Archive for mass
And More on Multiple Chalices
ROME, OCT. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Unlike our present pastor, our former priest always would mention the intention for the Mass. Is this up to the individual priest? It gets printed in our bulletin, but I would hope the priest would mention who the Mass is for at some point, even though I know God knows who it is for. — L.S., St. Louis, Missouri
A: While there are no universal laws regarding this topic, some dioceses have published norms with common-sense indications that all priests may take into account.
My reply is inspired by the norms issued by the Diocese of Rome.
There is no requirement to mention the priest’s intention at the Mass. Thus, a mention in the bulletin or some other public notification is a legitimate option, especially when the pastor is aware that the person who requested the Mass will not be present at the celebration.
If the person or family who requested the intention wishes to be present, then it is good that the celebrant mention the name of the person for whom the Mass is being offered.
This may best be done either after the greeting at the beginning of Mass or as an intention of the prayer of the faithful.
The name should not normally be mentioned during the Eucharistic prayer. This naming is best left for funeral Masses, Masses at the notification of death, and significant anniversaries. The special formulas for funerals, especially in Eucharistic Prayers 2 and 3, were specifically composed with such occasions in mind and were not conceived for daily recitation.
It should be remembered that the Mass intention refers above all to the intention of the celebrating priest who took upon himself the commitment to celebrate for a specific intention when he accepted a stipend.
Since the Mass is infinite the priest may also have other personal intentions that may or may not be reflected in the Mass formula used.
For example, a priest may offer the Mass for a deceased soul while at the same time using the Mass formula “For Vocations,” with the personal intention of asking God to bless the Church with abundant vocations.
Likewise, while any person assisting at Mass is free to associate his prayer with the intention of the priest celebrant, he or she is also free to offer up participation at the Mass for any number of personal intentions.
We also have dealt amply with the topic of intentions and stipends in our columns of Feb. 22 and March 8 in 2005.
Follow-up: Using Multiple Ciboria and Chalices
In the wake of our comments on multiple vessels (Sept. 25) a reader asked: “When several chalices are prepared for a concelebrated Mass, my understanding is that it is correct to add water to the wine only in the ‘main’ chalice, and that it is not necessary to add water to the wine in all the chalices. Is there any official document in which this is specified?”
This point has been discussed by liturgists, but no consensus has been found. Nor am I aware of any official norms on this particular subject.
Some liturgists hold the position that it is sufficient to add water to the chalice of the principal chalice, which thus forms a moral unity with the other chalices for the purpose of consecration.
This argument is fairly solid from the theological standpoint, and there would certainly be no doubt that the consecration would be valid and licit.
It also solves the problem of the rather ungainly sight of a deacon or priest pouring a drop of water into several chalices already arrayed upon the altar.
It is not, however, universal liturgical practice. Many celebrants prefer to place water in all chalices, along with wine, so that all communicants can receive from wine that has been mixed with water according to ancient Church tradition.
This may be done in two ways. If there are only a couple of extra chalices, then wine and water, or just water (if the extra chalices are already prepared) may be placed in all of them during the preparation of the gifts.
If there are many chalices, then water and wine may be placed in all but the principal chalice when the chalices are prepared before Mass begins.
This latter solution is generally practiced by the Vatican sacristans for large concelebrations at St. Peter’s.
And More on Altar Cloths
ROME, OCT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: In our parish we have a temporary overseas priest and a married deacon. During Benediction our married deacon consistently wears the full vestments that a priest wears for Benediction; says the Divine Praises; and elevates the monstrance while the overseas priest either sits watching in the pew or acts as an acolyte, swinging the thurible. The priest only wears an alb or even just plain clothes with no vestments, and remains kneeling. Several parishioners are much disturbed and have said so. I have asked the deacon why he wears the priest’s vestments. His answer: “I’m an ordained minister.” My reply was, “But you are not a priest.” I asked, “Who has given you authority to do this?” He stated that the bishop has. There are other irregularities which he persists in during the Mass. He stands throughout the prayers; takes the host from the ciborium given to him by the overseas priest; mouths the doxology; and even holds the paten containing the host. — R.I., state of New South Wales, Australia
A: Some distinctions should be made. Although the deacon is an ordained minister, he is of a lower grade than a priest and therefore he should not preside over the community if a priest is present.
