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'Blessed be the name of Jesus' - How the Divine Praises were added to the rite of benediction

Pope Francis offers Eucharistic benediction March 27, 2020, at St. Peter’s Basilica. Credit: Vatican Media/public domain.

During their November assembly, the U.S. bishops’ conference voted to approve a new translation of “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Outside Mass.”

The liturgical text includes the rite for Eucharistic exposition and benediction — and the U.S. bishops voted to include in their translation elements of that rite which are customary in the United States, but not included in the Vatican’s official liturgical text.

Fr. Dustin Dought, associate director of the USCCB’s secretariat for divine worship, spoke with The Pillar Dec. 16, to explain those changes.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Father, to begin, can you explain what the text contains? What is “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Outside Mass?”

The text is a ritual book, and the rites contained in this book are:

First, “Holy Communion outside of Mass” — basically a Communion service in a church building. That’s usually when you see that rite, when a Mass would have been scheduled to take place, for example, but for whatever reason it cannot take place.

Next, the book contain the rites for the administration of Communion and viaticum, but for an extraordinary ministry of Holy Communion. A priest or a deacon would would use “Pastoral Care of the Sick,” but an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion would use this book.

Finally, worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass, when it comes to adoration and benediction, and also Eucharistic processions and Eucharistic congresses.

So there basically three chapters:

  • a Communion service, that is, Holy communion outside of Mass.
  • distributing Communion, and viaticum to the sick by an extraordinary minister.
  • And then Eucharistic adoration, Eucharistic processions, Eucharistic congresses.

And what did the vote in November mean? What happens next for the text?

So when the bishops approve a text, its final preparations happen here at the [USCCB] secretariat [for divine worship], and then the text is sent to Rome.

We need to prepare a manuscript that includes the modifications and amendments that the bishops made in November. And there are a handful of other documents that go with that manuscript to the [Vatican] Congregation for Divine Worship. That process, I would say, takes a month or two.

And then we send it to the Congregation. Their review, I think, takes between one year and one year and a half. When we receive that text back, we prepare a final text, and are in conversation with publishers or reviewing their manuscripts as they are prepared.

And usually at that same time, a “first use” date is determined by the bishops’ conference, and then a “must use” date is determined by the bishops’ conference.

And so my guess would be sometime in the spring of 2023 that this would be actually in use.

I presume it’s coincidental that this text will be coming out amid the USCCB’s Eucharistic Revival.

Does that provide an opportunity for presbyteral days of continuing education or formation on exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, or parish Eucharistic processions, or other things which might encourage Eucharist devotion? Is there anything to the effect in the works already?

I think it’s really Providence that things happened this way. And I think it would be foolish not to avail ourselves of this happy juxtaposition.

I think this new liturgical book will likely publish when the Eucharistic Revival has been underway for about a year, and so maybe it will be, in a certain sense, sort of the time for “second jump” in the triple-jump of the Eucharistic Revival’s three-year plan. We’ll start, and then maybe we’ll have an extra jump as this new ritual book comes out.

With regard to the modifications and amendments that you mentioned, it seems like the bishops have added the Divine Praises, and the “Tantum Ergo” and “O Salutaris Hostia” to the Rite of Exposition and Benediction.

Is that correct?

Yes. So the typical edition of “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Outside of Mass”  is bare in certain ways that provide for adaptation in different regions of the world.

[Ed. note: “typical edition” or “editio typica” denotes the official text of a rite promulgated by the Holy See for universal use in the Church.]

So there are certain rituals in the Roman Catholic Church, which admit of more or less local variety, and this would be one of those rituals that does that. And so if you were to look in the introduction of the book, in the praenotanda, it says that the conference of bishops considers which elements from popular traditions to retain or admit.

And so when you look at other translations of this book that have been approved by the Holy See —  when you look at, say, the book for use in the dioceses of France, or in the dioceses of Italy or Mexico, or England and Wales —  each of those books include some of these popular traditions.

