Tag Archives: Mass

Realize what this Mass is

Misa de San Gregorio (cerca de 1500). Libro de Horas de Enrique VIII, Jean Poyer. Tours, FranciaThomas Merton on attending Mass at Gethsemani monastery on his first visit:

See Who God is! Realize what this Mass is! See Christ here, on the Cross! See His wounds, see His torn hands, see how the King of Glory is crowned with thorns! Do you know what Love is? Here is Love, here on this Cross, here is Love, suffering these nails, these thorns, that scourge loaded with lead, smashed to pieces, bleeding to death because of your sins and bleeding to death because of people that will never know Him, and never think of Him and will never remember His Sacrifice. Learn from Him how to love God and how to love men! Learn of this Cross, this Love, how to give your life away to Him.

See, see Who God is, see the glory of God, going up to Him out of this incomprehensible and infinite Sacrifice in which all history be­gins and ends, all individual lives begin and end, in which every story is told, and finished, and settled for joy or for sorrow: the one point of reference for all the truths that are outside of God, their center, their focus: Love.

Do you know what Love is? You have never known the meaning of Love, never, you who have always drawn all things to the center of your own nothingness. Here is Love in this chalice full of Blood, Sacri­fice, mactation. Do you not know that to love means to be killed for glory of the Beloved? And where is your love? Where is now your Cross, if you say you want to follow Me, if you pretend you love Me?

(The Seven Storey Mountain, pp.323f.)

Private and Public Catholic Mass?

I’ve struggled with the idea that Catholic worship is ever a private affair of the priest. A conversation with a friend has sparked this post. Our Catholic liturgical life bears the burden of always being a public event. We believe that holy Mass is an act of the whole Church hence, the regulations say, that a priest ought not to offer Mass “except for a just and reasonable cause” (GIRM 254). Even when we make the serious claim that the Communion of Saints and Angels are the only ones in attendance the Church Triumphate is present. Mass, the Divine Office and the sacraments are by nature public. So, it is inconceivable that the we could hold to such ideas that hold as ‘normal’ that there is a private Wedding ceremony, a private baptism, or a private funeral. Mass, the Divine Office and the sacraments are exercises of Christ’s work in the world and the Church’s ministry.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) says, “Mass should not be celebrated without a minister or at least one of the faithful, except for a just and reasonable cause. In this case, the greetings, the introductory or explanatory remarks, and the blessing at the end of the Mass are omitted” (254).

There is a constant metaphysical sense of our Catholic worship. Thinking with the Church there are times when a priest, without a congregation and without a server (to represent the faithful) may offer Mass by himself. The Church teaches that every effort ought to be made to have a server make the responses and to keep the priest honest in following the rubrics, but there may be times when the priests needs to offer Mass only in the presence of the Angels and Saints. Remember, we do not hold that a priest owns the Mass for himself. Yet, we are also taught that a priest does not need a lay person for the proper celebration of the Mass. Traveling causes these tensions, or there is a need to offer Mass for a particular intention that needs immediate Divine assistance, e.g., the sick and dying, a special circumstance in society or church. A priest in a nursing home may offer Mass without a congregation. Bishops with a rare day free of public ceremonials may offer Mass privately from time to time. Jesuits, many monks and hermits frequently offer Mass in alone. All this seems to be contextualized by the Code of Canon Law that says, “This is true with respect to the liturgies celebrated by religious communities” (678,1). Ultimately, it is held by the Catholic Church that it is both licit and valid for a priest to offer Mass alone.

Still, what does it mean to have a public and private Mass in Church? What does the Church tell us?

With priests whose ministry is restricted, some are permitted to offer Mass privately, that is alone.  Since it is the Diocesan Ordinary that regulates the celebration of Mass and sacraments, the bishop ought to state clearly that Father so-and-so is only able to offer a “private Mass at which no member of the faithful is present.” The regulation ought not leave neither the priest nor the faithful wondering what the intent of the Ordinary is on such matters.

Private has two layers of meaning: 1) alone, and 2) with a small group in a non-public oratory like a chapel in a house of nuns, or a side chapel in a church.

Clearly, we define as a “private” a celebration of not having to be done behind locked doors. Rather there is no public service announcement in social media.

