A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Gregorian Masses; Multiple Intentions

ROME, 9 NOV. 2010 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q1: I belong to a religious community. We are all priests in the house where I live, and all have some kind of outside ministry. One priest works in a parish, another as campus minister and another as chaplain at a nursing home. Sometimes Mass is offered in our chapel but most of the time outside. My question is: Can we say Gregorian Masses? I asked the provincial and he said yes because whatever the intention is, it is always the intention that the superior has, even if the Mass is said in some other place. My question is: If the Mass is said in a parish or chapel that already has an intention, how can the superior's intention supersede the place where the Mass is being said and a stipend is accepted and the Mass is an announced Mass? — M.P., St. Petersburg, Florida

Q2: In my parish here in Nigeria, the pastor accepts multiple intentions for a single Mass. At the beginning of the Mass he reads the intentions out loud and invites the congregation to pray for these intentions as well as our own private intentions. I was always taught that a priest may only accept one intention per Mass. Please comment. — M.J.G., Kaduna, Nigeria

A: I will try to answer these questions together since both refer to stipends.

The celebration of Gregorian Masses is regulated by a declaration published by the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship on Feb. 24, 1967. The Gregorian Mass is a series of 30 consecutive celebrations. It is not required that the same priest celebrate all the Masses nor that they be celebrated on the same altar. Thus, if a priest who has accepted the obligation of celebrating the series finds himself impeded on any particular day, he may ask another priest to take the intention for him.

Likewise, it could happen that the priest cannot find a substitute and the series is interrupted because of an unforeseen impediment (for example, an illness), or for a reasonable cause (the celebration of a funeral or a wedding). In this case the Church has disposed that the fruits of suffrage (which, until that moment, Church practice and the piety of the faithful have attributed to this series) are maintained. The priest retains the obligation to complete the 30 Masses as soon as possible, but he need not begin the series anew.

This being the case, the celebration of a Gregorian series is incompatible with regular duties in a parish in which an intention has already been announced. A religious priest celebrates according to the intention of the superior only in those cases where there is no previously assigned intention. A priest working in campus ministry or some other apostolate with no fixed intentions can celebrate a Gregorian series.

Also, if the superior wishes to assign a Gregorian series to a religious priest, he must inform the priest. The priest can only accept if he has no other obligations that would impede his celebrating the series. It is necessary for the priest to be aware of the series in order to fulfill the obligation of the 30 Masses and seek a substitute if for a good reason he cannot celebrate the intention on any particular day.

It is true that canon law allows a priest to receive only one stipend a day. To wit:

"Can. 945 §1. In accord with the approved practice of the Church, any priest celebrating or concelebrating is permitted to receive an offering to apply the Mass for a specific intention.

"§2. It is recommended earnestly to priests that they celebrate Mass for the intention of the Christian faithful, especially the needy, even if they have not received an offering.

"Can. 947 Any appearance of trafficking or trading is to be excluded entirely from the offering for Masses.

"Can. 948 Separate Masses are to be applied for the intentions of those for whom a single offering, although small, has been given and accepted.

"Can. 951 §1. A priest who celebrates several Masses on the same day can apply each to the intention for which the offering was given, but subject to the rule that, except on Christmas, he is to keep the offering for only one Mass and transfer the others to the purposes prescribed by the ordinary, while allowing for some recompense by reason of an extrinsic title.

"§2. A priest who concelebrates a second Mass on the same day cannot accept an offering for it under any title.

"Can. 953 No one is permitted to accept more offerings for Masses to be applied by himself than he can satisfy within a year.

"Can. 954 If in certain churches or oratories more Masses are asked to be celebrated than can be celebrated there, it is permitted for them to be celebrated elsewhere unless the donors have expressly indicated a contrary intention."

There is, however, another document regulating this theme, the 1991 decree Mos Iugiter (AAS 83 [1991] 436-446). This decree modified the strict rule of Canon 948 and allowed some use of so-called cumulative intentions under certain strict conditions:

— The donors must be informed of and consent to the combining of their offerings before the Mass for the collective intention is celebrated.

— The place and time of each Mass must be announced with no more than two such collective Masses per week.

— The celebrant may only keep for himself one stipend and must send any excess intentions to the purposes assigned by the ordinary in accordance with Canon 951.

There is, however, another practice of frequent cumulative intentions which is found in some countries with many poor Catholics and very populous parishes. This practice is common in some Latin American countries and may be the situation described by our reader in Nigeria.

In such circumstances, so many faithful request Mass intentions that it is impossible for the parish to celebrate a single Mass for everybody. In making the request the faithful do not seek an individual celebration but presuppose that it will be one of many intentions. The people's economic situation does not allow them to offer a proper stipend and thus makes transfer of the intention to other priests unfeasible.

In order to come to terms with this reality, certain novel solutions have been proposed. For example, last year a Mexican archdiocese established a fixed stipend for individual intentions but a totally voluntary offering for cumulative intentions, according to the possibilities of those making the request.

The archbishop's decree implied that, although the community celebrations would be more than twice a week due to the large number of requests, the directives of canon law and Mos Iugiter should be followed with respect to any offerings over and above the standard stipend.

* * *

Follow-up: Gregorian Masses; Multiple Intentions [11-23-2010]

In relation to Mass intentions (see Nov. 9) an Indonesian reader asked whether the system of stipends unfairly favors priests who minister in wealthy parishes. "Is it just their 'fortune' that some priests in the poor parishes gain nothing while in the big cities some priests could get money easily? They are ordained priests by the same sacrament, but unfortunately some priests' daily Masses are not 'paid for' while the other priests in the big cities get abundant Mass stipends."

As a general rule the sum offered as a Mass stipend belongs to the priest, who may use it for his personal expenses. Depending on their particular rules religious priests may either retain their stipends or hand it over to their community.

As mentioned before, a priest may only keep one stipend a day even if he celebrates more than one Mass or one with multiple intentions. The recommended donation for a Mass stipend is deliberately set quite low, and there is no danger of a priest becoming rich on the basis of stipends. In most countries a week's stipends would barely cover the cost of filling up the gasoline tank of a car.

At the same time, given the difference in purchasing power in various countries, offering excess Mass intentions to missionary priests has sometimes been a means of supporting evangelization.

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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