Monday, July 01, 2013


One of the changes introduced into the liturgical practice of the Church in the West - the Latin Church - following the second Vatican Council was the much more frequent adoption of the concelebration of Holy Mass.

Concelebration had never really died out, surviving in the Ordination Mass for Priests and the Mass for the Consecration of Bishops. In fact it was the Venerable Pope Pius XII in the 1950s who reminded Co-Consecrator Bishops that they ought to say the words of Consecration with the principal Bishop at the Consecration of the Bread and Wine at the Mass.

The GENERAL INSTITUTION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL (GIRM) [usually mis-translated as " Instruction"] is almost casual in Chapter IV # 114 when it says:

"114. Among those Masses celebrated by some communities, moreover, the conventual Mass, which is a part of the daily Office, or the community Mass, has a particular place. Although such Masses do not have a special form of celebration, it is nevertheless most proper that they be celebrated with singing, especially with the full participation of all members of the community, whether of religious or of canons. In these Masses, therefore, individuals should exercise the office proper to the Order or ministry they have received. It is appropriate, therefore, that all the priests who are not bound to celebrate individually for the pastoral benefit of the faithful concelebrate at the conventual or community Mass in so far as it is possible. In addition, all priests belonging to the community who are obliged, as a matter of duty, to celebrate individually for the pastoral benefit of the faithful may also on the same day concelebrate at the conventual or community Mass.[94] For it is preferable that priests who are present at a Eucharistic Celebration, unless excused for a good reason, should as a rule exercise the office proper to their Order and hence take part as concelebrants, wearing the sacred vestments. Otherwise, they wear their proper choir dress or a surplice over a cassock.

We can see here that the particular application intended was for Religious Communities' communal Masses. And the principle would of course hold good for the Chrism Mass in a Diocese.

But like so many things newly introduced in the wake of the Council , a provision for a  particular situation quickly became a common practice widely applied.

I have no problem at all with concelebrated Masses in principle.Let me make that clear - it would be absurd for anyone to have such an attitude to something properly approved by the Church.

Unintended Consequences

The consequences of wider use of the wider use of concelebrated Masses on a routine basis, are something else again.

CONCELEBRATION - 3 Mass times become 1 
 I recently had occasion to look at the Internet presence of the Archdiocese of Melbourne's Latin Mass Community.As I went through the various items presented so handsomely there, I came across the daily Mass schedule. 
The provision of two morning Masses each weekday -early morning for those heading out to work, and mid morning for the elderly -a little slower to rise and young mothers with kinder to get ready, brought back happy memories of times past, before the Council.Of course in a Latin Mass ( Extraordinary Form) situation there cannot be any routine concelebration.And the Parish is blessed with more than one Priest.

To-day, in our leafy North Shore of Sydney parish (where we have two Priests), it is not uncommon for the single 9.00am Mass to be concelebrated. But we might exclaim with the Trade Unionists "What about the workers?"

It seems to be the general experience that daily Masses in our churches - in my experience both in Brisbane and in Sydney - are now confined to 9.00/9.15 am. This phenomenon definitely began only after the Council. I know it so very clearly because as a 10 to 14 years old( 1950-54 , I can remember the bitterly cold Winter mornings catching the electric train to Lidcombe (then said to be in the West of Sydney - now said to be inner West)to go to 7.00 am Mass at Saint Joachim's which shared the same property as my School - Marist Brothers Lidcombe. In to-day's Church any similar "young me" would  be unable to attend daily Mass and Holy Communion.

I am thinking here of two things :

. Concelebration should be limited to Religious Communities and major celebrations - and should never be routine parochial practice, where an extra Priest is available, an additional Mass should be celebrated.

And in these days WHY NOT TWEET its availability to Parishoners? Let's " get with it"! For Heaven's sake! (Literally) Don't tell me people can get summoned to a riot or demonstration, or to crash a party by TWITTER but we don't have enough gumption to use the same means to get people to take up a special opportunity at a convenient time, to attend Mass.Father X arrives in the Parish for an overnight stay. The time for his Mass next day is tweeted / emailed to Parishoners with an invitation to them to attend. Takes 5 minutes to do and even hundreds could be contacted. To say nothing of Senior School Students all of whom have Email access at least these days. If the Church does not reach out to their Franciscan " periphery" by the means they use, can they be blamed for thinking that what she has to offfer she does not consider important?

. a return to be made in Australian Parishes to making a 6.00 am or 7.00 am Mass available daily for the benefit of workers and students.

On the latter point I am sure I can hear Priestly voices begin to say " Oh you'll never get them to come!" Obviously people will not necessarily leap at the opportunity at first. But if it is made available and the importance of more regular attendance at weekday Mass is preached sincerely  ...leave it up to God's Grace.

In fact, as I warm to my theme, I would argue for another change : bination. The term is not widely heard, and some may be unfamiliar with it.But it is the practice of Priests saying more than one Mass each day.

Now this issue has a long and varied history in the Church with custom and Law ebbing and flowing with the tide of events.But for our purposes here we can state clearly that there is nothing intrinsically wrong in a Priest celebrating two Masses in a day - in fact as we know on certain days they have long done so -Sundays, All Souls Day etc. But I am arguing for the change to meet the exigencies of the present situation brought about by the dramatic decline in religious practice, and the shortage of Priests. 

Although we like to coast along tut-tutting at things that are wrong, if we don't act : use our God -given initiative - we will only continue down hill.

I would like to see each Priest celebrate two Masses each day so that on Weekdays there would be in each Parish an early Mass - say 7.00 am , and 9.00 am -thus catering for the widest number of people in the parishes, both those employed and those at home.I believe that it would be no great difficulty for Bishops to ensure that Priests maintained a healthy and devout approach to their celebration of Holy Mass despite bination - just as they always have on Sundays.

Let's get cracking!

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