QUAERITUR: changing words near the consecration

From a reader:

When I travel I frequently have to attend NO Masses.  Such was the case last Sunday.  The parish is liberal and so is the “guest” priest, but I was with a friend, so on I went.

The priest changed the words of the consecration by substituting the words “friends” for “disciples”.  He did that for both the bread and the wine.  I recognize that words are important and I think it is a poor but not surprising substitution to use the word “friends”  given the social action personality of this priest (He broke bread and gave his friends….).  I checked the actual version in the weekly (monthly???) pew missal,  while listening.  The missal uses the word “disciples”.

My question is does this in any way invalidate the Mass.  If not, fine.  I am subject to this Mass on occasion and really can’t get out of going so it is good to know that at least I satisfied my Sunday obligation (on Sat, naturally).  Mostly I am curious.

First, isn’t it wonderful that you can go to Mass when you travel?

Second, the priest had NO authority to change those words.  What he did was just plain wrong.  The pastor of the parish or his superior/bishops should admonish him in this regard.  By changing the words he caused people to wonder about the Mass. 

Third, the change you related did NOT make the Mass invalid.  Be at ease about that.

We must not ever fall into the trap some minimalists had dug, namely, that as long as the bare bones essentials are left untouched, we can do what we want with the Church’s liturgy.  

Just because that Mass wasn’t invalid, doesn’t mean that what he did was okay.

You also start appreciating Mass in Latin more: for most priests it is a little harder to ad lib, and those who are able to wouldn’t generally be the type who would.


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  1. Woody Jones says:

    Father, what about the celebrant changing the offertory from “…it will become for us…” to …it will be for us…”? I get uneasy every time I hear this, as it implies that no change is occurring.

  2. dcs says:

    I think the Eucharistic Prayer for Children uses “friends” in place of “disciples”.

  3. David Kastel says:

    It may not invalidate the mass. MAY not. [No. DOES not invalidate. Does not.]

    But, the priest changing the words ordered by the Church to words of his own choosing indicates a likelihood that he does not intend to do what the Church does in confecting the Sacrament. [You can’t make that judgement, especially of he said the rest of the form properly.] And the Council of Trent infallibly taught as dogma that the intention of the minister is necessary to the validity of any sacrament.

    Using valid matter and saying the particular words of consecration is not enough. I would not go to that priest any more. [And your comments here are pretty unhelpful.]

  4. Dahler says:

    Also, there are two optional Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation approved for use in the U.S.–If I recall correctly, they too use “friends” instead of disciples.

  5. dcs says:

    But, the priest changing the words ordered by the Church to words of his own choosing indicates a likelihood that he does not intend to do what the Church does in confecting the Sacrament.

    The necessary intention is to do what the Church does – a priest could be mistaken about what the Church does as long as he believes he is doing what the Church does and still confect a valid Sacrament.

  6. This is one of the greatest problems in the celebrations of the NO as it is commonly practiced, in my opinion, even greater than the horrific liturgical music that is used – well, maybe it’s a tie. But it’s rare that I ever hear a priest, “Say the black” during the Eucharistic prayer anymore. Whether it be adding popular saints to the litany of saints (religious orders are notorious for this), saying “God” at places where the black specifically calls for “He” or “Him,” or one of the favorites of the Augustinians is to replace the words, “Happy are those who are called to His supper” with the words that Augustine commonly used, “See what you believe, and become what you see.” I understand the desire to be connected to the Augustinian tradition, but it’s still not authorized and has no place in the Eucharistic prayer.

  7. dcs says:

    Louis Cardinal Billot, S.J. (my emphasis):

    The intention of doing what the Church does, whatever that may be in the opinion of him who administers the sacrament, is said to be required. Thus St. Thomas: “Although he who does not believe that baptism is a sacrament, or does not believe that it has any spiritual power, does not intend when he baptizes to confer a sacrament, nevertheless he intends to do what the Church does, even if he counts that as nothing; and because the Church intends to do something, therefore, as a consequence of this, he intends implicitly to do something, though not explicitly.”[1] But it is not necessary that the minister think as the Church does, or that he not err concerning her teaching; for it is enough if his intention is towards something which is identically that which the Church intends, or, something which amounts to the same thing, for example, if he intends to do that which Christ instituted, or which is commanded in the Gospel, or which Christians are accustomed to do according to the prescription of their religion. (Thus it is apparent how even a Jew or a pagan can have an intention sufficient for baptizing. Consider for example a catechumen placed in a moment of necessity, who asks a pagan saying, “Do for me, I entreat you, this mercy, that you pour water on me, pronouncing the words, ‘I baptize you,’ etc., with the intention of doing what I myself intend to receive according to the prescription of the law of Christians.)


