Wednesday, 28 November 2007


Fr John Boyle, in response to the last post, made the following comment:

A question: at concelebrations, is each concelebrant actually consecrating, or is there just one consecrator and the others acting as co-consecrators? If the celebrant for some reason failed to consecrate some of the elements, could the intention of one (or more) of one of the concelebrants bring about the consecration of those elements?
I'm not sure we are that clear about our role as concelebrants.

I think Fr John is putting an important question. Actually, I think the whole question of concelebration is something that needs revisiting, because it was not particularly well thought out in the 1960s.

The best work on the subject—in fact, I suspect the only work—is by the famous rubrical gazeteer (whose day job, incredibly, was being porter at Archbishop's House, Westminster,) Archdale King who was requested to write a book justifying the practice in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It's called, predictably, Concelebration. At the end of the book, I wasn't actually convinced; he hadn't persuaded me that the revival of concelebration was a wholly good idea, and I rather suspect that he hadn't convinced himself. The work, I think, was one of obedience.

There are two sorts of concelebration: sacramental and ceremonial. In a sacramental concelebration, the concelebrants recite the words of consecration, and truly celebrate Mass with the chief celebrant, and as a token of this can claim a stipend for an intention which differs from that of the chief. At a ceremonial concelebration, the concelebrants assist in the vestments of their order, and may even stand at the altar, but they do not pronounce the words of consecration. This form of concelebration is far more common historically; most, if not all, Eastern rites have some form of it, and in the West, the ancient Carthusian rite has it, and the Papal Mass of Coronation would seem to have had it. Clearly a ceremonial concelebrant could not claim a stipend.

If I remember rightly, Archdale King seems to be able to advance only one example of sacramental concelebration from antiquity, but this is enough, he says, to justify the practice. Again a comment on the last post, from ADV, gives it:

The rite of Concelebration was modified at Rome (perhaps in the time of Pope Zephyrinus, 202-218) so that each priest should consecrate a separate host (the deacons holding these in patens or corporals); but they all consecrated the same chalice ("Ordo Rom. I", 48; see also Duchesne, "Liber Pont.", I, 139 and 246).
In the sixth century this rite was observed on all station days; by the eighth century it remained only for the greatest feasts, Easter, Christmas, Whitsunday, and St. Peter ("Ordo Rom. I", 48; Duchesne, "Origines", 167). On other days the priests assisted but did not concelebrate.
I seem to remember from Archdale King that the hosts were held on glass patens before each concelebrant by kneeling acolytes.

I wonder, though, whether this early example is really a true concelebration, or rather of what has been called 'parallel Masses'. This was a practice beloved of certain 'liturgical movement' monasteries in the 1950s. Dom Lambert Beaudouin's abbey at Chevetogne in Belgium is one such example. There would be a 'lead' celebrant at the High Altar, and all the other priests on separate altars with their own chalices, patens and missals, would do their best to say Mass in perfect synchrony with the 'lead' celebrant. Thus, not one Mass, but many (though, of course, there is only ever 'One' Mass).

So, is there, in the entire history of the Church, one single pre-1960s example of priests concelebrating sacramentally; wearing the vestments of their order and consecrating one host and chalice together, saying the words of consecration, and being permitted to take a stipend for a separate intention?

The answer is yes. But it isn't particularly ancient, I suspect. The ordination rite in the Extraordinary Use has a full sacramental concelebration in this form, where the newly-ordained priests fully concelebrate while kneeling at prie-dieux, and can claim a stipend. Though strangely for one saying Mass, they do not receive the Precious Blood, but only wine. One can understand why full sacramental concelebration might be thought appropriate at such an occasion.

So where does that leave us, Fr John? To answer your question, I think that it is the intention of the Church at the moment that all priests truly say Mass in the fullest sacramental sense when they concelebrate. Therefore the intent of one concelebrant can supply the defect of another.

Personally, I am uncomfortable concelebrating, and I never take a stipend or intention for a concelebration, but simply join my intention with that of the chief celebrant. To my mind, the symbolism of one priest celebrating Mass in persona Christi for the Church is very important, and this is diluted when there is more than one Christ (as it were). I think that it has contributed to the whole business of lay people joining in with priestly prayers and even manual gestures. It has led to priests in large communities being able to stand at the altar and offer Mass 'properly' only once or twice a year, perhaps not being even able to see the altar, as at some diocesan funerals, (see previous post) while claiming daily stipends for sticking out a hand and mumbling the words of consecration.

