First, I must remind readers that, to ask a question – ASK FATHER Question Box – please use the ASK FATHER contact form in the top menu. Don’t just send questions, even if you have some prior email contact with me. I can’t do things that way. Use the contact form. I generally just delete what I don’t recognize. And short is good.
That said, this is one I didn’t delete.
From a reader…
Unfortunately, the Monsignor saying mass yesterday fell ill during the homily. […]
The homilist had been in the confessional during the Mass of the Catechumens before coming out to give the homily. He quickly vested and was able to take over and complete the mass, starting with the Credo.
A question was posed later by a curious parishioner as to whether the priest should have started over from the beginning or if it was ok for him to start at the point Monsignor had gotten to… […]
This situation is foreseen in the document De defectibus … Concerning Defects… that might be encountered during Mass. It is found in the front part of the traditional Missale Romanum. It was elminated – to our tragedy, disgrace, and woe – for the “reformed” rites after Vatican II. I suppose they thought that it was too rigid. In any event, De defectibus describes all sorts of situations that come up in the course of time and says how they ought to be handled.
I suppose one justification for ejecting De defectibus, apart from the antinomian spirit stemming from an overly optimistic view of man in an era of revolution that was sweeping away order in our worship of God, was that rubrics were long considered the stuff of moral theology. De defectibus also states that if the priest himself does something wrong, he would sin either venially or mortally. Indeed, the explicit statement of mortal sin for abuses, kept priests in check. Granted that, in the hands of some of the Jansenistic tendency that could also lead to scrupulousness and a rigidity that many wanted to throw off when the 60s struck, but there was greater order and reverence in our liturgical worship of God and you didn’t have to wonder what strange variation you would encounter from church to church.
In the case wherein the celebrating priest for some reason or another is impeded from continuing Mass before the consecration, De defectibus instructs that Mass should be broken off… not continued at all.
Here is the text:
33. If before the Consecration the priest becomes seriously ill, or faints, or dies, the Mass is discontinued. [That was the situation described.] If this happens after the consecration of the Body only and before the consecration of the Blood, or after both have been consecrated, the Mass is to be completed by another priest from the place where the first priest stopped, and in case of necessity even by a priest who is not fasting. If the first priest has not died but has become ill and is still able to receive Communion, and there is no other consecrated host at hand, the priest who is completing the Mass should divide the host, give one part to the sick priest and consume the other part himself. [Do you see the intimate unity of priest and Host?] If the priest has died after half-saying the formula for the consecration of the Body, then there is no Consecration and no need for another priest to complete the Mass. If, on the other hand, the priest has died after half- saying the formula for the consecration of the Blood, then another priest is to complete the Mass, repeating the whole formula over the same chalice from the words Simili modo, postquam cenatum est; or he may say the whole formula over another chalice which has been prepared, and consume the first priest’s host and the Blood consecrated by himself, and then the chalice which was left half-consecrated.
34. If anyone fails to consume the whole Sacrament aside from cases of necessity of this kind, he is guilty of very grave sin.
It goes on to describe the infamous “Spider Dilemma”, about which I have written in a jocular fashion before. HERE
But do you see how logical this is?
And, do you see how important it is all considered?
Can you contrast the spirit in these instructions with the attitude often encountered in many modern priests regarding care of the Eucharist?
So, Father should not have continued the Mass. Mass is a whole. Alas, in these days of lax and incomplete instruction – no fault of the priests’ in general – and in these days of rampant concelebration, which give the impression that herds of priests are all doing the same time so what’s the difference who says what, we encounter odd solutions to all too human situations.
Holy Church has been at this Mass thing for a looooong time, and she is the greatest expert in humanity that the world has ever known. These situations do come up. If you can think of one, it has probably happened… though I am not sure about whether or not we have had the instance of a priest being abducted by aliens after consecrating the Host but before the chalice… etc. But De defectibus would probably sort it quickly.
De defectibus is really useful!
Reading De defectibus especially through the lens of Pope Benedict’s Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis (which presents us with a reflection on the priest’s ars celebrandi) could be of enormous practical use to seminarians and younger priests today.