Each of those books includes the Divine Praises in the language of the conference in those various places. So the Italian pattern and the Mexican pattern looked very similar to the pattern that we proposed, and that the bishops approved.

For those other conferences, their pattern looks different. Which is just all to say that the Holy Sea establishes a kind of a principle which can welcome popular traditions. If those can be, if those are coherent, if those are in harmony with the ritual itself.

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Does the Congregation for Divine Worship need to approve the additions the bishops have made— the Divine Praises, the “Tantum Ergo” and “O Salutaris Hostia” — in the places where the bishops have added them to the Rite of Exposition and Benediction?

They do, yes.

Is there any question that the Congregation might not approve them?

I don’t think so. The pattern that we’ve proposed mimics the pattern of the Italian and Mexican bishops’ conferences. And those books were approved some years ago. There is always the possibility that something has changed in the mind of the Congregation, but I don’t expect so.

The bishops have added to the Rite of Exposition and Benediction these elements which are commonplace in the liturgy in the United States. On a theological level, is that what we mean when we talk about the enculturation of liturgy?

I think so, yes. It’s one way that enculturation takes place. There’s a common pattern, I think, in my personal experience and in the experience of the bishops of the USCCB’s divine worship committee, in the dioceses of the United States.

And that pattern may not be found in the same way in these other dioceses of the world. And so, right. I think really what it's saying is that this is the experience of people in the dioceses of the United States.

And we want to sort of get this custom into some shape, so that when folks go from parish to parish or from diocese to diocese, there’s not a radical pendulum swing back and forth between different translations of the Divine Praises, or different translations of the versical, with no normative English translation for the hymns at exposition and benediction.

So I think it really just provides a way for folks in the dioceses of the United States to worship in common, so that there would not be a really radical difference between different places.

So would these translations become effectively normative for exposition and benediction? Do they have to be used?

We preserve the option of the typical edition — we preserve its sparseness, with the text saying that “in accordance with local custom, the following or another local hymn may be sung….”

Or, for the Divine Praises, “in accordance with local custom, the following acclamations may be sung or said in unison after the blessing with the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

So the addition is proposing a pattern, but nevertheless preserving the freedom that a Latin typical edition gives to communities.

One thing that you’ve done is to translate the “O Salutaris Hostia” and the “Tantum Ergo.” Does that imply that those hymns should not be sung in Latin, which is customary in a lot of places? Is there an expressed preference for singing them in English?

There’s an option for both. The text doesn’t specify singing them in one language or another. But the translations of those hymns come from a text that’s already been approved by the Holy See — “Hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours.”

Take the “Tantum Ergo,” for example, the text is consistent from parish to parish when it’s sung in the Latin — obviously — but in the English it’s pretty variable. So this is a way to help foster unity in prayer.

I was a pastor before I worked at the USCCB, and I’ve always just used whatever translation was in the missalette at the parish where I was helping. So it’s been as if when you move from parish to parish, one one of the things you’ve had to learn is a new English translation of the “Tantum Ergo” and the “O Salutaris.”

Father, can you explain how the “Divine Praises” became customarily affiliated with Eucharistic benediction?

It was the late 18th century — 1797 — that the Divine Praises were composed in Italian, by Fr. Luigi Felici, SJ.

And they were sort of welcomed initially into the context of adoration, and the Holy See soon gave an initial sort of approbation to that.

And then popes began to add acclamations, via the Acta apostolica sedis. They would issue decrees — and so the latest of those was added by Pope St. Paul VI in the midst of the Second Vatican Council, in 1964 — and that was “Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.”

St. Joseph was added by Benedict XV in 1921. The Assumption was added Pius XII in 1952. And “Blessed be His Most Precious Blood,” was added by Pope St. John XXIII in 1960.

So the Holy See has had custody of these acclamations for two centuries, really. And they’ve become customary to pray during benediction in some places, like they have here in the United States.

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