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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward a doctorate in liturgical theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“How can we account for differences in the Gospel accounts? Well, suppose after we left Church today, there was a terrible accident or explosion or fire. Soon the news media would be here, interviewing people as to what they saw or heard. Each person would probably say or report what struck him—or what he saw or noticed. All these reports would be different and yet they would be true.”
— Fr. Valentine Young (February 2019)

Liturgical Reflections of a Papal Master of Ceremonies
published 12 June 2017 by Fr. David Friel

ULL-TIME graduate studies have left me little time for non-assigned readings over the last year. Nevertheless, I took advantage of a free evening last week to read a short book that I only recently discovered. A collection of writings by Msgr. Guido Marini, the book is entitled Liturgical Reflections of a Papal Master of Ceremonies.

This slim volume (111 pages) gathers together a number of essays composed by Msgr. Marini during his time as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, a post he has held since 2007. Collected and translated by Rev. Nicholas Gregoris of Newman House Press, these essays offer insights into the theological outlook of Msgr. Marini and his rationale for a variety of papal liturgical practices. Msgr. Marini continues to serve as papal MC for Pope Francis, but these essays, published in 2011, pertain more directly to the pontificate of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Concerning his role as papal master of ceremonies and the consequent meaning of his own liturgical reflections, Msgr. Marini writes this:

I consider it a pleasant and urgent duty for me to be the faithful interpreter and echo of his authoritative liturgical orientation, which does not pertain to the realm of “personal taste” (although such personal taste is more than respected while not necessarily shared by all), but rather to a true and proper Magisterium to be shared with a spirit of faith and a genuine ecclesial sense. (Guido Marini, Liturgical Reflections of a Papal Master of Ceremonies, trans. Nicholas I. Gregoris [Pine Beach, NJ: Newman House Press, 2011], 14)

The best part of this book is the substantial first section, which was originally delivered as an address to a 2010 liturgy conference in Milan. The title of this address is “Entering the Liturgical Mysteries through the Rites and Prayers.” The remainder of the book is also interesting and insightful, and it covers such topics as: the distribution of Holy Communion, the pallium, the pastoral staff, the placement of the crucifix upon the altar (the so-called “Benedictine arrangement”), the Greek Gospel, silence, Latin, beauty, and the wearing of the dalmatic by cardinal deacons. Each of these issues is presented with theological, historical, and practical perspective.

Msgr. Marini teaches that “Christ the Eternal High Priest . . . is at the center of the liturgical action of the Church. The liturgy must be the celebrated transparency of this theological truth” (Marini, 67). He also gives a good perspective on the spirit of faith and obedience with which we must approach the liturgy and its reforms:

True fidelity to the reform willed by Vatican II demands . . . an ecclesial spirit . . . without ideologically preconceived notions. It is one and the same love that must animate everyone—love for the Lord and His Church, love for the liturgy, which is the action of Christ and the Church. (Marini, 43)

Y FAVORITE memory of the World Meeting of Families held in Philadelphia in 2015 is the opportunity I had to hear Msgr. Marini’s final encouragement to the servers before Mass in our cathedral and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I have tried to capture his profound reflections on that occasion here. I recommend reading these reflections just as highly as I am pleased to recommend this small book.