Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

Archive for consecration

Using Multiple Ciboria and Chalices

And More on Spanish Homilies

ROME, SEPT. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Can you advise as to the correct procedure when arranging ciboria and chalices on the altar following the receiving of the gifts? Given that during a large celebration there will be a number of chalices and ciboria, is it appropriate to arrange them symmetrically giving pride of place to the celebrant’s chalice and ciborium? There are those self-proclaimed liturgists who would insist that as there “is only ONE bread and ONE body,” only the celebrant’s chalice and paten/ciborium should be placed centrally on the corporal and the additional vessels should be placed “to one side.” This seems to me to fly in the face of consecration of the elements. — I.M., Island of Jersey, United Kingdom

A: Among the most explicit norms touching on this theme are the norms published by the U.S. bishops’ conference on Communion under both kinds. Although these norms have no legal force outside of the States, they are indicative and have been approved by the Holy See.

Among other practical suggestions they say:

“32. Before Mass begins, wine and hosts should be provided in vessels of appropriate size and number. The presence on the altar of a single chalice and one large paten can signify the one bread and one chalice by which we are gathered ‘into the one Body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.’ When this is not possible, care should be taken that the number of vessels should not exceed the need.

“At the Preparation of the Gifts

“36. The altar is prepared with corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless the chalice is prepared at a side table) by the deacon and the servers. The gifts of bread and wine are brought forward by the faithful and received by the priest or deacon or at a convenient place. (Cf. GIRM, no. 333). If one chalice is not sufficient for Holy Communion to be distributed under both kinds to the Priest concelebrants or Christ’s faithful, several chalices are placed on a corporal on the altar in an appropriate place, filled with wine. It is praiseworthy that the main chalice be larger than the other chalices prepared for distribution.”

On the one hand, these norms present the preferred situation of a single chalice and one large paten. On the other, they bow to the reality of many different situations and wisely abstain from offering rigid proposals for all circumstances.

This same flexibility may be used in responding to the question at hand.

While certainly pride of place must always be given to the celebrant’s chalice and paten, placing them directly in front of him, other chalices and ciboria may be arranged either beside the principal vessels on a single large corporal or on other corporals placed upon the altar.

In some very large concelebrations with many vessels, a special corporal covering almost the entire altar table and placed before Mass is sometimes used, as the vessels take up most of the available space.

Among the factors to be taken into account is the number of vessels. If we are speaking of but one or two extra vessels, then having everything on a single corporal is probably preferable. If there are many vessels, then extra corporals would be preferred, located in such a way so as not to block the view of the main vessels and also respecting common-sense symmetry and aesthetics.

Other elements to be considered include the size of the altar, the logistics of the various movements, the number of concelebrants and faithful, and the method chosen for distributing holy Communion. Since all of these might vary from one celebration to the next, there is no universal rule that can be applied to all cases.

* * *

Follow-up: Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman

Several attentive readers offered input on our Sept. 11 commentary regarding a layman reading a priest’s homily in Spanish.

Some readers illustrated the huge difficulties faced by many priests seeking to accommodate the influx of Spanish-speaking parishioners throughout the continental United States, including in some unexpected regions.

One reader pointed out these difficulties are often compounded by the fact that not all immigrants speak the same variety of Spanish. And there are even rural immigrants from countries such as Peru and Mexico for whom Spanish is not their first language.

In such cases, even standard Spanish can leave them perplexed in a similar way as happens to English-speaking Americans visiting England who discover the truth behind Churchill’s quip that they are two countries separated by the same language.

In my earlier reply I had supposed that the solution of simultaneous translation was rather uncommon. An experienced reader, however, informed me that this is often the preferred and best solution in many parishes.

He wrote: “Simultaneous translation maintains the original ‘communicative’ rapport of the pastor with his flock. My recent experience of this situation in the USA is that the level of English among the [Spanish-speaking] listeners is extremely diverse. Some will understand 100%, others 80%, 50%, etc. Those who have no knowledge of English have the live translation, and they can also perceive the personality of the priest in his intonations, facial expressions and gestures. It establishes a much more personal relationship than simply listening to a written text read to them.

“I have seen priests do this in an engaging way that manages to create a very lively rapport with the congregation, even without the homilists’ speaking a single word of their language. In the situation described, there are surely people willing to do the simultaneous translation and, in the end, all will benefit greatly from it.”

If an immediate simultaneous translation is not feasible, but it is possible for someone to translate the text of the homily ahead of time, then I believe that the best solution is that the priest preach the homily in English and after each paragraph or principal point some other person read the translation, preferably using a different microphone.

While I know of no official document forbidding it, I still maintain that having a layperson read the whole homily in lieu of the priest is not a proper solution. The nature of the homily as a communication of the ordained minister should be preserved as far as possible.

