Response to Magister–updated 1/26

Yesterday I put up a post about the Neocatechumenal Way, which included a quote from Sandro Magister detailing some liturgical practices which he (and presumably others) have regarded as problematic.

Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue has written a response to Magister, and sent it to us. I consider it a “must-read” to help us have a better informed and more well-rounded discussion here at Pray Tell. Here’s a bit of it:

I have personally attended thousands of Eucharistic celebrations in Neocatechumenal communities in the United States, Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain, Estonia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Australia, Guam, Saipan, Taiwan and Israel.  All of these Eucharists have been in conformity with the relevant rubrics and used the approved liturgical books of the Roman Rite.

I find it hard to put up with the constant criticisms from Magister and the like who blend some plain untruth with half-truths taken out of context.

You can read the whole thing here.

Update: Here are some photographs of Neocatechumenal Way liturgies, also supplied by Fr. O’Donoghue.

April 3, 1997 Convivence with 253 Bishops of the Americas on the theme: “Evangelization and the Neocatechumenal Way.”
Pope John Paul II celebrating the Eucharist in December 1988 on the Feast of the Holy Family at the Neocatechumenal Center in Porto San Giorgio (Italy).


Then-Cardinal Ratzinger celebrates Mass during his visit to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome where he delivered a conference on Dominus Iesus on December 16, 2000






99 responses to “Response to Magister–updated 1/26”

  1. Emily Kloster Avatar
    Emily Kloster

    I would hope that even the members of the SSPX would hope that their Masses were “friendly, lively and enjoyable.”

    No, I think they would be infuriated at the very suggestion.

    1. Máté Skublics Avatar
      Máté Skublics

      Is that so, because you think they favor unfriendly, unlively and definitely not enjoyable liturgy? That sounds absurd to me.

  2. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Thanks, both to Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue for addressing this issue, and to Rita for posting his response.

    The pontificate of B16 may go down in history for its final approval of distinctive LOCAL liturgical variations: the EF, Anglican practices, and the Neo-Catechumenal Way.

    Liturgical variations have been the past of the Roman Rite, e.g. the regional variations and religious order variations before Trent and Vatican II. And linguistic, regional and national liturgical variations were foreseen after Vatican II.

    What is unusual and potentially contentious about these LOCAL variations is that they will likely exist in most places as minority (less than 1%) variations in the midst of parishes that are 99% OF. They are not regional variations, nor religious orders that you had to travel to find them. They will be something that other Catholics in your diocese, town or parish may be doing.

    There is plenty of sociological evidence that small, especially inward looking communities with unique features often raise suspicions in the larger community. And that smaller communities threatened with suspicion by the larger community often react defensively and offensively in ways that further raise tensions with the larger communities.

    In regard to the NCW, obviously B16 is aware of the problem, and stated the need for integrating the NCW with parish and diocesan life.

    The main issue I see is not the NCW liturgical practices. I suspect most priests could easily integrate those practices into parish life. And that many members of the parish might be willing to go both to a Saturday evening small group Mass as well as to a Sunday Morning parish Mass for a year or two or even three as part of intensifying their love of the liturgy and deepening their commitment to ministry in the parish and the world.

    However my impression is that NCW lasts many, many years and functions more like an association or religious order rather than a parish program.

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      Excellent points, Jack.

      Agree and will add some other comments:
      – unlike religious communities founded since the 16th century, this NCW (like the other B16/JPII initiatives) seem to follow a new path organized around catholic identity, their own special liturgy, etc. This is very different from the great religious communities that were focused on mission and external direction (not catholic identity per se)
      – notice that he does not mention Japan in his list of countries. Japan is where the conference of bishops asked Rome to cease and desist on supporting or granting NCW special permissions. Their experience was that this small group was disruptive; created polarizations in parishes and diocese; etc. This, in my opinion, is the real issue. B16 again ignores his bishops’ conferences and allows a group that (at best does good work but at worst mimics cultic and divisive behaviors).
      – age old question – does the NCW build up the church? Or does it interfere with our mission?
      – Wonder how NCW plays in the third world when bishops are trying to form communities and build parishes that may or may not be dominant NCW? Does NCW support or take away from larger efforts to build the church?
      – if their only distinction are their own changes/customizations of the liturgy, what is the purpose? Again, this is not based on cultures, societies, etc. – it is based on their own developed theology, ecclesiology, and expressed in their own liturgies?

    2. Brigid Rauch Avatar
      Brigid Rauch

      My concern with smaller communities within the larger community occurs only when the smaller communities attempt to impose themselves on the larger community and/or use stealth means to influence the larger community. For example, many parishes now have Eucharistic Adoration groups. That’s not of interest to me, but I have no problem with them in most cases. When the pastor stacked the Parish Council with those who were part of the Eucharistic Adoration group, then it became a concern. When a group within a parish begins a private letter campaign against a pastor, that’s a concern.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        That Saul Alinksy sure got around….

  3. Joe Polillio Avatar
    Joe Polillio

    I was close to leaving the Catholic Church because I did not feel that my family was loved by the pastor of my parish or my Church. Then God sent a priest to me where I had a direct experience of Christ’s love for me. This profound experience lead me to the Neocatechumenal Way. The Way helped me to be open to life. I have children that would not have existed (5 here and 5 in Heaven), were it not for The Way. My wife and I can honestly say that we would be divorced because of the stress of raising a child with profound Autism. Yet we attribute the Neocatechumenal Way with saving our marriage. My young children have developed a great love for the Pope and the Church, amazing in this day and age. I find it sad and unfortunate that with so many people leaving the Church, there are those who find it necessary to criticize a charism that is saving souls, fostering vocations, and healing families.

