Do as I say, not as I do?

I found this through our friends at Rorate.  I am left scratching my head.

The Holy Father is to make this coming weekend a Pastoral Visit to Venice.  For the occasion, the glassmakers of Murano have prepared (original source in Italian – my translation):

The Consortium Promovetro, in association with the Patriarchal Curia of Venice, will give as a gift to His Holiness Benedict XVI, 60 chalices, 60 patens, a plate, a pitcher, and two cruets with base.  The set will be used by the Hol Father and prelates during the celebration of Holy Mass on 8 May in the park of San Guiliano, …

Redemptionis Sacramentum says that glass must not be used.

Mind you, this will be very nice glass.  But….

What’s up with this, I wonder?  Will it actually be used for Mass?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Joseph Shaw says:

    I suppose he could use the cruets…

  2. TNCath says:

    It looks like the old “Depression glass” sets from the 1930’s. I hope Msgr. Marini intervenes. They are beautiful pieces, but not for Mass.

  3. servulus says:

    Maybe they could be retrofitted with a precious metal lining?

  4. Mark01 says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but why can’t they be glass? I understand that’s what the rules say, but what is the purpose of this rule? Thanks.

  5. pewpew says:

    @Mark01 I guess that glass gives too much of an impression that it is an “ordinary meal”.

  6. Faith says:

    Mark01 — glass breaks. That being said, there’s always exceptions. My Pastor once in awhile uses a heavy Waterford crystal chalice, that has a special meaning for him. He tells everyone that he’s been given special permission to use it.

  7. rob_p says:

    Apparently Murano didn’t come up with this idea on their own, they had directions on what exactly to provide by the Patriarchal Curia.

  8. Glen M says:

    This is sad and disappointing news. Let’s pray our Holy Father hears of this and intervenes. Many liberal priests would use this Mass to justify their use of glass on a regular basis. I know a Jesuit who justifies his use of liturgical dancers every Sunday because it happened at a papal Mass once.

  9. pelerin says:

    They do look quite thick so perhaps they are shatterproof? They are certainly beautiful and if they are shatterproof then presumably there will be no danger of accidents.

  10. skull kid says:

    Perhaps it could be arranged for Mon. Gänswein to drop the presentation box at the key moment.

  11. David2 says:

    The use of glass is specifically “reprobated” by RS – that’s pretty strong:

    Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.

    What is not allowed:
    a) common vesses
    b) low quality vessels
    c) vessels lacking artistic merit
    d) mere containers
    e) glass
    f) earthenware
    g) other vessels that break easily.
    I find it difficult to imagine the Holy Father doing this. It would be like saying “but these are very nice giant puppets”!

  12. Legisperitus says:

    Probably a good chance Marini will bring his own. Didn’t something like that happen in England, perhaps with candlesticks?

  13. digdigby says:

    Please, let us know what happened – this is a ‘watershed moment’ and it matters very much to
    me personally.

  14. Mark01 says:

    The sentence before the one you quoted says, “It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region,[206]so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided.” So it seems that the purpose of the rule is to use vessels that will honour the Lord and not diminish the doctrine of the Real Presence. If the glass is very thick, and extremelly artistic, as these seem to be, couldn’t you say that they would be truly noble in the common estimation within the region they are to be used. These don’t seem like common glass containers, after all.

  15. Marianna says:

    I expect the Holy Father will be happy to waive the rules. The glassware may not be appropriate normally, but given that it has been made specially for this occasion (something which must have been known to Mgr. Marini and others), and is very beautiful, it would be graceless to refuse.

    Legisperitus, Marini did not bring his own candlesticks to Westminster Cathedral, but it is rumoured that he spotted some he liked in a side room (where the Pope was due to vest) on the day before the Papal Mass there, and substituted them for the (no doubt undistinguished) ones that the Cathedral was planning to use.

  16. Gail F says:

    I think Marianna is right — it would be ungracious to refuse to use these under the circumstances. Also, these are Venetian glass! World-famous, expensive, and certainly “noble,” whether or not one likes the particular design. The point of the rule is to prohibit “common” materials and things that are pretty but flimsy, which would seem to me to mean, “Don’t go out to Everything’s $1 to buy pretty stamped glass stuff that will break in a few months,” and not “Don’t every once in a while use precious Venetian glass.”

  17. Titus says:

    this is a ‘watershed moment’

    The Vicar of Christ is the supreme legislative authority in the Church. If he says “RS paragraph X does not apply to this particular instance,” RS paragraph X doesn’t apply. The Pope is likewise the supreme judicial authority: if he says “RS paragraph X means all glass but this glass,” well, that’s what RS paragraph X means. Neither may not be wise of his Holiness, but they are certainly entirely permissible. That said, I think the beauty of the pieces themselves are perhaps exaggerated: the flagon and the cruets are quite nice, but the other pieces are rather plain.

