QUAERITUR: words for the Precious Blood twice, none for the Body

From a reader:

This Sunday, … at the time of the Consecration, the priest accidentally used the words of consecration for the Cup both when he was holding the Cup and when he was holding the Host. He never said "This is my Body" but said "This is my Blood" twice. Was the Consecration valid? Was the Mass? I received Communion anyway, but wasn’t sure whether or not I was receiving the Real Presence. I thought about trying to attend a later Mass to make sure that I had fulfilled my obligation, but as this was the last Mass at that parish and I was unfamiliar with other churches in the area and didn’t have internet access during my vacation, I didn’t know of any later options. If I ever encounter this in the future (I hope not), what’s the right thing to do? Should I try to attend Mass again if possible, or was this Mass valid?

 

Well…

The priest did not consecrate the Body of Christ.  For there to be a Mass, in the strict sense, there must be the two-fold consecration of the Body and of the Blood of Christ.  It is precisely in the two-fold consecration that the "separation" of Christ’s Body and Blood take place in a sacramental way so that Mass is a Sacrifice.

Also, you may have received Communion with a Host that was consecrated at another Mass.

That said, yes… you fulfilled your Sunday obligation.  Whatever happened there happened through no fault of your own doing or negligence. Don’t worry about that.  And don’t worry about receiving at Communion time, either.  You don’t have to confess this or try to find another Mass.

These things happen from time to time.  We are humans, after all, we make mistakes.  Don’t fret in any way.

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44 Responses to QUAERITUR: words for the Precious Blood twice, none for the Body

  1. Mila says:

    This answers a question I have had for a long time. The Sunday after my father died, we attended Mass at his parish, and the exact same thing happened. The priest used the formula for the consecration of the chalice twice. And although I noticed, I was too distraught to bring it up later. As you can see it has stayed with me. But I figured, as you say, Father, that we are humans and we make mistakes.

    I want to thank you and your readers, because so many times their questions reflect mine–usually better worded, though–and your answers both teach and give me peace.

  2. Ann says:

    I wonder how the poor priest felt later when it hit him that he had messed up. Being human can be rather awkward sometimes. :)

  3. Bill Haley says:

    Fr. Z.,

    Do you think it appropriate to approach the altar and let the priest know, circumstance depending of course? I am thinking of the parish I work at where an elderly priest said Mass until recently. Sometimes he would forget to begin the Agnus Dei.

    Also, what can the priest do to fix that? Does he simply have to say the words of consecration over the bread even though it is not in the proper order? Or does he need to repeat the Eucharistic Prayer?

  4. Frank H. says:

    I remember reading a story once that a newly ordained priest almost forgot the consecration altogether until he noticed the choir director waving frantically in the choir loft.

  5. Hidden One says:

    I imagine that that new priest never forgot it again.

    I echo the questions of Bill.

  6. Wouldn’t this be a case where the Church could supply for human deficiency? After all, it was an accident. [Not really, no.]

  7. Ohio Annie says:

    I think Anita is right. God knows we are mistake-prone humans. And He knows that priests are human. And He knows what our intentions are. I find great comfort in these facts.

  8. Fr. Charles says:

    It’s an easy, mistake, and thanks, Fr. Z, for easing consciences in this area. When I was a deacon, I often assisted at Mass with an older, somewhat absent-minded priest. Often he would turn to me during the memorial acclamation to double check that he had done the consecration.

  9. jamie says:

    Was the blood consecrated too? Can you have a mass where only one species becomes Jesus?

  10. Fr. Dominick says:

    In this example, it’s not a matter of the “Church” being able to “supply,” which is a canonical notion about the Church supplying executive power of governance or certain faculties (c. 144). But perhaps we can hope that “God supplies.”

  11. Papabile says:

    When I read this, I thought, this is probably covered by De Defectibus.

    Then I went back to read it again and found it wasn’t.

    To me that says, this type of oversight was either to rare to be even considered in the old rite, or that there was some standard way of dealing with this.

    I wonder what it was?

  12. Mary says:

    Yes with Bill. The first things that run through my head are “cough REALLY loudly” and “cough REALLY loudly while standing up” (not during the Consecration) rather than going up to the altar… what should one do?

