The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

A question about mass intentions and deacons

This is a new one to me, so I thought I’d toss it out there and see if anyone has an answer.

A deacon reader writes:

Can you find out for me, the validity of a mass intention in the absence of a priest by a deacon doing a communion service?

I gather, from the sketchy details, that a mass that was to be celebrated for a particular intention had to be changed to a communion service, conducted by a deacon. Can the mass intention be switched? Is it valid?

Any thoughts?

Comments read comments(13)
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posted August 20, 2010 at 10:35 am

if a stipend was given for a mass intention, then it must be honored with saying mass for that intention.
there is no way it can be substituted with a communion service, and if it was it should be reported to the chancery office.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

A mass intention is a mass intention; if there is no Eucharist, the intention must be rescheduled.

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posted August 20, 2010 at 10:44 am

I agree with Anthony; a mass would have to be celebrated. Nothing against deacons or necessary communion services, but a communion service is not a mass, period.
I suspect what might have happend, is that the deacon needed to have the communion service unexpectedly, some family or others were at what they thought would be the mass, so the deacon included some prayers for the deceased, with good intentions to have the mass rescheduled.

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Deacon Bob

posted August 20, 2010 at 11:34 am

We had a situation in July when the Pastor had to be away for a week and it was impossible to find another priest for weekday Mass. The deacon presided at a Liturgy of the Word with distribution of Communion, and the Mass intentions were honoured at Masses later in the summer.
Deacon Bob

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Fr. Jim

posted August 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm

To be even more concise – Regardless as to whether an offering had been received or not – A communion service may never satisfy the Mass intention.
The reason, simply put, is that the Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered by the priest for the particular intention that was presented. During a Liturgy of the Word, or even a service that includes the distribution of previously consecrated hosts, no mass intention can be honored. It may only be satisfied if it takes place in a Mass – that is the only time that the consecration of the bread and wine takes place.

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Gerard Nadal

posted August 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I see the answer to this as existing in two dimensions:
Chronos and Kairos (Our linear time and God’s eternal time).
What the others have said I agree with and see as the proper satisfaction of intentions in our linear progression through Chronos.
However, Chronos intersects Kairos at Calvary, at the Cross of Christ. Our Masses are not recreations of that event, 2,000 years ago in Chronos. They are a participation in that event in Kairos. Still, the crucifixion of Jesus was the supreme moment when all of Chronos was forever swallowed up in Kairos. In that light I think that in the very act of making the Mass request, the intentions are laid at the foot of the Cross and honored by God in Kairos.
Still, I believe that until we exit Chronos and live eternally in Kairos, we need to scrupulously honor Mass requests, which are requests intended to be brought to the foot of the Cross. The only way we have of doing that is to do so where our time and God’s eternal time intersect–at Mass.

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posted August 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I Loved your comment Gerard Nadal!!
Makes perfect sense both in Chronos and Kairos 😉

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posted August 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm

No consecration of the elements, no Sacrifice, no Mass. The supernatural power of the Mass intention as prayer comes from it being joined to the Paschal Msytery of the Lord in the Eucharist. Otherwise an intention offered at a Communion Service is basically the same as when one offers a Holy Communion for it, except that it would be all the communions being offered.

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Deacon Alexander Breviario

posted August 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I believe the operative word here is “mass”… A communion service is not a mass and if a mass intention was requested then it should be honored at another time, mutually agreed upon by the person who made the original request.

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rev usmc

posted August 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

Deacon Greg, great topic.
Gerard, great comments.
The question of the difference between the Mass and a Eucharistic prayer service comes down to efficacy. Prayers for people’s intentions are good. After all praying for the living and the dead is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy. HOWEVER, the Mass is different in kind from a Eucharistic prayer service in that the Mass is an earthly participation in the one eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ who eternally intercedes in heaven before God the Father for his Church. Without the priest, fulfilling the command of Jesus using the words of Jesus, one cannot enter into the unique eternal moment of salvation and the forgiveness of sins, for which we pray at Mass. So, a Eucharistic prayer service is a good thing. However, the Mass is qualitatively better because it is a participation in the one eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ taking place in heaven which in a moment enters into time through the liturgical actions of the priest.
This is also a very Jewish understanding of salvation history. When one remembers the event by retelling the story of God’s saving action the people enter into the saving moment of the past made present by the remembrance. Such is why the yearly family Passover celebrations, and other celebrations of faith, are so important. By remembrance of God’s saving action and grace a past salvation moment transcends time and becomes present for those who enter into the remembrance ceremony (liturgical remembrance).
Therefore, out of justice a Mass must be offered for the intention for which that intention was given. A Eucharistic prayer service is a good thing but does on suffice when the intention is given for a Mass.
Pax et bonum

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Dcn Scott

posted August 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

My thought is, Doesn’t his diocese have an office of liturgy run by a director who could answer a simple query like this?
[Scott…the deacon in question told me he tried to reach his diocesan diaconate office, but never got an answer…it’s August, after all, and most of these diocesan places just plain shut down until after Labor Day (something I’ve never quite understood…God doesn’t take time off in the summer!). Dcn. G.]

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posted August 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm

on the other hand, it is hard to believe that the deacon did not know the difference. it seems something is missing in the formation program and hopefully it will be addressed.

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posted August 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

It surprises me too that a deacon would ask this question.

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