QUAERITUR: oddities from a priest during Mass, invalid consecration?

From a reader:

I have a question about the validity of the consecration.  I attended two NO Masses this week and as each priest said, "…broke the bread…", they broke the bread with an audible crack.  One priest held the two halves close together for the elevation so that It looked unbroken; the other priest lifted one half in each hand for the elevation, with his arms spread wide apart, never bringing them together above his head.
This same priest who split the Host also didn’t lay his hands over the gifts.  I think this is called the Epiclesis, isn’t this a "must"?

What you saw were two grave liturgical abuses, but they did not make the consecration invalid.

In the case of the premature breaking of the Host, the priests probably imbibed during the "silly season" of liturgical experimentation the notion that we had to strive to make Mass "meaningful".  That meant that the priest was to "act out" the actions of the Last Supper he was describing via the words of the Eucharistic Prayer.  In any event this is a liturgical abuse.  There is a specific time, clear in the long history of the Roman Rite, clear in the rubrics, when the Host is to be broken.  If this priest is an assistant, you might ask the pastor what is going on.  If he is the pastor, after asking him about this with cheerful respect, you might direct your concerns to the bishop.

As for the other, I am assuming that the priest said the words of the epiclesis but did not extend his hands.   That is also a liturgical abuse, but it does not make the consecration invalid.  What I find odd is that he wanted to use an extravagant gesture in regard to the Host, but did not when it came to a rather drammatic gesture actually prescribed in the rubrics.

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  1. FrCharles says:

    I have seen this abuse many times, and I have always wondered where it came from. The host–usually one of the 24-part ones I call the ‘pizza host’–is broken at the words, “he broke the bread,” and then when the consecrated host is to be shown to the people (which is all the NO rubric asks) the two halves are held aloft and separated, one in each hand. I have seen this so many times that I have always guessed it has some kind of origin somewhere.

  2. AndyMo says:

    they broke the bread with an audible crack. One priest held the two halves close together for the elevation so that It looked unbroken

    I saw this exact thing just the other day. To be honest, I was wondering if it was accidental; it’s possible that Fr. was holding the host too firmly and broke it by mistake. I’m not sure.

  3. Sid says:

    I witnessed these two abuses — the breaking the host during the narration and the omitting of the gesture at the epiclesis — repeatedly in a loony bin called “seminary” in the early 80s. Worse: I even witnessed during my first year there the priest who taught and oversaw liturgy fail to take the bread off the patten into his hands, fail to look up to Heaven, fail to raise the cup off the altar, and fail to elevate the Host and the Precious Blood.

    If disobedient clergy think they are entitled to “act out” Our Lord’s actions without a rubric so authorizing them, then perhaps it would follow logically also to nail their hands to the altar.

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    [55.] In some places there has existed an abuse by which the Priest breaks the host at the time of the consecration in the Holy Mass. This abuse is contrary to the tradition of the Church. It is reprobated and is to be corrected with haste.


  5. Will D. says:

    I remember this was extremely common with some of our goofier priests in the early ’80s. It has, thankfully, become much more rare lately.

  6. Thomas S says:

    ~If disobedient clergy think they are entitled to “act out” Our Lord’s actions without a rubric so authorizing them, then perhaps it would follow logically also to nail their hands to the altar.~

    Haha! That brought a smile to my face.

  7. Consilio et Impetu says:

    Too often have I witnessed these actions. Too often have priests taken it upon themselves to do their own
    thing when it comes to any liturgical function. What makes it funnier (or sadder) is that the laity thinks he makes things up as he goes along but is following the instructions out of a book someone wrote. (Say the black, Do the red.) Another abuse I have witnessed is a priest who “dusts off” the crumbs at the fraction rite as opposed to taking a small fragment of the Sacred Body and dropping it into the Precious Blood (co-mingling). That way he “doesn’t have to fish the little piece out” when consuming the Precious Blood. Although these abuses does not make the Mass illicit, it causes confusion in the pews. Where there is confusion there is an evil presence.

  8. John UK says:

    It is a mistake which first appeared in Anglican liturgies in 1662.
    Dix, in his great Shape of the Liturgy writes:
    Cranmer used this ancient liberty [that in no ancient liturgy were the Words of Institution in the Canon direct quotations from scrpture] in compiling the institution narrative of of the rites of 1549 and 1552, which is a conflation from the various scriptural accounts. He could not foresee that by including the non-scriptural word ‘Broken’ in the Words of Institution over the bread he would give occasion to the revisers of 1661 to commit the blunder of transferring the fraction from its universal place before the communion to ssa point in the middle of the eucharistic prayer. By this not only is its proper purpoe as a preparation for distribution (as at the last supper) obscured by a non-scriptural symbolism, but its original character as one of the great successive acts which have together made up the ‘four-action’ structure of the eucharist ever since sub-apostolic times (at the latest) has been partially destroyed…

    I do not know if any other reformation liturgy thus moved the fraction. It would seem that behind the re-introduction of specific manual acts in connection with the words of institution in 1662 [the priest is “take the paten into his hands” “to take the cup into his hands”, to lay his hands upon the elements] was an intention to reinforce [contra the Puritans] the consecratory nature of the words of institution.

