Friday, March 26, 2010

Loss of Graces: Private Masses vs. Concelebration

Peter A. Kwasniewski

Sitting at my desk one evening about ten years ago, I wrote excitedly in my journal about an overwhelming experience that morning.
“August 12th. The feast of Saint Clare. Thanks be to God, the greatest and best. This morning, by His unspeakable mercy, I was given the chance to attend a private old-rite Mass and receive the Lord: a gift worth more than all gifts. But without my having the slightest idea it would happen, He also granted me the privilege of serving this Mass, which was offered by the holy Abbot of Fontgombault. There is some sort of Benedictine retreat going on here at the Kartause for a week, with oblates from all over Europe in attendance, and three French abbots and many monks too, and there will be bishops visiting, etc. It’s all rather splendid. Yesterday I’d heard that a monk was going to say the old rite at 6:00, so I got up and came down for it, heading into the sacristy. I found out that the Abbot himself, taking precedence, was going to offer the day’s first Mass before other monks did, and, as I knew how to serve, he asked me if I would serve it. Laus Deo! It was the most peaceful Mass I have ever attended. The Abbot lingered over every phrase, and I honestly thought he was in an ecstasy during the Canon. I felt there were hundreds of souls and spirits in the chapel with us. I am speechless. Glory be to God.”
That is the kind of thing you really can’t forget, but even better, it’s the kind of thing you really can’t plan, either. The lack of planning is part of the gift. It comes like a thief in the night. You know you don’t deserve it, and it comes to you anyway, because the Lord is so good to us sinners.

The daily offering

The reason I’m recounting this story isn’t to focus on the experience itself, but rather on what it helped me to see about one important facet of our Catholic tradition, in a lesson that mingled pain with joy. This monk’s offering of the holy sacrifice for his own sins and for the sins of the world embodied in its very prayerfulness, by its God-focused intensity, an irrefutable justification for the long-standing custom of private Masses1 offered by individual monks prior to their conventual Mass, or, for that matter, by any priest who has the possibility of celebrating a daily Mass. I envisioned in my mind’s eye all of these monks quietly beseeching the divine mercy all over the world: a small army of Abraham’s “just men,” placating divine wrath and winning grace for sinners.

As most readers of this journal will know, up until the liturgical rupture it was customary for each priest who lived in a monastery or other religious community both to celebrate his own private Mass each morning and to assist at a communal or conventual Mass. The rationale was obvious: the Mass is the foremost act of religion, devotion, prayer, adoration, thanksgiving, and praise that any ministerial priest can offer, since it is none other than the immolation of the High Priest Himself. As Venerable Pope Pius XII explained: “It cannot be overemphasized that the Eucharistic sacrifice of its very nature is the unbloody immolation of the divine Victim, which is made manifest in a mystical manner by the separation of the sacred species and by their oblation to the eternal Father.”2 Each and every Mass pours forth the fruits of the sacrifice of Calvary into the Church, for the inestimable benefit of all the faithful—for the release of souls in purgatory, for the honor of the saints in heaven, and for the perseverance of souls on earth—and ultimately for the salvation of the entire world.3 Therefore, objectively speaking, the more Masses celebrated, the better off the world is.

In the maelstrom of postconciliar changes, the private Mass fell under a shadow of suspicion, even contempt. With rare exceptions, individual monks no longer celebrate private Masses. If there are several priests living in one place with one publicly scheduled Mass, they will generally concelebrate it. Surely there is something amiss here. The profound sacramental theology we inherit from the Middle Ages and the Council of Trent teaches us that each Mass—or to be more specific, each enactment of the mystical oblation on the altar—is a renewal and application of the saving event of the Cross, and as such, wins further pardon and actual graces for the human race. How, then, can this shift towards the communal be justified? Would not a denial that each priest should celebrate his own Mass each day imply at some level a repudiation of this theology, and with it, a downplaying of the Mass as a true propitiatory sacrifice? I am not speaking of a formal repudiation, such as Luther’s or Calvin’s, whereby the Mass is denied to be a sacramental representation of the sacrifice of Calvary. I mean a repudiation of the truth that each and every Mass advances the salvation of the world. If the practice of individual Masses is abandoned, it appears that personnel in the Church have made a decision that affects, nay retards, the salvation of sinners. A monastery in which twelve monks daily offered hoc sacrificium laudis is responsible for pouring out the grace of Calvary twelve times upon this timebound and ever-needy world of ours. The one all-sufficient sacrifice with its intrinsically infinite merit was applied concretely to us, to the world of sinners, a dozen times.4

