The Church's liturgical books give directions about how to celebrate
the liturgy. Often they will prescribe what is to be done,
when, and by whom. In other cases, a choice is provided. The
liturgy renewed by the Second Vatican Council is particularly
rich with such possibilities. Preparing to celebrate the liturgy
means using these choices fully and intelligently.
There are three different types of choices in liturgical
books of the Roman rite: alternatives, options, and adaptations.
Alternatives exist when the ritual gives two or more choices.
One example would be the opening prayer at Mass, where two
alterntives are given. The celebrant is not free to omit the opening
prayer; he must choose one of them. Options, on the other
hand, indicate that something may be done, but doesn't have to
be done, such as the prayer of exorcism and pre-baptismal
anointing in infant Baptism. Adaptations result when the rite
says to do something, but it leaves it to you to decide what is
best in a given situation. Introductions to prayers and the texts
of intercessions are often adapted. It is understood that someone
will prepare appropriate words that take into account the
occasion and needs of those gathered. Certain choices are to be
made by the Conference of Bishops or the local bishop. Others
rest with the ministers of the celebration, such as the priest,
deacon, or musicians.
Pastoral sense is the key to making good liturgical
choices. Who is in the assembly? What will help everyone pray
more fully? What is the spirit of the celebration and how can it
be enhanced? Good judgment grows with practice. It is always
helpful to evaluate afterward. Did the choices truly enhance the
celebration? What can be done better next time?
© 2013 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications,
3949 South Racine Ave, Chicago IL 60609
holds a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University.
She is a team member for the North American Forum on the
Catechumenate and has served in parish, diocesan, and national
ministry for 23 years.