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November 11, 2003


Rod Dreher

Why do they busy themselves writing 40-page pamphlets on farmers? Because it's so much easier to deal with the Hay Bale in the Sacristy than, well, you know. Just as it's so much easier to deal with the Salmon in the Sacristy, as they did in a long "poem" that was part of a 2001 Pastoral Letter issued by the bishops of the Pacific Northwest, expressing concern over the Columbia River. You can read the whole blessed thing if you follow the link and scroll down toward the bottom. Here is a particularly elegiac passage:

...new energy sources soon came into being,
that worked with earth's energy, sunlight and wind,
industrial plants used old waste as new products,
the air, land and waters were cleaned and renewed;
economics, ecology and ethics were bound,
eco-justice, eco-consciousness walked hand in hand,
and communities called themselves neighbors again...

I hope I live long enough to see a future pontiff apologize to the Poetic-American community for this atrocity. But you have to admit that from a bishop's perspective, it's more fun meditating approvingly over this kind of drivel than, oh, I dunno, making hard but necessary decisions required of responsible Christian leaders.

Registered Independent Joel

1) Beg forgiveness for the wasted time? The Vatican is hardly a model of efficiency, and never has been. Recall the joke about the minor Vatican functionary who was asked how many people worked there, total: "About half."

2) Probably someone's pet project.

3) Good point.


Why, indeed. Farmers are hardly a topic on every Catholic's mind. Better confine distribution of that one to the corn belt.

In my diocese (Cleveland) the bishop is issuing a series of 10 one-page (both sides) teachings on the changes in the liturgy. He sends one copy to each parish with instructions to copy and distribute in the bulletin. A financial burden on inner city parishes, I would think.

At my parish the directives are mostly being ignored. Some parishioners bow their head before receiving some of the time, and that is the only directive that anyone seems to be taking any notice of. The orans hand position during the Our Father has fallen flat in the part of church where I sit. The teaching on singing the communion hymn seems to be falling flat as well. Without a choir, it sounds like the only one singing the communion hymn is the cantor. And nothing has changed about the way we kneel after receiving.

There is more to catechesis than telling 'em what to do. The argument has to be a convincing one, which is why bowing before communion has gotten some response while the other directives have not.

I hope the bishops can listen and learn, because the argument presented for disallowing non-abortifacient birth control while allowing NFP is a miserable failure, and they might as well save the trees.


I agree that this farming document is just a waste of time and effort. Talk about killing trees! It may be very well and good for the Church to have views related to farming policies. Let the Vatican handle it. These guys need to concentrate on the faith and teaching Catholicism to their flocks. Why do these guys think they need to say something on a policy issue that may have multiple approaches appropriate to Catholicism, unless it is unique to the USA and vital to Catholic citizens to know? Concentrate on the bread and butter issues and leave the other items for the higher ups.

Mike Petrik

I realize that a bow of the head before receiving Communion is now normative, but I thought the adoption of the orans posture for the Our Father was just an idea under consideration. (I read that some liturgists view it as a pastoral compromise to the holding hands phenomenon that traditionalists worry is incompatable with the fundamentally vertical nature of the Lord's Prayer.) And what is supposed to change regarding kneeling after Communion? Perhaps Cleveland is undertaking some changes that are unique to that archdiocese. Can someone shed some light on this? Sorry for the digression.

Also, I recall reading the Bishop's pastoral on the economy in the early 1980's and being stunned at its lack of sophistication as to how a market economy works. I know the bishops' working committee consulted a few economists, but it did not appear that they had any influence.

In the end, the substance of the message is far more important than its medium. Short is better than long, but only if they are equally correct from a substantive standpoint.



On orans posture, we were told NOT to do it any longer as part of GIRMs revisions.

On the economic papers of USCCB, these folks would not know a market if it stared them in the face. Catholic clergy tend to drift, though somewhat unintentionally for most, in the direction of marxism because it is idealistic and would appear to ensure that all are fed, clothed--and have healthcare, to boot.

Mike Petrik

And I should add that I agree with Peggy. A market system is simply a way of ordering an economy based on market choices; it is not a way of life, and it leaves ample room for the Church to guide its flock to make choices based on appropriate values. The Church can certainly identify inappropriate choices, but whether such choices should be illegalized or regulated are prudential decisions (even if we all agree the choices are evil, sinful or otherwise bad), and the Church should at least be cautious in entering this terrain. The pastoral on the economy was a perfect example of the Church entering an area it is ill-equipped to understand. For example, would raising the minimum wage be better or worse for unskilled labor? Most economists believe that it would be counterproductive, but a minority disagree; it is ridiculous for the bishops to pretend they know the answer.

