Concelebration

I believe concelebration should be safe, legal and rare.

There are times when I think it is fine to concelebrate.  For example, at the Chrism Mass with one’s bishop in the Cathedral.  There are other instances as well. 

However, concelebration has been turned into an enormously inflated sacred cow.  I have strong memories of being strong-armed toward concelebration at shrines and pilgrimage places, Roman basilicas and elsewhere, rather than simply being permitted to say Mass.  Perhaps it was laziness on the part of sacristans in some places. 

Mostly, it was ideological.

I even know some otherwise sensible, though probably deeply insecure, priests place a value on concelebration such that if you don’t chose to concelebrate you are being anti-social or critical. 

In any event, I was alerted to an entry over at our friends of Rorate about concelebration.  I think it is valuable enough to share here, in order to give it some exposure.  Do visit Rorate as well and give them a bump in their stats to show gratitude for their excellent work.  They have a great site.

My emphases and comments.

Abbé Laguérie on Concelebration

Abbé Laguérie of the Good Shepherd Institute (IBP) [These are the guys in Bordeaux.] has an interesting piece on his blog. In response to a question concerning concelebration, Fr. Laguérie lays out a convincing seven point argument explaining why priests can never be coerced into concelebrating contrary to what has been said about priests being obliged to concelebrate the Chrism Mass with the bishops of their dioceses.  [I have never experienced "coercion" about a Chrism Mass, personally.  However, I think after the last simply dreadful liturgical disaster that was the last Chrism Mass I was at, I may not go at all, much less concelebrate.  But I digress….] The following is a somewhat condensed version of Fathers seven points.

1) The major contention made by the motu proprio is that there is but one rite subsisting in two forms. To introduce a distinction between the effects of the ordinary and extraordinary forms would directly contradict not only the mind of the Pope on this matter but Catholic theology as well. [I suspect that the person who framed this may not make the distinction between the juridical and the historical-theological identity of the two uses.  Summorum Pontificum establishes a juridical relationship between the EF and OF, such that any priest with faculties to say Mass at all automatically has the ability to say the EF.  Summorum Pontificum does not make any historial or theological claims.  As a matter of fact, I suspect that His Holiness would himself doubt that the EF and OF are really the same Roman Rite.  This will be an interesting thing to watch in the future.  Perhaps some students of liturgy will apply themselves to the question.]  Since both forms cannot be distinguished in terms of their validity, nor can they be distinguished in terms of the effects of their ecclesiastic communion, attempting to force a priest to show some sort of additional communion would be a gross abuse of authority[Yes.  I think this is well put.  Even on a more "social" level, even in a parish: a priest who is in any way censorious about another priest opting not to concelebrate, and then acting on that negative view, would be engaging in an abuse of power.] Those who contest this point of view should consider the proposition that priests and bishops who normally celebrate the ordinary form of the rite should be forced to occasionally celebrate the extraordinary form. Certainly we would never be foolish enough to require such a thing.

2) Canon 902 “fully entitle(s) (priests) to celebrate the Eucharist individually”. The same canon states that concelebration can only be practiced “(u)nless the benefit of Christ’s faithful requires or suggests otherwise”. [It is hard to imagine what circumstances might require concelebration "for the good of the faithful".] How would it be possible for the law to dispense priests from doing that which is necessary to their full communion with the Church?

3) Should all the Eastern Rites on the Catholic Church be required to demonstrate their communion by concelebrating the liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI? It certainly hasn’t happened up to this point. Greeks, Melkites, Copts, Syriacs, Slavons, Maronites, etc… Will they all be asked to demonstrate their communion in this fashion? One should shudder to even ask. Their answer may be less then courteous. [And rightly so.]

4) Of course such a proposition flies in the face of the Second Vatican Council which affirms in Sacrosanctum Concilium (I,4) that all lawfully acknowledged rites are accorded equal right and dignity and that this diversity is considered an asset: “Even in the Liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity…” (ibid I, II 37). So to reduce all celebrations to a unique form, far from showing communion, will rather likely make things uncertain and problematic.

5) The idea is also contrary to the will of the reigning Pope as he has often expressed it. One example would be the Holy Father’s words as delivered by his Secretary of State on the occasion of the funeral of Dom Gerard wherein he referred to “the beauty of the Latin liturgy, known to be increasingly a source of communion and unity in the Church."

6) As for the IBP, it is protected from any additional requirement by both its statutes and its decree of erection. But the argument can be made by others as well. [I think the writer means the FSSP, since this was once (and may still be) a point of debate in their ranks and with the Holy See.] If Rome grants the use of the extraordinary form as unique in itself it cannot also impose a supplemental theological requirement.

7) [Fr. Laguérie stresses that there are many pastoral arguments that can be developed and he leaves us with this one:]

“I have in mind the many priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X whom the Holy See, and Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in particular with his legendary patience and kindness, desire to bring home. Be assured that such a last minute requirement would be entirely out of line and would only serve to reinforce rather than soften them in their positions.”  [Yes.  I would be uncharitable madness to require priests to concelebrate simply to show that they are loyal and in unity with Rome or a diocesan bishop, etc.]