What we mean as “public” ought to be defined as a celebration of the sacred Liturgy that’s made known to the faithful so that they can freely participate. Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) states that the “public exercise of divine worship” is that which “the faithful are accustomed to frequent” (23).

In Presbyterorum Ordinis, the Second Vatican Council teaches:

In the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfill their greatest task, the work of our redemption is being constantly carried on; and hence the daily celebration of Mass is strongly urged, since even if there cannot be present a number of the faithful, it is still an act of Christ and of the Church (13).

“It is necessary to recall the irreplaceable value that the daily celebration of the Holy Mass has for the priest, be it in the presence of other faithful or not” (49).

Whatever the case, there is an intrinsic value of offering the sacrifice of the Mass. Priest, whatever the form, ought to pray a thoughtful and rubrically responsible in offering Mass.

Blessings, etc, at a priest’s First Mass

priestly first mass image.jpgWe are now preparing for the ordinations of men to the Order of Deacon and to the Order of Priests this time of year. With these ecclesial events, there is generally a lot of misunderstanding as to what is permitted, what is not, and who can restrict what. Imagine: liturgical and ecclesiological confusion in the Church! 

Plenty of newly ordained deacons and priests exhibit arrogance and a sense of entitlement that is both inconsistent with the gift of the priesthood and with the law of charity. Because a man is ordained, or given an office to exercise, e.g., pastoral care of souls in a parish or the abbatial office or the Vicar General’s office does not mean you’ve “arrived,” and that you can do whatever you want just because you are now “somebody.” Ask yourself, what example does Christ the high priest and head of the Church require? What does true priestly humility look like?
The ever attentive canonist Edward Peters on his blog (In Light of the Law) posted today a helpful primer to questions asked with regard to “Ordinations, first Masses, clerical blessings.” I recommend laity and clergy alike carefully read what Dr Peters has to say and carefully attend to the distinctions he makes.
***I hear that if you write for the special use of an indulgence, or the solemn pontifical blessing (a particular note needs to be added to your “worship aid”, or fax, the Apostolic Penitentiary, you will get a quick response. The Prefect is Manual Cardinal de Cordeiro. His address:
Palazzo della Cancelleria
Piazza della Cancelleria, 1
00186, Roma Italia

Blessed John Paul II Mass Collect

Bl Pope JP II.jpg

Today is the first time the Church prays the Mass for the liturgical memorial of Blessed John Paul II. To date, Blessed John Paul II’s feast is observed in the USA as an optional memorial. The US Conference of Bishops is requesting of the Holy See that this feast be an obligatory liturgical memorial. The second reading for the Office of Readings is here. Other texts for Mass and the Divine Office are taken from the “Common of Pastors: For a Pope.”

The Collect (opening prayer for Mass) is given here in English and Latin:

O God, who are
rich in mercy and who willed that the Blessed John Paul II should preside as Pope
over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we
may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of
mankind. Who lives and reigns.

Deus, dives in
misericórdia, qui beátum Ioánnem Paulum, papam, univérsae Ecclésiae tuae
praeésse voluísti, praesta, quaésumus, ut, eius institútis edócti, corda nostra
salutíferae grátiae Christi, uníus redemptóris hóminis, fidénter aperiámus. Qui

The Scripture would be: first
reading is Isaiah 52:7-10; the responsorial psalm is 96/95:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a,
10); the alleluia is John 10:14; the Gospel is John 21:15-17.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published on April 2, 2011, the “Decree Concerning Liturgical Worship in Honour of Blessed John Paul II.”

Omaha Archbishop reminds faithful on the meaning of Sunday observance

Working with religious education of children and adults I see a bad trend: the over managed life. So much so that people are putting their social and personal activities above their religious duties and relationship with God. The Third Commandment is no longer holding sway; the Church’s teaching on keeping Sunday for worship and family seeming is out the window. Of course, people strenuously rebut this accusation. Truth be told, you can’t deny that there are activities competing with a proper Catholic observance of Sunday. Praying in Church –with a stable faith community– is not merely an obligation (speaking of Sunday Mass as “an obligation” is a mediocre way of approaching the question of faith, relationship with God and Church observance).

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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