QUAERITUR: Sister starts Mass and Father shows up around the Offertory

I generally like one question at a time, but this was so… bizzare that it needs more attention.

From a reader:

This weekend, Father was having a series of talks during his Masses which spanned about fifteen minutes, and so he was late for one at another Church.

The parish sister started the Mass with the full (including greeting) introductory rites and Liturgy of the Word.

Father arrived at the offertory and then Mass continued as normal.

This is a common, though not weekly, practice. [?!?]

1) Is it still Mass?

2) Does it satisfy the obligation of the faithful (and myself) to attend Sunday Mass?

3) Is Our Lord still rendered present in the Blessed Sacrament?

4) If so, does this mean priests can just walk around saying the words of consecration with the right intention and confect the Sacrament?

Just when you think it can’t get stranger.  If this happens often, I would inform the diocesan bishop and/or the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.

1.  It does not seem to be a Mass. Mass is the entirety of the ceremony.

Could we hack away and say, “If the priest simply forgot the sign of the cross at the beginning would it still be a Mass? If he forgot the sign of the cross AND the penitential rite, would it still be a Mass?”  Sure, it would be. In the case above, however, it’s clear that what happened was not a Mass.

2. It would not fulfill anyone’s obligation (including the priest’s obligation to offer Mass – if there was a stipend accepted, or if this was a pro populo Mass). The faithful who attended this inadvertently would not be culpable for not fulfilling their obligation. Objectively however, this did not fulfill their obligation.

3. Yes, Our Lord is present in the Sacrament confected.

However.. and this is a big however….

The priest, however, is guilty of a major crime, a crime so bad that canon law uses the Latin word “nefas“, rarely encountered in the law (canon 927).

It is absolutely forbidden to consecrate one matter without the other or even both outside the Eucharistic celebration.

4. Possibly, though to do so would be an abuse so great that one one could call into question either Father’s sanity (were he totally insane, the sacrament would probably not be confected) or his real intention to do what the Church intends.

Reason #675663 for Summorum Pontificum.

 

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Priests and Priesthood and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

90 Responses to QUAERITUR: Sister starts Mass and Father shows up around the Offertory

  1. APX says:

    Sweet Mother of Divine Grace and Mother of Priests! Pray for Us! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I am at a loss for words.

  2. deliberatejoy says:

    Good Lord. And I thought I had it bad when I had to deal with my kids saying ‘If I sleep in my clothes and pack my lunch the night before, I can sleep till five minutes before I have to leave for school. No, no breakfast. That’s why God invented bananas – for the road!’

    Hopefully, Mother Mary will twist this priest’s ear. Hard and soon, by her own hand, or someone else’s. Her Son didn’t get to take any short cuts on His way to Golgotha, after all!

  3. Moro says:

    It’s awful but I’ve encountered it. Interestingly, in both cases it was on a retreat, away from a normal parish. The first was done with a parish priest, some sort of prayer was started, a girl (about 14) read the gospel and the priest gave the homily and mass proceeded from there. The second was at a Jesuit run Kairos retreat (shocking I know). A Lay “chaplain” began the “mass” from the sign of the cross through the Homily and the priest did the rest. The sign of peace was moved to the end of mass with some sort of reconciliation “gesture” done where the kiss of peace is normally done. I think very few of the retreatants are practicing their faith today.

  4. LarryW2LJ says:

    Wow, Fr. Z!

    After reading this, I feel like one of those jaw dropped, bug-eyed, open mouthed characters out of a Tex Avery cartoon. And other than that description, like APX, I am at a loss for words.

  5. chantgirl says:

    Ok, so I don’t know this nun personally, but sometimes it seems that certain types of nuns get a sort of perverse pleasure when a priest doesn’t show up or is late, because then they get to step in as the understudy. Is that uncharitable of me?

    Follow up question- was there no deacon around? He could have led a communion service. Personally, I’d rather wait 20 minutes for the priest to show up.

  6. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    “Reason #675663 for Summorum Pontificum.”
    Yep. Let’s see Sister try to start that Mass!

  7. Rob in Maine says:

    This happened one time at the daily Mass where I worked. Father could not be there and a religious sister conducted the worship service. I was perplexed and had to look it up. The USCCB does have guide lines for weekday celebrations in the absence of a priest:
    http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/frequently-asked-questions/weekday-celebrations-in-the-absence-of-a-priest.cfm

    However, the above post concerns Sunday Mass. The USCCB does have this publication, “Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest “:
    http://www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=737

    I found an online PDF here:
    http://mm.dio.org/feb_2012/item14c.pdf

    This document mentions an ordained Deacon, not a religious sister. So we’re back to square one, I think.

  8. chantgirl says: Follow up question- was there no deacon around? He could have led a communion service.

    All things being equal, I don’t think that would fulfill the Sunday obligation, either. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

    Incidentally, Communion services are — or at least have been — forbidden in some dioceses. Bishop Vasa forbade them when he was in charge of the Baker Diocese. Personally, I think they’re a bad idea anyway, because they foster the idea that we only go to church to get Communion. Plus, some people are confused enough to think of them as Mass without a priest.

  9. rcg says:

    Would this be the same ‘problem’ as Nadav and Avihu?