  18. ttucker says:

    Gail, that means rules are made to be broken.
    And you know what happens when we all start doing that.

  19. traditionalorganist says:

    If you look closely at the pictures from the link that Father posted, it looks as thought there is gold IN the glass. Perhaps this a way around the rule, since it does indeed contain a precious metal.

  20. Andy Milam says:

    I think that we need to find the spirit in the letter in this instance. While glass work can certainly be beautiful, it isn’t worthy for use in the Sacred Mysteries….

    “…Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily…” (Redemptionis Sacramentum no. 117)

    That seems pretty cut and dry. If the Holy Father uses the glassware, then he will use it, but it won’t lend a lot of credence to the principle of the Reform of the Reform if he does; considering that Redemptionis Sacramentum is one of the hallowed docs of the movement.

  21. SimonDodd says:

    As I understand it, the reason for RS’ prohibition on glass isn’t that it’s breakable—if a chalice drops, the precious blood is being spilled no matter what the chalice’s fate, and that’s what we’re really concerned about—but that it isn’t sufficiently precious a material to contain so precious a contents. We bring gold not because of any ontological preference for gold but because gold—precious, beautiful, rare, and regal—is supremely fit for a king. But the question is, as Gail implies, what about glassware that is approximately as valuable as gold? Indeed, what if there was a venetian glass chalice that was more valuable than its weight in gold? Would that not be fit for a king?

    Also, there is a significant upside here. Many parishes use glassware, and many of them may seize on the Holy Father’s example to justify doing so. Think about that. In doing so, they concede the premise that papal liturgy is normative, that the Pope’s example has implications for how we celebrate Mass in distant parishes. That’s actually a big win, because it opens the door to arguing from the same premise for the so-called “benedictine arrangement,” for better music, for more incense, for the ordinary in latin, and so forth.

  22. Henry Edwards says:

    I’m not at all sure there’s anything objectionable in this. Certainly “Say the Black, Do the Red” is a useful shibboleth to whack liturgical abusers over the head. However, let’s not forget that we worship God, not Rubrics.

    The norms, in Redemptionis Sacramentum or otherwise, are guides to proper worship, but perhaps slavish adherence to their slavish English translations is not always the best guide to the best spirit of the liturgy.

    If these particular noble and precious vessels give great glory to God, is it a bit sour to gripe that the letter of the law did not anticipate precisely how they might do it?

  23. It’s amazing how some of us begin rationalizing as soon as it appears the Holy Father might violate liturgical norms. This is fascinating to watch, but at the same time deeply disappointing.

    Andy Milam, you are absolutely correct.

  24. tzard says:

    I’m don’t think it’s a case of a “do not do as I do”. My latin is a bit (lol) weak, but the rest of the paragraph in Redemptionis Sacramentum (117) has some preamble to the strong wording against common materials.

    Vasa sacra, quae ad recipiendum Corpus et Sanguinem Domini destinata sunt, stricte ad normam traditionis et librorum liturgicorum conficiantur.[205] Conferentiis Episcoporum facultas datur decernendi an, actis ab Apostolica Sede recognitis, opportunum sit vasa sacra confici etiam aliis ex materiis solidis. Attamen stricte requiritur, ut huiusmodi materiae secundum communem aestimationem cuiusque regionis, revera nobiles sint, ita ut eorum usu honor reddatur Domino et periculum omnino vitetur prae oculis fidelium doctrinam realis praesentiae Christi in speciebus eucharisticis minuendi

    Tell me, does this give the Bishops the authority to determine whether a sacred vessel is appropriate according to the common estimation of the country in question? Might Italy, and specifically Venice’s common estimation of venetian glass make it perhaps more noble than, say, Silver or Gold? If they got approval from the local bishop or the apostolic see…. There’s no complaint. =)

  25. Patti Day says:

    What would Murano glass makers give other than exquisite glass, the work of their own hands and hearts? It reminds me of the Widow’s mite, the insignificant, the common, that becomes a most precious gift in the eyes of Our Lord .

    I understand the rubrics, and that in these times breaking the rules provides fodder for a rant, but surely the Patriarchal Curia anticipated this.

  26. Andrew says:

    Even if one were to somehow wrap his head around this and conclude that this is really not (in spirit) going against the liturgical norm, even than, it would be unwise to do this in a world of rampant liturgical abuse taking place everywhere. This is not the time to be taking exceptions: it is a time to lead by solid example. And even if the glass is bullet proof: visually, it is just glass and it gives a bad example.