  13. Victor says:

    This reminds me of an anecdote (supposedly a true story) I once heard from a priest.
    This priest at that time was the chaplain in a small town where wine was grown. At the parish fair, as you can imagine, much wine was drunk, and of course it was expected from the pastor and chaplain to stay at least until midnight. The next morning at 9 o’clock, ending a very short night, the chaplain had to celebrate mass (the pastor had made use of his pastoral authority and decided that he would sing the mass at 11 o’clock). My friend the priest assures me that it took four altarboys to stop the altar from spinning around! Anyway, when he spoke the words of consecration he correctly said “This is my body”, and then, incorrectly, elevating the chalice: “This is my body” again, only to correct himself immediately: “This is my blood”. No harm done, the words of consecration were uttered correctly and completely. But of course, after mass, several of his parishioners approached him and said: “You were not keen on drinking yet another cup, right?”

  14. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Fr. Dominick, I second your comments. But I’d like to raise this question: would the priest’s intention to consecrate under both species supercede the actual form (words of Institution)? Or am I to assume that the form takes precedence over his intention? I may have just answered my own question…

  15. Josh Hood says:

    Servant of the Liturgy, the confection of the Eucharist requires proper form and valid matter, as well as the proper intention of the celebrant. The priest’s intention is ensured by the use of the proper form. If any of these things are missing, the confection of the Eucharist does not occur – one cannot be supplied by another. The priest’s intention would not make up for a defect in form, but it does make this an honest mistake rather than a sin.

  16. Theo N. says:

    Just a question since we’re on the topic of things duplicating.
    What happens if for a Sunday Mass the First Reading was read twice (in different language) and skipping the Second Reading?
    I’d like to hear some commentary on such an issue.

    Thanks.

  17. dcs says:

    I would tell the priest (after the fact), if only because he will have to offer Mass “again” for the intention.

  18. dcs says:

    But I’d like to raise this question: would the priest’s intention to consecrate under both species supercede the actual form (words of Institution)?

    Both form and intention are required.

  19. Wouldn’t the sacrament be valid because of the intention of the priest?

    If he intended to consecrate the host, but accidently said the wrong formula, just through human error, it seems to me it would be valid. [And you would not be correct. The priest must have the correct intention, certainly. But the other points necessary for validity are proper matter and proper form.]

  20. Dolores says:

    There is such a concern about the Real Presence being confected, someone mentioned De Defectibus. It says there that the words cannot be changed , and yet the words have been changed from “for many” which is in the bible, to “for all” which is new after 1,969 (-33)years of saying “for many”. So are all the masses and consecrations invalid?? [No. Indeed, NO! The bad translation of pro multis does not invalidate.]

  21. Michael R. says:

    I actually saw a priest do this once. I thought it was important enough to step into the sanctuary, get his attention, and tell him about it (it was a small church). He backed up and repeated the consecration of both species correctly.

  22. Dolores says:

    So, the latest version of the mass, in Latin, has “pro multis”? Then it seems that in order to have the true meaning of the Prayers of the Holy Mass retained for the people, Latin must be retained. There is too much confusion, and multi (no pun intended) translations by many with their own agendas.

  23. Dolores: I agree that we must have much more Latin, especially for the form of sacraments. But the translations are not invalid. And that is NOT the topic of this entry.

  24. Scarlett says:

    That was my question, so I just want to thank you for answering it and easing my mind!

  25. James says:

    Father is 100% correct. There is a formal and material aspect of each consecration and of the Mass as a whole. Each of these is different. The proper form and matter of each of the consecrations must be present for there to be a Mass. The form of the Mass is the separation, mystically, of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The material is the bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Christ.

    In the consecration of the Host, the form is: “This is my body.” The material is bread. If either of these is missing, there is no consecration.

    In the consecration of the wine, the form is: “This is my blood.” The material is wine. Both of these were present, and so the consecration was valid with the correct intention of the priest.

    Thus in the first consecration, improper form was used, and so there was no consecration. The Chalice, however, was consecrated, and the contents did become the Body and Blood of Christ. Had the priest then backed up and consecrated the Host, while out of order, there would still have been a valid Mass.

    My question to Father is then, wouldn’t have been appropriate, and maybe even necessary, for even a layperson to approach the altar and advise the priest of this serious mistake? Yes, it would be an embarrassment and disrupt the liturgy, but I believe that this would be less serious than the omission of the proper form for the consecration of one of the species.

    Any thoughts, Father?

