From a priest…
I know that Canon Law currently permits, although discourages, a priest to say a Mass alone (i.e. without server or faithful). I’ve heard that previously, it was forbidden under penalty of mortal sin to say Mass alone. I’m not sure about the relation between the new Code of Canon Law and Mass in the Extraordinary Form. If a priest has just reason, is he now permitted to say Mass in the Extraordinary form alone? I’m currently a transitional deacon who hopes to say the EF, but may not have the opportunity to do so publicly too much. If possible, I would occasionally say it in private to become more comfortable with it until the time comes when I can say it publicly.
Thanks for asking.
Yes, Father, you can say Mass in the Extraordinary Form alone, that is, even without a server. It is not a sin. Sometimes we make a distinction between Mass sine populo (which has a server but no congregation) and the Missa solitaria (which means you are on your own).
The Code of Canon Law can. 906 says that priests can say the Missa solitaria for a just reason.
“Can. 906 – A priest may not celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice without the participation of at least one of the faithful, unless there is a good and reasonable cause for doing so.”
Can. 904 urges priests to say Mass daily. So, desiring to take that canon seriously is enough of a reason to say the Missa solitaria. It is enough of a just reason to desire to say Mass for the good of souls for whom they are celebrated. It is a good enough reason if you simply want to say Mass, as the priest/victim that you are as alter Christus at the altar which is Calvary.
If you are by yourself, there are a few things to attend to on your own.
First, you make your own responses. However, during the prayers at the foot of the altar you don’t do the Confiteor twice. Do it once and leave out “vobis, fratres… vos, fratres”. You are not talking to other people, after all. In the absolution change misereatur vobis to nobis. In response to your own Orate, fratres, say manibus meis.
You have to move the book yourself to the Gospel side. Don’t genuflect at the middle, but bow your head. Then I go back to the center for the prayers as usual. Take the stand with you at the end for the Communion antiphon. Before Mass, pour a little (unblessed) water into the ablution bowl for your Lavabo so it will be there for you when you need it. As far as turning around for Dominus vobiscum… which you should not change… turn around for it or not, as you please. If you are just learning the Mass, then turn around so you can learn to do it correctly.
Force yourself not to rush or to cut corners.
Remember, you are never truly alone when you say Mass.
You are thronged about with myriad upon myriad of Holy Angels. Your Mother, Queen of Priests, attends. The saints gaze. The Poor Souls hang upon your every word and gesture.
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