1. What is the GIRM?
The first edition of the GIRM was published in 1969. It provides the
theological perspective and liturgical laws governing how we celebrate
the Mass of the Roman Rite throughout the world. The GIRM has been
slightly modified since the Council and has now undergone a further
The Roman Missal itself has also undergone several revisions. The
revised Lectionary for Mass for Sundays, Weekdays, Ritual Masses and
Various Needs and Occasions has already been translated into English and
is now in use in the United States. The Sacramentary has recently been
revised but is only available in Latin. It will be several years before
an approved English translation is available. When it is published,
other changes in the way the Catholic Church of the Roman Rite
celebrates Mass may be introduced.
The fathers of the Second Vatican Council
realized that there is a need for ongoing change in the liturgy.
“…where necessary, the rites [should] be carefully revised in light of
sound tradition and that they be given new vigor to meet the
circumstances and needs of modern times” (Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy, CSL no. 4
This means that even though our liturgical practices may change from
time to time, the fundamental beliefs of our faith which undergird the
liturgy do not change.
Because our Church believes in inculturating the liturgy into the
various cultures “for the life of the world,” bishops of each country
have been given permission by the Holy See to adapt certain parts of the
GIRM so that the celebration of Mass may be more fittingly celebrated
in each land. The United States bishops have adapted some of the norms
for dioceses of the United States.
Another type of adaptation is an indult. An indult is a special
permission to change or modify an existing law. The U.S. bishops have
asked for and received several of these.
One of the criticisms of the implementation of the liturgical changes
after Vatican II was that many Catholics did not understand what changes
were coming and why they were being made. In fact, many clergy will say
the same thing. We hope that through these articles and other
archdiocesan catechesis, all will be able to understand better the
liturgy that our Church is calling us to celebrate.