Liturgy Corner

The purpose of the Liturgy Corner is to provide education to parishioners about liturgy in brief and easy-to-understand articles, while encouraging people to be critical and think more carefully about the issues surrounding the celebration of the liturgy. Liturgy Corner articles are primarily written by Father Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, Missouri. Fr. Paul holds a doctorate in sacramental theology from Sant’ Anselmo University in Rome. Other articles will be written by numerous liturgists and priests from around the United States, and even some within the Diocese of Orlando.

El propósito de la Esquina Litúrgica es proporcionar educación a los feligreses sobre la liturgia en artículos breves y fáciles de entender, a la misma vez anima a la gente a ser críticos y pensar con más cuidado sobre los temas relacionados con la celebración de la liturgia. Los artículos de la Esquina Litúrgica están escritos por el Padre Paul Turner, pastor de la parroquia St. Munchin en Cameron, Missouri. El P. Paul tiene un doctorado en teología sacramental de la Universidad Sant 'Anselmo en Roma. Otros artículos serán escritos por numerosos liturgistas y sacerdotes de todo los Estados Unidos, e incluso algunos dentro de la Diócesis de Orlando.

Hands at the Our Father

09-24-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

At Mass in some parishes, people hold hands while they pray the Lord's Prayer and raise them while proclaiming "for the kingdom." The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) is silent on this point, so there is no official universal legislation on the custom. Decisions about this gesture are made locally.

The origins of this custom are not clear. There is little evidence for it prior to Vatican II. It may have developed during the 1960s when we struggled to overcome racism and strengthen unity. The Lord's Prayer seemed an appropriate time to join hands because it is one of the few texts prayed aloud by everyone at Mass in the first person plural. The Eucharistic prayer is in the first person plural, but the priest recites it alone. "Lord, I am not worthy" is prayed by everyone, but in the first person singular.


Bringing Up the Gifts

09-10-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the bread, wine, and offerings for the church and the poor are brought to the altar. Sometimes the bread and wine are placed on the credence table before Mass. In this case, a minister brings them to the altar at the preparation of the gifts. More commonly the bread and wine are placed near the door of the church before Mass. They may be brought up in procession to the altar. The procession should include just these primary symbols.

Gifts are brought up in procession by “the faithful,” who hand them to the priest or deacon (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 73). After handing them over, some people make the sign of the cross, genuflect, bow, or do none of the above. The GIRM gives no instructions about what to do. It would be most appropriate if those who bring up the gifts made a profound bow to the altar just before returning to their places.


Offetory Chants

09-03-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

The offertory chant is sung at Mass while the gifts of bread and wine are brought to the altar. In parishes it sometimes has another name; it may be called the offertory hymn or the song during the preparation of the gifts. After the prayer of the faithful, as everyone sits, the offertory chant begins, and it continues at least until the gifts are placed on the altar. The music accompanies the ritual action of preparing the gifts. It differs from like the responsorial psalm or the "Holy, Holy," which demand full attention and accompany nothing else.


The Book of the Gospels

08-27-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

The book of the Gospels is a collection of Gospel passages proclaimed at Mass. It is an excerpt of the lectionary, usually containing the Gospels for Sundays and solemnities, and decorated with dignity. It does not contain the entire text of all four Gospels. The words of Jesus are highly esteemed by Christians, so the Book of the Gospels receives more respect than other volumes of the lectionary.

It is not required to use the Book of the Gospels at Mass, but it is recommended. This book – not the lectionary – may be carried in the entrance procession by a deacon, or by a lector when there is no deacon. The minister walks with the book slightly elevated and places it on the altar, which represents Christ, the living stone (1 Pt 2:4). This placement unifies two primary symbols for Christ: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


Liturgy of the Word

08-20-2017Liturgy CornerBruce Croteau

The Liturgy of the Word begins immediately following the Collect prayer at the end of the Introductory Rites. It is comprised of: First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Gospel, Homily, Profession of Faith, and the Universal Prayer (Prayer of the Faithful). Proclamation of the Word of God is a dialogue with God. We hear the words of salvation history both from the Old and New Testament—words that tell the story of God’s participation in His own creation—words that have established the covenant relationship between God and His people.


Incensing the People

08-13-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

A minister may swing incense toward the people at one point of the Mass. Incense may be used at any Mass, customarily for occasions of some importance. During the Mass, incense may accompany the entrance, the Gospel, the preparation of the gifts, and the elevations. The incensing of the people may happen during the preparation of the gifts.

