ROME, 3 JULY 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father
Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum
Q: My parish priest recited the words of consecrating the host twice:
first over the host and then over the chalice. He did not appear to
although a number of parishioners did. Certainly he did not go back and
recite the correct prayer. Was the consecration of the chalice valid?
Was the Mass valid? There was a deacon at that Mass, but he did not
intervene. He was as startled as any of us and before we realized what
had happened the priest was continuing with the next part of the
Eucharistic Prayer. Should the deacon have intervened at once, even to
the point of interrupting the Eucharistic Prayer? Should anyone have
intervened at once, even if that means calling out from the pews?
A: This question highlights the importance of us priests being attentive
during the celebration, above all at the essential moments of Mass.
It is advisable not to trust too much to memory and to read these
prayers directly from the missal. Many of us have perhaps fallen into
some error by excessive trust in automatic pilot.
The question is rather delicate, but I will try to answer succinctly.
The consecration of the host was valid. The consecration of the chalice
was not, for the priest's intention to consecrate cannot supply for the
lack of proper sacramental form.
As a consequence the Mass, which requires the consecration of both
species, was not valid. Those who received the host at communion were in
the same state as those who receive Communion outside of Mass.
What should the deacon or the faithful have done? As a priest is as
human as everyone else, and can also get tired and distracted, they
should comprehend that such mishaps may occur. The mishaps should,
however, be remedied as soon as possible.
In the case at hand the deacon should have immediately, albeit quietly,
interrupted the priest as soon as he realized that he was using the
mistaken formula. If no deacon is present, then one of the faithful may
approach the altar and inform him.
The priest, as soon as he has realized his mistake, should then recite
the proper formula. If he had just initiated the second part of the
Eucharistic Prayer he may repeat it. If the Eucharistic Prayer was
already near the end or completed, then he should interrupt the Mass at
that point, quietly recite the formula of consecration, and then
continue the Mass from where he left off.
If he were informed of his error just after Mass ended, then he should
immediately consecrate and consume the species of wine in order to
complete the Sacrifice, even, if necessary, in the sacristy.
If he becomes aware of his error after some time has elapsed, then
nothing remains to be done but seek forgiveness and commit himself to be
more attentive in the future. If a stipend were attached to the
celebration of the Mass in question, another Mass must be celebrated to
fulfill the obligation.
A moment of slight priestly embarrassment is a small price to pay for
assuring the validity of the celebration. Likewise, a priest's meekness
and humility in recognizing his error will be a source of edification to
the faithful and serve to temper any harsh judgments.
Follow-up: When Words Over the Host Are Repeated [7-17-2007]
After our piece on repeating the words of consecration (July 3), some
related questions came to light.
A reader from Los Angeles asked: "Our priest took the chalice in his
hands and said the text of consecration of bread. But before the
elevation, he realized his mistake, put down the chalice, and elevated
the host. After that he took the chalice again in his hands and said the
text of consecration of wine and elevated. At the end of Mass he told us
(without apologizing) that this Mass was a valid Mass. Was it?"
From the information supplied, I would say that it was a valid Mass. The
priest was clearly distracted. But the taking of the bread in his hands,
while necessary for the authenticity of the rite by illustrating the
meaning of the words "This is," is not usually considered as absolutely
essential to validity.
Otherwise, it becomes harder to justify that the priest validly
consecrates all the breads and all the wine in other chalices, without
any physical contact.
A Toronto reader asked: "An 84-year-old priest who has suffered lung
injury, often when saying Mass for an assembled congregation loses his
breath. Is it licit for him to say some parts of the canon silently to
himself whenever he loses his breath?"
I am sure that the faithful are understanding and edified by the
fidelity of this priest in persevering in his mission as long as he is
Although the canon is a public prayer and should normally be spoken in a
clear voice, in cases such as these, it is sufficient for the priest to
be able to hear himself speak. It would be illicit, however, to only
mentally recite the Eucharistic Prayer without using the voice, and the
consecration would be invalid if carried out in this manner.
Modern microphones can also help to amplify even a feeble voice.