Colossal difference

Priest extending arms after the consecration (Carmelite Rite)

Let’s examine a scenario more closely, to see if mystical theology and common sense can shake hands. Say you have eleven of these monks celebrating Mass at separate side altars each morning, followed later by the conventual Mass that the twelfth monk offers. You have twelve re-presentations of the Sacrifice of Calvary taking place. It is as if the veil separating earth from heaven was pierced twelve times to let the dew of grace fall through, that it might soak into the soil of our souls. Since the Eucharist as a sacrifice is propitiatory, it accomplishes what it represents: each time the Mass is offered, the fruits of the redemption are extended to souls throughout the world. As Pope Leo XIII stated: “Christ has willed that the whole power of His death, alike for expiation and impetration, should abide in the Eucharist, which is no mere empty commemoration thereof, but a true and wonderful though bloodless and mystical renewal of it.”5
Now, let’s say those twelve monks decide to stop celebrating their individual Masses and come together around the altar for one Mass — a single Mass, a single sacramental sacrifice. Certainly there may be several Mass intentions; each priest can bring his own intention and even accept a stipend for it. Nevertheless, when it comes to the immolation of the holy Victim, this Victim is made really present only once, and so the salvific offering of that Victim is made present only once. Extrapolate over the course of the year. At a more traditional monastery of twelve ordained monks, if we count not only the private Missae recitatae (recited or low Masses) but also the community Missae cantatae (chanted or high Masses), what do we find? The living symbols of the Lord’s Passion, the full dynamism of that mystery, will have been made present upon the altar about 4,800 times each year within the walls of their most fortunate church. At a monastery where the twelve scrapped their personal Masses for concelebrated ones, the number drops drastically, to, let’s say, 400 Masses a year. We are looking at a colossal difference in sacramental mediation, priestly intercession, the irruption into the world of the Precious Blood that washes away our sins. I don’t know about you, but it strikes me that several thousand applications of the saving Passion of Christ to a world drowning in sin and suffocating with guilt is a much better prospect for the salvation of men and societies than a few hundred. But that’s just the beginning; I limited myself to one small community of monks. Imagine the difference if we multiplied these figures for all Catholic priests across the face of the earth! By the singular privilege of their ordination and its sacred character, each of them is able to offer every day the one saving Sacrifice of Calvary, but so many, in the past forty years, have chosen instead to limit themselves to a single Mass celebrated en masse.6

The problem with concelebration

If one denies that the number has any significance, is he not on the way to denying the truth of secondary causality, the truth of the historicity or temporality of grace, the truth of the ministerial priesthood, the truth that God cares for creatures—He cares so much for them that it makes a difference to him whether there are still one or two or five just men in a city of criminals? In the Catholic theology of the Mass, each priest, as alter Christus acting in persona Christi, renews the one sacrifice of Calvary, in such a way that both sides of the mystery are safeguarded: (1) there is no other and no further sacrifice than that of Christ, which in itself and with nothing else supposed suffices for the salvation of the whole of creation; and (2) there are ordained priests conformed to and participating in the unique office of the High Priest, such that there are temporally distinct makings-present or presencings of Calvary, pouring the grace and merit of the High Priest into the hearts of men here and now. If you get rid of (2), you are a classical Protestant; if you get rid of (1), you are a liberal Protestant. If you retain both and see them as mutually reinforcing, you are a Catholic. To separate one from the other destroys the sacramental economy and the truth of the Incarnation no less than if one were to separate the natures and persons in Christ, as Nestorius did.7

The abandonment of private Masses in favor of conventual Masses, the sidelining of one-priest celebration in favor of many-priest concelebration, implicitly undermines the latter truth, namely, that there are temporally distinct presencings of Calvary which are in themselves really and truly channels of grace for the world. This confirms from yet another angle that the direction of the liturgical reform, as Michael Davies and others have long maintained, has an essentially classical Protestant trajectory.