Mike Petrik


That is interesting. In Atlanta we have not been told anything regarding the orans posture. My understanding (which is not worth much at all) has been that, like hand-holding, it is not a specified normative posture but it violates no rule.

Leaving aside what any of us may or may not have been told, has anybody actually read the recent revisions and can offer an authoritative explanation?


Heaven forbid that people are clothed and fed and have healthcare. How much further from the gospel can you get?
"I was hungry and you gave me a copy of National Review."


why even have a bishops conferance. abolish it, sell any property it has, give the money to ewtn
. It really has no authority- after your bishop then there's John Paull II


WRY, Peggy's comment was spot-on: she said "would appear" to ensure that all are fed, clothed, and have healthcare.

In other words, the complaint of economic conservatives against the usual ecclesiastical pronouncements on social justice is that (a) results matter, and that (b) the programmes offered up by our bishops as best for social justice actually produce results opposite those intended. Now, if they want to argue that the end does not justify the means, then let them -- but that is not the argument they have advanced up to now: they have argued that statist economies provide better, which is demonstrably false.

Joe Marier

The issue is false assurances of food, clothing, and health care, not with the food clothing and health care itself.


Peace, all.

For starters, the Peace and Economics pastorals were hardly wastes of time, if for nothing else, the amount of thought and consideration they generated amongst Catholics. (Personally, I'm always pleased to note the degree of cafeteria Catholicism they generated from the so-called orthodox, but that's enough gloating for one post.)

Clearly, Amy or me or many others would do far better to ghost-write these documents, but when the bishops have done that, it brings complaints from people who concerned about whose idea it was anyway.

Lastly, the sense I'm hearing loud and clear from this thread is that the bishops should only teach on matters definitive, and possibly on non-definitive matters that impact me, but only so long as I can agree or disagree with them.

Mike Petrik


In Cuba the people are clothed, fed and have free healthcare. And in North Korea the people have these things as legal rights.

Western Europe has achieved more of a compromise, with many social welfare benefits available in a somewhat market economy. Of course, the price paid is economic mobility. The rich stay that way as do the working class.

So I guess we can give some working class kid who wants to achieve in the marketplace a copy of the Nation to satiate his ambitions.

Terrence Berres

Shredded documents can be used for animal bedding. Perhaps the bishops could donate some to help a few family farmers.

In a tree-saving measure, the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Including Adaptations for the Dioceses of the United States of America" is on-line at http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/revmissalisromanien.htm


Regarding Orans--

This is what the Cleveland Diocese Bishop's Office (Rev. J-Glenn Murray, SJ and others) put out:

What posture and gesture MIGHT be appropriate during the praying of the Lord's Prayer?

The GIRM gives us no suggestion for, nor does it forbid, any particular gesture for the Lord's Prayer at Mass. Perhaps it presupposes that we will all fold or join our hands together at our heart, a gesture from the Middle Ages that suggests being humble and at peace; focused and ready to do God's will. Certainly, such a gesture by the whole liturgical assembly would be appropriate.

There is another gesture, even more ancient, namely, orans. Orans is Latin for "praying." The custom of Christians praying with arms raised and palms open to the heavens dates to the earliest days of the Church. Tertullian, a Christian theologian, a North African layman and Father of the Church of the early third century, indicating how he believed Jesus prayed in life and in death, wrote: "Not only do we [Christians] raise our hands, but also hold them outstretched, so that by imitating the Lord in his passion, we bear witness to him as we pray." Over the course of centuries, the orans began to be perceived as exclusively the prayer posture of the ordained. With the Second Vatican Council's emphasis on the Mass being the prayer of the whole Body of Christ, united with the Risen Lord, it certainly might make sense theologically and liturgically for all the people to return to praying the Lord's Prayer in this ancient and noble posture.

