Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On the "Ceremonies of Bishops"

Archbishop Raymond Burke on visitation, prays before the Blessed Sacrament, he wears the Cappa Magna, an option on the most solemn feast within his diocese (see Ceremonial of Bishops no. 1200) The ferioula of the assistant should be stuff NOT silk by the way.
A friend asked me to look up what should happen when his bishop visits his Church. The bishop has never been there in all his four years in office.
According to the Ceremonial of Bishops, published in 1989, he should be dressed in a choir dress (the purple cassock) and rochet, and what a friend of mine calls, the little pink hat, and wear a pectoral cross on a green and gold cord. The book says, “A dignified solemnity in receiving the bishop is a sign of love and devotion of the faithful toward their good shepherd.” 1179.
“…[T]he parish priest vested in cope, meets the bishop, offers him the crucifix to be kissed, and presents the sprinkler, with which the bishop sprinkles himself and those present.” He then goes to the Blessed Sacrament and prays briefly.1180
If Mass follows, he goes to the chair and puts on the vestment for Mass. 1181

I am not sure that I have seen this happen in a Catholic Church, but it is very clearly in the rubrics. Recently both bishops and priests have been reminded, by the Pope and Cardinal Arinze, that they should neither add nor subtract anything from the liturgy. Some bishops never wear, and one suspects, don’t even own choir dress. Some seem unaware that there is a book entitled, “Ceremonies of Bishops”, it would be uncharitable to think they merely disregard it.
It is full of useful stuff, for example, it contains the instruction about the bishops (and others) hands being joined,“he keeps his joined”, 107 says, then there is a foot note “Hands joined” means: “Holding the palms sideward and before the breast, with the right thumb crossed over the left””!!!
I hope fidelity to the rubrics of both usages might be a fruit of Pope's Motu Proprio, the Pope has spoken of a forthcoming Compendium of the Liturgy, so presumably all that one needs to know will be in one book, and reasonaly clear.


Anonymous said...

A present model of epsicopal visitation (well the ones that I have endured of late):

bishop dashes into sacristy with moments to go, wearing a car coat over a lounge suit. He fiddles around in his case, producing a polyester alb and a skullcap, a stole and chasuble follow (no sign of a pectoral cross, mitre or crozier) and off we go....
changes the words of greetings/ prayers to make them suitably PC, overdone gestures all over the place....
a (poor) homily, delivered on the hoof, about anything that comes to mind,

parish priest tries (unsuccessfully) to hide his disdain for the manner in which the Liturgy is being celebrated before his very eyes,
children asking after Mass "Who was that?" etc. etc.


Fr Ray Blake said...

I think I have deleted a comment for this post by mistake.

Thomasso said...

"Hands joined” means: “Holding the palms sideward and before the breast, with the right thumb crossed over the left”!!!

I was taught this as a child - not from a 'Ceremonial of Bishops', but by caring parents and a good Catholic school in the North of England. It's a practice I've never forgotten.

Andrew said...

We receive His Lordship rather frequently and in all my years the procedure seems to be the same. He drives in at the last minute in a plain white cassock with a purple sash. He then wears this same outfit in place of an alb and puts on his chasuble and mitre, unfolds his pastoral and everything starts. He'd probably be very surprised if our parish priest awaited him at the front of the Church with a crucifix for him to kiss because he always comes in the back entrance =)

Our Bishop is celebrating the 27th anniversary of his consecration to the episcopacy this year but I've never ever seen him wear his choir dress or even a skullcap, not even for the ad limina in Rome. God know he has a set, a present from Propagande Fide upon his appointment. But I've never seen it.

gemoftheocean said...

You know, some of this is all well and good. But when it comes down to "right thumb over the left" someone listened to one too many paranoid nun or Christian Brother. Anyone who thinks the Almighty really gives a flip whether the right thumb is crossed over the left has WAY too much time on his/her hands. It's one thing to be twiddling thumbs or playing "here's the church, here's the steeple" but REALLY. Reference Cordelia from Brideshead Revisted and the "gym shoes on the left" scene.

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

Stephen said...

Karen H
I think that a fleeting knowledge of the Old Testament might suggest that God "does give a flip" about how worship is conducted. There you will find precise descriptions of vestments and fittings for the Temple.
These things, though minor, are actually important in so far as the guarantee the Tradition. Knowing what the Church wants is a way of being faithful and "correct" to echo a word Pope Benedict uses often about the liturgy.

Moretben said...

Karen H.

You'll also remember the response to Cordelia's "Our Lady doesn't care about..."? - "Our Lady cares about obedience".

Forgive me quoting my own blog in Fr Ray's combox, but the following is apropos:

"Here's how pious people destroy their own religion:

Point A - God isn't concerned about that
Point B - That's trivial - God doesn't care...
Point C - Come on - I don't think God minds very much...

These were all pretty minor things, so we'll also concede D - P as belonging to the category of trivialities, beneath the attention of the Almighty and superfluous to spiritual advancement. Nobody got hurt, so let's press on...

Point R - My faith isn't dependent on all that
Point S - I don't need any of that to worship God or pray properly
Point T - Haven't we got beyond all that?
Point U - What's the relevance of this is to Catholics today...