Saint Thomas Aquinas was not unaware of the custom of concelebration used on rare occasions. An article of the Summa asks “Whether many priests can consecrate one and the same host?”8 As an argument in the affirmative he brings forward a fact: “according to the custom of certain [local] churches, priests, when they are newly ordained, concelebrate with the bishop who ordained them.”9 The body of the article mentions the same custom, comparing it to the Apostles supping together with Christ at the Last Supper, and notes that when there are many priests, all direct their several intentions to one and the same instant of consecration, so that they share but one intention. Replying to an objection, Saint Thomas goes so far as to say: “Since a priest consecrates only in the person of Christ, and the many are one in Christ, for this reason it makes no difference whether this sacrament is consecrated by one or by many, except that it is necessary to observe the rite of the Church.”10 In other words, concelebration involves many priests acting as one because they have a single intention to consecrate the Eucharist. There is, then, only one sacrifice taking place when many speak the words of consecration. But precisely for this reason, the Angelic Doctor sustains the common sense view mentioned above, for as he writes elsewhere in the Summa: “In many Masses, the offering of the sacrifice is multiplied, and therefore the effect of the sacrifice and of the sacrament is also multiplied.”11 So the next time someone says “There’s nothing the matter with concelebration,” you might counter: “Sure, it’s not morally wrong, but it robs the Church and the world of so many other Masses that could have been celebrated individually by those priests, and so it deprives us of many effects that might have been obtained.”

The Popes weigh in

Is this a view sustained by the papal Magisterium? Although understandably Pope Paul VI is no hero among lovers of liturgical tradition, we should not be especially surprised to find him upholding the custom of private Masses:
We should also mention “the public and social nature of every Mass,” a conclusion which clearly follows from the doctrine we have been discussing. For even though a priest should offer Mass in private, that Mass is not something private; it is an act of Christ and of the Church. In offering this Sacrifice, the Church learns to offer herself as a sacrifice for all. Moreover, for the salvation of the entire world she applies the single, boundless, redemptive power of the Sacrifice of the Cross. For every Mass is offered not for the salvation of ourselves alone, but also for that of the whole world. Hence, although the very nature of the action renders most appropriate the active participation of many of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass, nevertheless, that Mass is to be fully approved which, in conformity with the prescriptions and lawful traditions of the Church, a priest for a sufficient reason offers in private, that is, in the presence of no one except his server. From such a Mass an abundant treasure of special salutary graces enriches the celebrant, the faithful, the whole Church, and the entire world—graces which are not imparted in the same abundance by the mere reception of Holy Communion.12
This passage is from Paul VI’s encyclical Mysterium Fidei, promulgated in 1965, after the promulgation of the star-crossed Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium.13 In it we see reproduced with utter fidelity the doctrine of Pope Pius XII, who treated of the subject at some length in his majestic encyclical Mediator Dei of 1947. Two paragraphs in particular come to mind:

Some in fact disapprove altogether of those Masses which are offered privately and without any congregation, on the ground that they are a departure from the ancient way of offering the sacrifice; moreover, there are some who assert that priests cannot offer Mass at different altars at the same time, because, by doing so, they separate the community of the faithful and imperil its unity; while some go so far as to hold that the people must confirm and ratify the sacrifice if it is to have its proper force and value.

