Concerning concelebration, variety, and fraternity

I have opined that concelebration should be “safe, legal and rare”.  I have, in a jocular mood, posted pics of the sort of concelebration of which I approve. For example:

And here are a couple of guys concelebrating… at different altars.  At this church in Rome this also happens when a scheduled parish Mass is being offered at the main altar.  And nobody freaks out!


This came to my email today from a reader…

On Friday’s I serve Mass at a side altar while Mass is being said at the high altar. The faithful often see a variety of colors and Masses being said on ferias. [Priests can often say votive Masses, which have different colors for the vestments.]

People who criticize this practice may not realize how beneficial it is for priests in community to say their Masses simultaneously so they can break their fast together afterwards.   [That’s a good point.  And it assumes that priests are fasting before Mass… for more than an hour before Communion as present law stipulates.]

At any rate, today I had the privilege of serving Mass for the feast of St. Philomena.  Common of a virgin martyr with no special collect, it’s rarely said.

St. Philomena has become a patroness of sorts for traditional-minded Catholics, with her relics being discovered at the dawn of Modernity and her feast removed from local calendars a couple years before the Council.

She represents the dichotomy of snobby scholars against popular piety. [Indeed she does.]

We have a number of virgin-martyrs with ancient cults and contemporary accounts.  They’re the most beautiful flowers of the early Church.  Seven are named at the end of the Canon.

There was a time when I was reluctant to embrace her cultus… But St. Philomena, in her obscurity, in her controversy, in her prolific latter-day miraculous activity, convinced me otherwise.

Nice.  Thoughtful.


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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    I wonder why St John Vianney had such a strong devotion to St Philomena?

  2. I had the privilege of spending a couple days in fraternity with brother priests at the Montana Eucharistic Conference you posted about earlier this week. During the mornings, we each celebrated Masses at different altars in the parish church. Some of us offered the Mass in the Ordinary Form, while others did so in the Extraordinary Form. What a wonderful opportunity for us to pray the Mass out of devotion and love for Our Lord, and to receive Him in Holy Communion. This truly is a great form of concelebration that needs to return!

  3. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    We have a high Mass every year for the feast of St. Philomena, followed by Rosary procession, and veneration of a relic (I don’t recall what class).

  4. Grumpy Beggar says:

    In Italy the male name Filomeno abounds (though perhaps less today than when it once did).

    For anyone who doesn’t know about St. Philomena, St. Philomena the Wonder Worker (Tan Books) , by Fr Paul O’Sullivan is a really riveting read. I had 2 copies of that book, plus a copy of another book on St. Philomena which is based on the private revelations of several people. Once I loaned all those books out, they just went from one person to the next after being read all the way through. Approximately 5 years after the fact, one book (by Fr. O’Sullivan) was returned to my possession. One book was given to a lady I knew named Philomena – I told her to keep it. She was just so edified to learn about the patron saint who’s name she was given at Baptism (I suspect the other book may still be making the rounds).
    BTW guys, the CCC says that we are “assured” of the intercession of our Baptismal patron Saint – not “maybe”. . . “assured.”

    The sacrament of Baptism is conferred “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”85 In Baptism, the Lord’s name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The “baptismal name” can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. “Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment.”

    St. Philomena is strongly recommended as an intercessor for seminarians too.

    I wear a blessed medal with a (second or third class) relic of St. Philomena embedded in it.

    Along with St. John Vianney , another “heavyweight” of the Blessed Sacrament – St. Peter Julian Eymard, also had a devotion to St. Philomena. Popes Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII (St. Michael Prayer) and Pope Pius X , also acknowledged the prowess/intercession of and promoted devotion to St. Philomena.

    One of many resources available on St. Philomena :

    A more detailed resource which also contains the [N.B.] “private revelations” of three people who did not know one another, who resided in different parts of the world and to each of whom St. Philomena (allegedly if you prefer) revealed accounts of her life ; the details of which were practically identical :

  5. The Astronomer says:

    I’ve always had a particular devotion to Sts. Felicity & Perpetua.

  6. Joe in Canada says:

    It is not the case that every reform is “snobby scholars vs popular piety”. The Bollandists were attacked by the left for credulity, and by the right for modernism, but were actually very devout Jesuits trying to find the historic truth about the saints. If the Church was wrong to remove her from the calendar, perhaps the Church was wrong to enroll her there. The problem is not whether she is good enough, it’s whether she actually ever existed. That is a legitimate historical question. And yet, at the end of her entry in Butler’s Lives of the Saints, if I remember correctly, the Bollandist says “we don’t know if she was a virgin, or a martyr, or named Philomena, or ever existeed. But it is indubitable that when she is invoked, someone in heaven answers.”

  7. lmgilbert says:

    One thing that gets to me about concelebrated Masses, for example at Benedictine monasteries, Dominican Houses of Study, Carmelite and Franciscan Friaries, is that very often it is the only Mass celebrated there that day. Yet, if there are ten priests concelebrating, there could have been an additional number of Masses said there during the day giving the local faithful greater opportunity to attend Mass. Is not the very purpose of the priesthood to sanctify the laity by giving them the Sacraments? [Keep in mind the vocation of the religious life. The places you describe are secondarily for pastoral work. They are not parishes. Sometimes these religious take parishes also, but not always. If they offer public Masses, they are doing a service.]

