6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2007
One reviewer of Pope Benedict's new apostolic exhortation called it a "Eucharistic catechism," a description that fits perfectly.
The Holy Father first introduces readers to an explanation of the role of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. It is quite simply the "constitutive of the Church's being and activity."
He then addresses practical matters concerning worship and the sacraments. Catholics are urged to consider re-ordering the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist to be celebrated all at once in succession, so as to emphasize the proper place of the Blessed Sacrament in the life of the Christian and the Church. Priests are instructed to embrace a spirit of humility and not present themselves as the center of the liturgical action.
The importance of beauty and the liturgy, long a key theme for Benedict, is also stressed. "Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour."
The Sign of Peace is not a mini-happy hour and ought to be exchanged with restraint. I once watched a priest and deacon "high five" each other in the sanctuary, and there seems little doubt that is the sort of exaggerated behavior the Holy Father would have us avoid.
Pope Benedict explains that "active participation," a term used by liturgists to bring everything from campfire songs to bongos into the Mass, "does not refer to mere external action" but concerns a "greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated."
How should parish leaders foster the participation of worshippers? "The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself." In other words, the endless experimentation many people experience at Mass should end.
Relatedly, he also defends the use of sacred music from those who would inject popular music into the Mass. "Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided." Translation: Your rock band belongs in the undercroft, not the sanctuary.
Priests and the laity are urged to learn more Latin. "Similarly, the better-known prayers of the Church's tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung."
The document's much-discussed section on pro-abortion politicians is actually rather short. Pope Benedict lists the Church's "not negotiable" values in the public square -- the right to life, the defense of marriage, and the right to educate one's children -- and states that Catholic politicians are bound to defend them.
With "Sacramentum Caritatis," Pope Benedict's "reform of the reform" has begun, and he has wisely decided to make the education of his flock his first priority.