    As to why this destructive blunder(Dix), and reprobated abuse (Redemptonis Sacramentum) should be imported by certain priests into the Mass of Holy Mother Church … I cannot conceive a reason.

    John UK

  9. Emilio III says:

    I used to see this all the time, but it stopped at least fifteen years ago. Since all four priests stopped doing it at the same time it was clearly a conscious decision to stop it. But whether it was an order from the Bishop, the Jesuit Provincial, or merely somebody realizing that it was wrong and letting them know…

    Anyhow, if our trendier-than-thou parish can stop an abuse, it should be be feasible to do so elsewhere. Possibly a friendly note to the pastor with a question about REDEMPTIONIS SACRAMENTUM might help?

  10. JPG says:

    John UK
    Why was this blunder reintroduced? It represents a feeble and dated attempt on the part of some priests to make things more relevent for
    the poor dumb fools such as myself who sit in the pews and clearly need to be entertained. It is emblematic and typical of the hermeneutic of rupture to which all of us have been subjected and many of us reared. It betrays a lack of understanding and appreciation of Tradition and ones place in the Liturgy.

  11. JPG says:

    Further thoughts as to why. There is a certain pride on the part of some celebrants that feels a need to do better than the text or the rubrics. This pride or the person with such an outlook feels a need to improve the Liturgy regardless of their lack of competence or authority to do so. Competence in that they are not the Bishop of Rome and likewise even if they were perhaps have been trained in such a way that their understanding is limited (although said understanding may be greater than mine ever will be.) This attitude represents a time when to put it simplistically “old is bad , New is good”, when we were subjected to innovation of the week. (Mix and match anaphoras, folk art Sacred vessels, Liturgical dancing etc.), meanwhile those traditions really part of Sacred Tradition, reflecting the Apostolic teaching ,were marginalized and discouraged.
    One heard of Eucharistic Adoration refered to as “cookie worship”, tabernacles moved to the garage( I exagerate) or worse yet talk of a mobile pyx or tabernacle on wheels brought out at Communion sort of like the cigarette carts in the old movies. All of this nonsense one hopes is going away with the current Pontiff(GOD GRANT HIM MANY YEARS!) These attitudes are entrenched and difficult to challenge. Even among the laity who have been reared with this. I turn 50 in a month and I would be willing to bet that most of my friends and relatives would scarcely note any of this. They see this as normal. The poor orthopraxis likewise has poor orthodox teaching to go with it. When one suggests a return to tradition one risks being a pariah, yet if they were to discover tradition they would find a richer more intellectual faith that is likewise beautiful to behold. To steal an analogy from St Paul and perhaps updateing it, this is almost like presenting a filet mignon to someone who has only had kraft mac & cheese. They feel distrustful of the filet even though it tastes better is more nutritious and satisfying than the mac & cheese. They want their mac & cheese. When one considers what is accomplished at Mass one should only approach this great work with
    awe and trembling not Mickey and Judy put on a show.
    One sees this with the clergy and laity alike. This change may take years.

  12. Jayna says:

    I saw this happen at a church in my neck of the woods at the start of the year (the oldest church in the archdiocese actually). The best (worst?) part, though, is that the priest who did it is also on the Council of Priests and a monsignor to boot. A shame too because it’s a beautiful church only a block away from campus and I could go to Mass there just before class starts, but he’s just a little too loosey goosey with the text. On the bright side, he is the only priest I have ever seen do it.

  13. Robert_H says:

    Speaking of extravagant gestures, I have seen the rector of the cathedral (staffed by Paulist priests) hold the Host aloft, arms extended, and break it above his head. I can only imagine the shower of particles that descends who-knows-where. (However, I believe he does break it at the proper place in the liturgy.)

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    A possible reason in some cases: Some poorly formed priests may regard the the Mass as a re-enactment of the Last Supper, rather than a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross.

  15. Toronto_Sacristan says:

    These things at present to me seem trival in comparison with what I was forced to witness this past Sunday.

    We had a visting priest who entered the Sacristy dressed in street clothing who then proceeded to where the vestments had been laid out as per the usual routine of this parish. He threw the alb and stole to the side of the sacristy press and proceed to put it on as if this was normal!

    All the servers, readers, etc. whom were in waiting in the Sacristy where shocked but no one said anything as this priest is not the kind you can reason with.

    He alllowed no sanctus bells to be rung, nor did he really want and servers to hold the Missal at the chair, not the he used the chair (he did the first part fromt the nave of the church)and when offtory came he prepared the chalice without even bothering to use the corporal, placing it to the side on the mensa of the altar unfolded.

    And to top it all he even placed a glass of water from which he took a sip a few times during the course of the “Mass” and even during the Offertory and I belive the Sanctus. All I could do was pray for Vocations to the priest priesthood and that they be good priests!

  16. mjbfjs says:

    For the life of me I could never understand why 4 Cannons of the Mass
    how can you be One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church when every Church uses a different Cannon and vulgar language. I don’t speak French Polish Spanish Chinese Japanese so does this mean every Church is a selfish and self center Church I don’t know anymore please forgive me if this is off topic. I have gone to a Roman Mass since 1986 and we don’t have this problem it’s always the same and it’s always like being in Heaven every week.

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