The Roman Ritual (Latin: Rituale Romanum) is one of the official ritual works of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. It contains all of the services which may be performed by a priest or deacon which are not contained within either the Missale Romanum or the Breviarium Romanum. The book also contains some of the rites which are contained in only one of these books for convenience.
When first ritual functions books were written, the Sacramentary in the West and the Euchologion in the East, they contained all the priest's (and bishop's) part of whatever functions they performed, not only for the Mass or Divine Liturgy, but for all other sacraments, blessings, sacramentals, and rites of every kind as well.
From one book to many
The contents of the Ritual and Pontifical were in the Sacramentaries. In the Eastern Churches this state of things still to a great extent remains. In the West a further development led to the distinction of books, not according to the persons who use them, but according to the services for which they are used. The Missal, containing the whole Mass, succeeded by the Sacramentary. Some early Missals added other rites, for the convenience of the priest or bishop; but on the whole this later arrangement involved the need of other books to supply the non-Eucharistic functions of the Sacramentary. These books, when they appeared, were the predecessors of the Pontifical and Ritual. The bishop's functions (ordination, confirmation, et cetera) filled the Pontifical, the priest's offices (baptism, penance, matrimony, extreme unction, etc.) were contained in a great variety of little handbooks, finally replaced by the Ritual.
The Pontifical emerged first. The book under this name occurs already in the eighth century (Pontifical of Egbert). From the ninth there is a multitude of Pontificals. For the priest's functions there was no uniform book till 1614. Some of these are contained in the Pontificals; often the chief ones were added to Missals and Books of Hours. Then special books were arranged, but there was no kind of uniformity in arrangement or name. Through the Middle Ages a vast number of handbooks for priests having the care of souls was written. Every local rite, almost every diocese, had such books; indeed many were compilations for the convenience of one priest or church. Such books were called by many names--Manuale, Liber agendarum, Agenda, Sacramentale, sometimes Rituale. Specimens of such medieval predecessors of the Ritual are the Manuale Curatorum of Roeskilde in Denmark (first printed 1513, ed. J. Freisen, Paderborn, 1898), and the Liber Agendarum of Schleswig (printed 1416, Paderborn, 1898). The Roeskilde book contains the blessing of salt and water, baptism, marriage, blessing of a house, visitation of the sick with viaticum and extreme unction, prayers for the dead, funeral service, funeral of infants, prayers for pilgrims, blessing of fire on Holy Saturday, and other blessings. The Schleswig book has besides much of the Holy Week services, and that for All Souls, Candlemas, and Ash Wednesday. In both many rites differ from the Roman forms.
In the sixteenth century, while the other liturgical books were being revised and issued as a uniform standard, there was naturally a desire to substitute an official book that should take the place of these varied collections. But the matter did not receive the attention of the Holy See itself for some time. First, various books were issued at Rome with the idea of securing uniformity, but without official sanction. Albert Castellani in 1537 published a Sacerdotale of this kind; in 1579 at Venice another version appeared, arranged by Grancesco Samarino, Canon of the Lateran; it was re-edited in 1583 by Angelo Rocca. In 1586 Giulio Antonio Santorio, Cardinal of St. Severina, printed a handbook of rites for the use of priests, which, as Paul V says, "he had composed after long study and with much industry and labor" (Apostolicae Sedis). This book is the foundation of our Roman Ritual. In 1614 Paul V published the first edition of the official Ritual by the Constitution "Apostolicae Sedis" of 17 June. In this he points out that Clement VIII had already issued a uniform text of the Pontifical and the Caerimoniale Episcoporum (The Ceremonial of Bishops), which determines the functions of many other ecclesiastics besides bishops. (That is still the case. The Caerimoniale Episcoporum forms the indispensable complement of other liturgical books for priests too.) "It remained", the pope continues, "that the sacred and authentic rites of the Church, to be observed in the administration of sacraments and other ecclesiastical functions by those who have the care of souls, should also be included in one book and published by authority of the Apostolic See; so that they should carry out their office according to a public and fixed standard, instead of following so great a multitude of Rituals".
