Finish the Mass

Quick and dirty background: I am a non-Catholic (non-believer, to be more accurate) who attends mass every Sunday with my Catholic wife.

We had a bit of excitement during mass last Sunday and the events that followed have left me kind of scratching my head. Our rather elderly priest was right in the middle of the consecration (he had just elevated the host) when he suddenly dropped unconscious to the floor. There was a doctor in attendance, an ambulance was called, and within 15 minutes he was on his way to the hospital. (Diagnosis - heat stroke. It was hotter than Hades in there that morning. Thankfully, he went home the following day and is expected to be fine.) Anyway, as the sound of the ambulance sirens faded into the distance, the head usher announced that he had contacted a neighboring parish and that another priest was about 45 minutes away and would coming to finish the mass. I looked at my wife and it was obvious that she wanted to stay, so I just bowed to the inevitable and settled in for the duration.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The guy sitting in front of us has a rather tight schedule on Sunday morning. He has to get to work immediately after mass, so he didn’t have 45 minutes to spare. Consequently, he got up and headed for the door - where he was met by the head usher who told him to return to his seat. (A bit more background here: The usher corps is made up of a bunch of late 50’s/early 60’s guys who consider themselves to be “hard-core Catholics.” I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with them being strong in their faith; I’m mentioning this only because their “hard-core Catholicism” is a frequent topic of conversation and a point of pride with these guys.) Anyway, when this gentleman informed the usher that he would be late for work and had to leave, the usher informed him that everyone had to wait for the priest to arrive and finish the mass. When the man tried to walk past the usher, the usher blocked the door. The “conversation” quickly became heated and volume increased significantly. The last thing I heard was the man yelling, “If you don’t get your hands off of me, you’ll be leaving in an ambulance too.” The usher finally stepped aside and the man left.

My question: Was this just an usher who was being WAY too zealous in the performance of his duties? Or did the man who left early violate some dogma of the Church?

The usher was way too zealous, absolutely out of line, and ought to be relieved of his duties immediately. The best that could conceivably be said is that he became unhinged by the trauma of seeing the priest fall so ill, and lost control of himself.

There is no dogma whatsoever that you have to stay for an entire Mass; just the common-sense notion that it is rude to leave in the middle of it unless you have to – which obviously does not apply in an unconventional situation like this. For the gentleman to satisfy his obligation, he ought to go to a later Mass if he is able, but that is of course no business of the usher’s at all.

Your reading of this is completely correct. Incidentally, the usher’s actions almost certainly amount to the tort of false imprisonment, and probably a crime as well. It ought to scare any pastor to have somebody like that performing “official” duties at the church.

The usher was absolutely and completely out of line. Even if the Mass had not been interrupted, it would have been none of his business if someone had to leave early. I hope the man who had to leave speaks to whoever is in charge of the ushers; this guy should be “fired” immediately.

The usher was out of line.

**That usher was WAY, WAY out of line. You should not have to tackle an usher to leave a church !

Now, I not 100 % sure if this is correct ( and I know if it isn’t, someone will gently correct me), but the man in the pew in front of you WAS at Mass. That the Mass couldn’t be completed was out of his hands, so I think he has fulfilled his obligation for that Mass.

I know if you arrive for a Mass, and something comes up where the priest doesn’t show up, your intent is there and you are trying to fulfill your obligation. So missing that Mass would not be held against you.

( So will you now be going to Mass with a helmet and pads just in case ? ) :wink: **

That usher should spend some incarceration time. It should cure him of being an incarcerator.

While I agree with what everyone said above, the OP may be wondering why on earth anything like this happened.

The completion of the sacrificial meal has been central to our liturgy since the beginning of the Church. Specifics like what the OP described were dealt with most elaborately in De Defectibus, from the 16th Century (there may have been some modifications since then).

  1. If before the Consecration the priest becomes seriously ill, or faints, or dies, the Mass is discontinued. If this happens after the consecration of the Body only and before the consecration of the Blood, or after both have been consecrated, the Mass is to be completed by another priest from the place where the first priest stopped, and in case of necessity even by a priest who is not fasting. If the first priest has not died but has become ill and is still able to receive Communion, and there is no other consecrated host at hand, the priest who is completing the Mass should divide the host, give one part to the sick priest and consume the other part himself. If the priest has died after half-saying the formula for the consecration of the Body, then there is no Consecration and no need for another priest to complete the Mass. If, on the other hand, the priest has died after half- saying the formula for the consecration of the Blood, then another priest is to complete the Mass, repeating the whole formula over the same chalice from the words Simili modo, postquam cenatum est; or he may say the whole formula over another chalice which has been prepared, and consume the first priest’s host and the Blood consecrated by himself, and then the chalice which was left half-consecrated.

I think the importance of keeping the same congregation at the mass is essentially for the “sign value;” while not essential it reinforces the point that this is the same mass, at the same altar, using the same elements, as the one that had been interrupted.

Notice that the document only addresses itself to what the priest does. Partly that may be because the actions of the congregation weren’t seen as very consequential back in the day, but it’s also the case that in most places there was only a single Sunday mass. Your average peasant in the 1500s probably could not hike from the interrupted mass to the next town and expect he would get there in time, even if the masses started at different times. So it would generally be a mortal sin to waltz out of an interrupted mass, since one would be intentionally spurning his obligation. A much earlier tradition in the Church barred the doors at the start of mass. This was to keep out soldiers and the like, but it obviously kept everyone in, as well.