They are mistaken in appealing in this matter to the social character of the Eucharistic sacrifice, for as often as a priest repeats what the divine Redeemer did at the Last Supper, the sacrifice is really completed. Moreover, this sacrifice, necessarily and of its very nature, has always and everywhere the character of a public and social act, inasmuch as he who offers it acts in the name of Christ and of the faithful, whose Head is the divine Redeemer, and he offers it to God for the holy Catholic Church, and for the living and the dead. This is undoubtedly so, whether the faithful are present—as we desire and commend them to be in great numbers and with devotion—or are not present, since it is in no wise required that the people ratify what the sacred minister has done.14

It would be comparatively easy to assemble reams of testimonies from Tradition and tight theological argumentation in defense of what the Popes are teaching here. That being said, there is something more that we must not forget. When it comes to mysteries beyond the reach of reason, the truth is as much a matter of that mysterious center of the person we call the “heart” as it is of the mind—a matter of whether our spiritual instincts are right, our intuitions sound, and our inmost feelings harmonious with reality. Modernism, though it claims to be from and for our feelings, exudes the lifeless chill of rationalism and freezes whatever it touches. In contrast, the dogmas and practices of traditional Catholicism, though they have at their disposal armies of ironclad scholastic proofs, breathe and sing and sigh like the living presence they mediate to us in flesh and blood.

A stream of sacrifice poured up

With this in mind, let me return, in the end, to the beginning. In one of Robert Hugh Benson’s finest novels, The King’s Achievement (1904), there is a passage that deeply resonated with me when I first read it a few years ago, as it called back to mind the short but precious time I spent with the monks of Le Barroux as well as that early morning Mass with the Abbot of Fontgombault.15 At this point in Benson’s tale, the character Christopher Torridon, a young monk at Lewes Priory, is reflecting on the daily monastic routine’s all-encompassing goal: “the uttering of praises to Him who had made and was sustaining and would receive again all things to Himself.”
They [the monks] rose at midnight for the night-office, that the sleeping world might not be wholly dumb to God; went to rest again; rose once more with the world, and set about a yet sublimer worship. A stream of sacrifice poured up to the Throne through the mellow summer morning, or the cold winter darkness and gloom, from altar after altar in the great church. Christopher remembered pleasantly a morning soon after the beginning of his novitiate when he had been in the church as a set of priests came in and began Mass simultaneously. The mystical fancy suggested itself as the hum of voices began that he was in a garden, warm and bright with grace, and that bees about him were making honey—that fragrant sweetness of which it had been said long ago that God should eat—and as the tinkle of the Elevation sounded out here and there, it seemed to him as a signal that the mysterious confection was done, and that every altar sprang into perfume from those silver vessels set with jewel and crystal.16
Now, I know there are lots of scholarly studies and popular pamphlets (especially from the 1960s and 1970s) questioning or rejecting private Masses and defending concelebration. Earlier still, Karl Rahner had sown seeds of doubt with his characteristically dense and subtle speculations. The shelves of seminary libraries groan with such materials. After slogging through page after page of effete archaeologism and voodoo sociology, however, what I always want to know is this: Why is it so hard for these people to see what Christopher Torridon (that is, Robert Hugh Benson), and generations of simple believers over the centuries have seen? It consoles me to know that every day, every year that passes, slowly but surely, the Eternal High Priest is drawing the hearts of His ministers back to the altar of God, for the service of which they were ordained; that He is calling them to “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. As our Holy Father said in his homily for Midnight Mass this past Christmas: “The Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later.”+


  1. Editor's Note: Given the confusion surrounding this topic, it is important to define the term "private Mass." Joseph Jungmann's seminal work on the liturgy has this to say about the subject: "From these Masses said in private homes, or on an estate or at a graveside where at least a group of people, however small, attends the sservice, we must carefully distinguish the private Mass strictly so called. This we understand as a Mass celebrated for its own sake, with no thought of anyone participating, a Mass where only the prescribed server is in attendance, or even where no one is present, as was once the case in the so-called Missa solitaria. These are Masses -- contrasted to the conventual Mass and the parochial Mass -- which are most generally referred to in medieval documents as missae privatae or speciales or peculiares (J. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite [Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1986], I:215). [back]

  2. Pius XII, Mediator Dei (1947), n. 115; cf. nn. 68-70. [back]

  3. Ibid., nn. 71-75. [back]

  4. Note that if there are twelve Priests in the community, one of them would not celebrate a private Mass that day in order to be the Priest who offers the conventual Mass in the midst of his brethren. No Priest celebrates twice a day (bination) unless pastoral need requires it, which would not be the case in such a community. [back]

