ROME (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Question: We have been refused to have a Mass said for priestly vocations. I have tried to determine the reason and only found information to the contrary. So the question is: Under what circumstances is a Mass for priestly vocations not allowed, if ever? -- C.B., Detroit, Michigan
Answer: Our reader also provides some texts to support his position that a priest may always offer a Mass for priestly vocations.
For example: “Canon 901 [of the Code of Canon Law] states that: 'A priest is entitled to offer Mass for anyone, living or dead.' From this premise he concludes: That means to me it does not forbid intention for priestly vocations.”
Also, Canon 897 states: “The most venerable sacrament is the blessed Eucharist, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered and received, and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the Sacrifice of the cross is forever perpetuated, is the summit and the source of all worship and Christian life. By means of it the unity of God's people is signified and brought about, and the building up of the body of Christ is perfected. The other sacraments and all the apostolic works of Christ are bound up with, and directed to, the blessed Eucharist.”
Thus he affirms: “The Church cannot live and grow without priests; thus it does not seem that a Mass intention for priestly vocations is forbidden but rather encouraged.”
He also points out that the missal specifically lists Mass formulas for priestly vocations and that several bishops in the United States have had public Masses for priestly vocations.
Our correspondent has clearly done his homework and proves that a Mass for priestly vocations is certainly permissible.
However, I think one or two distinctions should be made to further clarify the point. We must distinguish between the celebrant’s intention in offering the Mass and the liturgical formula used.
With respect to the priest’s intention in offering up the Mass for vocations to sacred orders, there is no limitation whatsoever. If a person offers a stipend for this intention, a priest can freely accept it and celebrate for this intention on any day of the year except All Souls' Day.
It falls under the umbrella of offering for the living mentioned in Canon 901, since this implies offering for their intentions. A person can request a Mass for his own or someone else’s spiritual or physical welfare. Indeed, any intention found as a Mass formula in the missal may be requested as an intention, as well as many that are not covered by specific formulas.
The priest is also free to add any number of personal intentions to that which is tied to a stipend, as the Mass is of infinite value.
The case is different regarding the use of the specific Mass formulas for vocations to sacred orders and vocations to religious life. These Mass formulas fall under the same restrictions as all Masses for various needs and votive Masses. Their celebration is usually reserved to weekdays of ordinary time when no obligatory memorial is to be celebrated.
They are usually excluded from the liturgical seasons of Advent from Dec. 17 on, and from Christmastide, Lent and Easter.
Even during these periods there are some exceptions for Masses celebrated when a sufficient reason interposes. For example, if the diocese proclaims a special day of prayer for vocations, the bishop can mandate, or at least permit, the use of the Mass for vocations even on a Sunday of Christmastide and ordinary time, feasts as well as all weekdays of Advent, Christmas after Jan. 2, and those of Lent and Easter.
He may not do so on solemnities, the Sundays of the other major seasons, the Christmas and Easter octaves, Ash Wednesday, and Holy Week.
In conclusion, I have no idea why the request for celebrating a Mass for the intention of priestly vocations was refused. It is certainly not justified by any liturgical rule.
Indeed, while respecting the liturgical norms, it is highly recommended that all parishes and communities celebrate such Masses from time to time.
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Follow-up: Precious Blood for Young Children
Related to our reply on giving the Precious Blood to children, a reader asked about the proper place for distributing Communion to servers.
He asked: “It is the practice in our parish for the celebrant to give Communion under both kinds at the side of the altar to the server (who may also double as assistant in distributing Communion to the congregation) or, if there are a number of Communion assistants, to them all, also at the altar. Is this correct? It is also the practice to give Communion from the chalice only to individuals from the congregation who, presumably, have requested this because of a problem with gluten?”
Following the Gospel principle that the “last will be first,” I will tackle quickly the second question and affirm that it is correct to offer the chalice alone to those who for a good reason cannot receive the host.
Regarding the first question, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 162, says: “The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.
“These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.”
This number does not explicitly address whether the extraordinary ministers may receive Communion near the altar after the priest’s communion. But I think that this is a logical conclusion as it would be cumbersome for the priest to give them Communion somewhere else and then return to the altar to distribute the sacred vessels. It is also appropriate that these ministers receive Communion before distributing it to others.
It is not necessary that servers who are not extraordinary ministers of holy Communion receive near the altar. But there could be good practical reasons for proceeding in this manner and it is not forbidden.
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Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.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.