Therefore in normal cases a deacon may not give a blessing, and even less so Benediction, if a priest is present and available.
He may do so if the priest is legitimately impeded, for example, if the priest were hearing confessions during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and could not leave the confessional to impart Benediction.
In those cases where the deacon legitimately imparts Benediction, either because there is no priest or the priest is impeded, the deacon may wear the same vestments as the priest: the stole albeit worn in the manner of a deacon, the cope and the humeral veil. He may also recite or sing the same prayers as the priest. He does not need any special permission from the bishop to wear these vestments as the rubrics already foresee it.
The other actions that our correspondent describes are aptly termed irregularities. The deacon should usually kneel for the consecration, silently hold up the chalice (not the paten) for the doxology, and should always receive Communion from the priest and not self-communicate.
Rather than any special permission or dispensation from the bishop (who is unlikely to dispense from basic liturgical law for no reason), such errors are more probably due to bad habits and imperfect liturgical formation. The person responsible for correcting them is the pastor, the priest celebrant, or even the bishop if the local priest is unwilling.
When a deacon is ordained he promises the bishop and the Church that he is willing to carry out the diaconal service with humility and love as a cooperator of the priestly order and for the good of the Christian people. If he lives up to his promise, then he will gladly correct any errors that might have crept in.
The Web site of the U.S. bishops’ conference has a useful document “The Deacon at Mass,” based on the latest norms from the Holy See.
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Follow-up: Altar Cloths
A priest reader from British Columbia sent in some more information regarding cloths that may be placed upon the altar (see Sept. 18 column).
He wrote: “There is the practice, not universal, of placing a cerecloth, a cloth made waterproof by being soaked in wax. It was placed immediately under the altar cloth to prevent, in the case of accident, any spilled Precious Blood seeping through to other cloths or coverings. Apparently this type of cloth was also used in wrapping a corpse. Hence, the mind might allow for a connection between the Bloody Sacrifice of Calvary and the Un-bloody Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.”
A reader from Israel asked: “Is there or was there a rite or prayers to prepare an altar that hasn’t been used recently for Mass and hasn’t had the Blessed Sacrament present for a while? Perhaps called ‘dressing the altar’?”
In most cases an altar that has been unused for some time does not lose its original dedication and there is no need to be dedicated or blessed anew.
A suitable way of underlining the return to use is with a new set of liturgical objects, such as a new altar cloth and other linens. These may be blessed at the beginning of Mass using the appropriate rites and formulas described in the Book of Blessings.
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Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.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.
And More on Media at Homilies
ROME, SEPT. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Could you clarify why three cloths are used on the altar? We have a discussion ongoing in our parish where there are two schools of thought: Either this has a symbolic reference to the Trinity or, alternatively, has a symbolism linked to the shroud cloths of Christ. — A.F., Sheffield, England
A: The question of cloths on the altar is dealt with in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 304, which states:
“Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered on an altar where this memorial is celebrated, there should be at least one white cloth, its shape, size, and decoration in keeping with the altar’s design. When, in the dioceses of the United States of America, other cloths are used in addition to the altar cloth, then those cloths may be of other colors possessing Christian honorific or festive significance according to longstanding local usage, provided that the uppermost cloth covering the mensa (i.e., the altar cloth itself) is always white in color.”
Therefore, only one white cloth is obligatory in the present rite unlike the extraordinary form of the Roman rite (the Missal of John XXIII) which specifies three cloths, one of which covers the entire altar table and hangs down the sides almost to the floor. The other two cover at least the table or the stone containing the sacred relic.