  4. Fr. James Starasinich Avatar
    Fr. James Starasinich

    I want to say thanks to Fr. O’Donoghue for his letter that underlines the importance of the Church seeking out the lost sheep through a wonderful itinerary of rediscovering, for many, the catholic faith, and for others, coming to know Jesus Christ for the first time through the Neocatechumenal Way. The “quick fix” mentality that permeates our society unfortunately enters the church at times and poses the risk of “making Christians” without adequate formation. The early church was not in a hurry to “make Christians” but sought that the Word of God and catechetical instruction form the catechumen over time. (This is precisely what the RCIA also seeks to do.) We are always praying that we do our best to form people of faith. I can say that there is great hope for the Church through the charisms that have been granted approval by the Holy See and that includes the Neocatechumenal Way.

  5. Donal Deasy Avatar
    Donal Deasy

    I totally agree with Fr. Neil O Donoghue about the liturgy of the Way. I have participated in almost every liturgy the Way has to offer over the past 27 years, in Ireland, Taiwan and now in Vancouver, Canada. These liturgies have been a huge gift for my life, for my marriage to Carmel, and for our seven children. These liturgies have allowed me to see the love of Jesus Christ concretely in my life. In particular I have benefitted from participation in the Penitential celebrations which allowed me to experience the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.I feel a great gratitude that the Church has reached out to me through the Way.This charism of the Church may not be for everybody, just as the Legion of Mary or Opus Dei, are not for everybody in the Church. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit works in diverse ways so that people in all kinds of situations can be reached.
    One final thought: it a source of wonder to me how the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are so faithfully put into practise in the Neo-Catechumenal Way, for example in the catechesis for the various stages. I have had the opportunity to study the documents and I have been amazed that the theory of Vatican 2 is what is pracised in the Way.

  6. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Many might find the following interesting from cardinalseansblog. At the top of the entry is some purely local information from his diocese, skip down to you come to the following”

    On Thursday night, I travelled to Rome for a few days. I was there primarily for meetings with the Congregation of the Bishops, and also to report on my visit to Cuba.

    On Saturday, I was invited to attend the final days of a gathering of seminarians from the Neocatechumenal Way in Porto San Giorgio, on the Italian region of Le Marche

    Father Antonio Medeiros, the rector of the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation in Boston, our Vocation Director Father Dan Hennessey, and Antonio Enrique, the editor of The Pilot, accompanied me during the trip.

    At this retreat, or “convivence” as they are called, prospective seminarians from Neocatechumenal communities from around the world gather and confirm their availability to enter one of the 76 Redemptoris Mater Seminaries around the world, including the one here in Boston.

    The men who enter Redemptoris Mater Seminaries receive a formation which is both diocesan and missionary.

    In many ways, it is not unlike the St. James Society, which was founded in Boston: diocesan priests who serve a time in the missions — some more, some less — but always remaining part of the diocese.

    Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernández and Father Mario Pezzi — who are the international team responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way — have always welcomed me very warmly. They were very supportive of my request to open a Redemptoris Mater House of Formation in Boston several years ago.

    After some intervening material he visits another seminary of the NCW.

    After visiting la Santa Casa we paid a visit to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Macerata, which is a few miles away from the basilica.

  7. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Again some more material from cardinalseansblog; you also have to skip down to find it

    On Wednesday evening, we had the admission to candidacy of Israel Rodriguez which was celebrated at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in East Boston.
    Israel is the first candidate to come out of the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation.

    We are very pleased. He is a talented and zealous seminarian, and we look forward to the day when he will be ordained a priest for Boston.

  8. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    And extensive and fine pictures from a Mass with Apostolic Delegate Sambi!i=1047923858&k=aqWqe

    Be sure to check out all three pages of this site, especially the liturgical dance on page 3, item #69

    Looks like these guys have more going for them than the New Liturgical Movement. They need to put all their pictures together on a website. I like modern art as well as the old fashioned stuff at NLM.

    1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
      Jack Rakosky

      In this website if you hover over the picture, a tab will emerge on the upper right that allows much larger views.

      It is interesting that there are 18 very large chalices on the front of the altar-table, especially large number and sizes in terms of the number of people in the room.

      Also on the sides of the altar-table are 12 plates containing hosts that are the same size as the one being elevated by the celebrant. Again a lot of bread for the size of the congregation.

      Is this all part of emphasizing the conviviality of a meal?

  9. Rita Ferrone Avatar
    Rita Ferrone

    Just a detail but, from these photos, I’m impressed with the altar breads!

    1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
      Jack Rakosky

      Yes, they look a lot like the one’s used in the local parish here which has the sung EP. The ones made locally do conform to the GIRM, as the NCW also claims of theirs. So there are alternatives to industrial production.

  10. carmel deasy Avatar
    carmel deasy

    Re comment #6

    Why would objectivity be a good compass in this matter?
    Is there such thing as an objective love for God who sends His Son into hell to save me from death?
    Or is there such thing as an objective gratitude towards God for giving me what I shouldn’t have, namely, a marriage in which I feel secure, even though my husband and I, rationally (or objectively) speaking, would have been counselled by our oh-so objective world that we were destroying each other, and that it would be in everybody’s best interests to separate? (We didn’t, we haven’t, and 27 years and 7 children later, we’re the ones who are laughing..with real gratitude and joy).
    Or is there an objective joy upon seeing our Mother Church being built up, one soul at a time, through realities like the NCW, Focolare, Opus Dei, etc., etc.

    Where in the gospels does the passing of Jesus Christ leave calm, objective people behind, analyzing whether or not He did good? Wasn’t it more a case of where there was a total abandonment to Him? A total love of Him, even to death,- which was of no consequence to these people, because He had defeated it?

