From a reader:
We have a shortage of priests in our diocese in England, not so short that we can’t have Sunday Mass. but occasionally weekday Mass might not be available in a Parish. When are these services of Word and Communion permissable? Is a deacon allowed to “preside” at them? Is there any way we can stop them?
A group of young people have already been to the parish priest to voice our concern particualarly due to the confusion between the role of priest/laity and the effect we fear it will have on vocations. Thin end of the wedge but who needs a priests mon-sat if the priest can visit on a Sunday and consecrate enough Communion for the week??
Whilst he says it meets a pastoral need, we fear it obscures the immense worth of this Sacrament and also negates the role of the priest doing nothing to promote and encourage vocations. We are deeply concerned and distressed at the damage these services are doing to our beloved church. But we are viewed as just young opinionated so and sos who have no understanding of pastoral care. HELP.
PS the priest in question in every other respect is a wonderful pastor but this is a sticking point.
First, yes, these “services of Word and Communion” are permissible. Second, be happy that a deacon is doing them and not a feminist nun named Sr. Randi.
That said, I agree that these services are not optimal. Over time they can, as you suggest, confuse some people into thinking that there is no huge difference between some service and Holy Mass. There should be great care given to catechesis in the parish, and clarificatory notes in the bulletin and pulpit announcements. There should be constant prayer for vocations to the priesthood, so that people have constantly in their minds that only priests forgive sins and say Mass and that these services are not the same as Mass.
Furthermore, it seems to me that having a “priestless” day could very much “promote and encourage vocations”, if the situation is handled correctly. It has you asking questions, doesn’t it?
To your question “Is there any way we can stop them?” Sure! Find a priest and chip in for the expense of his coming there. Work to promote vocations. Pray for more priests. Have sons and bring them up as good Catholics.
Another point: It strikes me that the parish priest is really trying to provide an opportunity for people to be together in church, hear some Holy Writ, and receive Communion even on a day which is not a day of precept (obligation) even though it would be also understandable not to schedule anything. It could be that he is hoping to keep people coming to church on weekdays in view of having more priests in the future. Perhaps as part of your going to church for some service like this, you could remain after and say a Rosary for the intention of more priests for the diocese.