Captain's Quarters Blog

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August 15, 2004
What Do You Do When The Priest No-Shows?

I took the day off from blogging, for the most part, after writing a couple of posts this morning and updating the Alston timeline. The First Mate and I took the Little Admiral to the Irish Fair, where we spent a couple of hours looking through the exhibits and eating typical fair food, and having a great time. And since we didn't go to Mass in the morning as we planned, since the Little Admiral uncharacteristically kept waking us up during the night, we decided to go to the 6 pm Mass instead.

Now, I've been Catholic all my life, and for the past sixteen or seventeen years I've been a practicing Catholic. (I practice but I don't get much better. I need more practice, I guess.) I'm not the best about going every single week, but I go more often than I don't. I'd say in that period of time, I'd have gone at least 40 weeks every year, making it close to 800 Masses I've attended.

Until tonight, the priest showed up to every one of them.

I go to a great parish which is large enough to have two full-time priests and a deacon. Some small parishes have to share priests, but none to which I've belonged. I suppose that a few times, I've gotten a last-minute substitution and just never knew it. But tonight, we literally had no priest to celebrate the Mass.

If you're not Catholic, you may not get the problem here, but the act of transubstantiation (turning the wafers into the Body of Christ) requires the priest. Not only that, but the entire rhythm of Mass is set by the priest. Having him not show up not only worries you -- after all, he's missing! -- but you're left wondering whether you should just go home or sit around and wait.

Fortunately, one of the liturgical ministers decided to perform what's called a "Sunday Celebration Without A Priest," which is Mass performed by laity. You have to leave out all the Eucharistic prayers, and it only works if the church has blessed hosts already in the tabernacle. Otherwise, all it turns out to be is a prayer service.

The main problem is that our church is so used to having at least one priest on hand that no one really knew how to follow this option. We wound up slogging our way through, thanks to the very brave lay minister, although we almost skipped the Profession of Faith and put the Lamb of God before the Sign of Peace. On the plus side, it went by a bit quicker than a normal Mass, thanks to all the omissions, and even with the delay while we waited for the priest at the beginning, we wound up leaving earlier than normal.

We'll check with the church in the morning to make sure the priest is all right; it was probably car trouble or a misunderstanding of the schedule between him and the pastor. It was such a singular and interesting event that I thought I'd share it with you all.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 15, 2004 9:47 PM

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