Papal visit to Scotland: rumors about defiance of “Benedictine arrangment”

Damian Thompson posted this over at his place.

My emphases and comments.

The Pope’s Mass in Glasgow: are Benedict XVI’s liturgical wishes being ignored?

Benedictine ArrangmentPope Benedict XVI likes to celebrate Mass on an altar bearing six candles, or seven if there is one behind the central crucifix. It’s a venerable Christian tradition, drawing possibly on the Jewish menorah or the use of seven acolytes in early medieval Masses. [The so-called “Benedictine Arrangment”, which is a transitional arrangement of the altar towards a reestablishment of ad orientem worship.  I have some PODCAzTs about this.  This arrangement, explained by Joseph Ratzinger in Spirit of the Liturgy, seeks to bring the attention of celebrant and congregation alike back to the Lord, who is to return “from the East”.  Ad orientem worship is superior in this regard.  But placing the Crucifix between the congregation and priest breaks the enclosed circle of priest and congregation attending to themselves, thus reorienting to the Lord who is to come.]

So I don’t know what to make of persistent reports that the organisers of the papal Mass at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, have decided not decorate the altar with six candles. [That, if true, would be quite an offense.] Can this really be true? Monsignor Guido Marini, the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, usually goes to enormous trouble to ensure that the Holy Father’s wishes are implemented. I’m mystified. Are the organisers trying to appease the spirit of John Knox? Seriously: this rumour is doing the rounds, and – though a dispute about altar decoration may seem petty to non-Catholics – it’s damaging for the Scottish Church.

Also… I believe there will be 400 priests present at the Mass. That will be more than enough to distribute Holy Communion to even as many as 50,000 communicants. Church rules on this question are quite clear: lay people are to distribute the Sacrament only if there is a shortage of priests. So I’m assuming that there can be no truth in the rumour that Scottish parishes are being asked to provide “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion” for Bellahouston. [That would be DREADFUL.] “Lay ministers are not a feature of papal Masses, and if they were suddenly to make an appearance here it would look like sleight of hand,” says my source. “It would enable the old liberals to say afterwards: well, the Pope was OK with it in Glasgow.” [There will not be only priests at that Mass, but also we can assume not a few deacons, seminarians and … ehem… bishops.  When did bishops stop being Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion? … of the Eucharist?]

I think the decision to ask Susan Boyle to sing at the service was a mistake, because it looked as if the organisers were using a TV personality to tempt Catholics to a papal Mass.  But, in the end, that’s a question of taste. [I wonder if this isn’t some sort of trend.  When the Pope was in the USA, some famous singers were trotted out at Communion time.]  Playing fast and loose with the Vatican’s liturgical guidelines is another matter, however. I do hope Mgr Marini will put a call through to Glasgow to check that these rumours are untrue.

Like Damian, I would also like to know if these rumors are true.

Perhaps people in the UK could direct their questions to the organizers with a measure of respectful and gentle persistence?

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  1. annieoakley says:

    Fr. Z,

    This question’s probably already been addressed, but would you explain exactly how ad orientem works? I’ve been told it means that the priest faces East because that’s the direction from where Our Lord will come, which will be to the holy city of Jerusalem.

    That makes sense if you’re in Europe or the U.S. However, would a priest in the Philippines or Japan face East or would they face West; same question for an Australian priest – East or North?

  2. pseudomodo says:

    Perhaps Mgr Marini will travel with the equipment necessary for the Holy Father to celebrate mass HIS way instead of relying on local organizers for liturgical decoration.

    Altar Cloths
    7 Candles

    Check – Load up – Move out!

  3. smcollinsus says:


    It’s not ad orient, it’s ad orientem. We don’t face an earthly place in the near- or far- East, or even the middle-East, any more than we face some place in Utah! We face the direction east. This is one time that the English language can give us a clear reminder: sunrise = Son-rise.

    Of course, not all church buildings are built with the same directional orientation. So we call the Sanctuary end of a church building liturgical east.

  4. DisturbedMary says:

    Pray for Benedict. Scottish wolves are howling.

  5. I remember the Irish tenor Frank Patterson sang at a Papal Mass when his holiness John Paul II visited Ireland. Getting famous singers to sing, especially if they are Catholic, is nothing new. It’s not who sings but what they sing that’s important, that is, once they sing the Church’s music.

  6. Bornacatholic says:

    When a well-known guest (The Pope would seem to qualify) comes to visit you, shouldn’t you do all that is necessary to make him feel welcomed?

