Liturgy: Mass Intentions
And More on Priests in Mortal Sin
ROME, FEB. 23, 2005 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: I seldom ask my parish priest to offer up Masses for a particular need such as a sick person or someone that has just died. Usually I offer up myself the Masses I attend for these needs, but a friend told me this was not valid. My friend said that for the graces to be received by the person in need, a priest had to offer up the Mass. So my question is, may we offer up our Masses for departed souls or those in need without specifically asking the priest to say these Masses? -- A.K., Sacramento, California
A: Actually it is not a question of either/or but of and/and.
Any Catholic may offer up the Mass in which he or she participates for any good intention. Certainly, graces will accrue in accordance with the intensity of that person's participation and sincerity.
This is a genuine exercise of the royal or common priesthood of the faithful.
However, the custom of requesting a priest to offer the Mass for a specific intention, even when one cannot be physically present at the Mass, is a longstanding tradition in the Church.
This is because the Church considers the Mass as the greatest possible prayer of intercession insofar as it is the perfect offering of Christ to the Father by making present the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection.
Because of the particular role of the priest as mediator between God and man, acting "in persona Christi" when offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass, it is usually considered that special graces may be obtained when he applies the Mass to a particular intention.
The faithful generally make an offering, called a stipend, to the priest in order to apply the Mass to a specific intention. By making this offering, the faithful, by parting with something that is their own, associate themselves more intimately with Christ who offers himself in the sacred Host, and obtain thereby more abundant fruits (See Pope Paul VI's letter "Firma in Traditione" of June 13, 1974).
This sacrifice has an infinite value and indeed there is no objective limitation to the number of intentions that can be offered at any Mass.
The offering of a stipend is also a means whereby Catholic may contribute to the upkeep of the clergy, and the Church in general.
However, so as to avoid even the appearance of commerce in sacred things, the Church regulates the practice of offering and receiving stipends in canons 945-958 of the Code of Canon Law and in some later decrees on specific applications of the code.
Thus, in normal circumstances, a priest may only accept one stipend for any one Mass even though he may offer up the Mass for several intentions.
Likewise, if he celebrates more than one Mass a day he may keep only one stipend for his personal use and must apply the others to some charitable cause determined by the bishop, often to help support the seminary.
When a Mass cannot be celebrated in the place it was requested, the excess intentions are passed on to other priests or the local bishop. They must assure that all Mass requests are fulfilled within the space of one year.
Some places, dioceses, sanctuaries, etc., that receive more requests than can be celebrated within a year, often entrust these intentions and their stipends to other priests who may not have regular intentions, such as monks and retired priests.
In some cases the extra intentions are also sent to the Holy See, which distributes them throughout the world.
The stipend is usually a fairly small sum by the standards of the developed world. Yet, until recently, Mass intentions distributed by the Holy See to poor missionaries often proved to be of no small help in their endeavors.
Unfortunately, recent years have seen an increasing dearth of requests for the celebration of Masses in Western society and even the Holy See has felt the pinch.
Among the fruits hoped for from the current Year of the Eucharist is a renewed faith in the Mass as intercession and a consequent return in the faithful to the practice of asking for the celebration of Mass for specific intentions. Such a practice can be of such benefit to the faithful themselves and to so many other souls.
* * *
Follow-up: When a Priest Is in Mortal Sin
Our reply on the validity of Mass celebrated by a priest in mortal sin (Feb. 8) spurred several related questions.
One Arizona reader asked: "If a seminarian enters preparation for the priesthood for the purpose of its cover for his homosexual drives, is his vow of holy orders valid?"
Meanwhile, a correspondent from South Africa asked if validity of the sacrament was affected by certain illicit practices such as breaking the host during the consecration, or omitting or replacing the Creed and other texts with other songs.
As the Holy See is currently preparing a document on the overall question of admitting homosexuals to sacred orders, I will limit my comments strictly to the question of possible invalidity.
In general, the sacraments retain the presumption in favor of their validity providing the essential conditions are met.
These essential conditions are both external, respecting the rite to be followed, and internal, at least in the case of adults, regarding the minimum intention required in administrating and receiving a sacrament.
The essential external conditions differ for each sacrament but usually involve the use of proper matter, the essential rites and the essential words to be used.
Consequently, should a minister baptize by immersion, but without wetting the head of the baptized, then the baptism would be invalid, as would for example a Mass celebrated using rice wine, or corn bread, or omitting the laying on of hands during ordination. Omissions or changes to nonessential rites, while gravely illicit, do not invalidate the sacrament.
The same principle applies to the words used: A change to the essential words of a sacrament that basically alters its meaning, renders a sacrament invalid. But minor changes would not do so.
Accordingly, if a minister were to baptize "In the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier," or attempt consecration saying "This symbolizes my body," the sacrament would be rendered invalid.
Therefore, the examples furnished by our South African writer do not endanger the validity of the sacrament. But, of course, assuring validity is an insufficient criterion for a worthy, reverent and truly Catholic celebration.
With respect to the intention required for the valid administration and reception (by an adult) of the sacraments, the Council of Trent requires only that the minister or subject intend to do at least what the Church does.
This is a fairly minimum intention and means that a sacrament would be valid even if a minister lacked faith in the sacrament, or were in a state of mortal sin. It is enough for him to intend to do what the Church does when administrating this sacrament.
This refers only to the intention; some sacraments, such as matrimony and hearing confessions, have additional requirements for validity such as formal authorization or proper canonical procedures.
Normally the celebrant's and subject's intention may be presumed. Indeed, in order to invalidate the sacrament, either one would usually have to make a positive act of rejection in the very moment that he was administrating or receiving the sacrament.
For example, a bishop would have to say to himself, while in the very act of laying his hands on the ordinand, "I do not intend to ordain this man," or the subject "I do not intend to receive ordination."
Such a simulation of a sacrament would be extremely grave and is severely punished in canon law.
For this reason, declarations of nullity of sacraments such as ordination or baptism are rare, basically because it is difficult to make them invalid.
In the case presented by our Arizona reader, I believe it is impossible to give a general answer. It would be necessary to see how far, in the case of the person involved, the motivation of entering the seminary as a cover for his condition affected his will and his capacity to make a correct intention.
In general, I would say that the presumption would be in favor of the validity of the ordination. But there could be concrete circumstances that would render it invalid.
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000
Mass, Intentions, Liturgy, Priest, Sin
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Prayers for Puerto Rico - Residents without food, water or ...
- Intro to Novena to Our Lady of Fatima for Conversion HD Video
- Daily Readings for Wednesday, September 27, 2017
- North Korea moves warplanes to intercept American bombers
- St. Vincent de Paul: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, September 27, 2017
- Daily Reading for Thursday, September 28th, 2017 HD Video
- Pope Francis speaks about 'Love of Neighbor'
- Humanitarian crisis worsens in Puerto Rico HD
- Trump speech rocks NFL as more players protest during Anthem HD
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 HD
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 HD