If a Priest is present at Mass, does he have to concelebrate?

If a Priest is present at Mass, is he required to concelebrate it? Or is he allowed to be just a member of the faithful for that celebration?

He should concelebrate, however he may have avalid reason not to.

Encouraged unless there is a contravening cause but not required.
Two canons are salient.
Canon 902. Unless the welfare of the Christian faithful suggests otherwise, priests can concelebrate the Eucharist.
Canon 905 [size=2]§1. It is not licit for a priest to celebrate the Eucharist more than once a day except for certain instances when the law permits such celebration or concelebration more than once.[/size]

no he does not have to, but he must then remain in the pews as one of the faithful, cannot recite the priest’s prayers and blessings etc.
he may concelebrate but must properly vest and participate as directed in the rubrics, not “half and half”

We have to view the canon laws on concelebration in a historically progressive context:

According to the 1962 Missal, it is not allowed. Then, with the advent of the NO Mass, it is. To go from banned to required is a rather large, non-sensical step.

The allowance of concelebration was probably created so that many priests in one place at one time can celebrate their daily mass together. Before V2, priests used to celebrate numerous masses simultaneously, often in the same room.

That said, concelebration is an accomodation made to comply to the V2 precept that only one mass should be offered in one room at one time.

By the way, can a priest still say mass at side altar? I know that in light of the above, it would never really necessary, but could a priest say, offer a Low Mass (EF) at a side altar?

A priest cannot say a private Mass while a concelebrated Mass is going on in the same church. Otherwise, I believe he is still free to do so.

sorry, repeat post

A priest can vest in cassock and surplice and assist “in choir.” It’s not a strict dichotomy between “celebrating in sanctuary” and “not celebrating in pews.” Of course, few churches still have choirs from which to assist, so there’s often nowhere off to the side of the sanctuary from which to do this. Another consideration is that priest’s can act as MC for a bishop and not concelebrate.


I think the council, as the document I linked to, notes, would base its restoration on the principle of the unity of the priesthood.

Canon 902, quoted entirely (as I should have done the first time) reads: “Priests may concelebrate the Eucharist unless the welfare of the Christian faithful requires or urges otherwise but with due regard for the freedom of each priest to celebrate the Eucharist individually, though not during the time when there is a concelebration in the same church or oratory.”

Thanks Deacon Cameron. Could you (or anyone else, for that matter) maybe provide us with some historical background on concelebration? I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m a little bit in the dark on the issue of pre- council of Trent concelebration.

To be overly brief:

Concelebration was the historic norm and has continued as such in the East. Concelebration on this model, though, was silent. The priests stood in the sanctuary (ranged by precedence) and the concelebrants offered the sacrifice silently in union with the principal celebrant. I can’t remember why this died out in the West (I’m almost sure monachism had something to do with it) but it was retained in one limited circumstance - priests concelebrated with the bishop for the Mass in which they had been ordained. I think by that point the concelebration had become verbal. Vatican II re-opened the doors to concelebration, though some experimentation had been going on prior to it (some certainly without sanction, but some may have been approved).

I don’t want to sound critical, but I never did understand exactly what were/are the benefits of concelebration. (I understand the role of a deacon, however.) And in the midst of all these priest shortages, wouldn’t it be more prudent for the bishops to spread the priests around more instead of having two to a Mass?

He is discouraged from just being a member of the faithful in the 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum:
"[128.] Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations, which are acts of Christ and of the people of God hierarchically constituted, are ordered in such a way that the sacred ministers and the lay faithful manifestly take part in them each according to his own condition. It is preferable therefore that “Priests who are present at a Eucharistic Celebration, unless excused for a good reason, should as a rule exercise the office proper to their Order and thus take part as concelebrants, wearing the sacred vestments. Otherwise, they wear their proper choir dress or a surplice over a cassock.”[footnote 218: Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 114 cf. nn. 16-17. ]** It is not fitting, except in rare and exceptional cases and with reasonable cause, for them to participate at Mass, as regards to externals, in the manner of the lay faithful.**"

It is not clear to me what the “rare and exceptional cases” are. The priest arriving late? The priest in mortal sin, not wanting to receive Communion? The priest directed not to celebrate the sacraments publicly?

Other extracts from Redemptionis Sacramentum on this:

“[99.] Communion under both kinds is always permitted “to Priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate Mass”. [footnote 185: Cf. Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 283a.]”
"[111.] A Priest is to be permitted to celebrate or concelebrate the Eucharist “even if he is not known to the rector of the church, provided he presents commendatory letters” (i.e., a celebret) not more than a year old from the Holy See or his Ordinary or Superior “or unless it can be prudently judged that he is not impeded from celebrating”.[footnote 199: Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 903; Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 200.] Let the Bishops take measures to put a stop to any contrary practice."
"[113.] When Mass is concelebrated by several Priests, a language known both to all the concelebrating Priests and to the gathered people should be used in the recitation of the Eucharist Prayer. Where it happens that some of the Priests who are present do not know the language of the celebration and therefore are not capable of pronouncing the parts of the Eucharistic Prayer proper to them, they should not concelebrate, but instead should attend the celebration in choral dress in accordance with the norms.[footnote 201: Cf.Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 114.]"

Well, here’s the actual case that made me ask this question: I am a freshman at a Roman Catholic College, and we have Mass every Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. I think that the vocations director for the Franciscans Midwest province might come to talk with me that day, and I was thinking about inviting him to Mass after talking over lunch or something.

in this case I do not believe he may participate in the words of consecration. rules may differ in abbey churches for religious orders, but this was rather carefully explained to us when we went into church architecture, why there cannot be side altars used for the holy sacrifice etc. A priest who is acting as MC may of course be in choir dress but in that case he is not concelebrating. What cannot happen, which I see all the time, is a priest in street clothes, sitting in the pews, reciting audibly the priest’s prayers including the consecration.

One occurance of that I have seen is when an Ordinary celebrates Mass with his “MC”. The MC (a priest) is in choir dress (cassock and surplice) and stands at the side of the bishop to assist in anyway.

I have seen that with my own bishop, Cardinal Maida, and in Papal Masses I’ve watched on TV.

I have not seen those MC’s concelebrate, even though I know that the MC for Cardianl Maida is a Monsignor, and the MC for the Pope wears episcopal purple.

I have seen this at our Cathedral. We have a choir in our sanctuary and when there are large archdiocesan masses, all the priests sitting “in choir” will assist the same way as you described. I’ve also seen it where all of the priests in that part of the sanctuary, plus all of the priests sitting in the pews will also assist, dressed in the same vestments. (This is when almost every priest in the archdiocese is there and filling up most of the 2000+ cathedral) It gives me goosebumps whenever I witness this.

What if the parish only has one chasuble of the liturgical color?

It is for those extra-ordinary circumstances where multiple Priests are in the same place for the same purpose.

only the main celebrant wears the chasuble, the concelebrants where alb and stole. in any case, often if priest are going to celebrate at other parishes, the often bring their own vestments, if only to make sure they fit.

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