    Pope John Paul II’s said to the people of Ireland in 1979:
    “You are called to love with a special intensity.”

    Intensity, love-when one has had this meeting with Jesus Christ, doesn’t one become different, doesn’t one become a witness, convinced of one thing and one thing only-the truth?

    The Church is my mother, and just as I try to do each day with our children-who are all very different!-she guides, corrects, and has the eyes and heart of mercy for us all.
    I trust the Church. The Church has sanctioned the Neo-Catechumenal Way. For me, the life that God has given me, peeling potatoes, doing laundry, and loving my husband and family is far, far too fantastic to be spent angsting about something that my Mother has taken care of for me already.

  11. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman

    Yes, the altar breads are quite signifi-cant.

    I see the guitars too. I sure hope that Kiko’s “Resucito” is not obligatory at every NCW Mass.

    1. Rita Ferrone Avatar
      Rita Ferrone


      “Cant” as in hypocrisy? I’m missing something here…

      1. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        Significant. Emphasis on the signifying.

  12. Kim Rodgers Avatar
    Kim Rodgers

    Looking at the photos,

    Oh, I can hear the rumblings now.
    What, a priest wearing only a stole at the altar, he’s supposed to wear a chasuble, fiddleback preferrably!
    What, flowers on the altar, rubrics say no flowers!
    What, homemade hosts, what’s in it? Possibly illicit!
    That Jewish menorah thing on the altar!
    Hosts too big, what about the crumbs, pieces of Jesus flying all over the place during the fraction rite. A proper host should be 4 inches, flat and white.
    A guitar!! We know that the organ has place of honor in the church.

    They need to be made to conform to the Reform of the Reform. Such dissent by not following those rubrics.
    Those masses w/ JPII and Cardinal Ratizinger are all invalid! 🙂

    1. Mary Burke Avatar
      Mary Burke

      +1, Kim.

    2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      re: Kim Rodgers on January 26, 2012 – 5:25 pm

      Your caricature of liturgically traditional Catholics smarts a bit. Still, it is completely warranted. Catholics from the liturgical right would blast away at the NCW Mass in the way you describe. Even now, I look at the photos of NCW Masses and feel an uneasiness about all the points you mention.

      At the beginning of this thread Jack Rakosky noted that minority liturgies in the Roman Rite (Anglican use, EF, NCW) tend to raise the suspicion of the OF majority and establish a feedback loop of suspicion. This EF Catholic does not want to see the 30+ years of recrimination between local bishops and semi-recusant Tridentines replayed in a battle between “mainstream” OF Catholics and the NCW.

      If the NCW wishes to hold Masses for its members only, even part of the time, then I hope that ordinaries would permit this. Is this not unlike the parishes some bishops have set aside for the exclusive use of EF Catholics? It is true that EF parishes generally welcome whomever walks in. This is not always the case with NCW liturgies. Still, a recognition of the NCW as a distinctive liturgy and culture will not necessarily threaten mainstream Catholicism. The post-Summorum Pontificum experience in many dioceses has shown that different liturgies can coexist in different places without ill-will.

    3. Henry Edwards Avatar
      Henry Edwards

      “Those masses w/ JPII and Cardinal Ratizinger are all invalid!”

      Sometimes even good men do bad things?

      1. Sean Parker Avatar
        Sean Parker

        Sometimes even good men do bad things?

        Yes. The new missal translation is one example.

  13. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman


    Jeffrey got my drift. I guess I was trying to be cute. I should know better; at 65, no one is cute.

    1. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

      Fr. Ron, I had a pun-intensive childhood. I’m naturally perceptive of this sort of thing.

  14. Mark Frazier Avatar
    Mark Frazier

    Places where there is need for a first proclamation of the Gospel; Bringing Christ to the people and bring people to Christ; First proclamation of the Gospel; despite having known Christ, have become indifferent to faith: secularism will eclipse the sense of God, and eclipsed Christian values; People who have moved away from the Church, or have not received adequate training… (from the address of his Holiness Benedict xvi to the communities of Neocatechumenal, Paul VI Hall, Friday, January 20, 2012).

    These comments made by our Pope strikes a cord with me. “Indifferent, secular, moved away from the Church” -the Pope is speaking about me, my life.

    I was an atheist, like my father and worked in a science field. I could have cared less about church or any of these arguments people are now raising following the Vatican’s approval of January 20, 2012.

    I am a convert to Catholicism at age 45 because the Neocatechumenal Way came to our parish. 14 years ago the Neocatechumenal Way spoke to me in a different way, unlike anything I heard before. Yes the liturgy is dynamic. That liturgy, in my experience, is not what Sandro Magister mistakenly describes.

    For me the Neocatechumenal Way, the liturgy, the gradually teaching /sharing of a small Christian community, has brought me to faith, to the church, my family together and to the Lord. So I attended the parish RCIA program and was baptized in 2000. Since then I traveled to four World Youth Days to see and hear both Popes in person.

    While discovering our faith thru the Neocatechumenal Way, my wife and I adopted a wonderful special needs boy from China four years ago.

    I need action not stagnation in my church. I need spiritual movement, teachings of faith, spiritual steps/scrutinies, morning prayer and lectoring at Sunday masses, all because of the Neocatechumenal Way and its liturgies.

  15. Jack Wayne Avatar
    Jack Wayne

    I would say they’re fine so long as they aren’t being irreverent or hurting anyone. If it is bringing people closer to Christ, then it is serving the Church’s mission.

