Vatican II: A Walk-Through - The Sacraments and Sacramentals
Among the changes which have been introduced into the rites for the administration of
sacraments, the following points should be noted.
- The rites themselves are to be modified and adapted to the needs of modern times,
so that the true meaning of sacramental signs may be readily grasped.
- The vernacular may be used
- throughout the rites of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance,
the Anointing of the Sick, and Matrimony; and in the distribution of Holy Communion;
- in conferring Holy Orders, for the allocution, or opening address, for the "admonitions"
to those receiving Orders, and for the ritual "interrogation" of a priest who is about to receive consecration as a bishop;
- in funeral ceremonies, and in all blessings known as "sacramentals."
- The ancient ritual for adults who are receiving instruction in the Catholic faith was called
the "catechumenate." This ritual is to be brought into use once more, and will extend through
several distinct stages, with an interval of time between each stage. In missionary regions
some features of local "initiation rites" may be introduced, provided that they can be
adapted to Christian principles.
- The rite of infant baptism is to be altered, to express the fact that an infant is receiving the sacrament, and to emphasize the duties of parents and godparents.
- Confirmation should be administered within the Mass, following the Gospel and sermon.
Those to be confirmed should renew the promises made at baptism.
- The rite and formula for the Sacrament of Penance are to be altered, to give clearer
expression to the nature and effects of this sacrament.
- Similar revisions are to be made in the Sacrament of the "Anointing of the Sick." The
Council has ruled that this phrase should be used in preference to the former name,
"Extreme Unction." The prayers and the number of the annointings will be altered, to
correspond with the changing conditions of the sick person. In countries where provision
has not yet been made for a continuous rite for the Sacraments of he Sick (that is, when
the illness is such that the sick person is to receive the Last Blessing and Holy Viaticum)
instructions have now been given for the for the use of this continuous rite.
- The Sacrament of Matrimony is to be celebrated within Mass, unless there is a good
reason for the marriage to take place outside Mass. The Mass known as the "Nuptial Mass"
(Missa pro Sponsis) must be said, or at least commemorated. The homily, or address,
may never be omitted, and the Nuptial Blessing is always to be given, even during those
times when the solemnization of marriage has been excluded, and even if one or both of the
parties has already been married. A new rite has been introduced for the celebration of
Matrimony outside Mass. This rite consists of a short address, the reading of the Epistle
and Gospel (taken from the Missa pro Sponsis), a homily, the celebration of the marriage,
and the Nuptial Blessing. A hymn or other chant may be sung, and the "prayer of the faithful"
-- adapted to include prayers for the newly married couple -- may be said before the
Nuptial Blessing is given. These instructions concerning marriage have been made for
Catholic weddings; that is, when both parties are Catholics.
- In the past, the right to give many blessings had been reserved, in such a way that without
special authority a priest could not give these blessings, With some exceptions these blessings
may now be give by any priest. The exceptions are: the blessing of Stations of the Cross;
the blessing of a church bell of the foundation stone of a church; the blessing of a new
church or public oratory, or of a new cemetery. Papal blessings are still reserved.
Further instances of the adaptation and simplification desired by the Council are the
abbreviations in the elaborate ceremonial which, in the course of centuries, had been
built around the Cardinalate. While the number of cardinals has greatly increased, the
ceremonies have been shortened. The Pope no longer places the large red hat on the
head of a new cardinal; instead, the hat is delivered to his residence in Rome by a Vatican messenger. The ceremony, in which the Pope places the red biretta upon the cardinal's head,
has now been incorporated within one comprehensive ceremony, which is still called a
"public consistory," during which the Pope and the newly-created cardinals join together
to concelebrate Mass. Some simplification of the ecclesiastical dress of cardinals, bishops
and other prelates, as well as simplification of the ceremonies at which they pontificate, also indicates the manner in which the Church is anxious to adapt itself to present-day values.
Next: The Concelebration of Mass
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