  10. wmeyer says:

    5. (I have to ask.) What on earth would make the sister think she had either the duty or the right to initiate the Mass?

    The trigger for this is merely a variation on the “Father is a few minutes late — how dare he?” scenario which I have witnessed a few times. In this scenario, someone takes it upon himself to go see why Father has not appeared. As if he did not know there was a Mass to celebrate.

    I can imagine quite easily, at least several more than valid reasons for Mass to begin late. If any of the faithful are so very pressed for time, I suppose thy could elect to leave.

    What I cannot imagine is any possible circumstance in which anyone with even the slightest awareness of the meaning of the sacrifice of the Mass could think that anyone other than a priest had any role to play here. Well, perhaps one role: To stand up and announce that “Father has been delayed, and we should all pray that he is safe and will appear shortly.”

  11. Pastor in Valle says:

    Dear Father, perhaps you know something I don’t about this, but as stated by your correspondent there was no suggestion that one form was consecrated without the other. [I didn't say they were.] Without reservation I agree with you that to separate the Liturgy of the Word from the Liturgy of the Eucharist is deeply reprehensible, I do not agree that it invalidates the August Sacrifice. [I didn't say the consecrations were invalid. But Mass is more than the valid consecrations.] The case you instance would only be the case if the celebrant consecrated under one form and not the other, and the other was never completed. [No, I don't think so.] Canon law provides for this; should a priest die between consecrations, another priest must complete the Sacrifice. [A very special circumstance, very rare, and one which underscores how important the whole rite is.]
    As stated, the Sister conducted the Introductory Rites, and the Liturgy of the Word, then the priest continued when he had arrived, commencing with the offertory. There is a whole world of problems with the situation as it happened, but surely it would not affect either the validity of the Mass nor the intentions for which the Mass was offered, [I disagree. The word "surely" is surely out of place.]nor the satisfaction of the obligation for the faithful attending. [That's a different issue. Not their fault.]
    The priest concerned must be instructed as to priorities. Of course he acted in good faith, no doubt considering that he was serving our Lord. This time he got it wrong. God bless him, and I hope his bishop kindly helps him see thing differently.
    Mass is mass; [Yes, that's right. Mass is celebrated by a priest, not a lay person and then a priest later on.] we mustn’t tinker or dispense ourselves from bits of it as we think. But nor must we frighten people into thinking they are in mortal sin for the sillinesses of their pastors! [?!? Please go back and read what I wrote!]

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Really, really interesting, Pater. Sad of course, but interesting. A couple of add-on points.

    I agree this is not a Mass; could a priest accept a Mass stipend for this ceremony? I would say No.

    Did it fulfill the Sunday obligation? I would have to say, with FrZ, and reluctantly, no, despite the Code being clear that even grave violations of liceity are not the congregation’s responsibility to sort out. But, as this was not even a Mass, it can’t count as one, even an illicit one. That said, the Sunday obligation is excused (not “fulfilled) here, as one is not bound to go to multiple ceremonies searching for a real Mass. [Right. It was not their fault. Objectively they did not fulfill the obligation but subjectively they are not culpable.]

  13. Phil_NL says:

    I’ve encountered something similar once, in a previous parish. The priest who substituted for the PP was seriously late. It was known he was on his way (he had an earlier Mass elswhere) but taking way longer than normal. After waiting perhaps 10 minutes, a lector started with the readings, undoubtedly planning to do a word and communion service if Father didn’t show up at all [yes, that’s problematic as well, but that was done from time to time in that parish, with one priest and no deacons for miles around). As Father did show up – between 2nd reading and gospel, or gospel and creed – he made the sign of the cross, and took it from there, continuing as if in were / with the Mass.

    As a one-off, caused by force majeure (sort of, … it was rumoured that father fell alseep in front of a red traffic light on his way, this priest was getting on 80) such a thing was unfortunate enough. But as standard operating procedure it boggles the mind. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot indeed.

  14. Patikins says:

    This reminds me of a “mass” I attended during my college days. Neither priest could be present for the entire mass so one priest started the liturgy and another one finished it. Both said they didn’t know if that was allowed (which to me means they knew it wasn’t but did it anyway). Luckily it was a weekday evening so no one’s Sunday obligation was affected. Still, they should have just cancelled the mass and skipped right to the social hour (or prayed vespers instead).

  15. Phil_NL says:

    And an additional question to Fr. Z., Dr Peters and others: if it is agreed this wasn’t Mass, is it because no priest was present for the earlier parts? In that case, problems like those I described (priest is late) will happen a lot too, even with priests who do not make a habit of this strange and silly way of doing … things.

    PS: “as if IT were” in the last line of the first paragraph in my previous comment, of course. I simply can’t type :(

  16. Fr AJ says:

    This is so bizzare it’s almost not believable. Is it possible the sister intended to do a Communion Service not knowing the priest would show up and he picked up where she was not wishing to start over? Just insane. This must be reported to the Bishop!

  17. BGrace says:

    I honestly do not think I could sit through something like that! I have never heard of this happening, and cannot imagine the audacity and nerve it would take to BEGIN the MASS if one were not a priest. The fact that this has happened in this parish more than once is unbelievable. I truly am at a loss for words…

  18. Dr. K says:

    Did the sister claim this was one of those “Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest”?