Likewise it is necessary to avoid even the appearance of any confusion of ministerial roles or of a layperson delivering the homily. Most regular parishioners are capable of distinguishing between a layperson reading and preaching the homily. But in the highly mobile U.S. society, visitors are frequent, and it is best to avoid all possibility of scandal.

It is also true that some input from the lay reader is inevitable as nobody can read a text without putting himself into it. Words that are read are never merely someone else’s communication.



Advertisements

On Changing the Corporal

And More on Words at the Consecration

ROME, JULY 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Does the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) stipulate that the use of a new corporal on the altar at each Mass celebration is no longer needed? I see that a corporal is placed on the altar at some parishes for a week or more before changing it. I always thought the purpose of this cloth was to take proper care of any particles of Jesus’ body that might fall from the hands or ciborium or paten. If this is the case, then I think proper care should be taken of the cloth and crumbs at the end of each Mass, and not have it lie there for a week, just accumulating more particles or crumbs. With all the care that a priest might take, the host particles on the white cloth is not always noted — I have learned this from sacristan duties. — E.M., Bridgewater, Virginia

A: The corporal is a square piece of linen or other fine fabric sometimes starched so as to be fairly firm. It is customarily folded into nine sections and hence stored flat. A larger corporal or more than one corporal may be required for concelebrations and other solemn celebrations.

Before use, the corporal is usually left on top of the chalice and, while no longer obligatory, it may be kept in a flat, square case called a burse.

Before the present reform, hosts were placed directly upon the corporal and although this is rarely the case today, as our reader points out, it may gather any fragments that fall from the host during the celebration although these mostly fall into either the ciborium or chalice.

The GIRM mentions the corporal in several places, first of all in describing the preparation of the gifts, in No. 73: “[T]he Lord’s table, which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, is prepared by placing on it the corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice.”

No. 118 says that the corporal should be on the credence table before Mass. Other indications require that a chalice or ciborium should be placed on a corporal whenever it is left on the altar or credence table for purification.

With respect to our reader’s queries, it would appear that in her parish they follow the bad habit of leaving the corporal unfolded upon the altar between Masses and even for days on end. The norms require that the corporal be unfolded during the presentation of gifts and properly folded again after Communion.

All the same, extra corporals may be placed on the altar before especially solemn Masses in which more sacred vessels are used than can fit on the corporal directly in front of the priest.

The GIRM does not require a new corporal for each Mass, it is sufficient for the corporal to be opened and folded with due care to avoid any mishaps. For this reason a corporal should be opened one section at a time while lying flat and never shook open.

A corporal is washed in the same manner as a purificator although less frequently. It is first soaked in water; this water is then poured either down a sacrarium or directly upon the earth. Afterward, the corporal may be washed in a normal fashion.

* * *

Follow-up: When Words Over the Host Are Repeated

After our piece on repeating the words of consecration (July 3), some related questions came to light.

A reader from Los Angeles asked: “Our priest took the chalice in his hands and said the text of consecration of bread. But before the elevation, he realized his mistake, put down the chalice, and elevated the host. After that he took the chalice again in his hands and said the text of consecration of wine and elevated. At the end of Mass he told us (without apologizing) that this Mass was a valid Mass. Was it?”

From the information supplied, I would say that it was a valid Mass. The priest was clearly distracted. But the taking of the bread in his hands, while necessary for the authenticity of the rite by illustrating the meaning of the words “This is,” is not usually considered as absolutely essential to validity.

Otherwise, it becomes harder to justify that the priest validly consecrates all the breads and all the wine in other chalices, without any physical contact.

A Toronto reader asked: “An 84-year-old priest who has suffered lung injury, often when saying Mass for an assembled congregation loses his breath. Is it licit for him to say some parts of the canon silently to himself whenever he loses his breath?”

I am sure that the faithful are understanding and edified by the fidelity of this priest in persevering in his mission as long as he is physically able.

Although the canon is a public prayer and should normally be spoken in a clear voice, in cases such as these, it is sufficient for the priest to be able to hear himself speak. It would be illicit, however, to only mentally recite the Eucharistic Prayer without using the voice, and the consecration would be invalid if carried out in this manner.

Modern microphones can also help to amplify even a feeble voice.

* * *

Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

When Words Over the Host Are Repeated

And More on Litanies at Weddings

ROME, JULY 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: My parish priest recited the words of consecrating the host twice: first over the host and then over the chalice. He did not appear to notice — although a number of parishioners did. Certainly he did not go back and recite the correct prayer. Was the consecration of the chalice valid? Was the Mass valid? There was a deacon at that Mass, but he did not intervene. He was as startled as any of us and before we realized what had happened the priest was continuing with the next part of the Eucharistic Prayer. Should the deacon have intervened at once, even to the point of interrupting the Eucharistic Prayer? Should anyone have intervened at once, even if that means calling out from the pews? — F.T., England

A: This question highlights the importance of us priests being attentive during the celebration, above all at the essential moments of Mass.

