The General Directory for Catechesis states that, “The Church ardently desires that all the Christian faithful be brought to that full, conscious and active participation which is required by the very nature of the liturgy and the dignity of the baptismal Priesthood.” (GDC, par. 5)
It is the desire of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference that this aspiration of the General Directory be realized in all liturgical celebrations in Ghana. In order to realize this aspiration, it is imperative that proper formation and education be given to the members of the Church, namely, the ordained ministers (bishops, priests, deacons) and the non- ordained ministers (the lay faithful), so that all can play their roles properly and appropriately in accord with liturgical norms.
Role of Knights in Liturgical Celebrations
The two Orders of Knights in the Church, namely, the Most Noble Order of the Knights and Ladies of Marshall and the Most Ancient Order of the Knights and Ladies Auxiliary of St. John International, as members of the non-ordained ministers, play a useful role in the Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Their involvement in the Church’s liturgical celebrations often add colour and grandeur to the Church’s worship and service of God. However, it has become urgent and necessary to offer certain common guidelines and directives to assist them in playing their roles effectively in the Church’s worship in accord with the proper liturgical norms.
The Relevance of Directives
The need to offer these liturgical guidelines and directives to streamline the role of Knights in the celebration of the Mass and in other liturgical celebrations is based on the following reasons, among others:-
1. The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic and so functions cannot be carried out in different ways at different places since this will diminish the universal character and nature of the Church. Thus, it is hoped that these directives will bring uniformity to the roles played by the Knights throughout the country as far as the celebration of the Mass and other para-liturgical celebrations are concerned.
2. Ministers as well as lay persons who have functions to perform during liturgical celebrations, must carry out all and only those functions which pertain to their office as determined by the nature and norms of the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium no.28). It is hoped that these guidelines will help to achieve this aim.
3. The Church has the duty to ensure that proper decorum, beauty and discipline are maintained in all liturgical celebrations. These norms are hereby offered as a help in this regard.
Occasions where the Knights may Function in their Uniforms
1. Diocesan celebrations such as ordination ceremonies (bishops, priests and deacons), religious profession, etc.
2. First solemn thanksgiving Masses of newly-ordained priests or professed religious, especially if the celebrant(s) or their parent(s) happen to be member(s) of one of the Orders.
3. Parish level celebrations, such as the Solemnities of Assumption, Corpus Christi and Christ the King.
4. Masses in connection with the meetings of the two Orders, namely, conventions (family reunions), anniversaries, feast days of respective patron saints, etc.
5. Ritual Masses (such as weddings and funerals) involving members.
6. Devotional and para-liturgical practices, including pre-burial and post-burial funerary rituals.
Do’s and Don’ts of Knights in Liturgical Celebrations
In accordance with the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM), the theology of Liturgy and the need to observe strict and proper decorum during the Mass and all liturgical celebrations, the Bishops’ Conference instructs that the following directives be observed by the two Orders of Knights during liturgical celebrations, especially the celebration of the Mass:-
1. A few of the Knights in their regalia (not more than six), could always accompany processions, especially in the entrance procession of the Mass and the recession, to give colour and maintain order. These, however, must not be behind the main celebrant.
2. During the Liturgy of the Word and its explanation in the homily, there should be no movements by Knights to take up “guard positions” since this can distract the attention of the congregation from the liturgical action taking place, that is, attentively listening to God as He speaks.
3. After the Intercessions (or the Prayer of the Faithful), Knights could assist the ushers with the collection and during the offertory procession. They should, however, not take over from the ushers. It is foreseen that they plan and execute this together.
4. During the Eucharistic Prayer, especially, from the epiclesis through to the Institution Narrative, there should be no movements whatsoever by members of the congregation, including the Knights, except for Ministers assisting in the sanctuary and to some extent, the ushers.
The gesture proper to the Altar is reverence, such as a reverential bow or if the Eucharistic species are placed on it, a genuflection, not a “military salute.” Any movement during this moment violates the General Instruction while a “military salute” given in a standing position blocks the view of the congregation and diverts their attention from the liturgical action on the altar to the “display” staged by the Knights.
5. During Communion time, Knights could stand beside priest – celebrants as they distribute the Body of Christ to the communicants. They should not carry any sword as they do this.
6. Knights could assist the ushers in the ministry of hospitality during diocesan and parish level celebrations. They could assist in keeping general order and decorum during Mass. Doing this will include preventing people from moving at moments when silence and stability is expected (e.g. during the Liturgy of the Word, Consecration and Post-Communion silence). This means they themselves should not move, except when doing so in the performance of this duty.
7. The special roles or functions of Knights should always be planned with the Masters of Ceremony (MCs), the ushers and all other people, who have special roles to play in liturgical celebrations. This is to ensure harmony and synchronization of activities. The need for proper planning and execution of roles becomes even more imperative when the two Orders are to be present at such celebrations.
8. The Knights can continue to offer series of prayers for their departed members in accordance with the principles and guidelines contained in the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (par. 256-268).
9. The Knights should refrain from all activities and extended display during liturgical celebrations which differ from that of the assembly. For example, the chapeaux are to be removed at the start of liturgical celebrations and no swords should be presented during the Consecration or at the Holy Communion.
These directives have been drawn up for the observance of the Knights at the celebration of the Mass and other liturgical celebrations where they are to play a role. They are intended to promote the meaning of the liturgy and the Sacraments, to enable the Knights, and indeed, all the faithful, to participate fully, actively and consciously in the liturgy.
We urge Chaplains of these Orders and in fact, all Societies in the Church, to give liturgical instructions and education to their members to enable them to understand the Church’s faith as reflected in the Church’s prayer. We pledge our support and collaboration in ensuring that the whole Church participates fully, actively and consciously in the Church’s liturgy.
God bless you all.
GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOP’S CONFERENCE (GCBC)
MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU,
BISHOP OF KONONGO-MAMPONG & PRESIDENT OF GCBC.
DATE: 13 JANUARY, 2014