  5. Leo XIII, Mirae Caritatis (1902), n. 18. [back]

  6. Some have objected that this kind of language "quantifies" grace. It does not. Rather, we must guard against "transcendentalizing" grace so that it ceases to be connected to space and time. [back]

  7. Nestorianism is "one of the great heresies of the fifth century, which broke the personal unity of Christ by positing in him two subjects [i.e., persons], one Divine and one human" (Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology [Milwaukee: Bruce, 1951], 199). In reality there is only one Person in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who assumed human nature when "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." [back]

  8. Summa theologiae III, q. 82, a. 2. [back]

  9. Ibid., sed contra. [back]

  10. Ibid., ad. 2. [back]

  11. Summa theologiae III, q. 79, ad 3: "In pluribus vero Missis multiplicatur sacrificii oblatio, et ideo multiplicatur effectus sacrificii et sacramenti." In this context St. Thomas is explaining why receiving many hosts at the same Mass does not increase the effect of the sacrament, whereas many Masses does redound to greater good. [back]

  12. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei (1965), n. 17. [back]

  13. In fact, the Pope is quoting from that constitution in the first sentence of the excerpt, which echoes a similar phrase from Pius XII. [back]

  14. Mediator Dei, nn. 95-96. [back]

  15. My experience with the monks at Le Barroux is recounted in my article "Contemplation of Unchanging Truth," The Latin Mass vol. 17, n. 5 (Advent/Christmas 2008). [back]

  16. Robert Hugh Benson, The King's Achievement, ed. with a foreword by Francis X. Connolly (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1957), 86. [back]

[Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming. The present article, "Loss of Graces: Private Masses vs. Concelebration," was originally published in The Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter 2010), pp. 6-9, and is reprinted here by kind permission of Latin Mass Magazine, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060, and the author.]


Fagans said...

You know, the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the Orthodox idea of "No People, No Liturgy."

Dark Horse said...


So what, a priest and his sevrer aren't "people"? Or you don't think graces come from a preist saying mass alone? Have you even read the post?

Fagans said...

For the Orthodox, the Divine Liturgy can only be celebrated with a community gathered around that altar, whether it is a monastery, ordinary folk, or whatever. To be frank, when I read posts like this, it makes me believe that we treat the Mass like magic.

Sheldon said...


"Magic"?? This is what Protestants from non-sacramental traditions say about all seven of the Catholic sacraments. It's also how more and more Catholics respond, which is hardly surprising given the dilution of their sacramental theology since Vatican II.

First, one could concede the allegation and say, yes, there is "magic" in a Catholic sacrament since it confers objective grace independently of the subject's awareness or disposition, as in infant baptism; whereas a Baptist would regard baptism as proper only for adults, since it's meaning and 'grace' is only subjective and symbolic and cannot be appreciated except by an adult.

Second, one could return the accusation and suggest that it cuts both ways. If there is Catholic (ex opere operato) "magic," there is also a non-Catholic "magic" that says that the "power" of a sacrament (such as the Eucharistic Liturgy) is efficacious only through the community, which is another way of saying that it is only subjectively efficacious. Is it not funny how that, too, is something one hears increasingly after Vatican II, that the Mass is sacrament of the "celebrating community."

This reminds me of a remark made by a priest to me some years ago. An image of the Virgin Mary avoids being "superstitious" only, he said, when she is holding the Christ child. When image is of her alone, this leads to the "superstition" (another word for "magic," perhaps) that all manner of mysterious powers are associated with her independently of Christ. Such rubbish. If you believe in the intercession of the saints at all, you will have no problem with independent images of the saints, whether Catholic statues and paintings or Orthodox icons, because you know that the "magical" power of these saints (like the Eucharist) resides solely and objectively in their connection to Christ.

Another thing that comes to mind is the fact that the iconoclastic controversy was an Eastern, Orthodox thing, not a Western, Latin thing. There could be a problem there, I suppose.

Fagans said...