    I can totally see the appeal of celebrating Mass in a small community. I’ve been invited to, and have attended, numerous house Masses celebrated according to the 1962 missal. While it was a little cramped (think 40 people in a living room), it was great for fellowship.

  16. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    I have close ties with the Charismatic Covenant Community in Augusta,Georgia. It is ecumenical but primarily Catholic and its spirituality is decidedly charismatic and ecumenical. The members of this community make a covenant with one another that is intended for a life-time and they live in close proximity to one another in a single neighborhood.
    As with most “new movements” such as the Neocathecumenal Way and others, this community is ultra-orthodox to Catholic teachings in the areas of faith and morals, pro-active in a conservative political way and profoundly religious and spiritual. This community has also provided a super-abundance of candidates for the priesthood and religious life (many of them from my former parish in Augusta).
    But where they might diverge in terms of traditional Catholicism is in their spirituality and their more liberal approach to liturgy. I’ve celebrated Mass for them where many charismatic elements have been present in the Liturgy including “prophetic messages” from some of the laity present and a time provided for it, the raising of hands and speaking and singing in tongues out loud.
    Thus the encouragement of communities that are faithful to the Magisterium of the Church in the areas of faith and morals (and willing to be prophetic to less enthused Catholics in these areas), but who might be more “progressive and experimental” with the Church’s liturgy and spirituality.” They provide a leaven for other Catholics in their cities. Certainly the Alleluia Community in Augusta does this there and to say the least. Thus you have Cardinal Ratzinger celebrating Mass for the Neocathecumenal movement as well as the EF Mass for those attached to it and provides an Anglican Use liturgy to disenfranchised Episcopalians. There is a common thread here–Catholics on fire and living their faith in the world (as Vatican II calls them to as as faithful Catholics) and being a prophetic leaven there–thus the Church’s strong endorsement of these movements–anyone remember Pope Benedict’s meeting with various movements in Rome at the beginning of his pontificate and the number of people there spilling out into the streets and all the way to the Tiber and the Holy Father being driven down to the Tiber to greet everyone?

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      Fr. Allan J. McDonald on January 27, 2012 – 4:29 am

      Fr. McDonald: I’ve celebrated Mass for them where many charismatic elements have been present in the Liturgy including “prophetic messages” from some of the laity present and a time provided for it, the raising of hands and speaking and singing in tongues out loud.

      My mother was involved with charismatic Catholics in our area for some time. On a few occasions I went to Mass with her. On occasion certain members of the congregation would have “prophetic messages”. While the messages were not unorthodox per se, many of the messages were little more than devotional cliches repeated over and over again. I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t think for a moment that these “prophesies” were in any way divinely inspired.

      I am convinced that preaching during the Mass should be limited to those who are licensed to do so (i.e. those in major orders). This is not just a matter of canon law. Clerical preachers also have a responsibility to preach the orthodox faith which lay people do not have. If charismatic Catholics wish to “prophesy”, or NCW members wish to have “responses”, these devotional services should be held outside of the Mass. In this way lay sharing is not confused with the clerical homiletic ministry.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        I shudder at my memory of charismatic worship. I had to restrain myself when the faux glossalia erupted (I was a guest).

  17. Nicholas Mitchell Avatar
    Nicholas Mitchell

    I have read in various sources that the NCW either a) rejects outright, or b)reinterprets in a significant way which diminishes, belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species as taught by the Church’s magisterium, and belief in the sacrificial nature of the Mass. Can anyone here speak to those allegations?

    I admit to being impressed by the openness to children which seems to be displayed by some NCW adherents. One is tempted to be cynical and ask “how Vatican II is that?” given that in my experience the spirit of Vatican II crowd are pro-family limitation and anti-Humanae Vitate and quite open about their use of contraceptives or sterilization. In my part of the world, virtually the only Catholics who have more than 3 children (2 is the norm) are the traditionalists, who by default are all SSPX! Mainstream Catholics never seem to have more than 4, and rarely more than 2 or 3, children, and many are very open about being on the Pill or having “taken care of things”. This is churchgoers! I have 4 children age 8 and younger and am sure I will have more, so I am readily impressed by large families!

    1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      Most of these movements are products of Vatican II’s call to the laity to be holy. They take Vatican II’s teachings on their role in the world (and not necessarily in just the elements of churchy institutionalism) very seriously. Thus their fidelity to the Magisterium in the areas of faith and morals including and very specifically Humanae Vitae and its inherent theology based upon natural law which reveals divine law. They are politically active and bring their orthodox faith home and to the public square–very Vatican II!
      But because these movements are new, being founded in the 1960’s and 70’s there have been many growing pains and this is certainly true of the charismatic covenant community in Augusta and they have been called to task in some areas of their communal life by the bishop and some of their local pastors.
      I think the Neocathecumenal Way would in no way reject orthodox Catholic teaching but as one can see from the photos above they may emphasize to a fault the horizontal and meal aspect of the Mass, what in fact Pope Benedict has often criticized (and obviously from experience) when these elements are to the neglect of the vertical and sacrificial aspects of the Mass, but it doesn’t have to be either/or but both/and. The main concern that many in the Church have with these movements is that they can become independent (and in fact are) of their local parishes and could easily become personal parishes unto themselves if allowed. The community in Augusta is not allowed to have their own Sunday Mass-they are integrated into their parishes on Sunday for that. This is not the case evidently with the NW who have their own Sunday Mass in a separate location. This would cause me some concern as a pastor if a large group was present in my parish.