The attribution of possible symbolic references for these cloths is not uniform and their history is often entangled. Sometimes in liturgy an object is first used for one reason, for example, covering a sacred object with a cloth as a sign of respect and care.
This was a fairly common practice in the ancient world and is not exclusive to Christianity or even to the specifically religious sphere. It was sometimes applied to civil objects such as symbols of authority or formal copies of imperial decrees.
During the Middle Ages many well-established liturgical customs were interpreted allegorically as bearing on some doctrinal aspect or representing some moment of the Redemption.
In this way some authors interpreted objects such as the altar cloths as representing the Lord’s shroud, others as the Trinity. Finally, the allegorical interpretation was sometimes reinforced by being incorporated into the design and decoration of the object itself.
The Church itself has usually refrained from granting official sanction to these allegorical interpretations. In some cases more than one interpretation might be legitimate and even useful for illustrating some particular doctrinal point. In other cases excessive use of allegory can even lead us to miss the main theological point, for example, in explaining the essentially sacrificial nature of the Mass.
Another cloth which may be used on the altar is the antependium, or frontal, which hangs down in front of the altar, usually reaching the ground.
In the Western tradition, it is white or some similar color although in some countries it follows the seasonal liturgical color. It may be adorned or embroidered according to local custom and culture. An antependium enhances the dignity of the altar and helps to clearly define the liturgical season.
Other practical cloths may also be placed on the altar such as an under-cloth and a dust cover which is placed over the altar cloth when not in use so as to keep it clean at all times.
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Follow-up: Slide Shows at Homilies
In response to our piece on slide shows during homilies (Sept. 4) a reader from Evansville, Indiana, mentioned a case which went beyond a presentation: “Once, our parish priest replaced the homily with a film. As you noted that images may remind people of television, this action by our priest reminded me of a movie theater. It was as if I were watching a movie that did not interest me. While the lights in the church were dimmed, I am sure others felt the same way and some of them may have even taken a short nap in the darkness.”
While the homily may not be the place for the use of such media as DVD’s and presentations, they can be most useful evangelization tools in other contexts such as catechesis and the continual Christian formation of adults. As another reader pointed out, such modern means are “easy to use, pleasant to view, and draw wonderfully focused lessons and applications. They are often prepared by religious sisters and are the fruit of a lifetime of professional communication in the classroom.”
If truly useful, it is even possible to use such means in the church, as it is not always possible or practical to convoke the people at other times or venues. For example, with adequate foresight the pastor could invite the faithful to remain a few minutes after Mass to view a video or presentation on some topic of pastoral or spiritual concern.
And More on Devotions During Mass
ROME, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Our parish has one Mass in Spanish. None of the priests and deacons is a native Hispanic, but the priests make every effort on their part to say Mass in Spanish. They are improving. I am one of the deacons and am fluent in Spanish, having lived in Spanish-speaking countries for several years. The pastor has his English homilies translated into Spanish. I read the Gospel in Spanish and sit down while a native Spanish-speaking layman reads the homily. Another priest has his English homily translated also, but he reads it himself. Is it permitted for the layperson to read the homily? — R.M., Huntersville, North Carolina
A: In first place, one must duly recognize the zeal and effort made by many English-speaking priests in the United States to meet the pastoral needs of the growing Spanish-speaking population.
Learning a new language is never easy, and doing so when one is already advanced in life is yet more daunting.
That said, I do not believe that having a layperson read out a translation of a homily is a viable solution. It is likely to cause confusion and leave the impression that the layperson is actually giving the homily itself, a practice which has been repeatedly prohibited.
Also, a homily is more that just a text that is read; it is closer to a conversation, a personal communication in which the ordained minister explains God’s word and exhorts the faithful to live in accordance with what they have heard. Therefore the personal element is very relevant to the efficacy of the communication itself.