Magic, properly speaking, is making the supernatural do things we want done; it is willed force. On the other hand, most people would agree that we can't force God to do things for us. As I have said, when I read posts like this, it makes me want to ask if the Mass is treated as "if x, then y." Just saying.....

AlexB said...

This is an important topic which I addressed in TNews column last July. In addition to all of the positive aspects of private Masses argued in this post, regular individual celebration fosters a deeper spiritual life for the priest. Private Masses are a sort of spiritual calisthenics that help to prevent a priest from developing the bad habit of relying too much upon concelebration.

Anonymous said...

Okay, on Mount Athos they celebrate the Divine Liturgy all the time with just a priest and someone to chant. I have been in churches where they have celebrated the Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts with only three people present. And at the canonization of John Maximovitch by the ROCOR in San Francisco, they set up about eight altars in the sanctuary and celebrated one Divine Liturgy after the other, from midnight to early morning. That whole "East vs. West" stuff is so much baloney, often the result of Westerners with a romanticized vision of what the "East" actually looks like. Read Archimandrite Sophrony on this question: the Divine Liturgy is the Divine Liturgy whether it has two or two thousand people at it.

Sheldon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sheldon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fagans said...

Better said: I am a Latin Rite Catholic who has an MDiv from St. Vlad's. I can tell you for a fact that they do not celebrate the Divine Liturgy every day (they do at St. Tikhon's, but only at the monastery; the campus does other things sometimes.) For SVS, the point is to emphasize that the community gathers together for prayer (usually Matins and Vespers) and it is from this perspective that I write. I have no love affair with Orthodoxy, but sometimes, they do have a better perspective than the so-called "West."

Also, I love your blog, Mr. Vasquez.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Come to think of it, I have been in the Orthodox cathedral in Charlotte when I've witnessed Mass being celebrated by a priest and his deacon with nobody else in the church except a couple of people in the back lighting candles and then leaving.

Maybe at St. Vlad's it's simply a way of keeping attendance up among the seminarians and community. Well, of course it is important for anyone to assist at Mass as often as possible.

But none of this refutes the point of the article or the points stressed by AlexB.

Fagans said...

PB: I'm sorry, but when I read both, I am simply not convinced that "if we just have private Masses, everything will be ok." That is what I get from the pieces, even if that is not the intent (and I've read it three times!)

Anonymous said...

My impression has always been that the Orthodox tend not to have daily Mass since most of their priests are married, and a married priest cannot engage in intercourse with his wife the night before singing the Liturgy. In fact, there was a rather ironic anecdote about some Carpatho-Rusyns in this country who later came back into communion with Orthodoxy. They had been so Latinized during their time as Uniates that they had taken to saying the Liturgy every day in the Latin custom. When they became Orthodox again, the question was asked regarding when they could engage in intercourse with their wives if they continued with the Latin discipline of saying the Liturgy every day. The answer, of course, was Good Friday, the only real "a-liturgical" day of their year in their Latinized discipline. Kinda puts the "good" back in Good Friday.

Sheldon said...


Granted, Catholics could be superstitious about things of this sort. On the other hand, isn't this precisely what it means when our Lord says: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (Mt 16.19)? Or when the epiclesis is invoked over the Eucharistic Sacrament in the Divine Liturgy?

Now, granted (again), God is not being "forced" to do anything against his will in such instances. Instead, he has bound himself to allow the priest to "bind and loose" sins in heaven as on earth, and to confect the Body of Christ upon the altar when the priest intends what the Church intends. Would you not agree?

Jordanes said...

"No People, No Liturgy" is irreconcilable with the Catholic faith. The Church encourages the faithful to assist the priest when he offers the Sacrifice, because it is a great blessing and grace-filled action -- but the Sacrifice is no less valid or efficacious if offered privately with none but the priest present. The Church is obliged to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice even if none of the faithful are able to assist the priest.

Pertinacious Papist said...


It depends what you mean by "if we just have private Masses, everything will be ok." If you mean the faithful have no need of assisting at Mass or that they will accrue all the graces they need even if they don't assist at Mass, this is of course untrue. Which is why it's a mortal sin to miss Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation. It's an avenue of grace for us when we assist with the proper dispositon.