  27. Random Walk says:

    Something that comes to mind…

    Historically, (and likely when the first canon laws concerning such items were written), glass had been a rare item, and only the wealthy could afford it. Royalty back then actually sought and cherished glass, simply because it was so expensive and rare.

    OTOH, I’m guessing that the prohibition on glass came from the fact that one can rescue a host that has fallen in a metal paten or plate, but not so much if it has tiny glass shards from the broken piece all over it (which would make picking it back up a more dicey proposition, especially during Mass).

  28. Centristian says:

    The glassware is beautiful, particularly the cruets, but the problem, as I see it, is that the use of glassware at the altar by the pope–by this pope, especially–will have the effect of confirming (or even inspiring) bad liturgical habits, worldwide. “What do you mean I can’t use a glass goblet and a glass bowl instead of a chalice and a ciborium? Even the pope uses glassware at the altar; I saw him do it on TV. If the pope can violate these dumb liturgical rules, so can I. Obviously they aren’t important. If this pope of all popes can blithely ignore them, so can I…and I will.” This sort of celebrant will not, of course, follow any of Pope Benedict’s good liturgical examples, but he can now use this one bad example to justify his glassware.

    Even if the pope does replace the glass goblet intended for his own use with a proper chalice, what about the 59 others? What are they for? Is it normal to distribute the Precious Blood to the congregation at a big, outdoor papal Mass?

  29. MJ says:

    I have a set of Depression glass – cups, a platter, and a candy bowl. Really pretty stuff.

    But yes, glass is a no-no…I wonder how this story will turn out!

  30. bootstrap says:

    servo missa, servo mundi

  31. benedetta says:

    Maybe where they are glass or pottery is being used and no one seems concerned about it…the people who are charged with that responsibility and should be concerned, are not, that could be happening. And the craftspeople aren’t aware of the rubrics and only want to showcase their products…(I guess like a Murano glass, pony or elephant wouldn’t be right). At any rate, “it’s the thought that counts”. They wanted to honor the Holy Father’s visit with a gift. Evidently they love our Holy Father. The gift could be accepted in that spirit and then put away (carefully…).

    Quite often we parents are given little tokens, hand-crafted or especially designed, which in all honesty could never be used for the purposes in which they were intended, for various reasons. It doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate the effort and the thought of affection. Now, if asked eventually, why…do you not wear the lovely hat that I made for you out of branches and found objects and leaves, to the grocery store, well…

  32. Are we sure that these are really “patens” and “chalices”? They look like a nice handwashing set to me — pitchers, a basin — and cruets.

  33. amenamen says:

    Thank you. This will go well in our Sister Corita Collection of sacred memorabilia.

    Most likely, these beautiful items will be lovingly placed on display in an obscure corner of a Vatican museum, or catalogued in a large warehouse somewhere in Rome, along with ten thousand other gifts given to the pope by wealthy and well-meaning diplomats, presidents and archbishops.

  34. Okay… I see that those squatty things really are a chalice and a paten-ciborium. Um. And the Murano site does say they’ve got 24 karat gold leaf in them (and possibly even coating the insides very thinly and transparently, as with the inside of a space helmet).

    But it doesn’t say the Vatican approved them; it says the Patriarch of Venice (ie, the archbishop) approved them as being “to Vatican standards”. That doesn’t mean anything much different (pace St. Mark) than our previous archbishop here telling everybody that crystal is fine for Communion. He loved the glass industry and disobeyed the plain law too. (What does the Latin say? Is there a Latin loophole? He was a scholar….)

    It’s pretty plain that Murano wants to advertise their brand (and the centuries-old Venetian glassmaking tradition, to be fair), and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t want to sell more Communion ware. They point out the bad economic times on their website, which is probably why the Patriarch was so much for it, and I’m sure the Pope is getting plenty of pressure.

    But can even a really durable glass be durable enough, unless you made sacred vessels out of something like an armored glass strong enough to walk on? The gold in the glass is a nice touch, but I really can’t see that flying with the Pope unless they really do coat it…. sigh.

  35. pseudomodo says:

    “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
    – Richard Nixon (Interview with David Frost 19 May 1977)

  36. Charivari Rob says:

    Father, are the pieces shown in the photo selections of what is actually being presented, or are they just examples of Venetian glasswork?

  37. digdigby says:

    I hope the Holy Father doesn’t have the disappointing experience of Katherine Hepburn’s Venetian glass purchase in Summertime. Some American Tourists from Ohio showing off a set just like it they got half price.

  38. JaneC says:

    The cruets and pitcher are beautiful, but the chalice and…ciborium?…look like something from the Dollar Store. It is very strange that these would be made for the Pope. Does no one at Murano read documents on what sort of vessels are appropriate for the liturgy?