  26. This is why it is very important to read from Missal rather than rely on memory.

  27. James says:

    p.s. It’s interesting also to note that the Chalice was NOT consecrated even when the priest said “this is my blood” the first time, because he intended the consecration of the Host. The intention must be very specific. That is, “I intend that the wine in this chalice be consecrated.” This is indicated by the article, “hic”. So insofar as the consecration is a thing in itself, the form and matter are requisite. Insofar as it is an action of the priest, who stands as Christ, the intention is required, since that is part of the form of the priest’s action. It all comes down to matter and form, of the thing and of the action.

    Father, thank you for bringing this up. It’s a great opportunity for us to think about the requisite form, matter, and intention of the great acts of the Mass.

  28. This reminds of a story from a fellow Franciscan. When was in Rome studying and learning Italian he eventually got good enough to offer Mass in Italian. At the consecration he got mixed up and said “He took the cup, broke it…” The old priest with him muttered “If you break it how are you going to drink from it?” At least it made him aware of his error.

  29. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Josh Hood, thanks, that’s pretty much what I was driving at; although the whole brain to fingertips filter wasn’t on full throttle. Yes, overall, I was getting at the “honest mistake” aspect.

  30. kristina awdish says:

    Something that no one has brought up:

    The Church has recognized the validity of all of the sacraments of the Church of the East, the sister church to the Chaldean rite of the Catholic Church. In the rite of the Mass for the Church of the East, whose Eucharistic liturgy is as ancient, if not older than the Latin rite, it does not contain the Words of Jesus at the Last Supper.

    Their liturgy is undeniably valid. Therefore, My answer to this question would be that the mass was valid, but seriously illicit.

    To deny this would be to say that a legitimate orthodox litrgy, more ancient than the one in question, is invalid.

  31. George says:

    Well, I do not think I can agree with Fr Z’s conclusions. While it is certainly true that proper matter and form are quired besides the relevant intention, this appears to be a case of “falsa demonstratio non nocet.” Given the circumstances, and given the fact that nobody involved (priest, congregation, not even the Almighty One) could have any reasonable doubts as to what the priest meant to say and imply, I think there are strong indications in favour of the argument that a valid consecration did in fact occur.
    Georg

  32. Chris says:

    Kristina – no. Just because one formula which does not contain the Institution Narrative is valid, that does not mean that another formula, which is intended to contain it, is valid if it is omitted or mangled. The two rites stand independently.

  33. Gareth says:

    In some instances, a pattern of mistakes in an elderly or infirm priest warrants a supportive and knowledgable MC or assistant who can redirect a celebrant who may be finding public masses difficult, but who has a firm and genuine concern for the souls in his care.

  34. Mark G. says:

    Where is the line between a small error being made & it still being a valid sacrament, & a larger error being made that makes it invalid? Ex.: “This is my Body which…” vs. “This my Body that…” I understand that there is a distinction, but I’m having trouble seeing exactly where it lies. I also have questions regarding intention:

    I went to confession in a parish where I was visiting, & I was given absolution by a priest who said, “God the Father of mercies.. has reconciled the world to himself, & I absolve you of your sins…” He left out the epiclesis & the prayer for peace. I didn’t question him on it at the time, but later asked my own parish priest who said that the absolution was a valid & that I need not re-confess those things.

    My Sacraments professor said that if one forgets to mention something in the Confessional & remembers it later (I suppose assuming it is not a mortal sin) that it would be forgiven along with those that were confessed, because one has the intention of confessing them upon entering the confessional.

    These would seem to be a cases of intention making up for a defect of form. How do these cases compare to what happens when a priest accidentally alters the Words of Institution?

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    Mark G.

    In order for a valid absolution, as I understand it, the operative words are, \”I absolve\”. This is the minimum required. I have has priests in the confessional, sadly, use entirely different words and had to repeat the confession to another priest at another church. The truly sad part was that there was a long line for the confessional that weekday and I have no idea if the priest used the defective formula for the other confessants. The priest I made the second confession to was my spiritual director at the time and he asked me for permission to tell the Bishop, at least in general terms, what happened.

    Secondly, technically, not all venial sins have to be confessed during a confession, although this is praise worthy and good for receiving counsel and grace. All mortal sins must be confessed in kind and number. One must have contrition for both venial and mortal sins, of course, but it is my understanding that not all venial sins must be confessed (although it is a good habit), so forgetting one does not harm the confession. Someone correct me if I am wrong in my points.

    The chicken

  36. dcs says:

    My Sacraments professor said that if one forgets to mention something in the Confessional & remembers it later (I suppose assuming it is not a mortal sin) that it would be forgiven along with those that were confessed, because one has the intention of confessing them upon entering the confessional.