  19. Angie Mcs says:

    It is understandable if once in a while, a priest who has more than one church where he serves, would be late for mass, and no other priest were available. In that case, couldn’t one make an announcement? I would be fine waiting, although I understand that it would be difficult for people with small children or others. But since this is “common practice” here, it seems we are dealing with more than a priest who cannot manage his time properly. And what “sister” would get up and start a mass? Furthermore, this Father is giving talks? I know there are channels of complaint to go through, but in this case, I would get up quietly and leave.

  20. anilwang says:

    “Reason #675663 for Summorum Pontificum.”

    If one is explicitly disobedient to NO, one would be to TLM.

    Unless I’m mistaken, one difference between NO and TLM is that the GIRM of TLM states that liturgical innovation is a mortal sin. This will not stop extreme liturgical innovators that will do what they want unless forcibly kicked out. But it would stop the vast majority of priests from succumbing to more “friendlier liturgies”. And it would clearly distinguish faithful (though sometimes worldly) priests from the true liturgical rebels.

    I wish NO had such a stipulation.

  21. Sixupman says:

    In France I have experienced the priest sit at the side of the altar and only participate when the Sacrament requires confection. I have experienced, in the UK, on two occasions, two different priests giving a fair imitation of ‘Concelebration’ with the laity all on the altar. Also in the UK, Scotland, Mass (?) was Celebrated (?) with the congregation sitting around an elongated table, the priest was an escapee from Church of Scotland ministry. {priests and churches can be named)

    Nothing surprises me any more, it causes distress nonetheless.

  22. sprachmeister says:

    At what point during a wacko crazy illicit or invalid “liturgical celebration” is it charitable or just to roll out onto the floor of the nave writhing in agony to manifest outwardly the inner anguish, turmoil and agony at the abuse taking place?

    Liturgical abuse, there’s no excuse.

  23. Imrahil says:

    I’d think it was a Mass.

    A Mass highly illicitly deprived of the Liturgy of the Word… but still… a Mass. After all, a similar argument has been brought by classical authors for the (contested, but still) opinion that “offertory to end” partly fulfils the Sunday obligation (leaving a “venial part” unfulfilled of course).

  24. anilwang says: Unless I’m mistaken, one difference between NO and TLM is that the GIRM of TLM states that liturgical innovation is a mortal sin.

    I understand that to be the case. What I’m not clear on is whether this is no longer considered an objective mortal sin, or whether it is and no one is put on notice that it is.

  25. PA mom says:

    Might this be a moment for one of those IPhones that records video in small clips? [I would then be accused of promoting "liturgical police"!]
    It might be quite difficult for a bishop’s office to accept that something Soutbid is going on, and regularly…
    Things like this remind me to be extra grateful for my own parish.

  26. PA mom says:

    Southbid= so wild…

  27. Tradster says:

    I do not pretend to know any more about canon law than any other of my fellow common laity. But it seems to me that what happened could not be considered a valid Mass if there was no consecrated “presider” (how I detest that NO term) present and, well, presiding for the entire liturgy.

  28. priests wife says:

    a few months ago…we had sort of the opposite happen. The priest (my husband) completed the consecration when our lector/cantor/deacon candidate collapsed in the sacristy. It was the perfect storm of events. usually we have 2 deacons, but they were at a clergy conference. (it would have been ….unusual….but the deacon could have ‘finished things up’) So- we prayed a rosary until Father got him into the ambulance. Then we finished the Divine Liturgy

  29. VexillaRegis says:

    As soon as sister started the absolving of sins, this organist would have left the church.

    Confecting the Eucharist separate from a real Mass? What were they thinking?

  30. Pingback: Meet Father Mad And Sister Fraud | Mundabor's Blog

  31. scriba in regno says:

    @Pastor in Valle:

    “…as stated by your correspondent there was no suggestion that one form was consecrated without the other.”

    I think Fr. Zuhlsdorf was referring to the other clause in the canon, which forbids with confection of either or both species “outside the Eucharistic celebration.” This wasn’t a Eucharistic celebration in any reasonable sense, because the celebrant omitted about half the rite of Mass.

    Whatever happened under the presidency of a lay person (or surely even a deacon) before the celebrant was even present in the church cannot possibly count as part of a Mass celebrated by that priest.

    “Without reservation I agree with you that to separate the Liturgy of the Word from the Liturgy of the Eucharist is deeply reprehensible, I do not agree that it invalidates the August Sacrifice.”

    I’m not sure Fr. Zuhlsdorf suggested that the August Sacrifice was not validly offered, just that it happened in a liturgical context so mutilated and truncated that one could not fairly say that it was a celebration of Mass. Dogmatic theologians can perhaps speak to this, but if we the matter, form and intention of the priest are correctly present, is it not the case that the “Sacrifice of the Mass” is validly offered to God, even if this being done illicitly outside the liturgical celebration of Mass?

    “The case you instance would only be the case if the celebrant consecrated under one form and not the other, and the other was never completed. Canon law provides for this; should a priest die between consecrations, another priest must complete the Sacrifice.”

    Surely this is not so. One could also deliberately consecrate both forms, but outside the celebration of Mass, and that canon would still apply. That seems to be what happened here.

