>Papal Visit to Barcelona: Missal for the Papal Mass

>All this week I will be writing pieces related to the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Barcelona this Sunday, November 7th. As I have been reporting for the past several months, the Pope will be dedicating the iconic Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia, and raising it to the level of a Minor Basilica. For my American readers, the visit will be televised live on EWTN, which you can watch either on television or online, and there are other internet portals where you may be able to catch live or taped coverage. Repeated, taped coverage of the Papal Mass at the new Basilica will be more practical for many, since there is a six-hour time difference between Barcelona and Washington, D.C., for example, and the mass will begin at 10:00 a.m. local time.

The text of the missal which will be used at the Papal Mass has been released by the Vatican, and it can be read online at the following link – but WARNING, this will open a PDF file in a separate window, so give it time to load. Having forewarned you, gentle reader, here is the link. There are several interesting points to this document that I would like to draw your attention to:

The missal has portions in Latin, Spanish, and Catalan. Some people continue to have a mistaken impression that Catalan is nothing more than a dialect of Spanish, or more properly, Castilian Spanish, i.e. the Spanish spoken in what used to be the Kingdom of Castile, in Central Spain. This is partly as a result of ignorance, and partly as a result of the efforts of various centralizing governments in Madrid over the years, including the Bourbons, military dictators, etc.

The land of Catalonia and its language, Catalan, existed long before there was a Spain, and its grammar was just as well, if not better, formed as Castilian by the beginning of the Middle Ages. Because of political persecutions, over the years Catalan was banned at various times over the past several centuries – most recently until the death of General Franco in 1975, well-within living memory. For the Pope to come to Barcelona and dedicate the Sagrada Familia using Catalan is something that many people who lived during the Franco regime could not even imagine.

The design on the front of the missal shows four of the towers of the Sagrada Familia, in silhouette, with the arms of the Archdiocese of Barcelona superimposed on top. You can read about the meaning of the arms and a little bit about the history of the Church in Barcelona from early Christian times on my other blog, Catholic Barcelona, where I wrote about the episcopal history of the see. It is a very simple, but effective composition for the event.

After the entrance procession, Cardinal Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, will greet the Holy Father and welcome him to the building. Then the current chief architect of the building will speak briefly about the history of its construction. After this the Pope will be handing over the key to the giant bronze front doors to the priest who will charged with the keeping of this object.

Mass will then begin, and as a Catalan myself I find it particularly moving that, in this great building by Catalonia’s greatest architect, the first words spoken by the Holy Father at the Sagrada Familia will be making the sign of the cross and blessing the congregation in Catalan. The mass then proceeds to the blessing and aspersion of water, with which the Pope will bless the high altar and the people. Six priests will then go around to all of the walls of the building with aspergills and bless them.

Back to the Liturgy of the Word, and the readers will bring the basilica’s lectionary to the Holy Father to bless. He will then ask God – in Catalan – to bless the basilica that God’s Word will always be faithfully proclaimed therein. After the readings, psalm, and Gospel, the Pope will give the homily. The Creed will then be followed by the chanting of the Litany of Saints.

The Pope will then say a prayer of dedication of the new church, and bless the four corners of the high altar with chrism. Although the altar itself is in place, the baldachin and lights Gaudi designed for it are not yet ready, because there will be a gigantic central dome over the crossing from which they will be suspended, and that is going to take a number of more years to complete. So if the space looks a bit stark on Sunday, be patient. As Gaudi himself said, his client is not in a hurry.

Cardinal Sistach, Cardinal Bertone (Vatican Secretary of State), and ten other bishops will then take chrism and go mark the walls of the nave, where 12 crosses have been placed. Then the new thurible for the basilica will be brought to the Holy Father, he will bless it, light the incense, and proceed to bless the high altar. After this six deacons will take other thuribles down the aisles blessing the walls of the church and the people.

Following this, a group of nuns will put the new linen and frontal on the high altar, place the candlesticks, and place flowers around it. Then one of the deacons will be presented with a lighted taper by the Holy Father who will ask him, in Catalan of course, to go light all of the candles in the church as a symbol of the Light of Christ. This deacon will then share the light with 12 local seminarians who will go light the candles on the high altar as well as those around the interior of the basilica.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist will then begin, and this will be in Latin. There will be a switch back to Spanish briefly after the Our Father, then to Latin for the Agnus Dei, and back to Spanish for Communion. After the distribution of Holy Communion, the Eucharist will be taken to the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, located in the apse directly behind the central crossing of the church where the high altar stands. I know that Gaudi designed a tabernacle for the space, but whether this is the tabernacle that will in fact be used is another issue.

After this, Cardinal Sistach will read out the Papal Bull declaring the Sagrada Familia to be a basilica. The Holy Father and all of the cardinals and bishops will then process to the East Portal of the church, known as the Nativity Facade. This was the only facade of the church which was almost completed when Gaudi was killed in 1926, and faces onto a park. The Pope will address the people waiting directly outside, and then pray the Angelus with them in Latin, for at this point it should be about 12 noon local time. At this point I am not exactly clear whether he will return to the high altar to give the final blessing, which would seem to be logical, or whether he will give it from the East Portal; the missal does not make this clear.

Following the recessional, the Pope will head to the Episcopal Palace for lunch with the bishops. In the afternoon he will be visiting the Institute of the Child Jesus, run by the Franciscan Sacred Heart sisters, who are building a new residence for poor children. The Holy Father will be blessing and laying the first stone of the building. After this, he will head to the airport and back to Rome.

Tomorrow we will read a bit about the floor plan of this, the world’s newest basilica, and some of the very elaborate theological thought that Gaudi put into his plans for the church.

Construction workers before the steps leading to the High Altar
in the Sagrada Familia, with the apse in the far background
displaying some new stained glass windows.

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