Bishop's Blog / Constitution on the Liturgy- Chapter III

By Joseph Strickland
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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59. The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of
Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also
instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also
nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of
faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of
celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in
a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.

It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily
understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those
sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.

60. Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred
signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments: they signify effects,
particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church's
intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the
sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.

61. Thus, for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the
sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they
are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal
mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which
all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is hardly any proper use
of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of
men and the praise of God.

62. With the passage of time, however, there have crept into the rites of the
sacraments and sacramentals certain features which have rendered their nature
and purpose far from clear to the people of today; hence some changes have
become necessary to adapt them to the needs of our own times. For this reason
the sacred Council decrees as follows concerning their revision.

63. Because of the use of the mother tongue in the administration of the
sacraments and sacramentals can often be of considerable help to the people,
this use is to be extended according to the following norms:

a) The vernacular language may be used in administering the sacraments and
sacramentals, according to the norm of Art. 36.

b) In harmony with the new edition of the Roman Ritual, particular rituals shall
be prepared without delay by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority
mentioned in Art. 22, 2, of this Constitution. These rituals, which are to be
adapted, also as regards the language employed, to the needs of the different
regions, are to be reviewed by the Apostolic See and then introduced into the
regions for which they have been prepared. But in drawing up these rituals or
particular collections of rites, the instructions prefixed to the individual
rites the Roman Ritual, whether they be pastoral and rubrical or whether they
have special social import, shall not be omitted.

64. The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be
restored and to be taken into use at the discretion of the local ordinary. By
this, means the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of
suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at
successive intervals of time.

65. In mission lands it is found that some of the peoples already make use of
initiation rites. Elements from these, when capable of being adapted to
Christian ritual, may be admitted along with those already found in Christian
tradition, according to the norm laid down in Art. 37-40, of this Constitution.

66. Both the rites for the baptism of adults are to be revised: not only the
simpler rite, but also the more solemn one, which must take into account the
restored catechumenate. A special Mass "for the conferring of baptism" is to be
inserted into the Roman Missal.

67. The rite for the baptism of infants is to be revised, and it should be
adapted to the circumstance that those to be baptized are, in fact, infants. The
roles of parents and godparents, and also their duties, should be brought out
more clearly in the rite itself.

68. The baptismal rite should contain variants, to be used at the discretion of
the local ordinary, for occasions when a very large number are to be baptized
together. Moreover, a shorter rite is to be drawn up, especially for mission
lands, to be used by catechists, but also by the faithful in general when there
is danger of death, and neither priest nor deacon is available.

69. In place of the rite called the "Order of supplying what was omitted in the
baptism of an infant," a new rite is to be drawn up. This should manifest more
fittingly and clearly that the infant, baptized by the short rite, has already
been received into the Church.

And a new rite is to be drawn up for converts who have already been validly
baptized; it should indicate that they are now admitted to communion with the

70. Except during Eastertide, baptismal water may be blessed within the rite of
baptism itself by an approved shorter formula.

71. The rite of confirmation is to be revised and the intimate connection which
this sacrament has with the whole of Christian initiation is to be more clearly
set forth; for this reason it is fitting for candidates to renew their baptismal
promises just before they are confirmed.

Confirmation may be given within the Mass when convenient; when it is given
outside the Mass, the rite that is used should be introduced by a formula to be
drawn up for this purpose.

72. The rite and formulas for the sacrament of penance are to be revised so that
they more clearly express both the nature and effect of the sacrament.

73. "Extreme unction," which may also and more fittingly be called "anointing of
the sick," is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death.
Hence, as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from
sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has
certainly already arrived.

74. In addition to the separate rites for anointing of the sick and for
viaticum, a continuous rite shall be prepared according to which the sick man is
anointed after he has made his confession and before he receives viaticum.

75. The number of the anointings is to be adapted to the occasion, and the
prayers which belong to the rite of anointing are to be revised so as to
correspond with the varying conditions of the sick who receive the sacrament.