With this in mind the best solution is always that the priest read his prepared text. My experience with Spanish speakers is that they are almost universally grateful and edified when the minister makes the effort to speak in their language. They are also very tolerant and forgiving of errors and slip-ups.
While having the deacon read the text avoids the problem of confusing ministerial roles, it is still an imperfect solution from the personal communicative point of view.
Since the deacon may also give the homily, it would probably be better that the pastor entrust him with this task until he acquires a sufficient dominion of the language. Of course, the pastor could indicate to the deacon the principal ideas that he would like the deacon to develop in the homily he delivers.
Another, less perfect, but legitimate, solution would be to deliver the homily in English while someone else, either the deacon or a layperson, either simultaneously translates the homily or reads a prepared text afterward. This kind of solution is more common when the Mass is celebrated by a foreign ecclesiastical dignitary who preaches in a language unknown to most of the hearers.
There might, however, be some extraordinary cases when the homily may be simply read by someone else due to some impediment on the part of the celebrant. This was the case in the final years of Pope John Paul II when his ability to speak clearly was increasingly impaired by illness.
There are many useful pastoral resources available on the Internet for priests and deacons. One of these, ePriest, has a special section offering Spanish-language homilies in text and audio.
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Follow-up: Novenas and Devotions During Mass
In the wake of our column on mixing devotions and Mass (Aug. 28) a priest from Conway Springs, Kansas, asked for a clarification.
I had written: “[I]t is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass.” Our correspondent asked: “Could you clarify the difference between ‘non-liturgical litanies’ and ‘liturgical litanies’? Are the only ‘liturgical litanies’ those in the sacramentary (e.g., at the Easter Vigil or an ordination)? I was taught that certain litanies, such as of the Sacred Heart, were approved for use within a liturgy of the Church.”
By “liturgical litanies” I referred to the various litanies specifically found in the liturgical books for the celebration of Mass as well as other sacraments (such as baptism, ordination and anointing of the sick) and sacramentals, such as the crowning of an image of Our Lady.
These would be the only litanies used as a specific rite within Mass, although some other forms of prayer, such as the prayer of the faithful and the Kyrie, are also technically litanies.
As our correspondent says, there are other approved litanies that may be used in public worship, such as during exposition (if consonant with the aims of adoration) and other public devotions and novenas. The principal approved litanies are found in the Roman Ritual and are also listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences (concession 22.2 partial indulgence).
The litanies (liturgical and devotional) thus universally approved are the litanies of the Holy Name, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Precious Blood, Blessed Virgin Mary (those of Loreto and the Queenship, which is used as part of the order of crowning an image), St. Joseph and All Saints.
Many other litanies have been approved either for private use of the faithful or in some cases for particular groups.
Among such litanies are the litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim, much beloved by Pope John Paul II, and the litany of Divine Mercy, both of which are often prayed in common. Others, usually prayed privately by individuals, include the litany of the Holy Spirit, of the Infant Jesus, of the Blessed Sacrament, of the Passion, and for the souls in purgatory.
The distinction between private and public use derives above all from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 1259.2). It forbade the public recitation of litanies that had not been approved by the Holy See. This prohibition included not only the public recitation of unapproved litanies by priests but extended to particular groups of the faithful who prayed in common without an ordained minister present.
This canon has not been retained in the present code. And while the law today is somewhat more flexible, it does not necessarily mean that all litanies formally approved for private use can now be publicly used.
There were and are good reasons for not multiplying the number of public litanies. Canon 839.2 of the 1983 Code directs the local ordinary to assure that “the prayers and pious and sacred exercises of the Christian people are fully in keeping with the norms of the Church.”
And More on “Sin” and “Sins”
ROME, AUG. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: I have seen novenas prayed together by the congregation, led by the priest directly after the Gospel of a weekday Mass. Is this correct? — C.H., Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Q: I was wondering if it is appropriate to insert the Chaplet of Divine Mercy into the liturgy? Our parish recited this after the homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, led by our pastor. It seemed as if a beautiful, but optional, devotion was forced on a captive congregation. — L.S., Hutchinson, Kansas
A: This topic referred to in these two questions is dealt with in the December 2001 document “Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy,” published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.
