Q: To fulfill the Sunday
obligation to attend Mass, how long or for what parts must you be present? What is
the penitential rite? Must you be present for that? When may you leave and still fulfill
the obligation? If you left for the homily or while Communion was being distributed,
then returned, would you fulfill the obligation?
A: The present Code of Canon
Law reads: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate
in the Mass." It doesn't say part or parts of the Mass. The expectation is that the person
will attend a complete Mass. A Catholic Catechism quotes the canon and states, "Those
who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin."
Before Vatican II, moral theologians and canonists would talk about the three principal
parts of Mass as the Offertory, Consecration and Communion. If you missed any one of
those parts, they wrote, you would not have fulfilled the obligation of hearing Mass.
Today, canonists and liturgists do not use that terminology. They speak of the gathering,
the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the commissioning as the main
divisions of Mass.
And moralists are more likely to speak of substantial observance of the law and what
that might mean. They would assert that the law imposes a serious obligation. But some
would question whether a person seriously or gravely violates the law if on one occasion
he or she does not attend Sunday Mass. And all moralists would acknowledge that to miss
a few minutes would not be a serious matter.
If you look at your missalette or recall your experience on Sundays, the penitential
rite is part of the Mass. It takes place after the entrance song, right after the priest
has entered the sanctuary and greeted the people. It can take different forms. One commonly
used is the confession of fault (confiteor) and Lord, have mercy (Kyrie, eleison).
So if you come after these prayers, you are late for Mass.
Just as there can be excuses for missing Mass, there could be excuses for coming late
or leaving early or missing part of the celebration. A parent might have to take a crying
child from the church. A person may feel ill or need to use the restroom. There would
be no fault in leaving for such reasons. But to sneak a cigarette or step outside because
of boredom would hardly be sufficient causes.
A hospital worker may have to leave early or a mother may have to hurry home to watch
children while Dad takes a turn at going to Mass. A traveler may have to make a bus or
plane. Surely such reasons would excuse from fault. But to be first out of the parking
While an emergency may demand that a person leave before the end of Mass, one who has
departed before the consecration and Communion can hardly be said to have attended Mass.
But the emergency may excuse that person from further effort to go to Mass.
the Sanctuary Lamp
Q: My parish church has
recently begun the practice of accepting money to have the sanctuary candle lit in
memory of deceased parishioners. The donation is $10 for the week. Is this an acceptable
practice? Several people believe this should not take place.
A: The practice of offering
money to light the tabernacle lamp or candle is new to me. I cannot say it is wrong,
If a person may make an offering for a candle to burn before the statue of a saint or
the Blessed Virgin, why not before the Blessed Sacrament? If someone wanted to pay the
cost of the hosts or wine to be used in the Eucharist, would that be wrong? Or if a person
donated a chalice, would that be wrong? Then why not an offering for the sanctuary light?
Does Jesus Become Present?
At what moment does our Lord become present at Mass?
A: Over the centuries East
and West have argued when, precisely, the body and blood of Christ become present in
According to Johannes Emminghaus in The Eucharist (The Liturgical Press), a practical
question was at the base of the discussion"What is to be done if, for some reason
(for example, the sudden death of the celebrant), the Canon is broken off? When could
the bread and wine simply be removed? From what point on is it consecrated?"
The Western Church asserted the body and blood are present at the completion of the
words of consecration. The Eastern Church supported the view that the real presence takes
place through the epiclesis (the prayer for the sending or coming of the Spirit
to sanctify the gifts of bread and wine).
According to Richard McBrien in his Encyclopedia of Catholicism (Harper Collins),
ecumenical theologians in the 1990's avoid attempts to locate a moment of consecration
at either the epiclesis or words of institution. They prefer, he says, to consider
the entire prayer over the gifts, and not one of its isolated moments, as the consecratory
Emminghaus observes that the Church has never made a dogmatic pronouncement on the point.
Ludwig Ott, however, in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Herder Book Company,
1955) states it as certain that the form of the Eucharist consists of Christ's words
of institution uttered at the consecration. And Ott cites the Council of Trent as teaching,
according to the standing belief of the Church, "'immediately after the consecration,'
that is, after the uttering of the words of institution, the true body and the true blood
of the Lord are present."
I would add, as Emminghaus notes, the practice of the celebrant genuflecting immediately
after the consecration of the bread and again after the consecration of the wine indicates
belief that the real presence takes place at the consecration through the words of institution.
Our Father, Amen and Holding Hands
Would you say if there is still an amen at the end of the Our Father? At Mass, I realize
a prayer has been inserted between the main body of the prayer and when the priest says
amen. But when saying the Our Father in the rosary or just saying the prayer, is there
still an amen?
Second, is it proper to hold hands at the Our Father during Mass? I have read that this
should not be allowed.
A: In the Enchiridion of
Indulgences where the texts of prayers are given, amen usually appears as a response
of others to a leader's prayer.
When the text of the Our Father appears at the end of the renewal of baptismal promises,
however, the prayer itself ends with amen.
You can draw your own conclusion. The prayer's efficacy doesn't depend on the amen.
When praying in a group, I would follow whatever is the common practice.
Personally, I would not find holding hands during the Our Father at Mass antirubrical,
though it is not included in the official rubrics. Neither are there rubrics allowing
for the collection!
The question may become moot if the new Sacramentary is approved. There is provision
there for the worshipers to imitate the gesture of the celebrant by raising their arms
with palms and hands extended during the Lord's Prayer.
for the Gloria
For the past few years, from midnight Christmas through Epiphany, the director of music
in our parish has elected to use "Angels We Have Heard on High" instead of the Gloria.
What is proper in this regard?
The General Instruction
on the Roman Missal, in the front of our U.S. edition of the Sacramentary, says of the
Gloria: "It is sung by the congregation, or by the congregation alternately with the
choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by all together
or in alternation. The Gloria is sung or said on Sundays outside of Advent and Lent,
on solemnities and feasts, and in special more solemn celebrations."
Nowhere did I find a permission for the U.S. Church to substitute a hymn for the Gloria.
I remember, however, reading that, in the Missal approved by Rome for the German Church,
it is permitted to substitute some hymn of glory for the Gloria.
I might also note that the Gloria is also called the Angelic Hymn because its opening
words are those of the angels at Christ's birth. So I can see where the organist is coming
from in singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" in place of the Gloria in the Christmas
Old Copies of St. Anthony Messenger: From time to time readers ask what they
can do with back issues of St. Anthony Messenger. The Wise Man recently received
a letter from Father Lazar S. Pattakadavu in India saying back issues are very helpful
and much desired in his ministryespecially by youth. He asks St. Anthony Messenger subscribers
to send old copies to Father Lazar S. Pattakadavu, St. Mary's Church, Kollam691
006, Kerala, India.
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