76. Both the ceremonies and texts of the ordination rites are to be revised. The
address given by the bishop at the beginning of each ordination or consecration
may be in the mother tongue.

When a bishop is consecrated, the laying of hands may be done by all the bishops

77. The marriage rite now found in the Roman Ritual is to be revised and
enriched in such a way that the grace of the sacrament is more clearly signified
and the duties of the spouses are taught.

"If any regions are wont to use other praiseworthy customs and ceremonies when
celebrating the sacrament of matrimony, the sacred Synod earnestly desires that
these by all means be retained" [41].

Moreover the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art.
22, 52, of this Constitution is free to draw up its own rite suited to the
usages of place and people, according to the provision of Art. 63. But the rite
must always conform to the law that the priest assisting at the marriage must
ask for and obtain the consent of the contracting parties.

78. Matrimony is normally to be celebrated within the Mass, after the reading of
the gospel and the homily, and before "the prayer of the faithful." The prayer
for the bride, duly amended to remind both spouses of their equal obligation to
remain faithful to each other, may be said in the mother tongue.

But if the sacrament of matrimony is celebrated apart from Mass, the epistle and
gospel from the nuptial Mass are to be read at the beginning of the rite, and
the blessing should always be given to the spouses.

79. The sacramentals are to undergo a revision which takes into account the
primary principle of enabling the faithful to participate intelligently,
actively, and easily; the circumstances of our own days must also be considered.
When rituals are revised, as laid down in Art. 63, new sacramentals may also be
added as the need for these becomes apparent.

Reserved blessings shall be very few; reservations shall be in favor of bishops
or ordinaries.

Let provision be made that some sacramentals, at least in special circumstances
and at the discretion of the ordinary, may be administered by qualified lay

80. The rite for the consecration of virgins at present found in the Roman
Pontifical is to be revised.

Moreover, a rite of religious profession and renewal of vows shall be drawn up
in order to achieve greater unity, sobriety, and dignity. Apart from exceptions
in particular law, this rite should be adopted by those who make their
profession or renewal of vows within the Mass.

Religious profession should preferably be made within the Mass.

81. The rite for the burial of the dead should express more clearly the paschal
character of Christian death, and should correspond more closely to the
circumstances and traditions found in various regions. This holds good also for
the liturgical color to be used.

82. The rite for the burial of infants is to be revised, and a special Mass for
the occasion should be provided.


This section begins by stating once again the significance of the sacraments for
every person.  They serve to sanctify us and draw us more deeply into the life
of The Lord.  The Constitution emphasizes that the "how" of the celebration goes
hand in hand in importance with the "what" of the sacraments.

Paragraph 62 speaks of the importance of updating the sacramentals so they are
more clearly understood.  In subsequent paragraphs the document emphasizes the
appropriate use of the vernacular for sacramentals as it has emphasized the use
of the vernacular for sacramental rites.

A very significant emphasis of the Constitution is addressed in paragraphs 64 to
69.  What has been commonly called the RCIA finds it's seminal form in these
paragraphs.  This renewed way of welcoming adults into the Roman Catholic Church
has had a significant impact on the life of the Church in East Texas.  Much has
been written through the years on the topic of Christian Initiation of adults
but it is always instructive to return to the basic message contained here.

The Constitution continues by calling for the renewal of all the sacraments. 
Notably "extreme unction" becomes "anointing of the sick" and is emphasized as a
 not only for those at the point of death but any "in danger of death".  At
times the bounds of this case ament have been stretched and it is helpful to
return to the Constitution as we seek to clarify what "danger of death" means in
the pastoral setting.

The final paragraphs of this section emphasize that sacramentals should be
accessible to the people and the appropriateness of celebrating the marriage and
religious profession within mass.  Many of these elements have been incorporated
into our basic understanding of the sacraments and sacramentals but it is always
helpful to refresh ourselves with new reflection on these basic texts.


Joseph Strickland

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was named the fourth bishop of Tyler in September of 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to being named bishop, he served a number of roles in the diocese, including vicar general, judicial vicar, and pastor of the Cathedral parish. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985.
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