No. 13 of this document states: “The objective difference between pious exercises and devotional practices should always be clear in expressions of worship. Hence, the formulae proper to pious exercises should not be commingled with the liturgical actions. Acts of devotion and piety are external to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of the other sacraments.
“On the one hand, a superimposing of pious and devotional practices on the Liturgy so as to differentiate their language, rhythm, course, and theological emphasis from those of the corresponding liturgical action, must be avoided, while any form of competition with or opposition to the liturgical actions, where such exists, must also be resolved. Thus, precedence must always be given to Sunday, Solemnities, and to the liturgical seasons and days.
“Since, on the other [hand], pious practices must conserve their proper style, simplicity and language, attempts to impose forms of ‘liturgical celebration’ on them are always to be avoided.”
Therefore it is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass; this mixing respects neither the nature of the Eucharistic celebration nor the essence of the pious exercise. Novenas or non-liturgical litanies may, however, be recited immediately before or after Mass.
Some readers ask if devotions may be carried out during Eucharistic adoration. The above-mentioned directory suggests in No. 165: “Gradually, the faithful should be encouraged not to do other devotional exercises during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.” It adds, however: “Given the close relationship between Christ and Our Lady, the rosary can always be of assistance in giving prayer a Christological orientation, since it contains meditation of the Incarnation and the Redemption.”
Although the rosary is the only devotion specifically mentioned, it is possible that other devotions that can likewise be given a Christological orientation. These include novenas in preparation for Christmas and other feasts, which could be used as vocal prayers and acclamations immediately before Benediction.
This would not be the case for a novena or devotion to a particular saint.
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Follow-up: Gloria’s “Sin” and Agnus Dei’s “Sins”
Pursuant to our debate (July 24) on whether the Latin “peccata mundi” should be translated “sin” or “sins” of the world, an Indian priest from Mumbai sent in the following reflection (excerpted here) which I gladly share:
“There has always been confusion among quite a few on the singular and the plural aspect of sin. The English text of Scripture, which is faithful to the original, always uses the singular aspect of sin when it talks of the role of Agnus Dei (John 1:29,36).
“There is a sin which is referred to in the singular sense and there are sins which plurally mean the many areas of sins we as human beings commit. The singular normally refers to the original sin committed by our first parents and now through conception passed on to us.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to destroy this work of the devil (1 John 3:8), that is,
1) The darkness of evil that prevents us to have a right knowledge of God. Jesus repairs this flaw by revealing to us God as Abba Father and giving us his Spirit that bears witness with our spirit, even calling God Abba Father.
2) His shedding of blood and death is that ransom taking us out from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of his beloved. This for us is the beginning of a new life sealed with Christ’s life in baptism that has to now struggle against the concupiscence of sin.
“The proclamation of the Gospel is an invitation to faith and reconciliation and is made complete through baptism. The sacraments, especially of reconciliation, are primarily our constant struggle against the concupiscence of sin. This is where the dividing line of sin and sins diminishes, where ultimately they are one reality.”
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Readers may send questions to email@example.com. 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.
And More on Concelebrants From Different Rites
ROME, JULY 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: What is the procedure for the veneration of the altar by concelebrants at the end of Mass? Do all concelebrants venerate the altar, or is this only reserved for the main celebrant? When concelebrating, I merely bow to the altar, but have noticed that many others kiss the altar. — M.C., Durban, South Africa
A: This topic is dealt with succinctly in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 251: “Before leaving the altar, the concelebrants make a profound bow to the altar. For his part the principal celebrant, along with the deacon, venerates the altar with a kiss in the usual way.”
