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October 9, 1987     The Message
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October 9, 1987

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October 9, 1987 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Question Corner 13 F Q&A By FATHER JOHN DIETZEN NCNows Service Columnist Clearing up misconceptions about saints' relics and the altar Q. In years past the priest kissed the altar stone that contained a relic of a saint. The stone was inlaid at the top of the altar. At that time an altar stone was required for a priest to say Mass. My question is: Has the liturgy been changed to eliminate that requirement? --Kentucky A. First, let's clear up a misconception im- plied in your note. It is true that in the early cen- turies of the church, the tombs of the martyrs played a major role in the development of some liturgical practices. Perhaps the presence of the body of the saint, upon whose tomb the eucharistic sacrifice often was offered, provided some reason for the develop- ment of the practice of kissing the altar. However, the major reason for that practice in the church's tradition was not the presence of a saint's body (or later a part of that body) but rather that the altar represented Jesus Christ himself. This ancient relationship between the altar and Christ is found even in Scripture. In the Letter to the Hebrews (4:14; 13:10), Christ is presented as the high priest who is the living altar of the temple in heaven. The Book of Revelation (5:6) speaks of the Lord as the living Lamb taken to the heavenly altar. By kissing the altar, the presiding priest or bishop symbolized reverence for Christ as the com- munity began the liturgy. We experience this an- cient belief even today many times in our liturgy, in addition to the kissing of the altar. For example, the fifth Preface of the eucharistic prayer during the Easter season gives thanks to our heavenly Father because "as he (Jesus) gave himself into your hands for our salva- tion, he showed himself to be the priest, the altar and Lamb of sacrifice." To answer your question, the church has for various reasons which are not pertinent here removed the requirement that a relic of a saint must be placed in the altar for the celebration of Mass. In fact, unless certain conditionsare fulfilled. the altar should not contain such a relic The Rite for the Dedication of an Altar, the authority for such matters since it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1977, provides placing relics of martyrs or Other saints In the altar only under the follow- ing conditions: I. Tiny relics of one or more saints should not be used. Relics must be of such a size that they can be recognized as parts of human bodies. 2. Authenticity of the relics should be reasonably certain. As the introduction to the rite notes, "It is better for an'altar to be dedicated without relics than to have relics of doubtful credibility placed beneath it." 3. The case containing the relics must not be placed on the altar or in the table of the altar but underneath the table as the design of the altar might allow. The new Code of Canon Law (canon 1237) pro- vides that such depositing of relics should be reserved to fixed altars, that is altars which are at- tached to the floor so they cannot bd moved. A [ree brochure on con[ession is available by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Father John Dietzenf Holy Trinity Parish, 704 N. Main St., Bloomington, IIL 61701. Questions For this colunzn should be sent to Father Dietzen at the same address. Cop2right (c} 1987 by NC News Sez,ice II I I I I I Input sought on catechism guidelines By AGOSTINO BONe NC News Service VATICAN CITY (NC) -- The Vatican will seek comment from the world's bishops it/ear- &ly 1989 on a draft of guidelines for developing local catechisms, which will shun "theological options," said a , top Vatican official. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of a 12-member commis- sion of Vatican officials and resident bishops overseeing work on the draft, said more work needs to" be done on the draft "to avoid theological op- tions" and to incorporate more traditional church terms. The compendium is not for general use, but is aimed "above all at bishops" and other people directly involved in the preparation of national and diocesan catechisms, he said Oct. 1 in a speech during the first working session of the world Synod of Bishops. The purpose of the compen- dium is to provide an "organic and summarized exposition of essential and fundamental points of. Catholic doctrine in the areas of faith and customs," he added. It would also argue for using formats suited to "learning by memory." Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said work on the compendium should be finished in time to present it at the 1990 Synod of Bishops for formal approval by Pope John Paul II. A lengthy summary of his speech was released by the Vatican press office. Synod rules say delegates and others addressing the synod cannot release the full texts of their talks, but speakers are allowed to make summaries public. At the same ,session Cardinal Bernardin Gantin said a draft document on the theological and juridical status of bishops' conferences will be sent to the world's bishops before the end of this year for their comments. A short summary of his talk released at the Vatican press of- lice did not say what was in the draft document. Cardinal Gantin, head of the DEWIG BROS. PACKING CO. FRESH MEAT BEEF AND PORK HAUBSTADT, INDIANA ELECT RUTH WALDEN CITY CLERK I Support The Removal Of Parking Meters From The Downtown Streets. , PAID FOR BY CAMPAIGN TO ELECT RUTH WALDEN COMMITTEE "b Vatican Congregation for Eastern Rite Churches. Bishops, also heads the com- mission preparing the study on The Oct. 1 session updated bishops' conferences. Other synod delegates on issues pend- members of the commission are ing from the 1985 extraordinary officials of the Vatican Con- synod, held to examine the gregation for the Evangelization status of the church 20 years of Peoples and the Vatican Con- after the Second Vatican g r e g a t i o n f o r Council. Laity00 continued from page 5 most Catholics accept "the modern movement for the liberation and promotion of women," Cardinal Thiandoum said. "We must continue to fight against discrimination which is not objective," he add- ed. The discussion of the laity in general includes their relation- ship with the clergy, the car- dinal said. THE PERIOD SINCE the Se- cond Vatican Council has seen a "real blossoming" of lay groups, he said, but this "has not always been harmonious." The problem is to find a way for the clergy to give direction to new lay movements without "suffocating" them, he said. On lay ministries within the RED BRUSH SPOT SHOOT Sunday Oct. 11 Beginning at 11 a.m. St. Rupert ChUrch Red Brush 3 miles North East of Alcoa 1 mile North of Highway 66 or 1 mlleEast of Old Highway 61 FOLLOW THE SIGNS 12 Ga. only - Guns Available PRIZES! Whole Hams Turkeys Cash Burgoo Plenty of Other Eats . ' Bingo Country Store Quilt Raffle { {{{ {I church, he said there has been great progress since Vatican II. He cited the evolution of lay lectors, special ministers of the Eucharist and leaders of. liturgical prayers. "This is one area in which it is hoped that the synod will move forward.., in the prepara- tion to be given (and) limits" to be placed, he added. A summary of the cardinal's report was made available at the Vatican press office. Under synod rules the full text was not released. Cardinal Damieels urged a greater role for women "in the administration of the diocese." He also praised the "ir- replaceable role of women Religious in the church." According to one synod source, the cardinal also pro- posed investigating the possibility of ordaining women as permanent deacons. The cardinal also asked "for clarification of the relation- ship" between the older Catholic lay groups, many of which stress social action, and the post-Vatican II movements which stress spiritual renewal. CaMxta Belomo Essana, an official of the Cameroon Na- tional Association for UNESCO, asked the church for better understanding of the pro- blears women face and better pastoral programs to help .women.