QUAERITUR: Priest DIES between consecrations in the EF

From a reader:

I was just thinking today after reflecting on the fact that many priests aren’t taught Latin, nor can many of them even pronounce it properly and simply not know what they are saying.

That being said, with the shortage of priests who are trained to celebrate the EF Mass (some of whom are very old, and not of the greatest health), combined with the shortage of priests who don’t know Latin, if it came down to an emergency situation where the priest passed out dead after the the bread was consecrated, but not the wine, and the only priest reasonably available to celebrate it doesn’t know a lick of Latin or how to even pronounce it, may he finish the Mass using the English translation found in the new Missal?

Yes, a priest, if present, should finish what was started.  Even he has to say the words of consecration in English, he should finish what was started.

But in any normal situation, the older form of Mass should not have English integrated in where it is not permitted.

This isn’t a far fetched question.

I have been at a Mass when a priest died. He came down from the pulpit and died on the spot.

If a priest can die then, a priest can die between the consecrations.

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  1. Phil_NL says:

    I’d expect that, if such a thing would happen – quod Deus avertat! – it would be much more likely that there would be not priest present at all to continue the Mass, given the shortage of priests.

    Worse still, once things start to settle a bit, and a neighboring priest would have arrived, I wouldn’t be surprised if no-one present would remember where exactly the deceased priest was, the shock blotting out such memories unless one was really paying attention and/or it was obvious from some external sign where the priest was (not always obvious in the EF). I suppose the unreconstructed ossified manualists do have an answer if they look long enough, but in practice, I doubt such a situation would be resolved any time soon.

  2. kallman says:

    what about the theoretical second priest commending the soul of the just departed priest first prior to consideration of the chalice?

  3. Pastor in Valle says:

    In my diocese about thirty years ago a priest, one Fr Price, died in the middle of his sermon; what makes it particularly spooky was that he was preaching on ‘You shall not know the day nor the hour’. With rather black humour, his brother priests commented that he had always been rather over-enthusiastic for the use of visual aids.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Pastor in Valle, as surprising and strange as that death was, I am so glad we Catholics have a sense of humor. We can always laugh at ourselves. Maybe Fr. Price actually knew he was going to die and decided to use the event to make one last point. Not impossible.

  5. HeatherPA says:

    In the book “Childless” by Brian Gail, the priest was shot while he had the Chalice raised, consecrating the wine. I know it is fiction, however that visual was a powerful one. Isn’t there a Saint who was shot at during the consecretion once by a member of the then corrupted “Brothers of Humility” a few centuries ago? I hears a sermon about it from Fr. Bill Casey.
    I am sure during the Cristeros revolution in Mexico things like this did happen. Sobering.

  6. Gail F says:

    I love this question. People say all the “rules” we have for sacraments, etc., are nit-picky but this is exactly why! Especially during the Middle Ages, people loved to ask “what if this happened? what if that happened? what if the other thing happened?” That is not the most popular question to ask now (I guess today it would be, “how about if I try THIS?”) but that’s where all our rules come from — people wanting to know about every possible situation.

    Pastor in Valle: I do love our Catholic sense of humor! HeatherPA: You are thinking of St. Charles Borromeo, who was a VERY interesting fellow. Today many people say, “Well, the guns back then didn’t work so well and didn’t shoot as hard.” Tell that to the many people who were shot to death. People then weren’t stupid, they knew perfectly well whether a person shot in front of their eyes was likely to have been hurt/killed or not.

  7. VexillaRegis says:

    A neighbor of ours was to marry a philippine woman, in a church in the Philippines. Just before the exchange of vows the priest had a massive heart attack and was brought to hospital. There were lots of guests and food, so they had the party anyway. They then married a few months later, when the poor priest had recovered enough to stand up. Unfortunately they are now divorced.

  8. Peggy R says:

    Abp Romero was assassinated at the moment of consecration of the chalice in El Salvador. I don’t know whether another priest completed the mass. There was of course chaos and mayhem afterward.


  9. Giuseppe says:

    A Jesuit who taught me years ago told me that his wish would be to die in the sacristy after mass, so as to have his last act on earth was the celebration of mass, but a not-too-crowded one (e.g. a weekday one) so as not to disrupt everyone’s weekend. Yes, a humble Jesuit.

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Even if the Celebrant simply fainted…

    Practically, are there often Celebrations with nary a Missal or booklet (etc.) in the neighbourhood with text and translation (in whatever modern language)?

    Presumably, if the place were clear, working from vernacular to Latin would be fairly straightforward – except, perhaps, the pronunciation.

    How problematical would that be, given a sufficiently unembarrassed second Priest or Bishop?

    Which makes me wonder, there was presumably an older English pronunciation of liturgical Latin (I have heard a recording of one Taverner’s Masses where an attempt was made to reconstruct it) – are different pronunciations a problem in any more serious sense than perhaps sounding unfamiliar?

  11. I’ve never asked my fellow priests, but I think most of us would figure out what to do.

    > As alluded to, I would first attend to the stricken priest and do what I could. I would ask everyone to pray patiently.

    >If I were present at a Mass celebrated in another language, and had to step up, suddenly, and continue, I’d either do so with the missal at hand and do my best in the language, or else I’d speak the words of consecration from memory in English–in order to remove all doubt–and then proceed, as best I could, with what I had.

    >If it is the Extraordinary Form, I could manage the prayers without too much problem, but I would probably end up doing it in the manner of the Ordinary Form. Advantage ad orientem! Folks would not see me omitting the proscribed gestures. In my experience, there is usually an experienced server present, who would, no doubt, come to my assistance readily.

    > If I arrived on the scene, not having witnessed the Mass to that point, I’d do what I could to pick up where the priest left off. If that couldn’t be determined, I suppose…one simply reverently consumes the elements on the altar and brings things to a decorous conclusion. (I would be glad to offer Mass, from the beginning, but folks might prefer to do that later. I could give communion from the tabernacle for anyone who wished.) What else is there? After all, what would you do, layperson, if no other priest arrived? (Hard to imagine in the U.S., but easy to imagine in many other places.) What would be the reverent thing to do?

  12. Phil_NL says:

    “After all, what would you do, layperson, if no other priest arrived?”

    Now that’s a question I wouldn’t know the answer too… If only the bread is consacrated, I suppose it could be put in the tabernacle to shield it from harm. But if there is the Precious Blood as well, that would be a real issue – there are good reasons why it isn’t allowed to be reserved. I once encountered, in a chapel in France, a chalice and host which were unattended on an altar in a chapel (probably of a monastery or cathedral complex, but apart from the main church). We had no clue if the contents were consacrated. There was a fly or two bussing around though… Pretty much the only thing we could do was to ask our guide to make enquiries – not a priest in sight. I hope and pray he did…

  13. zekarja says:

    From the Byzantine point of view… If a priest dies or is unable to finish the Divine Liturgy (Mass), another priest MUST finish the Divine Liturgy where it was left off. Even if there is no other priest present at the at the parish, another priest must arrive at the parish and finish the Divine Liturgy.

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