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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

Rites of the Catholic Church

by Gary D. Penkala

Melkite iconostasis Quite evident during the funeral of Pope John Paul II, particularly in the Eastern Prayers after Communion, the diversity within the Catholic Church is astonishing. We are quite familiar with the Roman (Latin) Rite of the Catholic Church, by far the largest rite. The Byzantine Rite, too, is the common "Eastern" rite in the United States.

There are, however, many more rites, generally counting membership at less than a few hundred thousand world-wide, that make up the panorama of Catholic Christians. Here's an outline, followed by a brief description of the most common Eastern liturgy.

Western Catholic Church

  • Roman (Latin) Rite
    By far the most prevalent rite in the Catholic Church; the liturgy derives from Roman practices and the use of Latin as the official language since the 3rd century.
  • Ambrosian Rite
    The liturgy and rite of the Church of Milan, which derives its name from Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (374-397). Two possible origins of this rite co-exist: 1. from the Liturgy of Saint John the Divine imported from Ephesus by Saint Irenaeus, 2. a preservation of the pre-Gelasian and pre-Gregorian form of the Roman Rite.
  • Mozarabic Rite
    The rite used generally in Spain and Portugal through the eleventh century, and still surviving in the Capilla Muzárabe in Toledo Cathedral and in the chapel of San Salvador or Talavera, in the old cathedral of Salamanca; similar to the old Gallican Rite.
  • Braga Rite
    Named for the town of Braga, essentially a derivative in Portugal of the Mozarabic Rite.
  • Lyonnais (Gallican) Rite
    Dating from 8th century Lyon, with Gallican influences; quite Romanized in the 19th century.
  • Sarum Rite
    Found in England; very similar to the Roman Rite.
  • Rites of Religious Orders
    Generally the Roman Rite, with calendar additions and minor discrepancies, particularly regarding the Divine Office.
    • Benedictine ["Monastic Rite"]
    • Carmelite
    • Carthusian
    • Cistercian
    • Dominican
    • Franciscan ["Romano-Seraphicum Usage"]
    • Praemonstratensian (Norbertine)

  • It should be noted that, although not a separate "rite," there are parishes in the United States that follow a distinct Catholic liturgy derived from Anglican traditions. Anglican Use communities are parishes that have come over to Catholicism from an Episcopal (Anglican) background. These have been increasing in number, particularly with the "progressive" changes occurring within the Episcopal Church.

 Back to Miscellaneous Index

Part 2: Eastern Rites

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