    Even the picture you post of a number of priests saying Masses at separate altars does not seem ideal, either. If this is a daily occurrence, would it not be far better for these priests to make themselves available to local parishes to increase the number of Masses available to the Catholic people? Surely I am missing something, but what?

    I could think of one Benedictine Abbey where the ONE Mass celebrated is celebrated daily at 8AM by ten priests. Yet, what working parent can attend an 8AM Mass? It is in the middle of farm country, and it is very likely that some agricultural workers would gladly attend a 5AM, 6AM, or 7AM Mass. Would this not go a long way toward keeping these Hispanic Catholics Catholic? There are many people who could attend a noon Mass, or a 5:30 PM Mass, all of which Masses this abbey could easily supply. Or, alternatively, they are within easy driving distance of a large metropolitan center where they could supply additional Masses at suburban parishes. But no . . .

    That priests living in community should concelebrate periodically seems eminently reasonable, but every day?

  8. ResMiranda says:

    If anyone was wondering; a woman named Masa Feszty painted the image of St. Philomena (unadorned, hands in prayer, dressed in pink, and eyes directed toward the viewer) that is so popular. Though Feszty is largely unknown, and not a “master”, the original painting is now in the St. Philomena Sanctuary in Mugnano del Cardinale, I believe. Feszty seems to have painted three or four other images of St. Philomena. Feszty’s depictions of St. Philomena, while unaccompanied by the symbols of her martyrdom, etc., seem to me to reflect a deep devotion to and a meditative entrance into St. Philomena’s inner disposition as a saint in a way that is usually only seen in great works.

  9. Matthew Gaul says:

    I have loved St. Philomena for a while now, but had no idea that she was a difficulty for Jesuits and historicists.

    Now I love her even more!

  10. Filipino Catholic says:

    There is a chapel in this country called the Chapel of Holy Relics, with an astonishingly large collection of relics from saints throughout the entire history of the Church. This chapel is definitely traditionally-minded, built for ad orientem only: altar against the wall, communion rail present and accounted for.

    The reliquaries of the virgin martyrs there are 8 in number, plaster busts with the relics located in a golden sunburst at the heart. Philomena is honored among them despite her “dubious historicity”, alongside other allegedly problematic saints like St. Ursula, St. Barbara, St. Thecla and St. Margaret of Antioch.

  11. Viaticum says:

    Than you for sharing this online resource, Grumpy Beggar.

  12. Grumpy Beggar says:

    There is some speculation by historians as to St. Philomena’s name . There can be no denying however that in 1802 , in the most ancient catacombs of St. Priscilla,a tomb was discovered which held the mortal remains of a “young girl about thirteen years old” together with a vase containing a portion of her blood in dried form.

    St John Vianney when asked , “Is it true, Monsieur le Curé, that St Philomena obeys you?” , is said to have replied in the affirmative: “And why not, since every day God Himself obeys me at the altar ?”

  13. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Hi Viaticum. – Sorry . . . didn’t see your post until after I had posted the above. I’m glad it could be of help to you.
    God bless.
    Actually, this post of Father Z’s has been a help to me as well – kind of woke up some stuff which shouldn’t have been snoozing.

  14. Serviam says:

    St. Philomena rocks. She is the only saint canonized based on miracles alone. St. John Vianney and St. Philomena made the most perfect team of Heaven and earth working together for the salvation of souls.

  15. Sandy says:

    I am always thrilled to see credit given to my dear friend St. Philomena. She has given my family a number of miracles, leading me to call on her often for about the last 17 years. I wish I could list them all, but one involved a biopsy and subsequent surgery I had. She’s an awesome Saint and I love her dearly; get to know her!!

  16. Defender of Truth says:

    Filipino Catholic: There is a chapel in Pittsburgh, PA [St. Anthony] that contains 5000 relics. If you, or anyone here, is ever in the vicinity, they should visit. Amazing.

  17. Defender of Truth says:

    Sorry, forgot to add the web address:

  18. ejcmartin says:

    My family managed to have quick visit to her shrine just outside of Naples last October. The Monsignor there was wonderful and totally devoted to St Philomena. A worthwhile visit for anyone who might be near the area.

  19. Lepidus says:

    Fr. Cory Sticha says: During the mornings, we each celebrated Masses at different altars in the parish church. Some of us offered the Mass in the Ordinary Form, while others did so in the Extraordinary Form.

    Sounds to me like finally a good example of mutual enrichment!

  20. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    It seems to me that concelebration is the liturgical analogue of the national bishops’ conference. Both obscure the authority, rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the individual. In the concelebrated Mass, the individual’s priesthood and power to sanctify are obscured. In the bishops’ conference, the individual’s duties to teach and govern are obscured to the vanishing point. I don’t think it is an accident that they both appeared at the same time.