Yea, the usher was out of line. I would have probably had the same reaction had I had to leave for work.

It’s a Mass not Jonestown.

The usher was way out of line here. Putting his hands on him is considered assault. well at least in CA it is.

God bless

jesus g

Way, way out of line. As others have said, the usher ought to be relieved of his duties.

He is not the gatekeeper - he is there to help seat people and point out the restroom, maybe gather the collection, and pass out bulletins.

  1. If before the Consecration the priest becomes seriously ill, or faints, or dies, the Mass is discontinued. If this happens after the consecration of the Body only and before the consecration of the Blood, or after both have been consecrated, the Mass is to be completed by another priest from the place where the first priest stopped, and in case of necessity even by a priest who is not fasting. If the first priest has not died but has become ill and is still able to receive Communion, and there is no other consecrated host at hand, the priest who is completing the Mass should divide the host, give one part to the sick priest and consume the other part himself. If the priest has died after half-saying the formula for the consecration of the Body, then there is no Consecration and no need for another priest to complete the Mass. If, on the other hand, the priest has died after half- saying the formula for the consecration of the Blood, then another priest is to complete the Mass, repeating the whole formula over the same chalice from the words Simili modo, postquam cenatum est; or he may say the whole formula over another chalice which has been prepared, and consume the first priest’s host and the Blood consecrated by himself, and then the chalice which was left half-consecrated.

that is fascinating. I never knew this. thanks

I’ll comment on the guy who had to leave. He should not have threatened the usher. That was completely opposite of everything Christ teaches about fellow members of his body.

Even though he was 100% correct and the usher was 100% wrong, he should not have threatened, and least of all in the Church. He should have left by a side door, emergency exit, said that he needed to use the restroom and snuck out, or called the police and told them that he was being held captive, but he should not have threatened. It would have been better to have sat back down and prayed than to threaten.

If it were me, and I had to go, I would have went into the cry room or to the back corner and dialed 911 again.

-Tim-

you called it, the usher was way out of line
no there was no “dogma” violated.
the gentleman should do his best to make another Mass sometime during the day but if he cannot, he had the intention, so no harm no foul.
the head usher was right to try and find another priest simply because this happened in the middle of the consecration and the Mass should have been finished if at all possible because the sacred species was already present, so the dogma involved revolves around that. Whether or not the people stayed would not affect that so the usher had no business being so forceful. What if another parishioner had collapsed? . How long did you wait? Even if every parishioner had to leave because of the heat the deacon or sacristan would have simply kept guard over the sacred species until another priest arrived to finish the Mass. And yes, if possible, that priest should have taken a communion host consecrated by the first priest to him to consume. I had forgotten that until PP reminded us.

We have been having half hour Masses since it is already over 100 by the last 2 and the A/C just can’t keep up. Hopefully this will motivate people to step up contributions for the new church.

Was the priest able to consecrate one of the species? Because the Mass only has to be completed if there are consecrated species on the altar as Digitonomy’s post points out.

The usher I think is misinformed in this area. Yes, the Mass must be completed, but that doesn’t mean people cannot leave if they have to or even if they want to for whatever reason. Think of it as a regular Mass and then someone decides to leave in the middle of it. Same scenario. The usher should apologize for his actions. Otherwise he should be relieved of his duties.

He said it was after the elevation of the host, so this would be either just before the consecration of the cup, or just after the Ecce Agnus Dei and before the priest’s communion.

The OP said the priest collapsed after the first elevation. That would be after the consecration of the host but before the consecration of the wine.

Rick,
I wish there were some defense for the actions of the Usher but there are none. I just hope and pray that you understand yes allot of here take our faith very seriously. But, one must also realize that journey is ours to take and decide upon. We can offer prayers and answer questions but to hold someone hostage is not going to make them a better Catholic or Christian for that matter.
I only hope you will not hold our entire faith at fault for the actions of an individual who should have better known his limitations of influence.

I am going to have to disagree with you. It seems to me you are saying that this man who was assaulted by an over zealous usher should not have threatened the usher. The better way would be to lie to the usher and sneack into the bathroom and crawled out the window. Or, he should have called the police and made an even bigger scene in the Church. Or, he should have sat back down and prayed that he didn’t lose his job in this economy. :rolleyes:

This man was completely justified in doing what he did. Even Jesus resorted to violence to prove his point in the temple when the money changers stepped over the line in the name of religion.

This incident would be a deal breaker with me. Not I, nor my family should be subjected to being assaulted and held hostage by over-zealous ushers at a place where we come to worship God. I would bring it up to the pastor and give him an opportunity to make it right. If this same usher was there the following Sunday, I would walk out and find another Mass; even if it meant driving an hour or two away.

I would also take it one step further and file assault charges against this usher. I am sure there are plenty of witnesses. Would I forgive the usher? Absolutely, however forgiveness does not me we do not hold people accountable for their egregious, blatantly bad behavior.

This is what I assumed, but I wasn’t sure. I’ve been surprised by Catholic “rules” before.

I thought I remembered reading something about this before. I just wasn’t sure how vigorously the rules were “enforced.”

This makes sense.

While the usher is certainly guilty of bad judgment, I seriously doubt that he had criminal intent. And while I suppose he could be sued for the tort of battery…well, the man trying to leave is over six feet tall and weighs about 200lbs. This usher is all of 5’6" and probably weighs 150lbs. soaking wet. The only damages were probably to the usher’s undershorts when he was informed that he could also be leaving in an ambulance.

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts.

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