9/9/07 – A New General Instruction of the Roman Missal

You may have heard over recent years of changes proposed to our celebration of the Mass. These result essentially from a revision of the Roman Missal. Eventually, this will mean that a new missal (which has already been released in Latin) will be translated into English, and put into use in Australia and elsewhere, replacing the last missal promulgated (officially approved and released) by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

The missal comes with instructions on how it is to be used. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) sets the guidelines for the celebration of Mass, the requirements for Mass, etc. This has also be revised in Latin, and other parts of the Church were instructed to translate it immediately and put it into use.

In recent months, the new GIRM for the Dioceses of Australia has been approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (the Vatican committee for the liturgy and sacraments). We are now waiting for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to set a date when this new instruction will come in to effect. It will result in a few small changes to the celebration of Mass; most of what we currently do will remain the same.

You might wonder why the Vatican would wish to make more revisions and changes to Mass. Our Church has always strived to celebrate its liturgy in the best possible way. The liturgy, after all, is supposed to be the source and summit of Christian life (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 10). Now that we have had time to evaluate the success of the liturgical reforms stemming from the Second Vatican Council, it is important to review how we celebrate Mass. The ultimate goal is that everybody can participate in a truly sacred encounter with God that speaks of the greatness of the Paschal Mystery – the mystery that is the death and resurrection of Christ.

The whole revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal is available on the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Website. Julie Kelly (Diocesan Officer for Liturgical Formation) has written an article of how the changes to the celebration of Mass will affect liturgical ministers and the whole assembly. You can read it in this month’s Catholic Outlook.

3 thoughts on “9/9/07 – A New General Instruction of the Roman Missal

  1. There is a practice in some American Roman Catholic Churches to greet your neighbor either just before Mass begins or just after the priest arrives on the alter. Is this practice in the GIRM? Is it condoned by the Church? By the way, approximately 20 minutes later we are greeting one another at the “Sign of Peace”.

    I will appreciate your swift response.
    Marilyn Schepansky


  2. Marilyn,

    Thank you for your comment. I can tell you that this practice does happen in some parishes in Australia as well as the United States. From my experience, the motivation is typically to instill in people a sense of unity and belonging to the Body of Christ which has gathered to worship, and build up a sense of community.

    As for your question, there is not any reference to this practice in the General Instruction. The primary ritual intended to gather the people together is the Entrance chant (or song), as indicated in no. 47 of the GIRM (US and Australian versions):

    “The purpose of this chant is to… foster the unity of those who have been gathered…”

    The only greeting which the GIRM anticipates and requires is the liturgical greeting made after the Sign of the Cross, as noted in no. 50:

    “Then he signifies the presence of the Lord to the community gathered there by means of the Greeting. By this Greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest.”

    The GIRM does not set requirements for what happens outside Mass, so it does not permit or prohibit any practices before Mass. Having said that, there is an expectation that what occurs before Mass helps prepare the assembly in heart and mind for the impending celebration.

    It may also be of interest to you that the placement of the Sign of Peace in the Mass is a topic that is currently under consideration. It would be interesting to see if some parishes’ practices would change if the Sign of Peace were brought forward to after the Prayer of the Faithful, for example (which appears to be the most favoured alternative).

    Personally, I appreciate the desire of the communities where this occurs to build community spirit. I wonder, however, if the perceived need to include such an additional ritual is an indication of a lack of true hospitality occurring as people approach and enter the church before Mass. Perhaps a community welcoming each other like this is a greater challenge, especially as people want to move into the church quickly to escape the elements, spend some time praying before Mass (which they’re fully entitled, to do, I might add), or to make sure they get their seat (yes, every parish has those people).

    Thank you again for your question. I hope this has helped.


    Robert Barden
    Liturgy Coordinator


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s