    “As stated, the Sister conducted the Introductory Rites, and the Liturgy of the Word, then the priest continued when he had arrived, commencing with the offertory.”

    Surely that is only true if it is possible for the celebrant to be absent for parts of a Mass. I’m not sure how one could defend that. Certainly, the “Eucharistic celebration” referred to by the canon is one that is presided over in its entirety by the celebrating priest.

    “There is a whole world of problems with the situation as it happened, but surely it would not affect either the validity of the Mass nor the intentions for which the Mass was offered, nor the satisfaction of the obligation for the faithful attending.”

    The validity of the Eucharistic sacrifice strictly so called perhaps, but whether the event can reasonably be called a celebration of Mass is a different question. The fact that it is so evidently bizarre to discuss a situation where those two things were not completely co-extensive is precisely why the law treats this so severely.

    “The priest concerned must be instructed as to priorities. Of course he acted in good faith, no doubt considering that he was serving our Lord. This time he got it wrong. God bless him, and I hope his bishop kindly helps him see thing differently.”

    I hope that he was indeed acting in good faith, but this is a very clear breach of the law, and in a very serious matter, such that it seems outside the normal realms of a reasonable mistake.

    “Mass is mass; we mustn’t tinker or dispense ourselves from bits of it as we think. But nor must we frighten people into thinking they are in mortal sin for the sillinesses of their pastors!”

    I don’t think Fr. Zuhlsdorf remotely suggested that any of those attending were in mortal sin. The fact that they didn’t fulfill their Sunday obligation was obviously no fault of theirs, so it goes without saying that their obligation was excused.

  32. Vecchio di Londra says:

    A wonderful opportunity, next time, for Sister to lead instead a communal recitation of the Rosary – after which Mass can start. (It is May, after all, and even if it were not…)
    Otherwise, fifteen blessed minutes of silent individual prayer or meditation for all, and no private chitchat inside the church. What a great gift of God.
    But somebody should question Father’s time-management strategy. For even the holiest of nuns may not (and cannot) celebrate any part of Holy Mass, and God should not be kept waiting…

    Btw @Imrahil: while innocently delayed massgoers may count the Sunday precept fulfilled if they arrive by the start of the Offertory, that does not go for Mass itself: its celebration begins with the initial Sign of the Cross by the priest.

    I’m reminded of the (very) old anecdote of a sinking ocean liner, all the passengers crowded together on deck, and the captain asking crewman Paddy if he knows how to ‘say Mass’ before they all drown. Paddy says he’ll only have time for the ‘really important bit’. The captain agrees. So Paddy goes round and takes the collection….

  33. Vecchio di Londra says:

    “after which Mass can start” – I meant of course that Father will have arrived by then. And will have no excuse for not starting Mass at the very start.

  34. The Egyptian says:

    At Good Friday services our new “retired from his day job” deacon did the service, and did a good job, at the end he brought out a ceborium with previously consecrated hosts and said the Our Father and distributed communion. nothing wrong at all, but, it just fried me, on the way out 3 elderly women stopped in a group and thanked him for saying Mass, he made no effort to tell them otherwise just smiled and agreed and said he looked forward to doing it more often. Low information catholics, sheesh.
    and why does it always seem to be women, older women to boot

  35. john_6_fan says:

    Wow! So, if Father was 20 minutes late to hear confessions, would this nun take it upon herself to start hearing confessions in his absence as well?

  36. Priam1184 says:

    I have never encountered this particular strain of abuse but it doesn’t surprise me. Yesterday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, I heard a deacon give a homily in which he favorably compared the abuses (he didn’t use that word but the things he was talking about would be classified as such by a rational mind) that have occurred in the Latin Rite Church since Vatican II to the Council of Jerusalem refusing to require that Gentile Christians follow the Jewish dietary laws. These apostate clerics literally desire the destruction of the Church that they preside over. It mystifies me but it is undoubtedly true. So pray for the nun and the priest and if you could spare a prayer for the deacon at my parish I would appreciate it.

  37. Pastor in valle:

    I think our genial host’s point in his citation was this:

    This “event” was not Mass. Ergo, any consecration, even of both elements together, apart from Mass, is gravely wrong. The provision he quotes also mentions consecrating one element without the other, but that’s not the issue here; it’s consecration of either/both, outside of Mass.

    In any case, it’s a grave abuse, arising from a grave misunderstanding of the Mass.

  38. Egyptian:

    Actually, I don’t believe a deacon can celebrate the Good Friday liturgy. The liturgy presupposes a priest (and of course that would include a bishop) celebrating it. A deacon can assist, but not be the celebrant. And the distribution of holy communion on Good Friday, apart from the proper liturgy, is not allowed, except in bringing the Eucharist to the sick who cannot attend the liturgy.

  39. Actually I had a dream Saturday night about showing up at a parish where I’d never been, having all sorts of troubles in the sacristy, we’re late getting started, meanwhile I hear Mass has started without me, I can’t get my vestments on, can’t find my homily, when I get into the church my vestments are gone and I’m back in street clothes, then I can’t find my homily, meanwhile Mass is going on around me…

    Then I woke up in a cold sweat.