In addition, praying with our arms and hands extended makes clear what we mean in praying the Lord's Prayer. Orans is a gesture of praise, declaring our sense of God's holiness ("hallowed be thy name"). It is also an acknowledgement of God's victory in Christ's Death and Resurrection. By extending our arms we may also be praying for the fullness of that victory to be revealed ("thy kingdom come"). Orans is also a liturgical gesture of surrender as we entrust our needs to God's faithful love ("thy will be done," "give us this day," "forgive us," "deliver us"). Perhaps most important, orans indicates our actively seeking God's Presence in our lives. By this Prayer, we reach out to touch God, "to stroke God's face." Such is one meaning present in the Jewish word for prayer, palal. Because praying in orans, externally shows what we are praying internally, the Bishopos' Committee on the Liturgy recommends orans over the current practice of holding hands.

The one gesture that is probably not appropriate is "holding hands." It should be noted that when any group of believers gathers for prayer and all join hands, assuming this posture during the Lord's Prayer is fine. However, when the Lord's Prayer is prayed at Mass, such an action may not be as appropriate. Given that the source of our unity is the Body and Blood of the Lord; given that we express our forgiving love of one another in the Sign of Peace, the gesture of holding hands may be redundant. As good and appropriate as this gesture may be outside Mass for stressing our unity and hospitality, such a gesture during Mass does not seem to express the totality of the Lord's Prayer in preparation for Holy Communion, the Prayer directed to God in surrender and petition of our daily bread.

As we discern and decide upon some uniformity in our parish's gesture during this Prayer, we must remember to be patient with one another and to be charitable. We must also be cautious about wedding ourselves to any particular gesture since no official one has yet been determined. Finally, causing any hurt or disturbing one another's prayer can only be inappropriate in preparation for Communion with Christ and one another.


Mike Petrik

Carrie, thank you.


thanks for the support from others. no time for an essay. "would appear" were the key words. that's just for folks who aren't killed or tortured as dissidents.

a market economy is the best system for allocating resources for the good of the most folks. individual character is another issue. there are market failures for which govt can intervene...

gotta go...


With regard to the posture for receiving Holy Communion--

I don't want to take up any more of Amy's bandwith by quoting the lengthy statement. We have been instructed to receive standing and using a bow of the head for reverence. We have also been instructed to "stand from the Lord's Prayer until the period of sacred silence which begins only after the priest returns to his chair after all have received Holy Communion. If an individual is NOT able (because of age or health or personal piety), then he or she may kneel or sit immediately after his or her individual reception of Holy Communion."

So essentially Bishop Pilla has trumped Cardinal Arinze.


In regards to the "optional" and voluntary" changes to the liturgy being introduced in the Diocese of Cleveland, Bishop Pilla writes the following on the Diocese website (www.dioceseofcleveland.com:

"Someone asked me if these “changes (which had not yet been explained)” were mandatory. My answer then and my answer now is “these changes are only mandatory to the extent that we as a Church desire to be one in the Eucharist and through the Eucharist.”"

Perhaps it is just me, but it seems as if this is a not so thinly veiled message saying... if you don't assume the orans position during the Our Father, if you don't remain standing during Communion, you are not, nor do you wish to be, "one of us".


It never ceases to amaze me how Latin Rite bishops think we must all act in unison in order to be "community" while at the same time Eastern Rite bishops have no problem at all with their congregations "doing their own thing" in church during Divine Liturgy.

And which parishes are more unified? The Eastern parishes, apparently.

At my parish standing after reception of communion would certainly exclude one from being "one of us." The bishop's credibility is sufficiently tarnished that his directives against parish norms can be conveniently ignored, apparently. Fortunately.

John B

I know of one parish in Cleveland that still uses the communion rail, and I believe kneels from the Angus Dei to the time the tabernacle is closed, and despite the bishops "wishes", they retain these postures. Gone are the days that conservative/traditional leaning Catholics are sheep ready to give away more traditions.


There are many historical as well as contemporary examples of attempts by organizations, countries, institutions, etc... to impose or dictate external physical uniformity as a sign of unity. It seems that those who do the most in this respect typically lack true unity of spirit within.

P.S. - I find that the weekly (10!) writings on the liturgy changes from Fr. J-Glenn Murray, et. al. only serve to obfuscate, rather than to clarify the reasons and rational behind the changes.

Jimmy Mac

How to bow and how to hold your hands .....

Deck chair. Titanic.

Sinful preoccupation with churchianity.


Your parish, John?