On the other hand, if you mean that no grace is communicated to the Church and world if nobody assists the priest at Mass, this is of course also untrue.

We also have an obligation, of course, to learn the Catholic faith; and one of the joys of this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith is that it is deeper than the ocean.


David said...

I do not think that the author convincingly states how graces are lost due to concelebration. He would lead you to believe that it is simply about numbers. The author would have you believe that 1 mass with 12 concelebrating priests does not equal 12 masses each with a priest. If I simply wanted to use math I could say that 1 x 12 = 12 x 1. Is God's grace really about numbers? It is simple to analyze this topic from a mathematical perspective. However, it should be analyzed from more of a theological perspective.

It seems that the author's view is very much empirical. He attempts to connect the amount of grace to how many Masses are said by a principal celebrant. Then, he asserts that the amount of grace from a concelebrated Mass can only ever equal a Mass said by one priest. Is grace empirical? Can it be sensed. It seems that the author is trying to use empiricism, "I only see Christ being called upon the altar once in each case; therefore, the amount of grace must be the same." Grace is not empirical. Therefore, the only justification in making a statement on this situation can be made with theology. I don't believe that there is near enough theology in this article to come close to justifying this position.

Needs less emotion, more sound justification


Sheldon said...

I do not think that the author convincingly states how graces are lost due to concelebration.

You may or may not be right about this, although this does not mean that the author's view is mistaken, as I'm sure you will admit.

Is God's grace really about numbers? ... It seems that the author's view is very much empirical... Grace is not empirical.

I'm no theologian, but there would seem to be two sides to this issue.

One side is the Protestant tendency to spiritualize everything. Since grace is not empirical, the outward signs of inward grace are more or less irrelevant. It's the inward invisible work of God's grace that counts. There's some of this even in the widespread modern Catholic rejection of the notion of indulgences for those in Purgatory being linked to a number of "days" -- as well as in the post-Vatican II erosion of things like side altars, kneelers, communion rails, genuflections, etc. If it's all spiritual anyway, these outward and quantitative things don't matter.

On the other side, there's a long-standing Catholic tradition about things like offering a priest a stipend to have a Mass said for a deceased relative. But if the external multiplication of Masses had no relationship to the graces received by the deceased, why trouble oneself with such 'nonsense'? The same with all the outward forms of inward graces that Catholics are traditionally concerned with. If the Mass is nothing more than the re-presentation of the once-for-all Sacrifice of Christ in Jerusalem, then why should it be a mortal sin to miss going to Masses on days of holy obligation?

I agree with you that more theological justification may be needed. But I don't think that means the author's instincts here are mistaken. I think he's absolutely right.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Ought we not think of grace as empirical? How then ought we to think of it? Modern charismatic "Catholics" swooningly and endlessly refer to thoroughly modern St Faustina's recounting of Christ's reference to his "oceans of mercy" -- oceans! -- is mercy quantifiable? Can you buy it in a can, like butter beans and blackeyed peas?

Most likely not, but as fallen beings of weak and limited intellects darkened by sin, how ought we to view transcendent concepts like "mercy" and "grace"? If we don't "quantify" or "empiricize" them -- giving them at least an aura of objectivity -- how can we address them, save as subjective, stupidly personal metaphors? This is precisely the direction twentieth century Catholic theologians have taken. Everything is personal, emotional: dogma flies to us on wings of poesy. Instead of contemplating our limitations of intellect with proper humility, the theological poesy of ressourcement fops like Congar and Balthazar invite us to celebrate our exquisite aesthetic sensitivities like flitty denizens of Olympus. It is a disgustingly irrational, insipid, and immature way for a Catholic to live, fluttering like a moth around an indifferentist flame.

To believe that graces are granted by the saying of the mass, and to reason that the more masses said, the more graces granted, is only to pay God the compliment of using the powers He granted us in as honest and upright a way as we can. It is at once a recognition of our limitations and of His omnipotence.

On the other hand, to base everything in subjectivity is to do just the opposite: exalt our own powers and limit those God by reducing them to our puny dimensions.