    Hope this helps.

  8. Fr. BJ says:

    David Kastel: It may not invalidate the mass. MAY not.

    But, the priest changing the words ordered by the Church to words of his own choosing indicates a likelihood…etc.

    David, try giving the benefit of the doubt. The priest could be doing it out of habit, having learned it from someone else — all the while maintaining a perfectly sound intention. There are a lot of different reasons that could explain the change of a few words (that do not have to do with the form of the sacrament) without there being any danger of invalidating the sacrament. Even a priest who changes the words of the form of the sacrament could be intending to do what the Church does, misguided and severely erroneous though he be. Your logic is flawed.

  9. agm says:

    At a parish I sometimes attend, the Priest whilst celebrating a Novus Ordo Mass (NO chance of ANYTHING else in these parts !) offers the Host and Chalice together at the same time. He raises his hands over them as they sit on the Altar,reciting both in same sentence, not separately.I have wondered at the validity of this ? The same priest at an Xmas Eve Mass he concelebrated with another priest, once all the laymen and women and the other priest had gone to their stations, returned to his seat. I think he should have known better here too?

    Our local Bishop has , apparently decided it is now “okay” for Laymen and Women, instead of clergy, to “preside” at the Prayer Vigils in Funeral Homes for deceased persons. Presumably our illustrious Clergy, having shucked most of their duties shall shortly appear at the local Canada Employment Centers, seeking more gainful,permanent occupations ?

  10. Michael says:

    I had someone tell me something like this a while back, that if the priest, when he says during the consecration of the wine, “shed for all” that if he means for all mankind, as opposed to all who have come to believe (something about how the translation should be “for the many,” sorry, my Latin is way to terrible to parse this myself) that the consecration does not occur. Seemed a little off to me, thanks dcs for the quote that pretty succinctly clears it up.

    On a lighter note, when Father Z. capitalizes the word no I automatically read it as Novus Ordo. I’m unsure as to whether this is a good sign or not.

  11. Kevin says:

    I am unfortunate to reside within a rather liberal parish, which, as an intransigent rubricist, brings me to ask this question: does anyone know of any precedence in bringing a canonical trial against a pastor when he and the local bishop refuse to correct his many and varied liturgical abuses? I’m too tired now to cite canons, but it would seem to be within both the letter and spirit of the code. I am wondering whether anyone knows of any precedence.

  12. The valid and licit Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I as found in the Sacramentary (Ordinary Form of the Roman Missal) does use the word ‘friends’ in the consecration of the chalice:

    “At the end of the meal, knowing that he was to reconcile all things in himself by the blood of his cross, he took the cup filled with wine. Again he gave you thanks, handed the cup to his friends, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it; this is the cup of my blood, … “

  13. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    “Friends” does appear in some Eucharistic Prayers. Perhaps the problem is that some liturgical books I have seen contain upwards of 10 Eucharistic Prayers: EP I-IV; Children I-III; Reconciliation I-III plus small pamphlets with Special Occasion Prayers.

    Does anyone have a good count on how many officially exist (in the UK at least)?

  14. AReader says:

    We, as members of a Church, have been asked to report abuse to the Bishop (archbishop) of the diocese (archdiocese) in which we reside. It has been my experience that when I question the actions at Liturgy, do the research and then finally mention the repetetive abuse to the priest then the bishop(archbishop) nothing is done. I have yet to hear of an instance that an abuse had been corrected. In this case a possible misuse of a word can cause question. But is there any evidence of following up to correct the misuse ? At one time I had exchanged letters with the diocesian office of divine worship and I was told they are only an instructional body and do not follow up on reported abuses. (!)
    My point is this—the people of the Church want to do the right thing, yet some of those in the know who are aware of the rubrics take liberties and lisence that cause confusion and scandal. Its frustrating when the laity have the respect for what the clery has “put in writting” yet the clergy find exception to do it.