  40. Vecchio di Londra says:

    john_6_fan – Maybe Sister will be inspired to compromise, and just hear everybody’s confessions in turn, and wait for father to pop by and give erm, a General Absolution? Just to save time…
    :-)
    Actually, writing this down I was thinking I bet there’s somebody who’ll take that seriously.
    I also wondered if there might be an order of nuns somewhere that does hear confessions. Nothing would surprise me any more.

  41. VexillaRegis says:

    Fr. Fox: My sympathies! The fear of losing one’s sermon, vestments or sheet music and organ shoes is sort of an occupational injury for us who work in the Vineyard :-) And when you time off go on vacation abroad, you get scared when you hear church bells ringing, because you think you have missed a funeral or a Mass!

    Back OT!

  42. VexillaRegis says:

    Edit to a post in moderation: And when you go on vacation…
    something is wrong with the delete function on my computer, sorry.

  43. govmatt says:

    Sister starts saying Mass… no, she doesn’t. She can’t. It’s like saying wymnpriests are saying a mass. No, they are playing make pretend. (Or worse)

    To be charitable to the sister in this case, perhaps her heart was in a sincerely right place. That’s terrific. Good for her. But, to bring oft-overused cliches “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    I didn’t expect to be as angry as I got over this post. While I usually calm down after a degree of reflection, everything about this case just started to boil over:

    1) The priest in this case is “giving talks” at other Churches. A man who is letting grave abuses take place in his own parish is being invited to speak elsewhere?

    2) The sister actually thought she had the right to start Mass? The arrogance is astonishing.

    3) The priest just continued as if he thought this was a normal event. He could have politely restarted… err… started mass when he got there and politely admonished the sister later in private.

    But I don’t think any of those got me hot-under-the-collar as much as the lay faithful not stopping obvious error when they saw it. Yes, yes… I’m, aware that the culprit in the case is the priest and the congregation is the victim, but there is some degree of accountability that must rest on the faithful. Just like if you are being assaulted: 1) remove yourself from harm, 2) inform the authorities, 3) don’t get caught in the same situation again.

  44. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Imrahil, no. It was a consecration of the Species, but not a Mass. A Mass is much more than a consecration and Communion rite.

    And, can you believe this? Not making this up. Our summer sub priest was late for Mass today; first time in years! I almost exclaimed, “Oh what the heck, I’ll get the ball rolling here while we wait for Father to show up!” Man, the temptation was TERRIBLE! Sort of. [That's how it starts, Professor. First, you are wrong about that whole Holy Day of Obligation thing, and now this! I shall have to keep an eye on you! o{];¬) ]

  45. Gail F says:

    At the two “events” Moro talked about above, the priest was present throughout. So would those be Masses, but done illicitly? Or would they be invalid Masses?
    As to anyone starting a Mass without a priest… the mind boggles. I have never been to one of those “communion services” — are they pretty much this? In that case, why do we have them? If not, what is the difference?
    If the priest is late for some reason and has to leave on time (say, to get to ANOTHER Mass…) wouldn’t it be all right to just say the Mass without any music? That would cut it in half, surely — and probably to many people’s vast relief. Can you have a Sunday Mass without music (barring the priest chanting, if he knows how)?

  46. Joseph-Mary says:

    I saw this in Saginaw, Michigan before the time of Bishop Carlson. It was the usual thing. And Father was called a ‘sacramental minister’ and sister ‘did’ the Mass including the homily and Father stepped in for the consecration basically.

  47. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    Showing up at the Offertory is cutting it awfully close. What did Sister intend to do if he had still not shown up at that point? Seems bizarre…

  48. Geoffrey says:

    Based on what I’ve seen in my own diocese, this is my guess as to what happened: People were there, waiting for Mass. The priest isn’t showing up. Sister begins with the Communion Service / Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest. Then the priest shows up and is able to “take over” with “regular Mass”… though yes, it was not Mass.

    Laywomen in my diocese have been known to preside at weekday communion services, in lieu of daily Mass. Yes, you read that right.

  49. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Vecchio di Londra, I read that differently than I read what you are saying, but this is OT. It is clear, however, that Mass itself starts… well, at the beginning.
    [When? At the sign of the Cross, as you say? At the beginning of the entrance song? At the ringing of the bell? But this is OT, too, and at any rate it is something like that. (EF: I guess Holy Mass starts at the words "Introibo ad altare Dei", but I given that this is sort of a preparatory prayer even though said on the steps of the altar, a case could perhaps be made for the Introite.)]

    Dear @Dr Peters,
    At any rate the priest in question quite obviously meant to say Mass, though certainly in a strikingly illicit way.
    I’m not saying I’m sure it was a Mass (interesting how between “invalid” and “merely” illicit a new point of interest arises, and one with many consequences such as the Sunday obligation and nefas, if the latter is interpreted as “more than a mere mortal sin”), but suppose so I do. I was remembering a saying of St. Alphonsus which I am very sorry cannot find on Google books just now. He said about in the question of omitting how much of a Mass (as attendant, not celebrant, of course) would be venial, his own opinion was that one has to be present beginning with the Gospel, but a couple of others say it is beginning with the Offertory “because that was when Holy Mass began in ancient times” (no literal quote), and that he respects these authors etc. Hence my thinking that, illicit as it was, it was still a Mass. [No.]

