Gregorian Masses; Multiple Intentions

And More on the Rosary

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ROME, NOV. 9, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q1: I belong to a religious community. We are all priests in the house where I live, and all have some kind of outside ministry. One priest works in a parish, another as campus minister and another as chaplain at a nursing home. Sometimes Mass is offered in our chapel but most of the time outside. My question is: Can we say Gregorian Masses? I asked the provincial and he said yes because whatever the intention is, it is always the intention that the superior has, even if the Mass is said in some other place. My question is: If the Mass is said in a parish or chapel that already has an intention, how can the superior's intention supersede the place where the Mass is being said and a stipend is accepted and the Mass is an announced Mass? -- M.P., St. Petersburg, Florida

Q2: In my parish here in Nigeria, the pastor accepts multiple intentions for a single Mass. At the beginning of the Mass he reads the intentions out loud and invites the congregation to pray for these intentions as well as our own private intentions. I was always taught that a priest may only accept one intention per Mass. Please comment. -- M.J.G., Kaduna, Nigeria

A: I will try to answer these questions together since both refer to stipends.

The celebration of Gregorian Masses is regulated by a declaration published by the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship on Feb. 24, 1967. The Gregorian Mass is a series of 30 consecutive celebrations. It is not required that the same priest celebrate all the Masses nor that they be celebrated on the same altar. Thus, if a priest who has accepted the obligation of celebrating the series finds himself impeded on any particular day, he may ask another priest to take the intention for him.

Likewise, it could happen that the priest cannot find a substitute and the series is interrupted because of an unforeseen impediment (for example, an illness), or for a reasonable cause (the celebration of a funeral or a wedding). In this case the Church has disposed that the fruits of suffrage (which, until that moment, Church practice and the piety of the faithful have attributed to this series) are maintained. The priest retains the obligation to complete the 30 Masses as soon as possible, but he need not begin the series anew.

This being the case, the celebration of a Gregorian series is incompatible with regular duties in a parish in which an intention has already been announced. A religious priest celebrates according to the intention of the superior only in those cases where there is no previously assigned intention. A priest working in campus ministry or some other apostolate with no fixed intentions can celebrate a Gregorian series.

Also, if the superior wishes to assign a Gregorian series to a religious priest, he must inform the priest. The priest can only accept if he has no other obligations that would impede his celebrating the series. It is necessary for the priest to be aware of the series in order to fulfill the obligation of the 30 Masses and seek a substitute if for a good reason he cannot celebrate the intention on any particular day.

It is true that canon law allows a priest to receive only one stipend a day. To wit:

"Can. 945 §1. In accord with the approved practice of the Church, any priest celebrating or concelebrating is permitted to receive an offering to apply the Mass for a specific intention.

"§2. It is recommended earnestly to priests that they celebrate Mass for the intention of the Christian faithful, especially the needy, even if they have not received an offering.

"Can. 947 Any appearance of trafficking or trading is to be excluded entirely from the offering for Masses.

"Can. 948 Separate Masses are to be applied for the intentions of those for whom a single offering, although small, has been given and accepted.

"Can. 951 §1. A priest who celebrates several Masses on the same day can apply each to the intention for which the offering was given, but subject to the rule that, except on Christmas, he is to keep the offering for only one Mass and transfer the others to the purposes prescribed by the ordinary, while allowing for some recompense by reason of an extrinsic title.

"§2. A priest who concelebrates a second Mass on the same day cannot accept an offering for it under any title.

"Can. 953 No one is permitted to accept more offerings for Masses to be applied by himself than he can satisfy within a year.

"Can. 954 If in certain churches or oratories more Masses are asked to be celebrated than can be celebrated there, it is permitted for them to be celebrated elsewhere unless the donors have expressly indicated a contrary intention."

There is, however, another document regulating this theme, the 1991 decree Mos Iugiter (AAS 83 [1991] 436-446). This decree modified the strict rule of Canon 948 and allowed some use of so-called cumulative intentions under certain strict conditions:

-- The donors must be informed of and consent to the combining of their offerings before the Mass for the collective intention is celebrated.

-- The place and time of each Mass must be announced with no more than two such collective Masses per week.

-- The celebrant may only keep for himself one stipend and must send any excess intentions to the purposes assigned by the ordinary in accordance with Canon 951.

There is, however, another practice of frequent cumulative intentions which is found in some countries with many poor Catholics and very populous parishes. This practice is common in some Latin American countries and may be the situation described by our reader in Nigeria.

In such circumstances, so many faithful request Mass intentions that it is impossible for the parish to celebrate a single Mass for everybody. In making the request the faithful do not seek an individual celebration but presuppose that it will be one of many intentions. The people's economic situation does not allow them to offer a proper stipend and thus makes transfer of the intention to other priests unfeasible.

In order to come to terms with this reality, certain novel solutions have been proposed. For example, last year a Mexican archdiocese established a fixed stipend for individual intentions but a totally voluntary offering for cumulative intentions, according to the possibilities of those making the request.

The archbishop's decree implied that, although the community celebrations would be more than twice a week due to the large number of requests, the directives of canon law and Mos Iugiter should be followed with respect to any offerings over and above the standard stipend.

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Follow-up: Rosary During Eucharistic Adoration

In the wake of our observations on praying the rosary during exposition (see Oct. 26), a Texas reader commented: "In regard to the rosary prayed aloud during exposition: Should not the rosary group consider that others may prefer just being with the Lord in silence? I find it distracting unless it is a prepared part of the adoration along with announced prayers, homily, etc. In other words, if you have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with no attached program, I feel all prayers should be silent to allow meditation by others."

In principle I would agree with our reader. Whenever exposition is organized it is courtesy and common sense to announce a program which includes a timetable of the various activities to be held during the time of exposition. The rosary is just one of many possibilities such as prayers, readings, the Liturgy of the Hours, and various litanies. In all cases sufficient time for silent prayer should also be contemplated. The recently published Compendium Eucharisticum offers an ample selection of suitable prayers that may be used.

Another reader asked whether a hymn to Our Lady could be sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

The norms for exposition clearly indicate a Eucharistic hymn or song should be song at Benediction. It may be the traditional Tantum Ergo or another Eucharistic themed hymn. Singing to Our Lady at this moment is somewhat incongruous from a liturgical point of view.

A Marian antiphon could be sung as a concluding refrain after the Blessed Sacrament has been reserved, either before or after the celebrant leaves the chapel.

Finally, a reader Parañaque City, Philippines, asked: "What is the stand or teaching of the Church if the rosary is recited during Mass?"

I believe the best answer to this are the words of Pope Pius XI (1922-1939): "The Church desires not that the faithful pray during Mass but pray the Mass." This principle is at the core of the post-conciliar reforms which seek to promote the full active and conscious participation of the faithful in the celebration of the sacred mysteries.

Indeed, the Pope's desire was already being fulfilled long before the Second Vatican Council as witnessed by the popularity of bilingual missals with which the faithful followed the prayers of the Mass.

That said, many Catholics in earlier times had used the rosary or other devotions as a means of keeping their minds attentive to prayer during the celebration. They knew they were at Mass, and they often fasted from midnight in order to receive Communion. Often it was their way of showing a deep faith.

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. 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.