It is advisable not to trust too much to memory and to read these prayers directly from the missal. Many of us have perhaps fallen into some error by excessive trust in automatic pilot.

The question is rather delicate, but I will try to answer succinctly. The consecration of the host was valid. The consecration of the chalice was not, for the priest’s intention to consecrate cannot supply for the lack of proper sacramental form.

As a consequence the Mass, which requires the consecration of both species, was not valid. Those who received the host at communion were in the same state as those who receive Communion outside of Mass.

What should the deacon or the faithful have done? As a priest is as human as everyone else, and can also get tired and distracted, they should comprehend that such mishaps may occur. The mishaps should, however, be remedied as soon as possible.

In the case at hand the deacon should have immediately, albeit quietly, interrupted the priest as soon as he realized that he was using the mistaken formula. If no deacon is present, then one of the faithful may approach the altar and inform him.

The priest, as soon as he has realized his mistake, should then recite the proper formula. If he had just initiated the second part of the Eucharistic Prayer he may repeat it. If the Eucharistic Prayer was already near the end or completed, then he should interrupt the Mass at that point, quietly recite the formula of consecration, and then continue the Mass from where he left off.

If he were informed of his error just after Mass ended, then he should immediately consecrate and consume the species of wine in order to complete the Sacrifice, even, if necessary, in the sacristy.

If he becomes aware of his error after some time has elapsed, then nothing remains to be done but seek forgiveness and commit himself to be more attentive in the future. If a stipend were attached to the celebration of the Mass in question, another Mass must be celebrated to fulfill the obligation.

A moment of slight priestly embarrassment is a small price to pay for assuring the validity of the celebration. Likewise, a priest’s meekness and humility in recognizing his error will be a source of edification to the faithful and serve to temper any harsh judgments.

* * *

Follow-up: Why No Litanies at a Wedding

Several readers commented on the prospects of using the litany of saints during a wedding (see June 19).

One priest wrote: “I just thought I would share with you an interesting use of the litany that I saw at a wedding Mass I attended while I was a seminarian. The litany was used as the gathering song during the entrance. I found it to be an interesting way to include the Litany of the Saints in the wedding Mass. I should add that the procession was an actual procession, and not just a fancy entrance of the bride.”

This described use of the litany as a gathering or entrance song is quite appropriate.

Another reader informed me that a couple of bishops’ conferences either have already approved or are in process of approving and submitting to the Holy See for confirmation, revised rituals for weddings which foresee the possibility of substituting the Litany of the Saints for the prayer of the faithful.

There were some other questions related to weddings. A reader from Ottawa asked: “After discussing wedding ideas with my significant other, I have realized that we together know about four priests! What is the appropriate role in the wedding service for ‘extra’ priests? Are they merely guests? Do they ‘concelebrate’ (an inaccurate term, but a better one eludes me) the marriage?”

There is no difficulty in priests concelebrating at a wedding Mass. Only one priest, however, usually the pastor or the priest duly delegated to receive the vows, may officiate at the specific matrimonial rites which may not be divided among several ministers. For serious reasons, however, another priest may preach the homily.

A correspondent from Vietnam mentioned a rather unusual novelty: “At our parish, sometimes two readers share the same reading in the Mass, especially in the wedding Mass where the bride and the bridegroom read the first reading, each takes over a half. I wonder if this practice is allowed.”

As it is impossible for liturgical norms to cover all that the imagination can concoct, it is not explicitly forbidden. But it does go against sound liturgical practice. If both bride and groom wish to read, then one can do the reading and the other one the psalm. The lectionary for ritual Masses also allows the possibility of adding a second reading.

Finally, a reader from Michigan consulted: “In July a wedding is scheduled to take place in our parish at our usual 6 p.m. Mass. Some few parishioners are upset about this and claim that weddings must be done at a separate Mass. Would you please explain if this is permissible. I should tell you that we are in a semi-rural community and our pastor, as with so many priests, must take care of two parishes.”

There is no rule that weddings should be celebrated at a separate Mass. And it is even recommendable that, at least occasionally, some sacraments, such as baptism and even matrimony, be celebrated within a Sunday Mass.

This serves to highlight the community sense of these sacraments. Marriage “in the Lord” is not just a private affair but a source of joy for the whole ecclesial community. Such a celebration should also help remind the couple that their commitment is not just to themselves but to God and the Church.

Since a wedding at a regular Sunday Mass can lead to some practical difficulties, the pastor needs to take the needs of regular churchgoers into account. By notifying well in advance, the pastor has assured that those who do not wish to attend have plenty of time to establish alternative plans.

There are also some specific norms regarding the situations when it is possible to celebrate the ritual Mass of Matrimony on a Sunday and in what circumstances the regular Sunday readings may be changed. If the readings and prayers are to be taken from the ritual Mass at a parish which habitually provides missalettes to the faithful, then sufficient booklets should be prepared for all who attend.