After the priest has set the bread and wine on the altar and before he washes his hands, a minister hands him the boat (the vessel containing grains of incense.) The minister lifts the top of the thurible (the censer), and the priest spoons incense on top of the hot coals. The priest incenses the bread and wine, the cross, and the altar. Then the minister takes the thurible from the priest and swings it toward him. As the priest washes his hands, the minister incenses the people.


Recorded Music

08-06-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

Music at Catholic worship is meant to be live. Recorded music is inappropriatebecause it obstructs the active participation of the faithful. In 1958, theCongregation of Rites excluded from worship musical instruments “operatedmechanically or automatically.” It absolutely forbade recorded music “toreplace or support the singing at a liturgy” (Instruction 60, 71). Decades later,this instruction has been largely ignored, especially its injunctions againstelectronic organs and mechanical church bells.


Altar Clothes

07-30-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

The altar used for Mass is covered with a cloth. At home and in restaurants, we often cover our tables, especially for a banquet or meal of some importance. Similarly, the altar is covered because of “the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered” ( General Instruction of the Roman Missal 304).

But the altar is covered for another reason: “out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord.” We dignify the altar where we will solemnly remember the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.



07-23-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

The letters IHS sometimes appear among the symbols adorning church furnishings. They draw the believer’s attention to Christ and his cross. The letters have two meanings, one in Latin and the other in Greek.

According to one early biography of Constantine, the emperor was praying to the false god of his family before an important battle in Rome. He saw a vision: a cross before the sun with the words, “in this sign, conquer.” Constantine ordered the shields of his warriors painted with the cross of Christ. He won the battle and became a Christian. The cross of Christ, to which Constantine attributed his military victory, is the emblem of victory over death for every Christian. The first three of the words in the emperor’s vision are rendered in Latin as “In hoc signo.” The first letter of each produced the monogram IHS, a symbol still used to proclaim the power of the cross of Christ.

The Greek and Latin alphabets are different. The capital letters for I are identical. In English this letter may be rendered as an “I” or a “J”, depending on the context. The Latin letter shaped “H” is equivalent to the same English letter, but the Greek letter shaped “H” is equivalent to an E in Latin and English. The Greek letters IHS, then, are read “IES” in Latin or “JES” in English. They are the first three letters of the names of Jesus. These symbolic letters recall the conversion of the emperor who helped spread the Christian faith, as well as the very name of the Son of God.


Sunday Scriptures at Home

07-16-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

Many people find it helpful to pray over the Sunday Scripture readings at home before going to church. The practice puts them in touch with the church’s prayer, helps them listen as the readings are proclaimed at Mass, prepares them to hear the homily, engages them personally in the word of God.

The Sunday readings are available in many publications and online at To prepare the readings at home, get a copy of them or of just the citations and look them up in a Bible. Note: Weekly readings are found on the last full page of the bulletin each week.

Create some time and space for this prayer. If you do it alone, remove yourself from other activities. Choose a place where you can center yourself. Open the Scriptures and read over them. God’s word is able to go as deep inside you as you give it time and room. When you get to church, don’t read along while the readings are proclaimed. Lift your head and open your ears and heart to the word of God.


Church Exterior

07-03-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

On the outside, Catholic church buildings look different from one another, but they have many common features. There are no rules governing the exterior appearance of churches. Some look as plain as a storefront. Others look as breath-taking as a cathedral. The appearance of a church exterior depends on the function of spaces inside, the demands of architecture, and the search for beauty.

As the art of stained glass developed, it became popular with churches. Images depicted in windows taught people about their religion. The colors made a church interior look beautiful on a sunny day. The overall effect created a sense of awe conducive to prayer.



07-02-2017Liturgy CornerFr. Paul Turner © 2001 Resource Publications, Inc.

Many churches display the papal and national flags. This optional custom began fairly recently in church history. During periods of national crisis, it became popular to post a country's flag inside its churches. When the periods of crisis waned, the flags remained. It probably seemed unpatriotic to remove them.

The papal flag commonly took up a position next to the national flag. It carries the pope's coat of arms, a triple tiara and crossed keys, symbolizing his ministry as ruler and successor to Peter, the apostle to whom Jesus entrusted the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The two flags often adorned a church's sanctuary. However, since the Second Vatican Council's appeal for simplicity in the liturgy, the sanctuary has become more reserved for those features necessary for the celebration of Mass. The removal of flags from the sanctuary does not promote disloyalty to church or state, but may assist the prayer of those gathered for the Eucharist by keeping their attention fixed on its central symbols: altar, ambo and chair, bread and wine.

Note: At St. Francis, the national and papal flags are in the Narthex on either side of the St. Francis of Assisi stained glass window.