Common Liturgical Practice 

Archdiocese of St. John's 


The English language translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal became effective in Canada on the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011.

As chief shepherd and liturgist, I recognize and hope that a common liturgical practice across the entire Archdiocese will serve the common spiritual good of the people of God here, especially in light of the fact that many people travel frequently from one parish to another to visit family, to avail of medical treatment, while in school, and for many other reasons.

The Genera/Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) provides guidelines and regulations for how the Mass is celebrated. In this document, the bishop is described as "moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole of liturgical life" of a diocese (GIRM, #22). Through my study of the GIRM, in consultation and collaboration with the members of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, it has become apparent that I should offer some more specific guidelines, knowing and caring for the people of this particular corner of God's vineyard as I do. It is my hope that the guidelines contained in this current letter will foster unity in the liturgical celebrations in and across our parishes.

It is my intent, hope and directive that the provisions of the GIRM will be implemented by all people involved in pastoral ministry today. The more specific guidelines presented in this letter will provide guidance in particular areas of liturgical practice.


1. Music & Singing

The GIRM calls and challenges all the faithful to view singing as a fundamental dimension of all celebrations, and to ensure that music is well integrated into the overall celebration. As well, the Second Vatican Council emphasized the close connection between liturgical music and the liturgical action (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #112). Following this teaching, the GIRM highlights that all members of the Assembly are in fact ministers of music, although there are, of course, specific roles for the ordained,the choir and the cantor (GIRM, #40, #103).

I ask all people in the Archdiocese of St. John's to follow the principles of liturgical music as they are presented in the Companion to the Catholic Book of Worship Ill-Guidelines for Liturgical Music (CCCB, 2006). In Canada, in addition to the Latin chant setting, three musical settings for the Eucharistic Acclamations have been commissioned, and I have asked that each parish will learn and use Mass Setting "A" from Celebrate in Song (by composer Geoffrey Angeles) for the first year.

2. Posture

The GIRM reminds us of the importance of a common posture as a way to foster unity within the Christian community (GIRM, #42). For the sake of clarification:

  • During the Preparation of the Gifts, all are seated
  • All stand for the Invitation to the Prayer over the Gifts, when the presider says, "Pray, my brothers and sisters..." (GIRM, #146)
  • All remain standing until the Holy, Holy. After the Holy, Holy, all kneel, and remain kneeling until the presider calls us to proclaim "The Mystery of Faith"
  • All stand again after the Mystery of Faith, and remain standing until the end of the Communion Rite

(GIRM #44). Traditionally, the common posture for Christian prayer in the Early Church was standing. Standing was seen as a sign of respect, honour and Easter joy. In those churches which do not have kneelers at the moment, parishioners stand during the entire Eucharistic Prayer, and make a profound bow at the consecration, when the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine are raised.

3. Introductory Rites

The GIRM, #46, reminds us that the usual Introductory Rites of the Mass are omitted when some celebrations are combined with the Mass, for example, Funerals and Baptisms.

4. Procession With the Gifts

The procession with the Gifts is to proceed directly to the altar where the presider, with the assistance of a deacon (if one is present), receives the gifts. It is the presider who places the bread and the wine on the altar, with the appropriate prayer (GIRM, #73 and #75).

5. Reception of Hosts Consecrated at Mass

In light of GIRM, #85, we remind all that the faithful are to receive the Lord's Body from hosts consecrated at that celebration. I ask parishes to make practical arrangements so that this ideal can be achieved.

6. Communion Under Both Kinds 

To highlight the sign value of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, the GIRM clearly encourages the reception of Communion under both forms by all the faithful. In light of the permission given to diocesan bishops in GIRM #283, I invite pastors to offer Communion under both forms whenever it may seem appropriate, and I encourage each pastor to provide or foster proper pastoral formation for this (GIRM, #282).

7. Sign of Reverence at Communion

As a sign of reverence, people are invited to make a simple bow of the head before receiving Communion (GIRM, #160).

8. Extraordinary Ministers of Communion

Extraordinary Ministers of Communion are to enter the sanctuary during the Sign of Peace. They approach the altar after the priest has received Communion. Then, the priest will serve them, and give them the vessel containing the consecrated bread or consecrated wine to share with others. (GIRM #162)

It is my hope that sharing these guidelines will contribute to celebrations that foster and nourish the faith of people in the Archdiocese of St. John's. May this time of implementation of the revised Roman Missal be a time of renewal and growth, hope and vigour for the Church and for each parish community that gathers at the Table of the Lord.


Archbishop of St. John's

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Pastoral Centre

200 Military Road

St. John’s, NL A1C 2E8

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