  50. wmeyer says:

    When the priest is occasionally late starting, I have observed a lot if disquiet in the pews. Really? Is the sacrifice of the Mass of so little consequence that we cannot risk any disruption to our personal schedules? I think of the delay as simply an opportunity for more prayer.

  51. VexillaRegis says:

    SalvatoreGiuseppe & al: To me it sounds like Fr X, knowing that he was going to be late for the second Mass, asked Sister Y to beginn the “Mass” on time. I must however say she was fast – the priest was fifteen minutes late and Sr managed to say even the bidding prayers before that? Maybe I misread it, though.

  52. Moro says:

    Somebody please enlighten me, if a valid consecration happens, how is this not a mass? Granted it’s highly illicit and highly irregular, worthy of all kinds of reprimands, but if Transubstantiation occurs, is it not a mass? [Mass is more than consecration of the Eucharist.]

  53. NBW says:

    I am in shock. How is it that no one complained to the bishop as of yet?

  54. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Imrahil:
    “EF: I guess Holy Mass starts at the words “Introibo ad altare Dei”, but I given that this is sort of a preparatory prayer even though said on the steps of the altar, a case could perhaps be made for the Introite.”

    Holy Mass in the EF begins where it does in the NO: with the Sign of the Cross, and the words “In nomine Patris…” They and it are not optional. Nor are the penitential prayers at the foot of the altar, since penance is part of our preparation. Nor is anything else optional.

    Btw the Mass begins as it did in ancient times with the Mass of the Catechumens: the Offertory is the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful, the point at which the as yet unbaptized Catechumens were ushered out of the church to avoid them viewing the ‘sacred mysteries’. That is why it is generally considered the point at which ‘Tut-tut, late again’ becomes ‘No, sorry: too late!’

    That does not give any celebrant the right to begin at the Offertory. In the 1950s it would have been unheard of to change or omit one iota of the prescribed liturgy, and AFAIK the rules have not changed. Even St Edmund Campion and St Maximilian Kolbe did not cut their Masses short, not even under the threat of Elizabethan persecution and the gallows, not even in the death camp of Auschwitz.

  55. Gaz says:

    “Yes. Our Lord is present in the Sacrament confected.” In the words of my former Parish Priest (talking about wearing vestments, I’ll admit) “He comes but He’s not happy!

  56. Sam says:

    @Fr Martin Fox says:
    6 May 2013 at 1:03 pm

    “…I don’t believe a deacon can celebrate the Good Friday liturgy…”

    In our parish this past Good Friday, not only did the deacon perform the whole service, our pastor was there assisting, as if he were the deacon!

  57. Vecchio di Londra says:

    “In the 1950s ” – sorry, I meant ‘Up to the end of the 1950s’

  58. Vecchio di Londra says:

    @Vexilla Regis
    “the priest was fifteen minutes late and Sr managed to say even the bidding prayers before that?”

    Maybe Sister started at the Gospel and just gave a very short homily? :-)

  59. frjim4321 says:

    I could perhaps see Sister finishing mass if the priest died sometime following the Eucharistic Prayer, but it might cause confusion and she would have to explain that “this mass has now become a ‘communion outside of mass’ service.” And of course it would be appropriate to pray for the deceased priest.

  60. Joseph-Mary says:

    One of the reasons I moved was because in my former diocese it was not rare that for daily Mass Father would not show up–often he was running late from the gym or something like that. So some of the lay people took it upon themselves to have a form of ‘communion service’ for just such occasions because they happened often enough. And being terrible uncatechized most did not mind the fact that it was not a Mass and would say, “Well, I got what I came for”, meaning Holy Communion. MANY Catholics have little true knowledge about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and its meaning and what it is. Not necessarily their fault either.

  61. Hank Igitur says:

    One has to fight against a strong feeling of despair upon reading this. From altar girls to now a pseudo celebrant and a complicit presbyter, a real fruit of the “spirit of VII”………………….

  62. markomalley says:
  63. Like Father Fox, I often have liturgical nightmares. A recurring theme is a female “celebrant.” Once I realize what is going on, I try to wake up too. Avoid eating big meals and especially sweets too close to bedtime. I see enough silliness in real life without having to endure it in my dreams, though my dreams often make reality look sane.

  64. FXR2 says:

    Father Z,
    My supposition is that sister is the Parish Administrator as I encounterd in a rural diocese in Pennsylvania. I’m told they treat the circuit priests as employees. I tried to attend mass and found a communion service on Sunday at one parish. Please pray for sister and the church,

    fxr2

  65. FXR2 says:

    Father Z said: [I would then be accused of promoting "liturgical police"!]

    Do they all have to go to the Ninja Vampire Killer Course? I have yet to attend.

    fxr2

    [Oh yes. Ohhhhh yesssss.]

  66. Geoffrey:

    That sounds plausible. In that case, however, the priest ought to have started Mass at the beginning.

  67. Elizabeth D says:

    PA mom wrote: “Might this be a moment for one of those IPhones that records video in small clips?”

    There is a place in my diocese that posts videos themselves on the internet of sisters giving homilies at Mass. This makes it particularly easy to substantiate the phenomenon to the diocesan liturgy office.