    Frankly, I would love it if Pope Benedict offered the Immemorial Mass publicly in Scotland – and everywhere else on the planet he goes; and ESPECIALLY in The Basilica of St Peters.

    Publicly. On a Sunday. On TV.

    Now, before the usual 100K objections to the Pope offering the EF Mass are posted, ask yourself;

    If not Pope Benedict, whom?

    If not now, when?

    Just do it.


  7. nanetteclaret says:

    Bornacatholic – You said, “shouldn’t you do all that is necessary to make him feel welcomed?” I think your question gives us the answer. I think they are doing all they can to make him feel unwelcome!

    Pseudomodo has a good idea – just bring his own vestments and altar furnishings!

    Pary for the Holy Father DisturbedMary is correct – the Scottish wolves are howling

  8. nanetteclaret says:

    Pary = Pray

    I hit the post button before previewing!

  9. HighMass says:

    Please Holy Father,

    Ad Orientem SUBITO!

  10. Mitchell NY says:

    If this rumor comes up true and the liturgical services are not what the Holy Father wants then truly, people running it should be shamed. Those of us who support the Pope and his wishes to return to Ad Orientem, through the temporary Benedictine arrangement, will surely feel like this is yet another slap in the Pope’s face. It might as well be our own. I pray the Pope or the Monsignor can rectify this. I know this Pope has patience, a virtue, but to be walked all over and even his musical tastes having been pushed aside for HIS Papal visit will not instill confidence in those of us who fight for his vision and our Church. It is supposed to be a Papal Mass, not a parish Mass controlled by a Priest or Bishop ! Those against this Pope and the Church’s liturgical history will probably have further stains to their souls. That’s all that will happen in the end. The rest of us will move to the next event with our continual support while those doing the hijacking can spend a little extra time in Confession. No matter, they can not control his mouth, and from it will fall Latin. Louder than and candlestick.

  11. Pelicanus says:

    I have heard it from the mouth of an old priest that he is simply not physically able to give out Holy Communion if it involves him having to travel any distance from the altar.

    Unfortunately the clergy in Scotland is generally aged and many (probably a large majority) of them cannot be expected to walk to the far flung communion points across what may end up being a muddy field.

    It is far from ideal, but it may be the only option to have extraordinary ministers. However, what would be an insult to the Blessed Sacrament, His Holiness, and the People of God would be if the extraordinary ministers turned out to be taken from the troupe of yet more elderly and infirm old ladies who are generally found fussing around our sanctuaries in this capacity.

  12. “Lay ministers are not a feature of papal Masses…”

    I would take this one step further. Lay “ministers,” properly speaking, are not a part of Catholicism. The Council that supposedly encouraged “lay ministry” never used either term; rather, every time the Council Fathers spoke of “ministers” it was in reference to the ordained.

    Can it be said that the laity engage in some sort of “ministry?” OK, sure. But it can also be said that we offer sacrifice as members of the common priesthood. The latter doesn’t make us priests any more than the former justifies slapping the label “minister” on laypeople.

    I for one am weary of witnessing the way in which the vocabulary of the Church has been co-opted in order to promote an agenda. And look how effective it is. There are orthodox people who simply accept it as a reasonable expression, when in reality it is not.

  13. And another thing…

    I don’t much care for the “Benedictine arrangement” in places where the layout of the physical space can easily accommodate true ad orientem worship; it is a poor substitute for the real thing and a needless “compromise” on a point that deserves no compromise whatsoever.

    My recollection of the Holy Father’s treatment of the topic in “The Spirit of the Liturgy” was that this arrangement was a favorable alternative in places that would require renovation in order to return to the ancient and venerable practice.

    I simply fail to see the point in going half way. This only encourages the innovators further.

  14. annieoakley says:



  15. Fr. Basil says:

    Were I to be invited to sing for the Pope, I would be honored. I presume so would Susan Boyle.

    As far as arrangement of candles and crucifix on the altar, how one arranges this on a fixed altar in a permanent church is one thing. I’m sure His Holiness might have other instructions for celebrating on a temporary altar in an outdoor venue. How was it arranged when he came to the USA or elsewhere?

    BTW–seven candles on the altar is historical in the Western use when a bishop celebrates with full pontificals, but it could well have fallen into disuse in the USA after 1970.

  16. Latter-day Guy says:

    Leaving aside the general issue of soloists at Mass (I really don’t have a horse in that race), why Susan Boyle? I mean, the talent show thing was kind of touching, because the audition performance certainly exceeded expectations. However, why have her––of all people!––sing on such an important occasion for such an important visitor? Objectively speaking, she’s just not that good. It’s got to be a publicity thing, because this decision seems to have been influenced hardly at all by aesthetic considerations.