    Sins (even mortal sins) that one forgets are indirectly remitted. However all mortal sins must be directly remitted so if you forget one you should confess it when you remember it.

    Where is the line between a small error being made & it still being a valid sacrament, & a larger error being made that makes it invalid? Ex.: “This is my Body which…” vs. “This my Body that…” I understand that there is a distinction, but I’m having trouble seeing exactly where it lies.

    “This is My Body” is all that is required. In fact, in the traditional rite, for the consecration of the host, the Words of Institution are merely “Hoc est enim corpus meum” (“For this is My Body”).

  37. skysix says:

    I have seen the same kind of mistake by a priest on a couple of occasions in my life. It is certainly appropriate at such times to approach the altar and tell the priest quietly what has happened.

  38. Mark G. says:

    Thanks for the clarification. Picking a couple of nits to help clarify:

    dcs: Is the consecration valid if, for example, a German priest slips up by clearly saying, \”Hoc IST enim corpus meum\”?

    Chicken: Is the absolution valid if the priest in the confessonal slips up & says, \”You are absolved…\”?

  39. Dan Buckley says:

    Irish monks on the continent were concerned that some native speakers had baptized “in nomine Patris et Filiae, et Spiritus Sancti.” They were advised that such baptisms ought not to be administered again since the problem was not with form or intention but bad pronunciation.

  40. Therese Z says:

    This raises another consecration question:

    I was taking the gifts to the altar one morning and noticed a fly in the wine. I whispered to Father that there was a fly in the wine. He unhurriedly walked around to the back, dumped out and refilled the cruet, came back and remarked on what he had done briefly to the congregation (to a quiet morning chuckle). He then proceeded.

    If I hadn’t noticed the fly, or if one got in there later, what should the priest do? What should the congregation or the server do?

    (On the “did I consecrate?” theme, I saw a young and reverent priest say the Our Father twice during Mass one early morning. It must have hit him, because he paused noticeably early on through the second time, but kept going, I imagine to make sure he’d said it at least once. We all followed right along with the unintentional loop he took in the Mass.)

  41. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Mark G.

    You wrote:

    Chicken: Is the absolution valid if the priest in the confessonal slips up & says, “You are absolved…”?

    Probably, not. Absolution must be a personal and declarative statement of an action by the priest acting, in persona Christi. If the priest says, “You are absolved,” the penitent would not be sure that it were the priest were acting, in persona Christi to forgive the sin, since the “who” is forgiving sin is not clear. There have been, historically, however, other forms used. If Fr. Z will permit an extended quote, here is the appropriate passage from the Online Catholic Encyclopedia article on absolution (current only until 1913):

    Form
    It is the teaching of the Council of Trent that the form of the Sacrament of Penance, wherein its force principally consists, is placed in these words of the minister, “I absolve thee”; to which words certain prayers are, according to the custom of Holy Church, laudably added etc. (Sess. XIV, iii). That the public penance was concluded with some sort of prayer for pardon, is the doctrine of antiquity, particularly as contained in the earliest sacramentaries (Duchesne, Christian Worship, 440, 441). Leo the Great (450) does not hesitate to assert that pardon is impossible without the prayer of the priest (“ut indulgentia nisi supplicationibus sacerdotum nequeat obtineri”). In the early Church these forms certainly varied (Duchesne, loc. cit.). Surely all the sacramentaries assert that the form was deprecatory, and it is only in the eleventh century that we find a tendency to pass to indicative and personal formulæ (Duchesne, loc. cit.). Some of theforms used at the transition period are interesting: “May God absolve thee from all thy sins, and through the penance imposed mayst thou be absolved by the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, by the Angels, by the Saints, and by me, a wretched sinner” (Garofali, Ordo ad dandam pœnitentiam, 15). Then come really indicative and personal formulæ, often preceded by the supplicatory prayer, “Misereatur tui” etc. These forms, while much the same in substance, vary in wording not a little (Vacant, Dict. de théol. 167). It was not until the scholastic doctrine of “matter and form” in the sacraments reached its full development that the formula of absolution became fixed as we have it at present. The form in use in the Roman Church today has not changed since long before the Council of Florence. It is divided into four parts as follows: —

