Concelebration, the rights of priests, and changing times

My kind of concelebration.

At NLM Peter Kwasniewski has a piece about how concelebration has been and still is being forced on priests.   For some, this is almost a mania and you incur their wrath if you don’t con-comply.

I say that concelebration should be “safe, legal and rare”.

Thus, Peter…


Clearly, the modernists and progressivists are fuming and plotting against the young priests going to side altars to “say Mass,” or the parochial vicars who set up dignified altars in their rooms for their day off, or the clergy who with curious consistency absent themselves from the sacramental jamborees that pass for special occasions like the Chrism Mass. They can see the writing on the wall. There comes a time when the threat of tradition becomes felt in earnest, and all kindness, real or simulated, is laid aside. It is indeed a threat to the postconciliar house of cards that many have substituted for the rock-solid Church of Christ and its perennial doctrine and liturgy.

The older generation, still paddling and sputtering in a lake of Kool Aid, wants to thwart the revival of private Masses [1] above all because these Masses are so often in the usus antiquior. Thus, two canonical offenses are committed at once: an action against the Code of Canon Law, and an action against the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and its authoritative applications in Universae Ecclesiae.

Let us, them, be as clear as we can be. It is impossible to force a priest to concelebrate, even to establish that he should “as a rule” do so. It is still more impossible to exclude the usus antiquior for a priest’s “private” Mass — that is, when he is not scheduled to offer Mass in public with a congregation. [2]


Yes.  I believe that there is a connection between the waning desire to concelebrate and the waxing use of the Traditional Mass.

I was recently at a wonderful conference for priests.  I had written that, before I went I had inquired about the possibility of celebrating Mass on my own, and indeed the TLM.  The organizers could not have been more gracious and accommodating.

Thereafter, quite a few priests at that conference asked me what my arrangements were.  They, too, would have preferred to celebrate Mass on their own, rather than concelebrate, and indeed most of them in the Traditional manner.   It was enlightening.

I mentioned this fact to one of the organizers and we had a short chat about how that could be done next year with the addition of individual altars.  My suggestion was that they could obtain, perhaps, 4 or 6 of the altars by St. Joseph’s Apprentice and, as I do, assemble a set in a Pelican case.  Thus, could they easily store and transport them.

In any event, the younger clergy are not slaves to the aging hippies and their acolytes who are basking still in the halcyon days of the spirit of Vatican II.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. L. says:

    I’d love to know if any Priest from the DWC (in which the conference at Oglebay occurred) attended the conference. But, no names, please!

  2. iamlucky13 says:

    I’m puzzled by this.

    Has any figure made a written argument against private Masses? I’m sure they wouldn’t be as bold as to openly argue it’s a traditional practice, and therefore bad, so what then, is their alleged basis for opposing private Masses?

  3. Concelebration makes sense within the context of the eastern churches. There is a (unwritten) rule which says that only 1 Divine Liturgy can be celebrated on a given altar per day. Because of this, there is (with rare one-time exceptions) only 1 Divine Liturgy celebrated at a parish and thus it makes sense that all of the clergy takes part (although with scenarios with large numbers of priests, not everyone will vest as though they would concelebrate because not everyone can fit inside the altar). Even though this rule is not found in the western tradition of the church, the standard to shoot for is still 1 Mass (for a priest) per day (and that Mass should be a Solemn High Mass unless the bishop pays a visit) so that the whole parish family can come together on Sunday and worship together, but because of numbers and fire code, we can’t hold everyone in so multiple Masses becomes a way to solve the problem. I imagine concelebration in the Roman church was conceived with the idea of the bishop concelebrating with his priests. Besides, you might have more good if instead of concelebration, have your 2 deacons play their role at the Solemn High Mass and have the second priest sit in the box (I have other thoughts on the liturgical abuse of priests dressing down for deacon and subdeacon, but I will save that for later).

    While I am not against priests saying Mass (given that this has been happening in the Latin church for a long time now), a priest should never say Mass without at least 1 other person being physically present. This has been the practice in the Roman church for centuries and it is only recently in church history that priests have been allowed to celebrate the Mass without anyone else physically present (because then you have to compensate for the priest being alone and some parts of the Mass are omitted, just because you can does not mean you should). I disagree with Ed Peters here on Canon 906. I imagine the just and reasonable cause in canon 906 would be more for the situation of “there is an urgent intention that needs immediate prayer at the moment and I can’t put this off and am unable to find anyone around the church at the moment to assist me”.

