The National Catholic Register has an online interview with Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison (aka The Extraordinary Ordinary). HERE They cover a range of topics, mostly touching on liturgical worship.
You might recall that not long ago I posted about his diocesan-wide initiative (actually going on for many years now) to have all tabernacles returned to a position of prominence in all churches and chapels. On that note, Bp. Morlino explained:
What do you think of the objections that moving the tabernacle would displace the choir or prevent people from actively participating at Mass?
Those objections fail to realize the center of our faith: the Person of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is Our Lord and King, we should make that clear in the liturgy, not hide it. The way a church is set up demonstrates what we believe, so if the choir is behind [the altar] or in the sanctuary, the wrong message is being sent — namely, that our music is to be the focus of our worship. The second objection — about active participation — is ridiculous in the extreme. How could Our Lord be a distraction from worship? That’s like saying he’s distracting from himself. [Yep.]
Fortunately, we have had few real objections in Madison. The people have an inherent sense of what’s right, so when there’s proper preparation, they appreciate changes that truly bring us closer to God. There may be some initial misgivings, but those are later replaced by gratitude for liturgy done well. Goodness, truth and beauty have a way of bringing order and peace to souls.
And there is this…
Are there other liturgical and/or architectural concepts you have been addressing in your diocese?
Another example of something we have already addressed in Madison, but which many outside of the area may not be aware of, has to do with the distribution of holy Communion. It is a centuries-old practice that only the Host be distributed to the faithful. It is permissible to have the Precious Blood distributed on certain occasions and under certain conditions, but if you look at the documents of the Church, it is clear that these are exceptions, rather than the norm. [Right.]
The remedy [for any liturgical question] is very simple: Follow the guidelines of the Church. [But… wait! I thought the Spirit of Vatican II did away with guidelines!] One document that has not gotten much attention in the United States, but which has the potential to change things for the better, came from John Paul II in 1997. It is called “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest.” [HURRAY!] It explains, among other things, how extraordinary ministers of holy Communion are not meant to be a regular part of Mass. They are only allowed to be used when actually necessary, and this necessity occurs far less frequently than many have imagined. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
Clear distinctions between clergy and laity help to show the entirety of the Catholic faith better.
And, very much to a point I keep making here…
Everything we do in the liturgy is catechetical — it conveys a message. That message may be true or it may be false, but there is always a message. When laypeople distribute holy Communion at every Mass, the distinction between the ordained and the laity is blurred. This is a misleading message, but it is, nonetheless, what is conveyed.
If we don’t get the liturgy right, we don’t get anything right. [There it is.] The liturgy is primary in the life of a Catholic; it is an intimate encounter with the living God. [NB: “liturgy” and “Mass” are not equivalent terms. Mass is a liturgy, liturgical worship, but not all liturgical worship is a Mass. There are other liturgical moments as well, such as the Office.] It’s clear, then, that this needs to be done in truth, rather than according to our own whims. We need to have the humility to allow God to be God and to reveal himself to us as he truly is. Then he can really work in our souls for the betterment of mankind.
We must must must have a revitalization of our liturgical worship. Until and unless we do, no initiative of renewal of the Church will have any lasting effect or success.
And… this is what bishops are about… perpend…
Is that the motivation for what you have done in Madison?
My major motivation is the sanctity of my people. eep [That’s it. Plain and simple. Help people get to Heaven. Try to keep people out of Hell.] I simply ask myself, “What can I do to help the souls entrusted to my care to become holy?” Then, with Gods’ help, I go about doing that. It’s not anything extraordinary. It’s just doing what I should be doing as a bishop. That might make headlines, but it really shouldn’t.
In better times it really shouldn’t, but in these troubled times it really should.
Fr. Z kudos to Bp. Morlino.