Thus the principal celebrant kisses the altar, and simultaneously all concelebrants bow deeply. This norm presupposes that the concelebrants remain standing at their seats.
After making this bow, the concelebrants may leave the sanctuary in several ways, depending on the numbers involved and the logistics of the movements.
If there are many concelebrants, and the tabernacle is not present in the sanctuary, the bow they made as the principal celebrant kissed the altar may be considered as sufficient, and they begin at once to leave their places in an orderly way, following the acolytes.
If the tabernacle is present in the sanctuary, then, after kissing the altar, the main celebrant goes to the front of the altar and all the concelebrants, remaining at their places, may genuflect along with him before beginning the exit procession. If this is likely to cause logistical difficulties, or if there is no space in which to genuflect, then it is sufficient for the principal concelebrant to make the genuflection.
If there are few concelebrants, then they line up with the principal celebrant and servers in front of the altar and all bow or genuflect together as the case may be.
Monsignor Peter J. Elliott describes some other particular cases in his ceremonies guide, in Nos. 449-450. He states:
“If a long recessional hymn is being sung, the concelebrants may come before the altar in twos and bow or genuflect in pairs. In this case, the servers leading them to the sacristy should move slowly, so as to avoid breaking up the procession. If there are many concelebrants, and they are arranged in positions away from the sanctuary area, they may remain in their places until the principal celebrant and other concelebrants and servers have left the sanctuary and follow in a separate procession. However this is not ideal as it diminishes their role.
“On arriving in the sacristy, if there is room for them, the concelebrants should line up facing the crucifix or image or the processional cross, held by the cross bearer, and so as to allow the principal celebrant to come to the center of the room. All make the customary reverence together and then proceed quietly to the designated place or vesting room where each concelebrant un-vests, in a spirit of recollection and peace.”
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Follow-up: Concelebrants From Different Rites
Along with the recent question on priests of different rites concelebrating (June 26), other queries have asked about the concelebration itself.
One priest asked for a clarification as to the concept “principal celebrant.” He wrote: “To me it seems that one is either a celebrant or not. This is particularly annoying in vesture. To distinguish between the celebrants seems to confuse the idea of a hierarchical liturgy. I understand the practicality of the distinction, but it seems that with the frequency of concelebration, concelebrants seem like ‘secondary’ ministers not equal in dignity to the celebrant — the bishop being a different matter altogether is understood.”
Of course, except in the case of a bishop, all priest concelebrants have the same dignity and all equally celebrate. This is emphasized by such details as the priest who reads the Gospel not asking for a blessing from another priest as he would from a bishop.
However, when the Church restored the practice of concelebration it decided that the model for all concelebrations would be the Mass presided over by the bishop.
This principle, as well as the need to preserve the unity and dignity of the celebration, resulted in the decision not to divide the principal rites and prayers among several priests. Rather, only one of them would carry them out, except for some parts of the Eucharistic Prayer.
This priest, who is called the principal celebrant, also establishes the basic rhythm of the celebration to which the other priests adjust.
Since it is he who presides over the assembly, it is congruous, but not strictly necessary, that he wear a different chasuble if all celebrants are fully vested. If the other concelebrants are wearing just an alb and stole, then he must wear a chasuble over the alb and stole.
This brings us to another related question from the Philippines: “Does the rule of wearing a proper vestment (alb, chasuble and stole) during concelebration apply to a Mass celebrated at a private chapel of the residence of priests? Will it be proper for a priest just to participate in the Mass without concelebrating?”
The Mass, even if celebrated in a private chapel, is always a public action of the Church and therefore the same rules apply everywhere.
The Church highly recommends daily Mass to all priests even if no congregation can be present, but it does not oblige the priest to celebrate. In this way a priest may simply attend a Mass.
Nevertheless, unless the priest has another Eucharistic celebration the same day, it is much better that he concelebrate rather than merely assist. In this way he can obtain more graces for souls in need, and thus more fully exercise his pastoral charity.
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.
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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.