT, it also bears the imprint of those who complain that the OT lection choices omit many salient passages on moral teaching (this concern is sometimes linked to a general concern that the post-conciliar Lectionary be conceived as crowding out teachings in the Epistles). That said, it does not appear that a movement to go back to the preconciliar lections is lurking behind this, despite loud noises from the usual Internet quarters in that regard.

    That’s what I suspect is going on here. Just a speculation/intuition. I am not sure there is enough institutional stomach to do accomplish anything meaningful, however. .

  3. Verbum says:

    The project has been completed. It’s called the Revised Common Lectionary. The Roman church should return the compliment given it after the Council when the original Common Lectionary was basically an adoption of the Roman lectionary. Let the Catholic Church for once learn from the “separated brethren.”

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