We don't have a communion rail, but we kneel from the Angus Dei until the tabernacle door is closed and locked. Sometimes Father sits down before the rest of us do, but his health isn't good, and that may be the reason.

It seems to me we should be less concerned about unity with our fellow parishioners and more concerned about unity with Christ while we're at Mass. In some circles, I suppose that would make me a heathen.


How self conscious the average churchgoer has been made to feel these days. So much emphasis on posture, gestures, selectivity of words to be always up to snuff on the latest. Yet no emphasis on what is beyond the tips of our own grungy fingers lifted in prayer? It would be better if gestures et al would become so well ordered and consciously forgotten that the heart would have then the upper hand. And what if (and the imagination cannot even go out on a limb these days)we actually were privileged to see what some of the mystics have seen taking place on that altar - myriads of angels prostrate or kneeling along with the Mother of God - you think we'd be worried if we fit in with the gestures? We'd all be prostrate on the floor ourselves (if there were enough room). But we can't even surround ourselves any longer with man made images of those (the saints and angels and Mother of God) who can help us to transcend ourselves and touch the heart of God at such awesome moments. Yes, we're a community but we don't become a community of Spirit until each individual's will is given of himself first. If we're making whatever outward gestures during the Our Father and yet not yearning to be forgiven because we don't wish to forgive others, IOW, making the prayer in our hearts, what difference do the gestures make except to emphasize our hypocrisy? But then this may be what it means to become as a little child in order to "see" these things. And this is probably asking too much humility of the bishops to shepherd us in a way like the Cure of Ars, the patron of pastors, did.

John B

Not my parish carrie, I am down I-71 a bit in a different diocese. I just know of a parish in the downtown area, I think St James, that still uses the communion rails, and its parishoners are what can be termed liturgical refugees. St Patricks in Columbus is a similar parish. Bishops probably do not like the fact such parish hold on to traditions such as kneeling for communion, but probably tolerate them because they are often among the only vital element of the downtown areas they are in. Also, St Paktricks in Columbus has twice as many parishoners as the other main parish in downtown Columbus, the cathedral.

Jeanne Schmelzer

In our parish we haven't even heard of the GIRM. No one has said anything to us about anything. We're a small country parish and I would like to go to a bigger parish sometime and see what they're doing.

Anyway, I think the piety of the people make the difference. I know that holding hands at the Our Father isn't encouraged but the people seem to still want to do it. It must have some meaning for them. I raise my hands in the orans position - while holding hubby's hand - but that is because in the bigger parish we went to for awhile they did that pretty comfortably. In a small parish, one feels rather "watched" when doing the out-of-the-ordinary. It took some nerve at first. But I'm trying to be bolder in expressing what I really feel. When I raise my hands it's like reaching for the Father's hand. It's good in praise situations. I really want to touch BASE but am tempted to be prudent and look around (figuratively) for reactions. Example leads and now I noticed even the altar servers were trying to raise their hands Sunday to see if they could do it. But that's not something that people do readily when forced to. It's something that comes from the heart.


Actually, John, I could get really spoiled by Mass at the Columbus cathedral. Good choir and a Mass booklet specially printed for each and every Sunday. It's conservative as far as I can tell. The choir sings some classical pieces. The organ is wonderful. Even the portable organ sounds good. And the cantor can sing really well. I'd like to fix the tabernacle location, but otherwise I like Mass there. You're right, though, there are a lot of empty seats.

Haven't heard of St. Patrick's. I take it Mass there is even more conservative than at the cathedral. Tridentine?


Scripture says that the angels veil their faces in the presence of God while proclaiming him holy. But forbid that his human creatures should show him that kind of reverence. But then too many Catholics have forgotten the meaning of signs and symbols and what an incarnational spirituality is.

I'm very fortunate to belong to a parish that offers perpetual adoration. Outside of Mass, my hour on Sunday afternoon in prayer and scripture reading before the Blessed Sacrament gives me the strength to try to answer Christ's call as best I can during the coming week. But I suppose some here would call that mere "churchianity" also.

Clayton Emmer

Interesting discussion about the GIRM. I'm devoting my blog to it for the next three weeks, hoping to unpack it in a systematic way.

I also have a link to Cardinal Arinze's recent address in Texas to liturgists in this country. Zeal for God's house has consumed him, and it's a sight to see. The full address is on the Adoremus website at:

Peace and all good.


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