    * (1) Deprecatory prayer. “May the Almighty God have mercy on you, and forgiving your sins, bring you to life everlasting. Amen.” Then, lifting his right hand towards the penitent, the priest continues: “May the Almighty and Merciful God grant you pardon, absolution, and remission of your sins”.
    * (2) “May Our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you, and I, by His authority, absolve you from every bond of excommunication [suspension, in the case of a cleric only] and interdict as far as I can and you may need.”
    * (3) “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” (While repeating the names of the Trinity, the priest makes the sign of the cross over the penitent.)
    * (4) “May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the Saints, what good you have done or what evil you have suffered be to you for the remission of (your) sins, growth in grace and the reward of everlasting life. Amen.” In the decree “Pro Armenis”, 1439, Eugene IV teaches that the “form” of the Sacrament is really in those words of the priest: “Ego absolvo te a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris” etc., and theologians teach that absolution would be valid should the priest use, “Absolvo te”, “Absolvo te a peccatis tuis”, or words that are the exact equivalent (Suarez, Disp., XIX, i, n. 24; Lugo, Disp., XIII, i, nn. 17, 18; Lehmkuhl, de Pœnit., 9th ed., 199).

    In the Oriental churches the present forms are deprecatory, though they by no means exclude the idea of a judicial pronouncement on the part of the minister. Such are the forms of absolution among

    * Greeks,
    * Russians,
    * Syrians,
    * Armenians,
    * Copts.

    Is the indicative form necessary? Many learned Catholics seem to hold that the indicative form as used at present in the Roman Church is necessary even for the validity of the Sacrament of Penance. The great Doctor of the Sacrament, St. Alphonsus (De Sac. Pœnit., n. 430), declares that no matter what may be the verdict from the point of view of history, it is of faith since the Council of Trent that the indicative form is essential. St. Thomas and Francisco Suárez also declare that the indicative form is necessary. Others equally learned, and perhaps better versed in history, hold that in the light of the Divine institution the deprecative form must not be excluded, and that the Council of Trent in its decree did not intend to make final pronouncement in the premises. They point out with Morinus (De Pœnit., Lib. VIII) that up to the twelfth century the deprecatory form was employed both in the East and in the West: that it is still in use among the Greeks and among Orientals generally. In the light, therefore, of history and of theological opinion it is perfectly safe to conclude that the deprecatory form is certainly not invalid, if it exclude not the idea of judicial pronouncement (Palmieri, Parergon, 127; Hurter, de Pœnit.; Duchesne, loc. cit.; Soto, Vasquez, Estius, et al.). Theologians, however, have questioned whether or not the deprecatory form would be valid today in the Latin Church, and they point out that Clement VIII and Benedict XIV have prescribed that Greek priests should use the indicative form whensoever they absolve penitents belonging to the Latin Rite. But this is merely a matter of discipline, and such decrees do not give final decision to the theological question, for in matters of administration of the Sacraments those in authority simply follow the safest and most conservative opinions. Morinus is followed by Tournély in asserting that only the indicative form is today valid in the Latin Church (Morinus, De pœnit., Lib. VIII; Tournély, ibid., do absolutionis formâ); but many hold that if the deprecatory form exclude not the judicial pronouncement of the priest, and consequently be really equivalent to the ego te absolvo, it is surely not invalid, though all are agreed that it would be illicit as contravening the present law and discipline of the Roman Church. Some, not pronouncing judgment on the real merits of the case, think that the Holy See has withdrawn faculties from those who do not use the indicative form, but in the absence of positive ordinance this is by no means certain.

    For a more explict pronouncement on current practice, one should consult the vade mecum on the Sacrament of Penance or some other suitable reference.

    The Chicken

  42. Susan Cole says:

    as i often point out to my husband, a persistently lapsed cradle Catholic, the Church, clergy and laity, are imperfect; somehow the Holy Spirit remains with us and continuously pours Grace into us, leading us toward perfection. His love and mercy (even sense of humor) are without limit.

  43. Hieronymus Illinensis says:

    If one receives Communion but is not sure that the Consecration was valid, is one implicated by answering “Amen” to “The Body of Christ” when one isn’t sure it is?

  44. davidhilaron says:

    I was in a similar situation this weekend, twice actually. During the consecration of the host I thought I heard father say “mitt” instead of “min” (in Swedish), ie. the wrong form of the possessive pronomen “my”. Would this affect the validity of the Mass and would I have to confess that I received both times I thought I heard it? I brought it up with my priest and he said he did it correct the first time, the second time I haven’t asked about yet.

    I should mention I’m fighting with scruples, so maybe I’m exaggerating this…