Tuesday, 14 August 2012


When I came back to England on holiday, having dropped the mother off in the frozen North, I arrived at Dursley in time for Sunday Mass.

As I had an intention I could not simply say Fr's Mass for him, but needed to say my own. As it was in the extra-ordinary form concelebrating was out... Here you can see the Altar for the Holy Souls set up for the Sacred Mysteries.

Of course it was not just because it was the Latin Mass that concelebration was out. Although 'allowed', concelebration has to be in some way defective, in the sense of not attaining the ideal. I think the last time I concelebrated was at the meeting of recently ordained clergy in Lucon last September. Of course I had said a Private Mass that day as well. I am comforted in 'concelebration' by a friend who said "It's just the new way of sitting in choir" but of course it isn't.

I'm not entirely sure where concelebration came from, I suppose I could do an internet trawl and find out, but anything which seemingly makes like easier for priests I am immediately suspicious of. By and large, this practice concerns priests and so the winners in the change of practice/theology stakes are priests as well. A conflict of interests, methinks.

Being brutal, concelebration is the equivalent of getting a friend to stamp your time-clock at work and collecting your pay for doing very, very little.

  • A celebrant at Holy Mass (I'm talking new rite here) has to preside over the celebration of the liturgy. Not so the concelebrant. 
  • He has to preach the Gospel. Not so the concelebrant. 
  • He has to take bread and wine and offer them as a fitting sacrifice to God the Alwighty Father. Not so the concelebrant. The concelebrant is forbidden to say the prayers "Blessed are you..."
  • He stands in persona Christi with words and manual actions. Not so the concelebrant. The concelebrant can say the words, but cannot do the actions. "He took the bread that is over there on the altar, my hands are empty."
  • He has an intimacy with handling the Holy Things as they become the Body and Blood of Christ. Not so the concelebrant. He seem them from afar.
  • He blesses the people of God and sends them forth to sanctify the world by their presence. Not so the concelebrant. He is entirely passive. He cannot give the blessing, but must receive it... to do what? His role is not in the world, but in the sanctuary.

Even for the priest himself, the act of concelebration, I would say, is fraught with dangers. As a celebrant you have to be focussed on Mass. As a concelebrant your 'part' is not great and only happens half way through. This cannot have the same emotive response or psychological impact as actually saying Mass.

Also there are bizarre theological questions galore. I was once forced to concelebrate is Pisa Cathedral. I have no Italian to speak of, and yet was told that concelebration was the only thing I could do. So I concelebrated in Latin as the Mass was said in Italian. Really? Did I really concelebrate? Con-celebrate? Celebrate with? In different languages? Consecrating at different times?

This latter happens at all concelebrations. We are not sync-monsters. We do not speak at the same time. So if I say the words of consecration a bit before the rest, what are they consecrating? A Host that has already been transubstantiated into Christ's Body and Blood? They can't... it's not possible. And the same for me. If a concelebrant or celebrant has performed the Eucharistic Miracle, what exactly are my words doing?

Sync Monster
Now it's fine saying that I'm being nit-picky, but this is about priests saying Mass. Of course the people can be sure that they ore receiving the Body of Christ, but for the priest? Has he just said Mass or not? And has he received a stipend for it? Has he told soneone that the august Sacrifice of the Mass has been offered by him on such and such a day at such and such a time, and yet all he did was turn up and concelebrate.

And the 'unity of the priests around their Bishop' argument has been blown out of the water with the full communion of groups who do not concelebrate (such as the FSSP).

I still do it at times. It is a quick way to verify your Vatican II credentials to Bishops and the like. But I always say another Mass and I never take a stipend for a Mass that I have had to concelebrate.

So what exactly do I think I'm doing?

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