Again, I think that concelebration should be safe, legal and rare.   If priests, even of the SSPX, should of their own free will choose to concelebrate for any occasion, the funeral of a priest, the Chrism Mass, an ordination, just to name a few examples, great!  That is also a good gesture of union and communion. 

But I, for one, will never look down on any priest who ever decides not to concelebrate for any reason at all, even if he simply isn’t in the mood to.

 

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23 Responses to Concelebration

  1. Jackie says:

    Fr Z- How would that relate to Holy Thursday Mass? I thought that was one day that all priests pretty much concelebrated if there was more than one priest in a parish since only one mass can be prayed that day. Thanks.

  2. Jackie: A priest could decide not to say Mass on Holy Thursday.

  3. Michael J says:

    Father,

    It seems to me that these same arguments (with the exception, perhaps, of item 2) can be applied to any practice common to the OF that many are reluctant to introduce into the EF.

    This would include female altar servers, extraordinary ministers of communion, communion on the hand and mofifications to the traditional calendar.

  4. newtrad says:

    Father,
    I have been told the reason our bishop will not allow the FSSP to set up a parish in our diocese is because of this concelebration issue. ANy suggestions on trying to change his mind? He does allow them to drive 3 hours and say Mass for us but that is as far as they can go, at this point.
    Bless you!

  5. Amen Father! A priest shoudl not be coerced in to concelebrating.Nor should it become the norm.We should return to Sacrosanctum Concilium which states that concelebration was to be restored in certian cirunstances.

  6. Father Z,

    Does your dislike of concelebration come from bad liturgical practice that your bishop allowed or simply a dislike of concelebration itself?

  7. RedShirt says:

    I’m a little confused. When Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos publicly states that the Traditional Latin Mass is the “Gregorian Rite” and will be available in every British parish, this is because wouldn’t be saying these things unless it was something he and the Holy Father were at one about.

    However, when Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos publicly states in a homily that priests of the FSSP should concelebrate the Chrism Mass with their bishop, it’s tosh so we ignore his eminence’s remark.

    Correct?

  8. TJB says:

    I know that when Religious Orders gather in their annual (or likewise) meetings, they almost always have large Masses where most every Priest concelebrates, even though they could most certainly find the time to celebrate their own Mass. Is this OK? Seems like it is just a gesture of the unity of the Priests of the order, I can ‘t see why it would be a problem.

  9. I find this interesting, because while in some places, concelebration was pushed with an ideological agenda, when I was in the seminary, it was otherwise–it was opposed, because it was thought to be a negative to women who couldn’t be priests! So when I arrived at the seminary, the priests never concelebrated, but sat in the pews, which struck the seminarians as odd.

    I agree no priest should be coerced in this regard, either to concelebrate or accept a concelebrant.

    That being said, then, we need to revive the moribund, but still very licit, practice of participating “in choir” — yes, even in the ordinary form of the Mass. Because I think having a non-concelebrating cleric sitting in the assembly in the fashion of the laity is not a step forward, as it is not in keeping with the norms of the liturgy, as I understand them.

  10. RBrown says:

    I know that when Religious Orders gather in their annual (or likewise) meetings, they almost always have large Masses where most every Priest concelebrates, even though they could most certainly find the time to celebrate their own Mass. Is this OK? Seems like it is just a gesture of the unity of the Priests of the order, I can ‘t see why it would be a problem.
    Comment by TJB

    Unfortunately, in the past 35 years “Community Mass” has come to mean “Concelebrated Mass”. Before the lemming-like rush to concelebration, in religious orders with common liturgy, each priest would celebrate his own mass in the morning, then later would be present in the choir at the Community Mass.

    IMHO, one reason for the present concelebration craze is that the Jesuits and similar religious institutes have no tradition of community mass or office.

  11. RBrown says:

    That being said, then, we need to revive the moribund, but still very licit, practice of participating “in choir”—yes, even in the ordinary form of the Mass. Because I think having a non-concelebrating cleric sitting in the assembly in the fashion of the laity is not a step forward, as it is not in keeping with the norms of the liturgy, as I understand them.
    Comment by Fr. Martin Fox

    You’ve put your finger on one of the problems with Sacrosanctum Concilium: It imposes community liturgy on religious orders whose lives from the beginning had none.

  12. Should all the Eastern Rites on the Catholic Church be required to demonstrate their communion by concelebrating the liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI?

    I am not sure this is entirely analagous. The Roman rite – in any form – is not normanative to Eastern Catholic Churches at all. Attempts to draw this parallel seemed strained and I think this is rather the weakest point presented.

  13. I’ve never been forced to concelebrate Mass. When I was ordained in December 1967 explicit permission was needed from the bishop, at least in Ireland, to concelebrate. On at least two occasions early in 1968 this permission was denied. At the time that wrankled.

