Dear Liturgist …. - 11th October 2015

Q.  Is there a preferred Para liturgy for communion to an individual in the home?

A. There are official liturgical rites for sharing communion with the sick at home or in a hospital or institution. They are found in the ritual book “Pastoral Care of the Sick”. Parishes are responsible for designating those who take Communion to the sick, providing formation for the ministry, and making available to them the Rite of Communion to the Sick to use.

Q. Further to your Liturgy Lines column a couple of weeks ago about Catholic Funerals, I have been asked about why the term “Requiem Mass” is outdated. News reports of Bart Cummings’ funeral said that he was given “a full requiem Mass”. Is there a particular reason the term should not be used?

A. The term “Requiem Mass” never appears in the official ritual book for funerals, the Order of Christian Funerals, which has been in use since 1989. Funeral Masses in Latin were called Requiem Masses because requiem was in the first phrase of the Mass. (Requiem is the Latin word for ‘rest’.)  It puzzles me that people continue to use a Latin name for a liturgy that has not been celebrated in Latin for nearly 50 years!

Q. The family of a man whose funeral is being held later this week want to have the Australian flag on his coffin as he served in the navy during World War II. They were told that flags are not allowed at a Catholic funeral. Is this the case, and if so, why?

A. The Order of Christian Funerals says: “Only Christian symbols may rest on or be placed near the coffin during the funeral liturgy. Any other symbols, for example national flags, or flags or insignia of associations, have no place in the funeral liturgy.”   This instruction is in place to help preserve the distinctly Christian elements of a Catholic funeral and prevent their being overshadowed by secular symbols and rituals.

National Conferences of Catholic Bishops, however, have the right to adapt the Roman Ritual to meet local needs, and some years ago the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference decreed that the use of the Australian flag at the funeral of returned service personnel is permitted in deference to the tradition of the RSL.

Q. Why did the Second Vatican Council say that full, conscious and active participation was the aim to be considered before all else?

A. One of the goals of the reform of the liturgy leading up to and immediately after the second Vatican Council was to wean Catholics away from the individualistic piety that had become central to Catholic practice and bring them back to the liturgy as an act of communal worship. The aim was to allow the liturgy to prepare Catholics to take an active role in reshaping contemporary society.

Liturgy well celebrated should create an awareness of the social dimension of Christianity that carries over into every aspect of the daily life of Christians and into the world of business and politics. This communal understanding of worship, and of Christianity in general, goes totally against the grain in an individualistic society, which is why we sometimes feel that we are fighting an uphill battle.

Elizabeth Harrington