ROME, MAY 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: I recently attended Mass at an out-of-town Catholic conference, in a convention center, where there was a large crowd on hand. Soon after Communion began, the concelebrating priests realized that even after dividing the small Hosts they were going to be more than 100 short. One priest, seeing that the hosts were almost finished, said, “I’ll go make some more.” Shortly afterward I observed him at a side table saying the prayers of consecration over a “new batch” of hosts and chalice of wine. He later explained to the congregation that it was all right to do just the consecration since we didn’t end the Mass. Is it invalid and illicit what this priest did? Did the faithful that received the “second batch” receive Christ? — N.B., Bethesda, Maryland
A: The priest was certainly in error although he may have done this in good faith, believing that he was acting justly.
The fact that he consecrated both bread and wine at least indicates that he was aware of canon law’s prohibition of ever consecrating the species separately.
As Canon 927 states: “It is absolutely forbidden, even in extreme urgent necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other or even both outside the eucharistic celebration.”
He apparently believed that by consecrating more bread and wine within the context of the Mass he did not fall within the strictures of this prohibition.
However, what he did was, in effect, to celebrate another Mass within Mass, as the consecration of new species implies a new sacrifice. He therefore contravened the second aspect of the canon by consecrating both species outside the Eucharistic celebration even though he was still celebrating another Mass.
This case is different from that foreseen in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 324, in which for some reason the wine was not properly consecrated:
“If the priest notices after the consecration or as he receives Communion that not wine but only water was poured into the chalice, he pours the water into some container, then pours wine with water into the chalice and consecrates it. He says only the part of the institution narrative related to the consecration of the chalice, without being obliged to consecrate the bread again.”
The same principle would be applied if, as has happened, a parishioner informs a priest after Mass that he forgot to consecrate the wine. This process is necessary in order for the sacrifice, and hence the Mass, to be complete.
With respect to the validity of the “second batch” of hosts, I would say that they were valid for Communion, and did contain the Lord’s real presence.
What should a priest do in similar cases of emergency when hosts are lacking?
I think the best solution is to simply apologize for what happened. Sometimes we priests have recourse to extravagant “solutions” when all that is needed is to recognize our fallibility and liability to make mistakes.
This is especially so in situations, such as that described, when the consequences of not being able to receive Communion in this circumstance does not imply a major spiritual damage to the faithful and where an alternative solution may be found at some other moment of the day.
In some cases, such as mission territories when Mass and Communion are rare treasures, a priest caught in this predicament would be justified in offering to celebrate another Mass right after the first one, lest anybody be deprived of Communion for a long time.
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Follow-up: Relics in the Altar
Related to the question on relics upon the altar (May 3) a Pennsylvanian reader asks: “The document on Popular Piety states that the relics of the saints (I assume the blessed, too) are not to be exposed on the mensus of the altar. Does this mean that during Mass on the feast day one may not have the relic on the altar at all or is this more specific?”
The question refers to No. 244 of the Directory for Popular Piety.
It states: “The Church blesses sacred images because of their cultic significance. This is especially true of the images of the Saints which are destined for public veneration, when she prays that, guided by a particular Saint, ‘we may progress in following the footsteps of Christ, so that the perfect man may be formed in us to the full measure of Christ.’ The Church has published norms for the exposition of sacred images in churches and other sacred places which are to be diligently observed. No statue or image is to be exposed on the table of an altar. Neither are the relics of the Saints to be exposed on the table of an altar. It is for the local ordinary to ensure that inappropriate images or those leading to error or superstition, are not exposed for the veneration of the faithful.”
This norm is taken from No. 10 of the introduction to the Roman Pontifical’s “Order of Dedication of a Church and an Altar.”
Although the document specifically refers to a long-term or permanent exposition I believe that its sense and its spirit would also exclude the exposition of a relic during a feast-day Mass. This would also be in conformity with the general norm that only that which is necessary for the Eucharistic celebration should be placed upon the altar during Mass.
This does not mean that the relic could not be exposed in some way during the celebration of a feast. For example, it could be placed on a column close to the ambo or some other prominent place.
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