  21. Son Of Sobieski says:

    Speaking of Virgin Martyr Saints, St.Bonosa.
    St. Bonosa was a child Martyr of the third century, whose relics were found in the catacombs of Saint Praetextatus. Her holy relics were first sent to France by BL. Pope Pius IX and we’re solemnly translated to Clear Creek Monastery Oklahoma on August 31, 2006

    “May blessed Bonosa, Thy virgin and martyr, we beseech Thee, O Lord, implore for us Thy forgiveness; for she was ever pleasing unto Thee, both by the merit of her chastity, and by her confession of Thy power. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son who lives and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit world without end. Amen


  22. Grumpy Beggar says:

    One setting where concelebration can be both necessary and advantageous is in the case of priests who are suffering from physical ailments/impairments but who still desire to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
    I’ve worked with several priests who were not able to celebrate the Mass by themselves (one for a period of 10 years) , but with a properly trained lay assistant – were able to celebrate the Mass privately. Still, on Sundays and major feast days in these long-term and palliative care institutions where some of our priests find themselves, it is sometimes more fitting and convenient for the handicapped priests to concelebrate Mass with the chaplain.

    Under these circumstances , concelebration brings out the fraternal dimension of the priesthood.

    According to this short answer to a question asked at EWTN, Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL , says that :

    Concelebration has a long history, especially in the Eastern Churches.

  23. Neil Addison says:

    The Institute of Christ the King run 2, soon to be 3, Churches here in the North West of England. One based in New Brighton is known generally as ‘The Dome of Home’ but its official title is ‘St Peter, St Paul & St Philomena’ We celebrated her feast yesterday, 13 August, with her special Mass and veneration of her relic. Normally we also have a procession but that was not possible this year due to Scaffolding. We are very fond of Philomena

  24. Filipino Catholic says:

    Concelebration where I’m from does tend to be reserved for especially important feasts, to my knowledge. It happened during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper last Holy Thursday for example, and again during the Easter Vigil.

  25. robtbrown says:

    Grumpy Beggar says,

    According to this short answer to a question asked at EWTN, Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL , says that :

    Concelebration has a long history, especially in the Eastern Churches.

    I once heard a lecture by a prof from Tubingen, an Eastern Rite Catholic, who said that the notion of the Eucharist as Sacrifice was not present in the Eastern rites until fairly late (6th century if memory serves). In the Roman Rite it was present from the beginning.

    NB: There is a relation between deemphasis of the Sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the emphasis on Concelebration.

  26. christopherschaefer says:

    When I was a child (1950s-mid 1960s) we lived near a Catholic high school run by Salesian priests. If you attended morning low Mass (the norm back then) there also would be a priest celebrating a “private” Mass at nearly each one of the side altars that lined the chapel. (Having LOTS of priests was ALSO the norm back then…) The liturgical reformers of the 1960s considered this practice to be anathema, so introduced the novelty of a highly-adapted [i.e. barely recognizable] Byzantine-style concelebration into the New Order of Mass. The pathetic irony is that, with the massive decline in the number of priests since such novelties were introduced, there’s significantly less opportunity for concelebration in the Novus ordo missae.
    The one positive outcome I see from all this mess, is that the younger generation is picking up the goals of the original Liturgical Movement where these were abandoned in the 1950s: don’t CHANGE the liturgy, but make the sung liturgy–rather than Low Mass–with Gregorian chant normative and help the laity become more informed about the richness of their liturgical tradition, so that they can “actively participate” at the Traditional Latin Mass.
    One can’t help but notice the gradual impact this is having.

  27. Grumpy Beggar says:

    robtbrown says:
    “I once heard a lecture by a prof from Tubingen, an Eastern Rite Catholic, who said that the notion of the Eucharist as Sacrifice was not present in the Eastern rites until fairly late (6th century if memory serves). In the Roman Rite it was present from the beginning.

    NB: There is a relation between deemphasis of the Sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and the emphasis on Concelebration.”

    That makes sense. No argument here. My only point is that there are situations where concelebration is appropriate and when done properly, it usually tends to bring out the fraternal dimension of the priesthood. Priests who are ill or disabled but still have reasonably fair cognitive functions and the desire to celebrate Mass would be the prime example.

    Another : About three and a half months ago someone volunteered me to be thurifer and master of ceremonies at the celebration of a priest friend of mine’s 50th Anniversary of priesthood. . . everything in Italian ( I only speak English and French). Thirteen of his brother priests showed up to concelebrate with him. In this instance concelebration appeared more practical. There was only one altar.

    A third : A chaplain I used to work with (diocesan priest) through a series of unanticipated coincidences ended up concelebrating a Mass with Pope St. John Paul II when he was in Rome visiting. It was something he never dreamed would happen. Each time he spoke of it to me tears came to his eyes.

  28. acardnal says:

    After I die, I want thirty priests saying individual masses for the repose of my soul rather than ONE mass celebrated by thirty priests.

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