...and now we're getting on a roll. We've established a principle: that we can construct, reconstruct or discard according to our own perceived needs, without detriment to anything theoretically "essential". We've also started to alter somewhat the way our religious practice and beliefs look and "feel", because all those little minor changes of "unimportant" things, taken together, add up to something suggesting a real shift. We experience this shift as exhilarating and liberating and can't help feeling scornful of those who, unlike us "need all that". Forget them. They're the chaff, we're the wheat; nor do we consider ourselves under any obligation to take seriously the warnings of those who can see trouble coming: prophets of doom, reactionaries, Pharisees, fearful conservatives and others who never “got” the Gospel.

By now we're well on the way to re-constructing a truly “spiritual” religion entirely in our own image and likeness; but what was once, in our dim, distant and superstitious past something that brought to life the vision of Isaias or St John in the Apocalypse now consists largely of being read at by middle-class people in nice knitwear. Where did everybody go?"

It’s a symptom of our disintegrity that the things we think and say about ourselves are often the furthest from the truth: and it’s precisely when a man proclaims his emancipation from “all that” that he reveals himself to be most conspicuously in need of it.


gemoftheocean said...

Stephen, and to a lesser extent, Mortben. You folks are priceless. Nowhere did I say or even imply that one shouldn't have some sense of the niceties of liturgical practice. It makes sense, for instance to be particular about how, say, a thruible is handed from person to person. Otherwise a mess ensues. Ditto, the niceties in a high mass of who stands where and does what. This is all common sense and makes for good traffic pattern. What DOES NOT MAKE SENSE, is stupid quibbles. And this thumb business falls in this category. I refuse to kow-tow to any ninnies insisting "right thumb over left." For what it's worth putting ones hands together and not crossing ANY thumbs is also perfectly acceptable. And if you think a left thumb over the right is seriously going to offend the Almighty, you need professional help.

Sheesh. DO get a grip. And if Pope Benedict is concerned about that level of detail then he is also afflicted in a way I would not have wished possible in a pope.

Yes, a priest should be careful to follow what's in the rubrics when saying the mass as best he can - as that is what is expected. But I can only say that if the two of you would even consider being chuffed if you see the priest not put his right thumb over his left when he has his hands folded, then you two are seriously deranged. And if that sounds "mean" so be it.

Did some church council in 50AD get together and take a vote on "right thumb over left" "left over right" "no thumb crossing at all?" I missed it.

Meanwhile.... thousands of abortions a day .... and you two are having hissy fits and sniffing like little old ladies who ran out of rose water for their hankies. Use some common sense.

Via media. However, if I were ever in a situation where I attended Mass with you two, I will insist on making the sign of the cross from right to left as is customary in the eastern Rite.

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

Moretben said...


I don't think you read my post at all. Calm down, and stop being so judgmental.

gemoftheocean said...

mortben, I did indeed read your post. IMO, it's eyewash. Left thumb over right is not the road to hell in a handbasket. If you wish, we could go back to having a woman say the responses during the Mass as a "mortal sin" but frankly, I don't think there are many down there doing time over that. A modicum of sanity, please. Some arbitrary rules are good. i.e. "do we all want to drive on the left or right?" That's a good rule -- keeps people from getting killed. Neither is intrinsically more correct - but a rule for the sake of convention. we shake hands right handed too. [unless you are a scout, of course] Some things are wrong because they are intrinsically wrong -- murdering smoeone for the heck of it would be intrinsically wrong. But "I had my left thumb over the right one -- I'm a rebel" isn't something people should worry about. That's nitpick for the sake of nitpick.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Dear me.
A somewhat lively debate.
But I think Moretben is right.
Start to change the rules, even in little things, and you are on the slippery slope.

gemoftheocean said...

But Dr. Wright -- who allegedly made this so-called "rule?" It's merely an arbitrary custom being expounded as a "rule." And that's what I object to. It has no bearing on making the least little thing flow more smoothly. Insisting that this "right over left" thumb business IS a "rule" makes people have contempt. And contempt is a dangerous thing -- because once you decide that the ninnies who insist on these sorts of rules are being idiotic, then you risk thinking all the "rules" they come up with are equal blather, when in fact they might not be. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

This nitpicking is precisely why I tend to steer clear of the overly persnickety. I find them to be a near occasion of sin, and absolutely insufferable.

This is like nuns telling the girls back in the 50s not to wear black patent leather shoes because they "reflect up." Girls of 11 or 13 will think the nun is off her rocker. Now that sister is deemed to have no sense at all, and they have written her off -- they don't listen to her when she really has something important to say about chastity.

Don't sweat the small stuff. It's okay if someone uses 3 spoonfuls of incense too, instead of two. Really.

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Karen :

It's in the Ceremoniale Episcoporum.
And to be honest it is only a footnote.
But one thing leads to another ..

Moretben said...


Rubrics are not an end in themselves. The point of them is to free the priest particularly, and those assisting him, from those solecisms and individual tics that have the effect of putting his own personality, rather than Christ's, at the centre of the action.

They are about humility - the virtue from which all others flow. Pretending to set up an opposition between concern for the rubrics and concern about murder or abortion is dishonest and, as I said, judgmental.