    2. Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue Avatar
      Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue

      Nicholas, I’m afraid I see openness to life and the renewal of the liturgy in the post-Vatican II period as going hand in hand. Both were primary concerns for Paul VI, and are the two issues that many Catholics today vilify him for (rarely for both, the left does not like HV and the right does not like the Ordinary Form of the liturgy). However it is precisely for the openness to life and the teaching on Family Morality that is imparted by the Neocatechumenal communities that Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University on behalf of the John Paul II Institute bestowed an honorary Doctorate on Kiko Arguello, the initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way in 2009.

      1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

        Fr. Neil, my former parish in Augusta had a sister-parish relationship with Saints Peter and Paul in Tblisi, the Republic of Georgia where there was in the late 1990’s a rather significant number of people in the NW. This was the first time that I was exposed to it when I visited there and was shown the room where they celebrate Mass on Sunday which was decorated in the way shown in the pictures above. Are you familiar with this community and the very fine people there? Pope John Paul II visited this parish during his visit to Tblisi. A Polish priest was the pastor there, Fr. Adam (can’t remember last name) and he was a member of the NW and very supportive of the movement in his parish especially as Tblisi was coming out of the yoke of communism.

      2. Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue Avatar
        Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue

        Fr Allan, I’m afraid that I have never been to the Republic of Georgia, although given their ancient liturgical traditions, I would love to visit it. I have had a wide experience of the Neocatechumenal Way since my High School days and have over the years visited Neocatechumenal communities in many countries, but as I do actually hold a day job as a seminary formator, I don’t get to travel as much as I like. A friend of mine who is an enclosed Benedictine sister in a monastery in Offida (AP), Italy, where the majority of the vocations come from the Neocatechumenal Communities, has recently told me that her convent is planning on starting a new foundation in Ahalzihe in the Republic of Georgia. They were bursting in the seams with vocations so they needed to open a new monastery and as part of the New Evangelization they decided to go to Georgia to support the local Church there.

      3. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

        Thanks so much Fr. Neil–it’s a great place and I’m thrilled that they are going there. The bishop there came and visited us at our parish in Augusta. He’s Italian!

  18. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    While I doubt that the Neocatechumenal Way is likely to come to many parishes, their “banquet style” celebrations of the Mass could become widely imitated and very popular.

    Most of the surrounding suburban parishes in this area have multi-purpose banquet rooms that are ideal for “banquet style” celebrations of the Mass.

    Currently these rooms are often used on Saturdays for parish “retreats” with either a planning or a spiritual purpose. It would be very easy to set up these rooms with a “banquet table” style altar for the day. While I doubt many would be attracted to a menorah and flowers, once you begin to think of the altar as a banquet table, the sky’s the limit when it comes to decorative creativity around the purposes of these retreats.

    These retreats are usually run by laypeople from the parish and/or neighboring parishes; their participation could be extended into “monitions to the Sunday Mass readings prepared by lay members of the communities.” The late Saturday afternoon Masses might be considered to fulfill the Sunday obligation.

    Besides “retreats” many of these parishes have evening programs lasting 2-3 hours that include a lecture, small group sharing, and a meal. A “banquet style” Eucharist could easily replace the meal, and small group sharing could be extended into the monitions at the Mass.

    Most of these parish churches, although recently built or recently remodeled, are not set up for “banquet style” altars. Most have beautiful altars in place, and I am sure any attempt to change that would meet with great opposition. However the multi-purpose banquet rooms are a completely different story.

    With all these pictures of the hierarchy using a banquet style altar, it is going to be hard to keep it out of parishes with banquet halls.

    1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      I have to say that the way they have decorated for the Liturgy what appears to be a banquet hall or social hall is very impressive and evidently they have a strict rubric for the decoration including where the ambo is placed and types of icons and placement of these behind the altar/ambo. I appreciate too the size of the altar and even its decoration but would also note that it is the perfect size for the “Benedictine altar arrangement.”
      This banquet hall made to be functional for their liturgy is in fact much more beautiful than many of the churches in the round that have been built since Vatican II without the same concern for art and spaciousness around a very large central altar.

    2. Jack Rakosky Avatar
      Jack Rakosky

      Yes, it is a very interesting aesthetic.

      It uses a congregation on three sides of a square or oblong shaped area, with the clergy on the other side. I think some of the pre-Vatican II churches that were built much like classrooms with the altar at the narrow end could be rearranged with the altar on the long end and function well with this style.

      The banquet table is projected into the congregation somewhat in the manner in which the bema is projected in some synagogues and Eastern churches.

      It does provide for gathering “around” a table without being a church in the round. The size of the banquet table makes it the center of sight so that not one really has to look directly at members of the congregation, although one can easily shift one’s gaze to the congregation or the celebrant, etc as necessary.

      I could think of a multitude of candle arrangements of all sizes and shapes, and the decorator types in the parish going wild.

  19. Stefano Gennarini Avatar
    Stefano Gennarini

    Misunderstanding and misinformation are rampant in this discussion. It is unfortunate that it has been hijacked by people who express their alarmist opinions without first hand knowledge of the NCW.

    The 4 popes, and thousands of bishops and clergy who have used the Neocatechumenal Way as a tool for the New Evangelization obviously have expressed a different opinion, as the latest decree from the Vatican shows (–approva.html/).

    The criticisms expressed offer nothing new and merely parrot what Sandro Magister has already said. Sandro Magister is a polemicist and a sensationalist. He does not have the interest of the Church founded by Christ at heart, his sole interest is the power struggles in the Vatican. That’s how he makes a living. His ploy of misinforming the catholic world about the Neocatechumenal Way seems to be working, unfortunately, and people are reacting against purported abuses. Luckily the hierarchy knows better.

    What is most disturbing is that self professed Catholics question the authority of the hierarchy with such little thought.