  15. supertradmom says:

    In my former diocese, almost all the priests changed words at Mass on a regular basis. I actually had to train my son to pay attention so that he knew what was a valid or invalid Mass. The use of “friends” still occurs regularly, but the Bishop does not, sadly, correct this, or other such changes. At at least two parishes, the pastors use typed up “versions” of the Mass and frequently change the Proper to include some sort of local “topical” interest. We always had to pay close attention to the Words of Consecration. In addition, our family met these types of problems many years ago in Canada. Finally, after many years of leaving invalid Masses and trying to find another one on a Sunday, we found a priest who did not change the Eucharistic prayer. Sadly, these modifications continue.

  16. paul says:

    What about if a priest says the consecration over the bread and never actually takes the bread off the paten and into his hands- while saying the words of consecration? This happens all the time at a parish I attend- and there really is no reason for it as he has no problems with his hands.

  17. paul says:

    What if the priest leaves the bread on the paten- never taking the bread into his hands as he says the consecration? This priest has no problems with his hands- he does distribute Holy Communion- but I have never seen a priest say Mass this way.

  18. Sid says:

    re Paul @822am “I have never seen a priest say Mass this way”.

    I have. And in seminary. By the liturgist. He didn’t even hold his hands over the bread and wine. He just kept his arms spread, palms upward. And he called the Pope “The Bishop of Rome” — not what the text says. At the Our Father, even when concelebrating, he held his hands and arms in a “hands up” position, as if someone were pointing a gun at him.

    The Marines have a saying, I’m told: “In God we trust; for everyone else we need to see their hands.”

  19. Nancy says:

    Isn’t this discussion exactly why Latin was chosen as the language of the Church?

  20. mwa says:

    Could anyone point me to a document which delineates exactly which places in the Mass a priest may add something to what is in the Missal, or whether this is indicated in the Missal itself? I would like to help out a priest of the “say the black, do the red” mentality, who has yet a number of habitual personal accretions to the prescribed text.

  21. TP says:


    Perhaps the priest was using the eucharistic prayer for children which uses friends rather than disciples.

  22. Tominellay says:

    …thinking that Fr. Z’s final sentence really sums it up…

  23. Curmudgeon says:

    Isn’t it wonderful that you can attend Mass when you travel?

    It’s wonderful when we travel somewhere that has a TLM, and we know we don’t have to worry about exposing our very young children to a hootenany, convincing our daughter that altar girls are not to be admired, or explaining to our boys that they can’t talk in the nave just because the grownups are doing so.

    And it’s wonderful if you’re a priest and you can celebrate your own private Mass when travelling.

    But it’s not so wonderful when you find yourself wondering whether you should leave the hootenany for the better interests of preserving your children’s sense of the sacred, when you’re forced to shake hands with the entire congregation at the holy-howdy-do prior to communion, or when someone whisks your kid out of the pew to the sanctuary for a childrens’ blessing before you have a chance to stop them. Such was our experience somewhere in the Mountain West this Sunday….and experience that made us grateful the Church hasn’t made Ash Wednesday a day of obligation (because we’re still out there, and have no inkling to go back).

  24. Papabile says:

    Having been a server at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for years, I used to serve the old 1:30 PM Pauline Rite Latin Mass pretty regularly. (It’s was replaced by the Spanish Mass about 7 years ago.)

    On Priest, in particular, used to grate on my nerves. He was entirely fluent in latin, a liturgist, but never followed the BLACK!

    This guy would sit there, compose verbose latin prayers (that were gramatically correct) on the spot, and introduce whatever he wanted into the Mass.

    Everything began, “Fratres et sorores…” he replaced discipili with amici…


  25. Michael J says:

    Getting back to the (perhaps overly simplistic) description of the requirements for Sacramental validity (consult the Baltimore Catechism), I can see David Kastel’s point.

    The laity can know with absolute certainty that the matter and form are proper, but can only know with moral certainty that the intent of the minister is correct. The only way we can know with any assurance at all that the Priest “Intends to do what the Church intends” is if he does what the Church tells him to do.

    As soon as ad-libbing starts to take place, at the very least it introduces reasonable doubt about the minister’s intent.