  68. drea916 says:

    Why does sister get to start Mass? Why can’t one of the laypeople? I’m just as capable to say Mass as anyone else. That’s clericalism! (….and that’s me mocking wymnpriests)

  69. AnnAsher says:

    I thought our obligation was (specifically, minimally) to assist at the sacrifice ? Therefore wouldn’t this have objectively fulfilled the obligation? Or is the obligation Mass ?

  70. Mary Jane says:

    There are a number of things that amaze me about this situation – one, as already pointed out by others here, is the fact that the Sister thought she could actually begin the mass. ?! The mind reels. The second is that the parishioners at this church were so impatient that they couldn’t have waited, what, 15 minutes for their priest to arrive? Once I was at a mass that was supposed to begin at 10am and the priest was still in the confessional around 10:40…if I remember right, Mass didn’t actually start until 10:50. It was a little odd, but everyone just used the time to pray.

    I am also surprised at the number of commenters in this thread who actually think this really was a Mass…

    Btw, markomalley, that Eccles and Bosco site is_very_strange.

  71. Mary Jane says:

    AnnAsher – our obligation is to assist at Mass. http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/sunday_mass.htm

  72. BobP says:

    No one asked me but here is my thinking. Had I arrived at this Mass at the Offertory, I wouldn’t have known for a fact that the priest did not preside over the first part of the Mass. And, assuming that being present for the Offertory and after that, fulfills my obligation, I therefore have fulfilled my obligation. What’s wrong with this thinking?

  73. Scott W. says:

    I would then be accused of promoting “liturgical police”!

    We’ll be accused of that no matter what we do, so might as well gather the evidence.

  74. Alan Aversa says:

    I don’t doubt this happens. It follows directly from the New Theologian Louis Bouyer’s “assembly theology” of the Mass. I’ve seen a Novus Ordo priest show up just in time, asking: “Has the Mass started without me?”, as if it could!

  75. VexillaRegis says:

    Vecchio di Londra: No, the sister didn’t start at the gospel! “The parish sister started the Mass with the full (including greeting) introductory rites and Liturgy of the Word.

    Father arrived at the offertory and then Mass continued as normal.

    This is a common, though not weekly, practice”

    This was obviously planned. Hope they have a good Bishop in that diocese.

  76. pinoytraddie says:

    I want a Solemn TLM by Womyn Priests. *sarcasm*

  77. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Mary Jane, those who do so or guess it at least could be, think it was a “crippled” Mass started with the offertory, preceded by a non-Mass. Obviously no sister (nor a deacon for that matter) can “start Mass” or say parts of it.

    Dear @Vecchio di Londra, I forgot there was still a sign of the Cross at the beginning of the Step Prayers. Sorry. The EF Mass begins with the words “In nomine Patris”, etc. (If not this case is made for the Introite.*) Similarly, the prayer “Placeat tibi” obviously still belongs to the Mass, but as to the blessing, which was added by St. Pius V, or the Final Gospel, which originated as beginning of the post-Mass thanksgiving, I’m not so sure. They were obligatory, of course.) Nevertheless, while about the thing in itself you may be right, still I think you rather ought to distinguish about the “optional” thing. Never in my remotest dreams did I think of suggesting anything in the rubrics which the rubrics do not explicitly call optional, could be optional; I was – not actually arguing, but mentioning en passant – points of theory (while not claiming the knowledge of a theorist) with little to no primary relevance for a celebration.

    [*Penance is part of the preparation, but there is certainly such a thing as preparation for Mass before Mass, whether the Step Prayers belong to it or rather, as I suggest, to Mass itself; there would still be the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei. The traditional German word for "Mass of the Catechumens" is, translated, "the Pre-Mass".]

  78. Medjugorje Man 07 says:

    Wow

  79. frahobbit says:

    1) The priest in this case is “giving talks” at other Churches. A man who is letting grave abuses take place in his own parish is being invited to speak elsewhere? 2) The sister actually thought she had the right to start Mass? The arrogance is astonishing.3) The priest just continued as if he thought this was a normal event. He could have politely restarted… err… started mass when he got there and politely admonished the sister later in private.

    SOMEWHERE in the back of my head I feel he and she have a prearranged agreement to do this whenever he is late due to his talks…else why was he not surprised, and why did she not hesitate? Yes, they have both agreed to this, after all it’s the least he can do for poor sister denied her “rights”. Where is Eye of the Tiber? They could really make meatloaf with this one.

  80. Magash says:

    Somewhat tangential, but very telling of the modern “catholic” mind. Several years ago father became incapacitated just minutes before the 9:00 Mass. So as people were already there the deacon called the diocese and got permission to do a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest. Since the pastor was indisposed he (the pastor) granted a dispensation for Sunday Obligation.
    So it seemed all the “t”s were crossed and the “i”s were dotted…except there are no less than three other Catholic parish churches within 10 miles, which people could easily have gotten themselves to. Of course it would have been a little inconvenient, and would probably have messed up their plans for Sunday morning, but hey, I guess it depends what’s important to you.

  81. Phil_NL says:

    Magash,

    I wouldn’t be so sure that in an earlier age, people wouldn’t simply have said ‘ok, Father has excused the obligation, we can go home now’. Purely legalistically, that would be just fine. So it it reflects on the “modern catholic mind” is something I wouldn’t be so sure of.

  82. Fr AJ says:

    Gail F, yes of course you can have Sunday Mass or Mass any other day without music.