    While I don’t believe the Hierarchy is flawless, 40 yrs of continuous support, collaboration, and multiple canonical acts of approval, should warrant at least the presumption that the NCW is doing something right.
    This presumption cannot be overturned by a story concocted by a journalist, however notorious, from a secular news source.

    Although the mention of “banquet style masses” and “passing around communion” and other deliberate misrepresentations do give cause for alarm, for reasonable and educated Catholics they should not take the place of the opinions expressed by the legitimate ecclesiastical authorities. Plenty of these can be found on the neocat webpage:

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar

      One caution – the hierarchy and two popes strongly supported and defended Maciel since the 1960’s – and look where that ended. So, to just cite 40 years, papal praise, etc. is fairly meaningless today given Rome’s track record over the last 30 years.

  20. John Swencki Avatar
    John Swencki

    Jesus warned: “You disregard God’s commandment and cling to human tradition.”
    Sometimes liturgists (or wannabe-liturgists) and theologians (or wannabe-theologians) are too quick to pass judgement on the validity/licitness of practices which are unfamiliar to them or of which they personally disapprove, but which actually are true and licit. If, in the opinion of some, the validity of the celebration of a Sacrament is (near-)dependent on language, location, posture or vesture (fiddlebacks have more ‘power’ than gothic chases… geesh) then we might be guilty of worshipping the “earthen vessel” rather than the Treasure it holds.

  21. Brigid Rauch Avatar
    Brigid Rauch

    I am speaking out of sheer ignorance here, having never encountered the Neocatechumenal Way nor having heard any references to them. As I said above, I tend to be non-committal about various groups within the Church as long as they are as willing to allow me to follow my devotions. But I admit to some trepidation regarding this movement.
    – It was suggested that one must be a member to be welcome at one of their Masses. If this is true, then I have a problem. All of us are Catholics, but some more Catholic than others? Is this a replay of the struggle with the Gnostics?
    – There are hints that while the Neocatechumens use is a very horizontal liturgy , in every other regard they are very orthodox in teachings if not very conservative. From here is appears that some Anglicans have been welcomed back into the Roman Church and allowed to keep their liturgy as long as they back the hierarchy with regard to female priests and gay people. I’m left wondering if there is a similar quid pro quo in action here: Do whatever you want to with the Mass, including excluding fellow Catholics, as long as you give full support to the hierarchy.

    As I said, I speak out of ignorance. I offer these remarks as a response to the discussion, as a sample of one person’s reaction.

    1. Christopher Michael Uy Avatar
      Christopher Michael Uy

      @Brigid Rauch – comment #44:
      Ms Rauch, first off, I would like to apologize since I read this discussion only now. As for your questions, I will try to answer them. I am a member of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in Binondo, Manila, Philippines. For your first question: we welcome all Catholics, sometimes, with special permission, other Christians as well. However, we have to remind them that we are bound by Arkanos, the same oath that a priest makes which prevents them from divulging confessions. Since the sharing would sometimes be personal, we have to be careful to make sure that what was shared will not be gossiped. As for the Anglicans being offered a return with conditions, I am not aware that the same thing is true with the NCW.

  22. John Swencki Avatar
    John Swencki

    Even in the pre-Vatican II days, some religious order had liturgical practices unique to them. (I remember, as a kid altar boy, thinking it was sooo cooool that a Carmelite priest was pray the Eucharistic Prayer with arms fully extended to his side, like Jesus on the cross.) The old Carthusians would not celebrate Mass daily but only on Sunday and solemnities. Ethnic groups sometimes added their own “touches” to the Mass. All these practices, begun at grassroots, came to be accepted as legitimate customs of local congregations. [Recall even St Monica asking Ambrose why things were so different in Rome than in Carthage.] The church has never understood itself as living in a vacuum, that the faith is always transmitted and received “wrapped” in a certain cultural understanding. Even today, there might be liturgical practices that, while not legislated by law (liturigcal, canonical or otherwise) are officially accepted as legitimate “customs” of local congregations. To those congregations, those customs reveal more fully the mysteries they celebrate. To an “outsider”, these customs might seem strange or out of place at Mass. Or even, in their opinion, ‘heretical’. But legitimate, nonetheless. We must be wary of thinking “my way” is the ONLY valid, legitimate.

  23. Mark MIller Avatar
    Mark MIller

    I am quite sure that the NCW has brought and nurtured many in their life in Christ, and obviously deep in communion with the Church.
    I do have a hard time seeing how decrees and buckle shoes and yards of silk are in the same league as NCW. Not the same thing at all, at least to me

    Cheers for the NCW; and the “spirit of Vatican II crowd,” too!
    Mark Miller

  24. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Here is the Statue of the NCW.

    The focus has been on the liturgical peculiarities of the Neocatechumate. The people who ought to be interested should by those involved in the implementation of the RCIA and religious education. I am interested in their reading of the pdf.

    I recognize the Neocatechumenal Way as an itinerary of Catholic formation…at the service of the bishop as one of the forms of diocesan implementation of Christian initiation and of ongoing education in faith. It consists of the “Neocatechumenate,” or a post-baptismal catechumenate, the ongoing education in faith, the catechumenate, the service of catechesis Title I, Art. 1

    under the jurisdiction, direction of the diocesan bishop and with the assistance, guidance of the International Responsible Team (IRT) of the Way or their delegates, according to the lines proposed by its initiators, Title I, Art. 2

    The Neocatechumenate, is usually implemented in the parish . is lived in a small community. The model of the neocatechumenal community is the Holy Family of Nazareth The Neocatechumenate is realized, in communion with the pastor/parish priest and under his pastoral responsibility, by a team of catechists representing the IRT.