  26. Erin says:

    Two points:

    1. There’s no “valid” or “invalid” Mass. There are valid and invalid consecrations of the Eucharist.

    2. It’s exceedingly unlikely that the consecration will be invalid. There is really no reason to worry about so long as you are attending a Mass being celebrated by a Catholic priest. (It’s more likely that the consecration could be illicit, but valid.) See: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9905chap.asp.

  27. Holly says:

    People like Supertradmom really worry me. Yes, let’s “train” our children to look for the bad and to nit-pick, rather then focus on the holiness of the mass and the real presence of Jesus at the mass – which DOES exist, even if at an NO mass. What’s she’s doing is tantamount to Jesus being in the room, while one family in the corner (the Pharisee family) stands there, arms crossed across their chests, whispering silently to one another about the dubious tax collecters and prostitutes talking to Christ.

    For me, this kind of attitude is the #1 reason I will never engage myself into a Latin mass community.

  28. big bertha says:

    It seems rather obvious here (even to a liturgical amateur) that the priest was using one of the eucharistic prayers for children and so he did no ‘ad lib’ or deviate from the proper text as is being wrongly suggested. Do you not think that you have a responsibility to make this clear right from the outset rather than encouraging these misconceptions to continue? This certainly seems like nothing but a ‘storm in a teacup’ and by not correcting these inaccurate perceptions you seem to be encouraging dischord to flourish?

  29. Nathan says:

    Holly: “For me, this kind of attitude is the #1 reason I will never engage myself into a Latin Mass community.”

    I do understand your concern, and I think most folks who write on this blog who are involved in Latin Mass communities can relate. We have our share of aggrieved people. However, could I humbly suggest two thoughts?

    First, please understand that the reason a lot of people came to the Latin Mass communties in the first place (especially those places that offer the TLM exclusively) was the result of receiving real injustice on the part of those who implemented liturgical abuse. In not a few cases, anyone questioning the wisdom of the latest fad was subjected to pretty intense and hostile treatment. While not absolving any of us from the responsibility of our actions, it is human to respond to prevent children from the same treatment–and there may be parishes where this continues to occur.

    Second, I would hope you would consider making your determination on whether or not it is worthwhile to go to the TLM based on the merits of the liturgy itself, rather than the merits of the people there. I shudder to think that my sinfulness is keeping Catholics of good will away from the treasures of the Church’s traditional liturgy. IMO, I desperately need the TLM precisely because of my pride and my sinfulness and because the TLM’s “ars celebrendi” tends to emphasize the mystery of God more than most OF Masses I’ve been to.

    If my attitude about the TLM is ever a stumbling block, I ask pardon.

    In Christ,

  30. supertradmom says:

    In defense of our family’s “heresy watch” discussions around the kitchen table in answer to Holly: if we do not teach our children the true faith, who will? We do not judge the priests, but their false teaching. This is a duty of parents. If we do not know our Faith, including the Mass, how can we prepare our children for adulthood, and the habit of using their reason as well as their hearts.

    In the excellent Latin Mass magazine many years ago, an article noted that homeschooled children were falling away from the Faith close to the numbers of those attending secular or Catholic schools. The result of the study was that the Mass made the difference in the keeping of the Faith-the true Mass.

    As a mom, I do not nitpick, but if the Mass is invalid, we need to leave and find another, which demands an explanation, as the bread and wine have not been consecrated. Also, how do you teach your children obedience if they witness the disobedience of priests on a weekly, if not daily, basis?

  31. therese says:

    Big Berta – da nobis pacem, as the Latinists might say. This blog doesn’t need a self-elected policewoman.
    If you feel compelled in all conscience to put a stop to the criticism of priests using legitimate, Rome-approved versions of the liturgy, and think that it is unfair for parishioners to pick holes in their legitimate priestly activities, then you would do better to write to the Tablet, deploring their treatment on one such priest in the Southwark Archdiocese. As Ms Curti’s mailbox has been rather full of late, I would suggest you write to the Home News Editor instead.


  32. big bertha says:

    TTFN – The eucharistic prayers for children ARE ‘legitimate Rome-approved versions’ for the liturgy as you say so what’s the problem. It’s not me trying to be a self-elected policewoman but the individual who submitted the original (probably vexacious)’complaint’.

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