  17. anna 6 says:

    I am pretty sure that Susan Boyle will only be singing before the Mass and with the choir during the Mass. At Yankee Stadium I recall many singers performing in what was called “A Concert for Hope” (or something like that…) Harry Connick Jr. and others kept the masses entertained during the several hours wait leading up to the Pope’s arrival, then very traditional music was sung during the Mass. The night before, Kelly Clarkson sang Ave Maria at the youth rally? I imagine it’s pretty much the same thing that will happen in the UK.
    At the time, I thought that using these celebs was ridiculous…but I must admit, having been there, it really was very heartwarming and the crowds were filled with such enthusiasm that they enjoyed them immensely. And I think that even Benedict himself seemed to appreciate Placido Domingo singing Panis Angelicus during Communion!
    I know…I know…Susan Boyle is no Placido Domingo!

  18. anna 6 says:

    FYI…I meant to say that Domingo sang in DC…not NY

  19. Apparently every other flippin’ Scottish Catholic parish’s choristers are going to be singing at this Mass, so why wouldn’t Susan Boyle be there also? Making her a soloist is practical and keeps things from getting crazy, as they would if she tried to blend in with all the other choir folks.

    Anyway, it’s not Susan Boyle I’m worried about. She’s not a liturgist.

  20. Vincenzo says:

    Fr. Basil wrote:

    “How was it arranged when he came to the USA or elsewhere?”

    Here are some photos:

  21. mairead says:

    Susan Boyle is definitely singing in the concert before Mass and not as a soloist during Mass. The responses are also in Latin sometimes ie Dominus Vobiscum. Et cum spirito tuo. and also the Our Father is being sung in Latin plainchant.I am looking forward to it.

  22. frobuaidhe says:

    A lot of people still don’t get it: Scotland is different, and the ruling clique wants to keep it that way. Scotland needs to be ‘normalised.’ There are a number of sees to be vacated in the next few years. If ‘magic circle’ members are by-passed then there is a chance that this will happen.

  23. pattif says:

    There are several things going on here, I think. First, I doubt very much whether most Catholics have the first idea what the ‘Benedictine arrangement’ is, but, if they saw it, the might go back their parishes and ask “why don’t we have that?” Ditto the liturgy, and the diocesan liturgical police aren’t likely to take very kindly to that.

    Second, I think the choice of the usual drivelly ‘songs’ (with the exception of the Newman hymns, Soul of My Saviour and Tantum Ergo) is part of an episcopal sub-text for this visit: “See – we Catholics are really no different from anyone else. We even sing the same campfire songs.”

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with Susan Boyle being invited to sing: her background is a Catholic parish choir, after all. The problem is with her being asked to sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’; there are any number of more appropriate things she could have sung. But then, I suppose that would be “too Catholic”, and not “just like everyone else”.

  24. Gail F says:

    I think it must be very difficult to arrange these masses. One would hope that the pope’s wishes were paramount, but experience shows this is not always the case. Putting aside any ulterior motive, most of the people arranging papal masses seem to want to do what they love most for the pope — which is a very laudable sentiment. However, often what they love most is not what is best. I’ve seen this (on a much smaller scale of course) in my own Archdiocese when the Archbishop visits a parish. Choirs want to sing their favorite songs, everyone in the parish wants to be in the sanctuary, the music director wants to play his/her most complicated piece, etc. They don’t do this because they want to be stars, but because they want to give their best as a gift. Even if they know that what they want to do isn’t the Archbishop’s cup of tea, they seem to think that he will love it THIS time, because THEY are doing it with so much love and fervor. Before we impute bad motives (and I’m not saying there aren’t any) we must take this very common phenomenon into account.

    I think there has to be a balance between what people WILL do and what they OUGHT to do. Having a time for all sorts of things before mass would seem to be the best way to handle it, IMHO, but I’m not in charge…

    I don’t see any problem at all with Susan Boyle singing before the mass. She may not be the best singer but she is very well-known and people will be excited to see her. Couldn’t she sing a Catholic hymn, though? Or (if the idea is to give people a thrill by hearing her winning song in person) sing “I Dreamed a Dream” AND a Catholic song?

