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Making Rubrical Choices  
Rita Ferrone  

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?

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Rita Ferrone
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.
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