But, unlike the other books of the Roman Rite, the Ritual has never been imposed as the only standard. Paul V did not abolish all other collections of the same kind, nor command every one to use only his book. He says: "Wherefore we exhort in the Lord" that it should be adopted. The result of this is that the old local Rituals have never been altogether abolished. After the appearance of the Roman edition these others were gradually more and more conformed to it. They continued to be used, but had many of their prayers and ceremonies modified to agree with the Roman book. This applies especially to the rites of Baptism, Holy Communion, the form of absolution, Extreme Unction. The ceremonies also contained in the Missal (holy water, the processions of Candlemas and Palm Sunday, etc.), and the prayers also in the Breviary (the Office of the Dead) are necessarily identical with those of Paul V's Ritual; these have the absolute authority of the Missal and Breviary. On the other hand, many countries have local customs for Marriage, the visitation of the sick, etc., numerous special blessings, processions and sacramentals not found in the Roman book, still printed in various diocesan Rituals. It is then by no means the case that every priest of the Roman Rite uses the Roman Ritual. Very many dioceses or provinces still have their own local handbooks under the name of Rituale or another (Ordo administrandi sacramenta, etc.), though all of these conform to the Roman text in the chief elements. Most contain practically all the Roman book, and have besides local additions.
The further history of the Rituale Romanum is this: Benedict XIV in 1752 revised it, together with the Pontifical and Cærimoniale Episcoporum. His new editions of these three books were published by the Brief "Quam ardenti" (25 March 1752), which quotes Paul V's Constitution at length and is printed, as far as it concerns this book, in the beginning of the Ritual. He added to Paul V's text two forms for giving the papal blessing (V, 6; VIII, 31). Meanwhile, a great number of additional blessings were added in an appendix. This appendix is now nearly as long as the original book. Under the title Benedictionale Romanum it is often issued separately. Leo XIII approved an editio typica published by Pustet at Ratisbon in 1884.
With the advent of the Second Vatican Council there was a push to revise all of the official books of the Catholic Church, including the Pontifical, the Ceremonial of Bishop, The Roman Ritual, the Missal and the Breviary. The initial changes were made to the Missal, and the changes followed on from there, with each rite of the church being strenuously revised. The Roman Ritual itself was split up into Two volumes, published in 1976 with the most recent edition dating from 1990, now called "The Rites." The first volume contains the majority of the old Roman Ritual, it covers all of the sacraments with the exception of Ordination, and it covers funerary rites. The second volume covers more episcopal ceremonies including the consecration of altars, the order of ordaining Deacons, Priests and Bishops and consecrating the oils for use in the church.
The second section of the old Roman Ritual, the Benedictionale, was also extensively revised. It is now published as "The Book of Blessings", or in Latin De Benedictionibus. This was published initially in 1987 with the most recent edition dating from 1990 also. It contains many blessings, however they are far less florid in comparison to those in the Ritual. The blessings in the new book follow more the structure of the Mass, with general intercessions, readings, and other features which in the older blessings were not included.
The Rite of Exorcism also underwent a series of revisions and was finally promulgated in 1999, as De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam (Concerning Exorcisms and Certain Supplications).
The Rituale Romanum is divided into ten "titles" (tituli). All, except the first, are subdivided into chapters. In each title (except I and X), the first chapter gives the general rules for the sacrament or function, while the others give the exact ceremonies and prayers for various cases of administration.
The Armenians have a ritual book (Mashdotz) similar to the Roman Ritual.
Other churches not in communion with the Holy See have not yet arranged the various parts of this book in one collection. Nearly all the Eastern Catholic Churches, however, now have ritual books formed on the Roman model.
Criticism of the revised rites
- The New Rite of Exorcism: The Influence of the Evil One concerning the Book of Blessings.