  25. JimGB says:

    Just wanted to point out that when the Pope visited the U.S. he celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Yankee Stadium. While a crucifix was placed on the altar at St. Patrick’s (and promptly removed thereafter)the candlesticks remained in their usual position on the floor of the sanctuary flanking the altar. I believe they addes a seventh candle, which looked kind of silly on the floor. Similarly at the Yankee Stadium Mass, no candlesticks on the altar. I don’t recall any great uproar at the time and clearly Msgr. Marini approved these arrangements.

    For the record, my own wish would be that at St. Patrick’s they would remove the current altar of sacrifice, which was placed in the middle of the sanctuary by Cardinal O’Connor so he could be closer to the congregation, and revert to using the high altar under the magnificent bronze ciborium. The high altar can be used for both ao and vp masses and can easily support the six candlesticks and cricifix.

  26. Luke says:

    Father Z: Thanks for explaining that the so-called Benedictine Arrangement “seeks to bring the attention of celebrant and congregation alike back to the Lord, who is to return “from the East”. I am behind in my liturgical reading and as such I do appreciate this thought.

  27. When it comes to concerts that aren’t at Mass, I’m not too worried. It’s unfortunate that people don’t go for More and Better; but it’s not really anything worth getting actively distressed about.

    I still remember during the US papal visit when they had concert music at that one NY seminary. A non-Catholic pop star got ready to start singing the Ave Maria, everybody settled in to hear a piece they knew — and it turned out she was doing the German lied original, “Ellen’s Song”, with the Sir Walter Scott poetry in German, instead! Funny! But there was nothing wrong about it; she was singing a 19th century pop song about a good Scottish Catholic girl praying the Hail Mary, that’s all. Free concerts are always a mixed bag.

    Probably the real reason for “I Dreamed a Dream” is that it’s a known thing, so the organizers feel that there’s less to mess up. Very seldom are big public concerts the occasion for wonderful new song premieres, or excursions into religious songs that the public doesn’t already know well. It’s an understandable position, particularly when the event organizers are hurried and disorganized and dealing with bad press (as with the UK papal visit). You clamp onto the known quantities like they’re a steel support beam.

  28. Actually, I should say that the music people seem reasonably organized; but they’re probably under pressure from the venue and liturgy planning people, who messed up a lot of stuff big time. People who’ve messed up often love to put pressure on people who haven’t done anything wrong, out of guilt and worry.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    The Mass will be somewhat in Latin. Rumors of earlier today have not been confirmed or denied by the Catholic websites in England or by the Telegraph journalist.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    The Eucharistic Minister (lay) rumor may be connected to the “guardians” or “guides” who will accompany the priests to their stations, but that has been the case at other Papal Masses in the past.

  31. Henry Edwards says:

    Supertradmum: As posted in another thread, from the Magnificat booklet for the UK papal Masses:

    The Kyrie will be in Greek at all three papal Masses in Scotland and England.

    The Preface (including preceding dialogue) and the Eucharistic Prayer will be in Latin at all three — EP II on 9/16, EP I on 9/18, EP III on 9/19.

    As will be the Credo at the Sept. 18 and 19 Masses (no Credo at the Sept. 16 Mass).

    The communion music at each Mass will include a traditional Eucharistic motet sung in Latin.

    At the Sept. 16 and 19 Masses, the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei will the new English translations sung by a choir to the new musical settings by the composer James MacMillian.

    The Pater Noster will be sung in Latin on Sept. 16 and 18, in English on Sept. 19 (the beatification Mass).

    At the Sept. 18 Westminster Cathedral Mass—in some ways the “highest” of the three Masses—the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei will be Latin polyphony (Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices), presumably sung by the Cathedral’s famous choir.

  32. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry about the confusion on how I wrote, Henry Edwards. I knew about the Magnificat booklet, but meant the rumors on the candles and Benedictine form….

  33. Jayna says:

    “[I]t looked as if the organisers were using a TV personality to tempt Catholics to a papal Mass.”

    Any Catholic who needs a TV personality to be tempted to go to a papal Mass maybe shouldn’t be at that papal Mass to begin with. I’m just sayin’…

  34. Pelicanus says:

    It’s interesting to note the lack of chant…

  35. Dave N. says:

    After seeing last week’s totally embarrassing British shuttlepod “set” from the 1960s version of Star Trek, I just don’t know what to make of these papal masses. So, the pope is the POPE, right? As they author seems to be, I’m at a loss as to why the Holy Father (or his delegate) doesn’t say “The pope is coming to say Mass and here’s how it’s going to be….” Or are the instructions from Rome ignored? Or is this how things are actually planned by Rome?

    And don’t they know that people going into the Enterprise shuttlepod always means REAL trouble?

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