THE RIGHTS OF THE FAITHFUL
Fr. Clifford Howell, &I., comments as follows on the new Instruction on Sacred Music and Liturgy t
WHENEVER we are bereaved of someone who is dear to us, we naturally attach a special importance to the fulfilment of any particular wishes he may have expressed shortly before he died.
Surely we ought to feel that way about the great Pope whom we are mourning at the present moment, and about the Instruction on Sacred Music and Liturgy which was published, at his command, almost on the day of his death.
He has left us a sort of " Last will and testament " on a subject which he had much at heart, namely, the active participation of the faithful in the sacred liturgy.
HE expounded the theological basis for this in the encyclical Mystici Corporis, written early in his pontificate; he gave us the general principles in Mediator Dei. only a few years later. He returned to the subject in many documents and speeches leading up to his Christmas gift of 1955, the encyclical Musicae socrae disciplino: and finally, towards the end of his life he was at pains to ensure the practical application of his teachings by the publication, through the Sacred Congregation of Rites, of this Instruction.
It will bring joy to all who have at heart the progress of the liturgical movement, for it sets the seal of approval on a number of practices which they have long striven to propagate.
AN ANSWER It is an answer to the plea made for years by THB CATHOLIC HERALD and supported by so many of its correspondents. For once again, the Holy See has urged that the Faithful be given that active participation in public worship which both the intrinsic nature and the' external form of the liturgy indicates as rightly belonging to them.
Surely now there can be no more holding hack, no more hesitation about doing what is so clearly the mind of the Church.
There is a wide chapter—five pages of the Acta.---dealing with the training which should be given; and the sections devoted to the different forms of the Mass set forth the order in which the people's parts can best be entrusted
to them. •
In the Sung Mass they may start with the responses, and then be taught an easy setting of the Cornmon. The instruction is so specific as to suggest Mass XVI with Gloria XV and Credo 1 or HI. These are among the easiest chants in. the entire Kyriale and their choice shows the pastoral emphasis of the new document.
For such a choice is the very opposite to "music for music's sake"; its criterion has been what the people can do rather than what musicians would prefer.
We should pay special attention to this in England where the Masses most often taught in our schools (when any are taught at all) have been more complicated settings too difficult for the ordinary people.
For Low Mass, too, progressive teaching of participants are given ranging from the simplest responses up to the full form including Gloria, etc., the people's Domine non sum dignus and even the Pater Nosier. The introduction of the Pater Nosier is a pleasant surprise; many have desired it, but until now it was not lawful, except on Good Friday.
Two points of considerable importance are settled by the Instruction. Some people have maintained that it was unlawful to make use of a Reader to proclaim the Epistle and Gospel to the people while the priest reads them in Latin. Whatever may have been the case in the past, it is certainly lawful now, for the Instruction explicity recommends it.
Others have cavilled about a Commentator who helps the people to follow the sacred action by directing their attention at certain points. But now, in a papal document, we are given explicit directions about what a Commentator should do and how he should do it.
While it is desirable that the Commentator should be a priest, it is here stated that the office may be entrusted to a suitably trained layman if no cleric is available. As a safeguard against abuse it is ordered that whatever the Commentator says is to be written out beforehand; he must never be allowed to improvise. Moreover, if he be a layman, he must stand somewhere outside the sanctuary and not in the pulpit.
The people are not limited to direct participation in Latin; they may also say together English prayers and sing English hymns provided that both prayers and hymns are properly integrated into the Mass. In this way every possible inducement is offered to get the people worshipping as a cornmunity, rather than as many silent individuals.
Thus we have new reasons to remember with gratitude our Holy Father Pope Pius XII who, right up to the time of his death, continued to do so much for the liturgy. Yet again, by this Instruction, he has pointed to the ideal of active participation of the people, giving fresh encouragement and wise guidance. It remains for U' all, in a spirit of filial piety, to put into practice the ideals he has proposed.