    Maybe when the Holy Father opens his new present, he’ll say, “These will be great for the dinner party after Mass. Thank you for the beautiful tableware!” and everyone will be too shocked to tell him that they were meant for use at the altar.

  39. Brad says:

    digdigby: hahaha

    That movie, originally entitled “Summertime is Great for Adultery”, is always a good watch.

  40. edm says:

    Dear Titus,

    Although the Pope is the supreme authority, he is not above the Law. Historically popes have been very careful about not appearing to change liturgy. (Most Popes, that is)

  41. Maria says:

    I wonder if Our Lord would mind The Holy Father using them.

    I wonder what vessels were made of at the time when Our Blessed Lord instituted The Last Supper.

  42. Ezra says:

    I wonder if Our Lord would mind The Holy Father using them.

    I wonder what vessels were made of at the time when Our Blessed Lord instituted The Last Supper.

    The Holy Chalice of Valencia is made of red agate (with medieval additions of gold and gemstones). Agate is not known for its fragility.

  43. catholicmidwest says:

    He could donate them to a museum as fine works of glassblowing.
    Or…he could re-purpose them and throw a dinner party since they haven’t actually been used for anything.
    He could give them away as souvenirs or raffle prizes (laypeople only).
    There are lots of things he could do with them.

  44. catholicmidwest says:

    He could even throw them at heretics. Don’t laugh, it’s one possible use of dishes as many women know, and there have definitely been times when it’s been justified. And look, it’s better than being burned at the stake, even though it would point out the error darned near as well.

  45. Maria says:

    Thank you Ezra for very kindly answering my question.

  46. amenamen says:

    “Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.” (RS 117)

    How can you test if the materials break easily?

  47. benedetta says:

    amenamen, I see your youtube and raise you one ‘throwing things off a tall building’ Letterman early 80s…

  48. benedetta says:

    Letterman, dropping things off a 5 story building in New Rochelle, Westchester County, 1986

    After all the tag does say, Liturgy Science Theatre…might as well have the full treatment.

  49. Geoffrey says:

    We will have to wait and see what happens. I would guess that His Holiness will not see these until the very moment, and then it would be too late to do anything about it. If Msgr. Marini sees them ahead of time, it still might be too late to change them… or it would be rude to not use them since they were made especially for His Holiness. In either case, this probably won’t happen again. This will be included in the memo for future Apostolic Journeys!

  50. catholicmidwest says:

    Rude, smude. I ask you: Which is worse manners? To give a totally inappropriate gift or to put it away nicely, say thank you and then go about your business the right way without comment?

  51. Random Walk says:

    “I wonder what vessels were made of at the time when Our Blessed Lord instituted The Last Supper.”

    Probably pottery, or even straw for serving trays, baskets, etc. Glass was extremely rare (though Judea had a reputedly awesome glass industry at the time, the stuff cost a mint). Metal plates and cups were around, but you were usually either rich or Roman to have any around the house. Our Lord may have borrowed a wealthy guy’s house for the Passover feast in question, but it’s impossible to know/tell for certain.

  52. Gaz says:

    I dropped the earthenware chalice at our church once. We now have two nice gold ones. :-)

  53. I recall reading that Jewish law had a lot to say about vessels suitable for liturgical use, including the use of gold. Of course that is where we got the idea in the first place, it isn’t anything ‘medieval’.

  54. James Joseph says:

    For anyone who is confused in this issue………….

    Please learn more about earthenware vessels versus precious vessels, and how the Holy Chalice was hewn from the precious polished stone inlaid with gold and silver and fragrant timbers. (Christ out of the womb of Mary)

    The whole thing is laid out in the Old Testament… and it isn’t confusing at all… probably the easiest aspect of the Faith to come to terms with.

  55. James Joseph says:

    @Random Walk…

    Should you be speculating what the Holy Chalice of the Last Supper looks like please refer to the sanctuary where the Holy Grail is kept in Spain.

    It was transferred there by Pope Sixtus via his deacon Saint Lawrence during a persecution. The job of the deacon at the seat of the Pope was to care for the Holy Chalice used at the Last Supper.

    So what is the Holy Chalice…. it is a cup of precious polished stone made in complete conformity of the Sacrificial Tradition at the time of Christ. (The word graal means stone) It has been for the last several hundred years set into a gold double-handled base made of North Africa metalwork.

    Much blood has been spilled over it. There’s an account from the two Spanish Civil Wars where thousands of priests gave their lives protecting it. Most recently it was hidden in an underwear drawer.

    Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both celebrated the Holy Sacrifice with it.

  56. Father G says:

    Just saw video of the Mass from San Guiliano park….

    The glassware was NOT used!

  57. RichardT says:

    More good news – one of the gondoliers who rowed the Pope in Venice told the newspapers that he went to confession the day before in preparation.

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