    On a side note, I would think that if a Solemn High Mass or Missa Cantata were happening at the moment, it would be in really bad taste in trying to be saying your own private Mass at the same time here.

  4. Bthompson says:

    When you speak of priests “dressing down,” do you mean: Priests ought not function at Mass in the manner of lower grades of Orders at all, Priests ought not function as lower grades of Orders if actual members of said grade are available, and/or that the EF should take on the logic of the OF wherein–if a deacon or other minister is lacking–those roles are fufilled by a concelebrant who still vests as a priest and concelebrates the Eucharistic prayer in addition?

    I am totally with you on the idea that a private Mass ought not to occur (or at least be discouraged, I could fathom exceptions for very large churches where side-altars are in disctinct chapels) if a Solemn Mass is occurring at the main Altar of that Church.

    As for what I think: While I see the benefit of private Masses, and have no problem with them in the slightest and would even take advantage of them were they available at an event I were attending, I also, generally, don’t mind concelebrating, especially in situations where I am
    concelebrating with my bishop. Indeed, while I would not pressure them contrary to law, I personally do get a little annoyed with some brother priests who consistently sit in choir (or worse, don’t even vest and attend Mass from the nave) at major diocesan events (Ordinations, Chrism Mass, etc.). I know they might be in a pickle about how many Masses they have that day, etc. and that is fine, but while I totally understand a priest not concelebrating at a “regular” Mass or a situation where concelebration is used as a mere convenience to “get Mass out of the way” at a conference or whatever (even taking advantage of not participating in the Mass to make himself available for Confessions), the practice was ostensibly introduced for the very purpose of a presbyterate or monastic community celebrating Mass solemnly together with its own Bishop/Abbot.

    At the same time, I also totally understand and hate the flamboyant, narcissistic, and sterile pageantry that can sometimes infect larger liturgies with many concelebrants. Concelebrating is a sharing in the act of sacrifice, the rite still needs to be treated as a sacrifice with all the dignity that requires.

  5. tho says:

    In my opinion, as a layman, I can think of no other act by a priest, that manifests his dignity and reverence so well as when he is saying the TLM. Concelebrated masses, especially with a bishop, makes me want to pull my hair out, and probably go to confession.

  6. robtbrown says:

    When St Thomas Aquinas would say mass, his socius Reginald would serve. When Reginald said mass, St Thomas would

  7. robtbrown says:

    Visiting Rome in 1972, I asked a Cardinal who was a Curial prefect about concelebration. His reply: The Salvific benefits of the mass should be multiplied

  8. robtbrown says:

    Also: The historical practice was that individual masses were celebrated just after Laudes finished. The community mass was usually at least two hours later.

  9. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Is it legal and practical to have concurrent high Masses prayed this way?

    [It is seriously impractical to have several sung Masses (which I assume you mean by your use of “high”) in the same space at the same time. Think about it.]

  10. bonhomme says:

    Pre-VII in the TLM was there ever reasons for concelebration? What happened at the Chrism Mass before VII? For reasons I won’t go into, I simply dislike concelebration, but can understand the bishop concelebrating with his presbyterium on Maundy Thursday morning.

  11. acardnal says:

    The special fruits of the Mass benefit:
    – the priest who celebrates the Mass
    – the person or persons for whom it is offered
    – those who assist at the Mass
    – those for whom the faithful present pray and offer the Mass in union with the priest

    Therefore . . .
    It is better and more fruitful for the transmission of grace and the salvation of souls both on earth and in purgatory that ten priests celebrate ten Masses than to have ten priests concelebrate one Mass.

  12. Ave Maria says:

    Several years ago my friend and I stayed near Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. We assisted at the morning Mass in the crypt church and there were 11–count them, 11!–Masses going on at the same time! We were so edified to think that we might be receiving the graces of all 11 Masses that morning.

    And of course every priest should be able to offer the Holy Sacrifice without another human present! The angels are there after all and also there are so many needful intentions in this darkening world that with the Mass being the greatest push back to them, that is enough good reason for the offering.

    Think of the graces that have been lost with every priest not offering his own Mass every day! For one thing we have less priests and also it is not required of them. And they can concelebrate but then if there are three or whatever number of priests doing that, it is still one Mass instead of how ever many offering their own Mass and the graces that flow from every Mass.

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