A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH

When Words Over the Host Are Repeated

ROME, 3 JULY 2007 (ZENIT)

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

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 notice 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? F.T., England

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 physically able.

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.
 

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