From a Special Correspondent
THE Sacrament of Baptsm and its social significance as " birth into the body parochial " were dealt with in papers read at the first American Liturgical Week held in Chicago.
Baptism is " a blessed event," agreed the speakers, for the whole family of God represented in a particular parish, and its administration should be given the solemnity that is its due. le could be made part of, or exclusively, the main Sunday afternoon service, the parish reciting in unison the Credo and Pater and renewing its Baptismal Vows at the same time. This is the custom as the result of episcopal prescription in the German diocese of Trier.
To quicken that " parish consciousness " that the administration of Raptism is so able to nourish, lecturers at Chicago suggested that the font might remain engarlanded with flowers throughout Easter week, after its. blessing on Holy Saturday. that it should
he similarly decorated on occasions when the Sacrament is administered, and that the privilege of so decorating it might be exclusively that of young ladies, so as to instil in them a proper veneration for the dignity and honour of Christian motherhood.
Holy Saturday would obviously be the idea/ day for the administration of Baptism, so much of the Liturgy of Lent leading up to it and suggesting a tremendous importance given in earlier days to a Sacrament which to all appearances has now lost in the. eyes or Catholics its social aspect.
" There is no point." said a Benedictine at Chicago, in denying that we are badly handicapped to-day in so far as the Holy Saturday service has beers transferred to the morning, where muds of its meaning as a night SEITiCe has been lost." The problem of "how to restore the Holy Saturday Liturgy 'with its emphasis on Baptism to prominence in fluspiritual life of the parish was too vast to discuss, hut one little thing could he done, namely, " if the faithful cannot conic to church on Holy Saturday. the renewal of Baptismal Vows might be made before each Mass at Easter."
This suggestion was followed by a Benedictine Abbot rising to say : " 1 would like to make a suggestion that was made at the General Chapter of the Benedictine Abbots in Rome a few years ago. It was put to us much its this way: should we petition Rome to have the Holy Saturday Mass (and ceremonies) as a midnight Mass at Easter, corresponding to Midnight Mass at Christmas, instead of in the morning, since few people attend? This would emphasise the meaning of the whole function, especially that of Baptism, and the joy of Easter at the Midnight Resurrection Mass."
The Sacrament el Conlirmation was similarly dealt with by other speakers, all agreeing that it is the SaCrament of Apostolate, and thus of Catholic Action, which has the parish for its nucleus, By Confirmation we become fit to be called to Catholic Action, participating as the Pope desires it in the apostolate of the Hierarchy. But it i5 the forgotten Sacrament, and, in the words of a priest, " the Holy Ghost is the forgotten God, if ever there was one."
We neglect the Church's official Novena to the Holy Ghost to be observed from Ascension to Pentecost, and we " balk " sermons dealing with the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. As a prelate once remarked (said the priest) on glancing through the pages of a book treating on this subject, " I never thought you could write so much on the Holy Ghost."
Sunday evening service, the laity and the Divine Office, and Devotions came in for a goad deal of attention at Chicago. Happily, there were signs that constructive ideas were not wanting amid the numerous criticisms. Much is due to Mgr. Hellreigel whose monthly articles, " Merely Suggesting '' in Orate Fratrers (where ideas are given for evening quasi-liturgical services with the sen(ire cum Ecclesia flavour in that they attempt to translate the Church year into practical terms for parochial life and worship) are stirring a good deal of interest.
LITURGY OF SUNDAY EVENINGS
A priest in the North of England once told me that enquiry among his people showed that " Sunday is not Sunday if you have just prayers and nothing solemn in the evening." The introduction of Vespers or Compline is fraught with difficulties, while the singing of the Magnificat with the in tensing of the altar, or the Salve Regina, or the Nitric Dirlitia5 alone and in Latin is looked upon in some quarters as an attempt to mutilate canonical serviees.
The difficulty in introducing something along lit urgical lines for Sunday evening service is further enhanced by a feeling of ilkloyalty, the abandoning of the recitation of the Rosary would imply. This devotion, after all, has the particular merit of being enriched with numerous indulgences.
" Zealots may say," remarked a speaker at Chicago, " that we must wage a war of extermination on popular devotions. But what are we going to put in their place?" Apathy in the attendance at Sunday evening service, liturgical or devotional, is characteristic of America, where in many churches Benediction is given after the last Mass on Sunday, no further service, save for Baptisms and Churchings, being held during the remainder of the day.
It was pointed out that from purely devotional servi.:es there have prung up in the Liturgy of the Church such cere. U
monies as those of Palm Sunday and the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday.
Some popular prayers and devotions, rather than being imbued with the ideal of sobriety, manliness, and with a sense of the majesty of God, that run through liturgical prayer. are slovenly, lacking in spirituality in their motive and language and suggesting a sort of "devotional chumminess " with Our Lord. This is bad enough, they said at Chicago. But the following, an attempt at " streamlining our modern religious tile," is only a step further. It will furnish some amusement, r think.
There is a " spiritual first-aid kit " going the rounds of Catholic America, and which contains a crucifix, statues, candles, etc. It quotes the things that will be given in a certaip Novena on the application of those who participate. " My petition " the leaflet is called, and on the other page of this paper is a little printed flap which can be detached and dropped in one of the boxes in the church.
In order to save us the trouble of writing out our intentions it has the check-off system: " Please place within shrine, altar, or cloister." First check oft : cure of sickness; second: safety on vacation; third: family happiness; fourth: better employment ; fifth ; peace. peace, peace: God's care of refugees . .