Archbishop Tlhagale: “If you change the text of the Mass as you wish, then clearly you are in the wrong place.”

“If you change the text of the Mass as you wish, then clearly you are in the wrong place,” said Archbishop Buti Tlhagale in his address to the permanent deacons of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg dated 19th August 2022.

The Archbishop addressed a series of issues starting with the importance of deacons respecting the text of the Mass, the address which addressed to the celebrants as well, “The text of the Mass cannot/should not be changed by the Celebrant. It is the text of the Church, the written word of the Church. The text is sacrosanct but not a fetish.”

He went on to address the issue of additional rituals where he said he now sees everybody in the sanctuary standing up as the priest or deacon goes to the tabernacle… “I do not know where this custom comes from.” Archbishop Tlhagale also lamented other like “God is good. All the time” catch phrase, singing Protestant instead of Catholic hymns, “This is not proper”. He also does not approve also of, “the vigorous dancing after Communion by groups of people, up and down the aisle”. He points out that after Communion people are urged to have a moment of silence and reflection rather than whistling and dancing. “Freestyle dancing after communion is inculturation gone sour.”

Archbishop Tlhagale touched also on the matter of kneeling during consecration saying, “a few years ago, some deacons came to see me. They objected strongly to kneeling during consecration. They said kneeling was an act of humiliation. I was taken by surprise. I felt embarrassed and saddened. How can you be ashamed when you kneel before your God?” He went on to explain that kneeling is associated with the acknowledgement of the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle or during consecration. “This is why some people receive the Eucharist on their knees.”

The other matters dealt with by the Archbishop of Johannesburg was the conflict between priests and deacons, transfers, the ordo, the letter of Pope Paul VI, Ad Pascendum which summarises the core functions of a deacon. He also looked at a ministry to couples and family life by deacons, “Most permanent deacons are married men. One would have thought that by virtue of their theological training and by virtue of their status as married men, the deacons would be inclined to minister to engaged couples, to do marriage preparation classes, to counsel married couples and to coordinate the efforts of various marriage groups.”

Race relations and the One Body of Christ and another matter addressed by Archbishop Tlhagale saying there is the unspoken, pervasive tension between black and white people, “The two races keep apart as much as they can. There is no visible racial conflict. But then there is also no apparent effort to bring the two races together.” The Archbishop said twenty seven years have come and gone, yet South Africa remains a very much racially divided society, “There are no nationally bonding events. Your national feast days are celebrated separately. But this segregation is also manifested in church life. Your diocesan feast days are celebrated separately.”

“The ministry of mercy and charity ought to go beyond one’s parish and embrace even those areas where the need is keenly felt. Our informal settlements have become the manifestation of human brokenness, squalor, crime and human neglect. This is a challenge to deacons.”

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