From a seminarian…
Thank you very much for everything you do on this blog. I am a seminarian and an avid reader of this blog. My seminary is orthodox, but these are difficult times in the Church and it is a great blessing to have you as a consistent voice of reason and orthodoxy. It is also great to have someone I can trust to answer my question without beating about the bush.
I recently attended Mass at a parish outside my diocese. It was a difficult experience. The music (surprise!) was terrible, but the thing that irked me the most was the fact that the elderly priest kept ad libbing. Most unfortunately, he also made up a part of the prayers of consecration of the Precious Blood. Overall, he basically got across the same meaning (except his blatant substitution of “all” for “many”). That is until the Ecce Agnus Dei which he rendered “This is Jesus…ad lib…ad lib…ad lib…” and the closing prayer which he completely made up.
My question is twofold.
First, at what point is the Mass invalid and what does one do in such a circumstance? I always worry that I should go to Mass a second time elsewhere.
Second, I really wanted to say something to the priest after Mass, but I chose not to. However, am I morally obligated to say something. I’ll be honest. I chickened out. Should I have said something? Again this was not my home parish, and as far as I could tell, this was a visiting priest.
Thank you very much and God bless!
There are several factors at work here.
Second question first. Should you have said something?
Firstly, you were outside of your diocese. There is little you can do to follow up. So, in this situation, it is best to keep your mouth shut.
Second, as a seminarian, you are about at the level in our priestly corps as the recruit getting off the bus in the middle of the night for your tender welcome at Parris Island. Your job right now is to find your particular painted set of yellow footprints and stand in them until you are told what to do next. So, in this situation, it is best to keep your mouth shut.
Third, the priest is old, “elderly”… which from your perspective could be directed also at me. Old men tend to be set in their ways. And here comes Sonny with his helpful observations. In terms of “fraternal correction” you had no obligation, in your present status. In fact, since seminarians are not an easily renewable resource, don’t needlessly put yourself in the line of fire. So, in this situation, it is best to keep your mouth shut.
This is like the old chestnut, “‘Shut up!’, he explained.”
Your job, along with finding your yellow footprints, is to get ordained. Smile, watch your back, work hard, get ordained.
Fourth, at what point is Mass invalid? If the priest has a negative intention against what the Church teaches, that invalidates. If the matter and form are defective to the point that they don’t conform to what the Church specifies, that invalidates. If the priest does not consume both of the sacred species, then he may have confected the Eucharist but it wasn’t Holy Mass. Fail. Other than that, ad libbing doesn’t do it, unless he ad libs the consecration into incoherent idiocy.
Friend, be good and be prudent. File these experiences away and let them warm your cold times. Examine your conscience often and use the sacrament of Penance regularly. Continue to verify your vocation with brutal honesty.
There are a lot of people praying for you.