    The Neocatechumenate starts in the parish, with initial catecheses, given over a period of two months, in fifteen evening meetings and they are concluded with a three-day convivence. the community, by means of a vote, chooses a lay responsible and some co-responsibles, who are confirmed by the pastor/parish priest and the team of catechists. The team of catechists, explains to the presbyter, and to the team of responsibles how to do the preparation of the celebration of the Word and the Eucharist

    The pdf describes a precatechumate (2 steps,4 years), catechumate (3 steps, 6yrs? trip to tomb of St.Peter!), and election (trip to Holy Land!).

  25. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    I always wonder why the altar looks from a distance like a giant iced cake!

    Seriously, though, the problem with the Neocatechumenate is the “Church within a Church” mentality. This makes the movement appear like a sect.

    While I am very ready to admit that “Neocats” (as they are popularly known) provide an intense and meaningful religious experience, as several contributors to this thread have demonstrated, the fact is that in many of the parishes where they “operate” they are a severely divisive influence. I do not see that insisting (as they do) that they have their own Easter Vigil service, separate and distinct from the parish Vigil which they refuse to attend, is anything other than problematic. This is only one example among many, and thus just the tip of an iceberg; and it typifies the reasons why they were very publicly banned from working in the diocese of Clifton a number of years ago.

    1. Peter Haydon Avatar
      Peter Haydon

      Quite Paul
      I am reminded of the Lions of Judah who used to descend on Lourdes each July. An odd bunch.
      Of course the early Franciscans must also have seemed odd so I suggest that we do not rush to reject them.

    2. Rita Ferrone Avatar
      Rita Ferrone

      Paul, these are the same critiques that I am familiar with. (The liturgical specifics that Magister cited were unknown to me.) Divisiveness within the parish, a church-within-a-church, refusal to participate in the parish Easter Vigil because they have their own, and refusal to implement the RCIA because “they don’t need it.” I would add to that some personal encounters which gave definite evidence of a spiritual elitism — that is, the tendency to regard other parishioners as having a questionable faith and/or sincerity compared with their own members.

      As Fr. Neil stated frankly in his essay, the experiences some have had of this movement do not necessarily reflect the effort at its best, and there can be “trouble in any family.” I would like to think that, for example, a proper view of the RCIA as normal and normative is taught to priests in the NCW nowadays, and that the regrettable elitism which is a typical besetting sin of communities of high ideals, is being actively discouraged by those in leadership. I did have one NCW priest attend an RCIA workshop I gave recently in Newark! He scowled a lot, but he stayed all day! 🙂

      Now, something did happen in Japan with the NCW that was not happy. I don’t know what it was, but bishops there didn’t like it and banned the NCW. Then Rome intervened and insisted it be allowed. It worries me when Rome overrules local decisions of bishops on pastoral matters.

      1. Bill deHaas Avatar

        To follow on Paul and you – to broaden this and add the new experience of the NCW Redemptoris Mater seminary experience – at least in Dallas, it means that diocesan funds support this seminary and its candidates who will only serve the diocese for a brief period before being sent out and falling under the juridiction of the NCW. My experience is that the RM do find candidates from economically and academically improveshied sections of the diocese but the flip side of that is that candidates can be rushed through training and ordained without the necessary language, theology, scripture, or liturgical skills necessary in this day and age.

        You might also want to read Italian Passionist theologian, Zoffoli, whose study alleges that NCW’s theology is heresy??

        On a personal note, have a classmate who has been a part of the IRT for years – on the one hand, this has been a personal godsend to him, his clerical vocation, etc. but OTOH, he has basically left his religious community, the church, etc. because the IRT has become his family.

        Paul – how were your Dallas workshops? You did note that the diocese hired a lay woman for liturgy director after two years of pushing off valid candidates because they were looking for a cleric??

  26. Sean Parker Avatar
    Sean Parker

    Jeffrey Pinyan :

    I don’t wish to speak for him, but I think Sean Parker might be having a hard time accepting this, as he perceives his Mass to have been stolen from him and that the thing being celebrated now is not Mass.

    Jeffrey, it’s not MY mass. That is what I believe. Everything was fine until this new mass was imposed at the start of Advent. If that had not happened, you never would have heard of me. They took from me, any half o the Catholics alive today, the only mass we ever knew, with no option to still use it, and without any significant demand for a change.

    If find it interesting that the church can have room for so many different forms of liturgy, but they felt that they could implement the new missal translation as a traditional English liturgy, while still retaining the 1973 or even the 1998 translation, as a contemporary English liturgy.

    1. Chris Grady Avatar
      Chris Grady

      Those who would support the use of 1998 or 1973 are not in favour at Court – the Imperial Court of Benedict the Great (Divider) – the Emperor with the, er, New Clothes.

      Those who would support the use of the abrogated pre-Vatican II “Tridentine” liturgy, and things like the divisive Neocat ceremonial, are not only in favour, but have been financing the show for years (it was cash, in case you thought it might have been something else, like things spiritual, that kept that well known faithful-to-the-magisterium theological conservative Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado in unquestioned pontifical favour all those years) and until there’s a seismic shift in the way the Vatican operates, this is how things will remain.

      Have you never heard of the Catholic Golden Rule? It goes like this: “The one with the gold makes the rules.”

      1. Sean Parker Avatar
        Sean Parker

        Those who would support the use of 1998 or 1973 are not in favour at Court – the Imperial Court of Benedict the Great (Divider) – the Emperor with the, er, New Clothes.

        In other words, we’re subject to the hierarchy’s personal whims and preferences, and expected to blindly follow without question or resistance. I don’t think so.

        I’m sure that the hierarchy knew exactly what they were doing, and that it would separate or severely hurt the relationship that many people had with the church, but of course, in their minds, those people were not worth keeping anyway, unless they were willing to come around to the hierarchy’s way of thinking.

