Concelebrated Mass—One or Many?
By “Etienne Raton”
(Nom de plume)
Cardinal Charles Journet once wrote, in an article in
Nova et Vetera, the following
Allow me to say a word about concelebration. Let us imagine several persons
coming together to baptize simultaneously a little child. There would be several
baptizers but only one baptismal action,
plures baptizantes, una baptizatio. In
concelebration, one equally finds several “consecraters,”
plures ex aequo
, but only one consecrating action, una consecratio.1
The above words express an important theological fact regarding the Holy Mass, one
which is rooted in the teaching of the Magisterium and the theology of St. Thomas
Aquinas, and which is important for all to understand, namely the unicity of a
concelebrated Mass, indeed of any Mass.
The holy Cardinal Journet always had the good of God’s Church in the forefront of his
mind; his love for the Church was as a principle from which flowed all his priestly
activity, be it preaching retreats, hearing confessions or writing theological tracts. It was
this love of the Church which urged him to clarify this small but extremely important
point regarding the concelebrated Mass, a point which was and is still at times
misunderstood. Being a faithful disciple of the Angelic Doctor, Journet knew that a small
error made in the beginning often leads to a graver one later on; and hence he was quite
aware of the disastrous conclusions which would follow from a misunderstanding of this
seemingly insignificant point. Inspired by his efforts to proclaim sound teaching in this
area, we hope to present the Catholic doctrine,
ever ancient ever new, concerning the
unicity of a concelebrated Mass.
Perhaps one can begin by asking the question why anyone would think that a
concelebrated Mass is more than one Mass in the first place. From where would one
derive such an idea? There are a few possibilities. First, and that which is most often
used as a source, is the following sentence found in an allocution of Pope Pius XII:
There are as many actions of Christ as there are celebrating priests.
At first glance this
would seem to be a very clear proof that the Church holds for multiple Masses resulting
from a concelebration; but when read in context the words take on a different sense. The
pope is refuting here the error, common at the time, which states that the laity’s
participation at a Mass carries with it a value equal to that of the celebrating priest. The
pope stresses that the actions of Christ, the actual offering of the Holy Sacrifice, are
based on the celebrating priest’s liturgical actions and not the laity’s. The question of
multiple priests concelebrating was not the issue at hand.read...