    When I don’t have a public Mass, which would be the exception, and am with other priests in a similar situation I prefer to concelebrate. I am put off to some degree by the fact that many of them stay in the pews and I’m not sure how they are participating, if they consider themselves as concelebrating or not. If I have a visiting priest where I live I will always invite him to concelebrate the public Mass I have. Whether he says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is entirely up to him.

    When I have a public Mass and there is an invitation to concelebrate at another Mass, unless it’s something like a funeral that I would be attending anyway, I try to decline the invitation, mainly because I don’t go along with unnecessary bination.

    I don’t have any problem with the idea of concelebration in itself but am not at ease in mass-concelebrations – small ‘m’ – of the Mass. (I notice that more and more the word ‘Mass’, the Sacrifice, is being spelled with a lower-case ‘m’ by Catholics, including priests. Here in the Philippines people normally refer to ‘the Holy Mass’.)

  14. Alessandro says:

    I am a religious priest (franciscan) living at a large international shrine. When I was a novice (in the ’90s) there were many priests celebrating privately novus ordo masses whit one server. Then the time for celebrating those masses was restricted to the early morning, then someone said that it’s “unlawful” to celebrate a mass on altar of a hidden chaper while at the main altar another mass is performed, and all should concelebrate…and so on. Now virtually all the masses are concelebration, non only the conventual mass. The problem is that servers are not provided any more. So how can a priest celebrate always alone? I would like to ask: Is a duty of the church (or of the sacristy) to provide not only altar, chalice and books but also the much nedded server, or is on the priest who wish to say mass to find a server? Please help me find a answer?

  15. Alessandro says:

    I am a religious priest (franciscan) living at a large international shrine. When I was a novice (in the \’90s) there were many priests celebrating privately novus ordo masses whit one server. Then the time for celebrating those masses was restricted to the early morning, then someone said that it\’s \”unlawful\” to celebrate a mass on altar of a hidden chaper while at the main altar another mass is performed, and all should concelebrate…and so on. Now virtually all the masses are concelebration, non only the conventual mass. The problem is that servers are not provided any more. So how can a priest celebrate always alone? I would like to ask: Is a duty of the church (or of the sacristy) to provide not only altar, chalice and books but also the much nedded server, or is on the priest who wish to say mass to find a server? Please help me find a answer!

  16. Ottaviani says:

    The priest who trained me how to serve low mass once said that watching concelebration in Lourdes, was like witnessing a whole load of priests giving the Nazi salute?

    Come to think of it…

  17. jaykay says:

    In most instances of concelebration I’ve seen it’s just so badly done

  18. jaykay says:

    sorry… to continue, I meant to refer to the frequent-enough practice in my local chursh of concelebrating with the Bishop when he visits, whereby two of the priests concelebrate with him in the sense of alternating the saying of parts of the eucharistic prayer. Because they don’t use a missal stand and the missal lies flat on the altar in the middle they have to step around each other to say the relevant part, and so there’s usually a definite pause while the one to “take over” steps up and the other have to step back, and then the one to continue sometimes searches a bit for the relevant part, or adjusts glasses (or even the mike!), and so instead of a unity of prayer it becomes really disjointed and sadly even a bit undignified – although I hasten to add that this is certainly not the intention. Being Ireland, it’s just so graceless. We don’t really do style well over here. It does not add one bit to the solemnity of the celebration.

  19. RedShirt says:

    It should be noted that Pope Benedict usually concelebrates Mass daily (and privately) with his secretaries.

  20. RedShirt: Pope Benedict usually concelebrates

    To which we must respond, “So what?”

  21. RedShirt says:

    The Holy Father sets an example of normative, daily, concelebrated community liturgy.

  22. It rankles with me that in my post yesterday, though I’m an editor, I misspelled ‘rankled’ as ‘wrankled’. But at least my misspelling had some ‘class’ about it.

    Jaykay makes a valid point about a certain gracelessness in many concelebrations that I hadn’t seen articulated so clearly before. It’s not only in Ireland, though as an Irishman I would say that Irish priests in general have never had a good sense of liturgy, before or after Vatican II.

    I think that RedShirt’s statement is a valid one that deserves more than a ‘so what?’ I have been inspired and influenced by the writings on liturgy by Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger. But I am not aware that as Pope he has celebrated the TLM. I would be happy if he did so on occasion. Most of his public Masses are concelebrated ones, though these are somewhat different from a Sunday or weekday Mass in a parish or chapel. Nevertheless, as RedShirt suggests, priests who follow what he does are perfectly fee to do so. We priests, depending on our situation, have valid choices. Some like to concelebrate, some don’t.

    For the record, my own preference is to celebrate Mass with a community but without concelebrants. But if I have a visiting priest I will always invite him to concelebrate and when I go take home vacations in Ireland from the Philippines I normally concelebrate in my parish church at one of the weekday Masses and, if I am not needed for a Sunday Mass I concelebrate at one of them.

  23. RedShirt says:

    Thank you, Fr Coyle.