        It’s a terrible thing for them to play with people’s spiritual wellbeing. At least I know that God is still there and my relationship with Him is still strong.

      2. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        The feelings Sean Parker has aren’t anything new – they’re a symptom of how the Church has operated for a long time. You could easily lump most of his comments in with something written by an older Catholic at a traditionalist website and assume he was writing about the suppression of the Tridentine Mass.

        I’m surprised so many people are shocked at the imposition of the new translation. The old one was imposed too – as was the Novus Ordo. Once you take away the notion that the Mass is some great untouchable thing passed on from generation to generation, you end up making it subject to the preferences of whoever is in charge.

      3. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        the notion that the Mass is some great untouchable thing passed on from generation to generation

        When has that notion been reality? When has the Roman Rite really been untouched for generations at a time?

      4. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        “When has that notion been reality? When has the Roman Rite really been untouched for generations at a time?”

        Never, of course – but I think most people would perceive the changes of the last forty years (including the new translation) to be far more substantial changes than anything that had occurred in the four or five centuries prior.

        Would someone born in 1860 and lived to 1960 have perceived change the same way someone born in 1950 would today?

  27. Sean Parker Avatar
    Sean Parker

    since when has obedience to the Church’s norms and rubrics fallen out of fashion? Since when are a particular center’s and/or movement’s more important than what the Church mandates?

    When changes are made solely for the sake of change, or to simply show the people that they can make changes because they can, or to satisfy the conservative beliefs of the people now in charge. That is when blind obedience gets tossed aside.

    As has been said, religions that require 100% adherence to whatever that religion says to do, without the use of logic or internal reflection, leads to situations where men hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings.

  28. Chris Grady Avatar
    Chris Grady

    Jeffrey Pinyan :
    Given the postures of the people around him, I’d say the upper picture of Ratzinger is the Presentation of the Gifts, while the bottom picture is the Eucharistic Prayer.

    JP I am surprised that someone as pedantic – oops, someone who corrects others as much as you do – can call it the “Presentation of the Gifts”

    1. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

      After the “consecration” kerfuffle from a week or two ago, I decided I would just use the terminology employed by the person to whom I was replying.

      Edit: Besides, it appears the praesentatio donorum is indeed called the “Presentation of the Gifts” (GIRM 306).

      1. Chris Grady Avatar
        Chris Grady

        It’s not called that in any of the (officially translated) English language liturgical books, Jeffrey, and you, of all people, know it.

        So, thanks for proving my point.

      2. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        Chris, the new translation of the GIRM mentions the “Preparation of the Gifts” in paragraphs 33, 43, 72, 73, 77, and 214, and the “Presentation of the Gifts” in paragraph 306 and 390. The Missal itself doesn’t appear to give a name to this first part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist; at least, I don’t see a name given to it on page 527 (529) of the leaked complete English translation PDF.

        I don’t know quite what point you’ve made that I’ve proven. I’ll happily admit to being “gotchya”d if I know what it’s about. But I didn’t use the term “Presentation of the Gifts” carelessly; I used it specifically because it was the expression used by Philip S. Consider it a sign of me mellowing out.

      3. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

        Oh, maybe I misunderstood what the “It” in your reply referred to. I thought you were still talking about the presentation of the gifts, but now I suppose you were referring to the institution narrative. My bad.

  29. Jim McKay Avatar
    Jim McKay

    The information I cited from Wikipedia is easily found on the website of La Razon, where the interview with Cardinal Canizares Llovera, Arinze’s successor, was published 14 Dec 2008. Of the NCW he said:
    La semana pasada estuve varios días en Perú y tuve la suerte de convivir con los seminaristas del Redemptoris Mater, del Camino. No hay ninguna anomalía litúrgica; es todo conforme con lo que establece el «ordo misae». Lo que sí he visto han sido eucaristías en las que se celebraba sin ninguna prisa, con una fe muy grande y en donde se perciben el gozo y la acción de gracias por el don que allí está aconteciendo

    Basically, he spent several days with NCW seminarians and found their Eucharists reverent, faithful, and joyful, with no liturgical anomalies.

  30. Jim McKay Avatar
    Jim McKay

    Right. They corrected anomalies. So why are you still acting like they have not?

    La Razon is a daily newspaper in Madrid.

  31. eva campbell Avatar
    eva campbell

    I would hope that people in the N.W. who love Jesus would not find it inappropriate to kneel in adoration of Jesus during the Eucharistic Prayer as per the Roman Missal and GIRM.

    I would hope also that catechesis would be made in preference to Communion on the tongue – the NORM at ANY Mass – as each fragment is Jesus – totally Jesus. Each fragment more precious than gold. Fragments visisible and invisible, seen and unseen to the human eye which fall onto clothes, the ground….

  32. eva campbell Avatar
    eva campbell

    Those who choose to kneel at the Eucharistic Prayer (as per the Roman Missal and GIRM) and those who choose to receive Jesus on the tongue (the NORM) are not welcome to the NW’s Mass???????Something here is truly divisive.

  33. Tim Rohr Avatar

    I live in Guam, where Fr. Neil once stayed. I find him to be a very good priest and have no doubt that what he says is true. I think though he will also admit that there are problems, and specifically in Guam, where the (2005) instruction to receive the Eucharist in a manner in accordance with the liturgical books has been ignored and where the local bishop, who is a member of a local community, has openly questioned the authority of the CDW. Would be glad to provide the docs and the audio upon request, but due to a local issue currently ongoing, I’m going to hold back just for now. However, should Fr. Neil request them, I would happily provide.

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