Which is to say, the practice is certainly legitimate (though not particularly well historically grounded), but whether it is prudent or good for the Church in the longer term is something I doubt.


gemoftheocean said...

"I think that it has contributed to the whole business of lay people joining in with priestly prayers and even manual gestures."

No, what's contributed to lay people extending hands and all that jazz are the idiot charismatics, who were indulged in this garbage for far too long. [Some time I'll tell you what I REALLY think of them, but I'm holding back.] These are the same simpletons who decided it was a good idea for youngsters and people not receiving to come up for a blessing with crossed arms and Communion time. Now "we" are stuck trying to stamp this stuff out. Now there are worse things than people grabbing hands at the Our Father -- but as for me I say a POX on the charismatics. Hang them from the rafters higher than Haman. If I have one Christmas wish, let it be the demise of charismatic hand waving and to-and-froing. Feh. Phooey and a double plague on them.

"It has led to priests in large communities being able to stand at the altar and offer Mass 'properly' only once or twice a year,"

Ah, come on.... how many places have the luxury of priests just hanging around en masse sucking up extra stipends?! If I have "the stipend" stuff straight, Mass is offered for ONE intention for the living or dead - and IF Mrs. Murphy AGREES to "share" the intention for her dead husband with Mrs. Smith who says -- "Mrs. Murphy is it okay if Father also says this Mass for my husband who is having an operation today" and Mrs. Murphy says "okay by me" THEN Father may say that Mass with the intentions of both those parties. ONE Mass, ONE intention or at most an agreed upon shared intention - one for a living person one for a deceased.

"perhaps not being even able to see the altar, as at some diocesan funerals, (see previous post)"

Hey, you traditionalist guys keep telling "us" in the pews that it's not necessary we see everything. What's good for the goose ....

Seriously, I shouldn't think this would be a defect, though of course it would be preferable if the priests could all see. But consider this: if a priest has gone blind and CAN'T see - he doesn't have his faculties gone from saying Mass -- as long as he doesn't mistake tortillas and a can of Coke for the bread and wine, he should be fine. Isn't that one a "duh news" alert?

"while claiming daily stipends for sticking out a hand and mumbling the words of consecration."

I thought the stipend rules were in place to prevent this sort of thing. Luther and all that.

My question: I've been told that for the Eucharist to be valid both the bread and wine have to be consecrated. Scenario: A Catholic priest is some hellhole of a gulag with other Catholic prisoners. They manage to obtain bread and wine, and father is saying a clandestine Mass. He consecrates the bread -- but then prison guards come storming in, and for sake of argument, he was shot dead and has no time to mentally consecrate the wine. Is just the bread valid matter without the consecrated wine? If the answer is "no" than can it be said that the bread doesn't become the Eucharist until the wine is consecrated - in other words "no deal" until "This is my blood which shall be given up for you."

To make it really fun,, let's say the prison guards haul priest #1's body off -- unbeknownst to them, there was another clandestine priest present -- let's say he WASN'T concelebrating mentally and he wishes to complete the Mass -- does he start from square one "re"consecrating the bread -- in the sense of "if this bread is not consecrated I intend to consecrate it?" Let's make it a real barn burner and say the ONLY bread available is the one priest #1 intended to use for the Mass and got done saying the correct words with intent. Now what? [Punt?]

Defectibus. Hours of fun for everyone.

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, and I did mean to add -- I should think that if the wine was not able to be consecrated, the church seems to presume that bread was -- otherwise they wouldn't have you genuflect at that point would they?

Fr Justin said...

Gem: that one's an old chestnut. The usual scenario is that the priest consecrates the bread, then drops dead before he can consecrate the chalice. Someone told me that St Thomas Aquinas said that the bread validly becomes the body of Christ, but no sacrifice is effected. It is important that another priest finish off the sacrifice by consecrating the wine and if possible continuing the Mass.

gemoftheocean said...

Suppose there is a priest left, from what part does he complete the Mass - let's say he come into the room after
priest A has "departed the scene."

And..... what's the time frame? If, say, your priest was killed off, and two days later a new priest arrives - can he finish off the Mass -- (assuming any Hosts remain from attempt #1 to have Mass?)

BTW, I have to wonder about the sanity of any priest who would have X number of altar breads on the altar and decide to consecrate only half of them. Or "every one but this one Right here."