    Magash, given the extraordinary circumstances you describe, I don’t see anything wrong with the Deacon holding a Communion Service at that parish.

  83. dmwallace says:

    To those who keep insisting that “the consecration only” constitutes “a Mass,” please keep in mind canon one of the 22nd session of the Council of Trent: “If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.”

    Note that it says, “in the Mass.” There is a sacrifice in the Mass, and that sacrifice is found at the Consecration. The readings, the orations, the blessings, those are not the sacrifice, but only a part of the Mass. If there is only one part of the Mass celebrated or even most parts, it does not constitute “a Mass” unless the entire celebration is celebrated by the priest celebrant.

  84. Imrahil says:

    Dear @dmwallace,

    (If you insist in reading my unworthy comments, then read my second paragraph also, not only the first.)

    I think you are in danger of (excuse me!) twisting dogmatic formulations beyond apparent probable intent to prove a point. Something I’m actually quite friendly towards, in both the humourous and the serious way – as long as it is not about sentences ending in “let him be anathema”: here I guess we had better be very careful before calling any position formally heretical which, up to this stage of development of doctrine, is not. The Council of Trent meant to say that in the mass a true and proper sacrifice, etc. – just as it said. It did not raise to dogma whether there is any difference between “in the Mass” and “the Mass”.

    Nevertheless you are right. Consecration alone makes no Mass. (So, that was the second paragraph I said you should read.)

    Yet… if “even most parts” of the Mass have been celebrated, and these include the Consecration, then these certainly constitute a Mass. It may be difficult to “draw the line” (as the phrase goes), but you certainly cannot draw it in a way that even one slight part of Mass, left out, makes a non-Mass. (That leaving it out constitutes, if inadvertently, a liturgical mistake, if intentionally, a liturgical abuse, is of course clear.)

    What happened here was that, first, the sister held a Liturgy-of-the-Word*, and second, the priest arrived and attempted to say Mass. It is (in my view) peripheral that both may have been of the opinion that “the sister began Mass and the priest finishes it” (I do guess they were); nevertheless two distinct celebrations were still what objectively happened.
    (A Corpus Christi Mass and the ensuing Procession are, liturgically, two distinct celebrations, even though there is no time in between but it immediately ensues.)

    This Mass-attempt of the priest had the (abusive) characteristic that it was deprived of all parts before the offertory; and (in my view) it is to be judged by this quality (I hesitate to write “quality”) whether it was a Mass or not.

    [*I wonder whether she appropriated to herself the clergy's prerogative to say "The Lord be with you".]

  85. Imrahil says:

    To put the long story short:

    Is a Mass, when the Mass of the Catechumens has been abusively cut out, still a Mass?

    If yes, then here happened a Mass too.

    If no, then no.

    And is it, now? I do not know.

  86. dmwallace says:

    @Imrahil:
    I wasn’t actually commenting on your comment. Frankly, I hadn’t even read your comments. I had read moro’s comment which Fr. Z had marked up in red and decided to weigh in. Regardless, I’m not twisting dogmatic formulations; if you read the doctrinae of session 22 and do some background reading on the conciliar debates, you’ll see that the distinction between “the mass is a sacrifice” and “in the mass there is a sacrifice” is valid and present in the thinking of the Tridentine fathers. Counter reformation discussion of what constitutes the sacrifice in the mass makes for great reading!

  87. Pingback: Pope Leo’s Ideal Was Not State Control - BIG PULPIT

  88. Imrahil says:

    Dear @dmwallace,

    I have a bad habit of always feeling meant. Sorry.

    Nevertheless
    read the doctrinae of session 22 and do some background reading on the conciliar debates
    is what I haven’t done (I did only so much as to be able to shout down the “interior Protestant”, and perhaps, though I wouldn’t trust my rhetorical skill, a Protestant met in the street, that the dogmatic canons of Trent taught the correct thing), and thank you for the suggestion!

    [To satisfy my faible for nitpicking: Still what is dogmatic is the proposition "in the Mass there is a Sacrifice". That, first, has no focus on the "in the Mass" thing, and second, means in the Mass as ordained in liturgical law, etc. The proposition "the Mass is more than the Sacrifice within" is a statement of its own right; which is obviously correct for the Mass as actually ordained in liturgical law, but about Mass as possibly ordainable by any give-able liturgical law it is not obvious, and would need some other citation out of magisterial documents, with no anathema if there is none attached to that other citation.

    Have I explained myself if I say that (though unworthy of that too) I call myself a mathematician?]

  89. pelerin says:

    Mary Jane’s comment on the Eccles and Bosco site made me smile. It is very British satire and it helps to be of a certain age remembering the BBC radio programme ‘The Goon Show.’ I can quite see how it is regarded as ‘strange’ by anyone who is not British – the comments usually carry on the Goonish humour. There is though serious thought behind each post.

  90. hredux says:

    A long-term fan writes:
    Eccles’s blog takes a very orthodox and rather traditional Catholic line, and he attacks mostly the same people as Fr Z does (or at least the European equivalents, such as the Tablet, Tina Beattie, same-sex “marriage” legislation, and currently Enda Kenny). Plus a few harmless jokes at the expense of people he obviously admires, such as Fr Tim Finigan and of course Fr Z himself.