Recently Bishop Foys of the Diocese of Covington–whose cathedral is located just two or three miles, as the crow flies, from the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati–made waves in the Catholic blogosphere (see here, here, and here, for starters) when he issued his November 18, 2011 decree on the liturgy.

Somehow I missed news about the bishop’s decree at the time it was issued.  What an oversight!

Bishop Foys’ decree is stunning–in the very best sense of the word.

The gist of the bishop’s message is conveyed in the following two statements:

. . . [N]o other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

. . .

The gestures for the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful be strictly carried out in accord with the rubrics of the Roman Missal, for “the gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, to making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts, and to fostering the participation of all.

He goes on to explain that “the text of the Roman Missal [should] be used exactly as it is written;” that “[t]he music used in the Sacred Liturgy [should] be theologically sound and properly composed in accord with the teaching of the Church on Sacred Music;” that priests, deacons, and lay faithful should follow the rubrics set forth in the Roman Missal, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and Redemptionis Sacramentum; that the lay faithful are to kneel–not stand–during the Eucharistic Prayer; and that “Sacred Silence” should be observed during the Mass.  He also recommends that choirs and musicians use choir lofts when they are available, as “[t]he sanctuary is reserved for the Priest Celebrant, concelebrants, the Deacon and the other ministers who serve at the Altar.”

All of these instructions are quite welcome–and more than overdue in many parishes, at least in the Archdiocese.  Bishop Foys deserves high praise.

But Bishop Foys goes a step further and even touches the third rail of liturgical discussions:  hand-holding during the Lord’s Prayer:

Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.

Be still, my heart.  Has any American bishop previously publicly spoken out against the liturgical silliness of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer?  I don’t know, but I am certain that the Bishop’s decree on this point is an act of bravery, given the entrenched nature of this practice.

Do yourself a favor and read the entirety of His Excellency’s decree.  It deserves “copy and paste” treatment in every chancery in the country…and across the river.

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