Consecration of Both Species for Mass

And More on Overhead Projectors

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ROME, JUNE 22, 2010 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: If, after the consecration of the bread, the priest dies or forgets the consecration of the wine, do we have a Mass? I know that the consecrated host is the Body of Christ. Is the consecration of the wine absolutely necessary for a valid Mass? — G.D., Chicago

A: In part, we have responded to this question, albeit as a follow-up, on Jan. 29, 2008. The reply was partly based on a moral and pastoral theology manual published by Jesuit Father Henry Davis in 1935.

The nucleus of our answer regarding the interruption of Mass was:

“Should a priest have to interrupt the Mass due to illness or another grave reason after he has consecrated either or both species — and is unlikely to be able to recover sufficiently within an hour — there is a grave obligation to have the celebration continued by another priest.

“In grave emergencies even a priest who has been excommunicated, suspended or otherwise irregular may finish the Mass.

“If the first priest is able to communicate he should be given communion from the species consecrated during the Mass.

“If no priest is immediately available, the hosts and the chalice (even if not yet consecrated) should be placed in the tabernacle until a priest can come to finish the Mass.

“The interval elapsing between the two parts may be of any duration but should be as soon as possible.

“If not-yet-consecrated wine were to spoil, or be certain to spoil, before a priest can come to consecrate it, then it may be poured down the sacrarium and replaced with new matter (wine and water) when the priest arrives.

“Only in very rare and extreme situations may the consecrated species of an interrupted Mass be consumed. Such occasions would be, for example, an imminent danger of profanation of the sacred species or the objective impossibility of safely keeping them, such as during wartime conditions or a climate where the species of wine would certainly become corrupt before a priest can come to complete the Mass.

“If the interruption were to occur before the consecration, with no priest to continue the celebration and no other Masses reasonably available, then a deacon, instituted acolyte or authorized extraordinary minister could distribute Communion from the tabernacle using the rite for Communion outside of Mass.

“If the interruption occurs after the priest’s communion, then the same ministers can administer the consecrated species to the faithful using the same rite.”

From what has been said, it is clear that the consecration of wine is an absolute necessity for a valid Mass. And the priest’s communion is necessary for its completeness as a sign of sacrifice. It is true that Christ is really present in the hosts immediately after the consecration of the bread, but the sacrifice of the Mass requires the consecration of both species.

If a priest forgets to consecrate the chalice and then administers the hosts to the faithful they would receive the Body of Christ but, strictly speaking, would not have participated at the sacrifice of the Mass. It would not even be the same as the distribution of Communion outside of Mass as hosts thus received are the fruit of a complete sacrifice.

Should this happen, the deacon, an acolyte or anybody at all should immediately inform the priest that he has not consecrated the wine. The priest should then interrupt the Eucharistic Prayer and proceed to consecrate the wine before continuing. He should preferably repeat the second part of the Eucharistic Prayer as these orations only make sense in the presence of the complete sacrifice. If he finds out later, say just before communion, he would only need to say the words of consecration.

If it happens that a priest is told that he omitted the consecration of the chalice after the Mass is over, he should privately complete the sacrifice by pouring wine and water into the chalice, consecrate and consume the Sanguis.

The same basic principles would apply in the less likely situation of a priest skipping directly to the consecration of the chalice omitting the consecration of the hosts. The change in order of the two consecrations would not invalidate the Mass.

Needless to say, such distractions ought never to occur, but frail humanity — and priestly humanity is no exception — is fraught with imperfections and limitations. Thus, such things do happen.

* * *

Follow-up: On Banners, Overhead Projectors and PowerPoint Displays

Related to our comments regarding the use of videos and slide shows during Mass (see June 8), several readers questioned the very wisdom of using overhead projectors. A Sydney, Australia, correspondent wrote: “More and more churches over the world are using the projector during Mass to show the readings, prayers and lyrics of the songs. They believed that the contents, when clearly presented to the congregation, may help to understand the Mass better. Nevertheless, such projections would inevitably cause distractions which on the contrary make people to drift away from the essence of the Mass.”

Personally I believe that a moderate use of these projections can be of use, above all in presenting the lyrics and music of hymns and sung parts of the Mass. In this sense they could almost be considered as the modern equivalent of the large choir books of medieval times. These outsized books which contained the musical notation for Mass and the Divine Office were usually placed at the center of the choir so as to be visible to all.

I am less enthusiastic about projecting prayers, readings and other proclaimed texts as these should be listened to rather than read. Even here, however, it could be argued that the projection is no more distracting than a hand missal or any number of other liturgical resources commonly found in parishes.

It is also cheaper as the parish does not have to invest in hundreds of weekly bulletins or expensive hymnals.

I would agree with our reader that an overuse of these projections could end up being a cause of distraction. For example, to project the text of the Eucharistic Prayer would almost inevitably turn attention away from the altar and toward the screen.

Great care should be taken regarding their location. It must be remembered that they are a complementary resource and not a necessity. If the church’s structure does not allow for a discreet location it is better to renounce the use of the projector and seek other solutions. Insofar as possible, the screen should not be in the presbytery and never behind the altar.

In synthesis, I would say that these means may be used if they can help liturgical participation. They are only tools, however, and the proper celebration of the liturgy must never be influenced or limited by their presence.

* * *

Readers may send questions to Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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