Order of the Mass [I]sine populo[/I]

Does anyone know where to find the Order of Mass sine populo; without a congregation? Is there such a document. If not, how would this Mass be celebrated.

In English, it is in the Sacramentary after the Prayers over the People. In the Latin Missale Romanum, it is listed after the chants which come after the Orationes Super Populum, and is (re)titled “Ordo Missae cuius unus tantum minister participat” from the earlier “Ordo Missae sine populo”

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states:

  1. Mass should not be celebrated without a minister or at least one of the faithful, except for a just and reasonable cause. In this case, the greetings, the introductory or explanatory remarks (monitiones), and the blessing at the end of Mass are omitted.

so in general there must be at least one “minister” to assist the priest and make the responses:

  1. At a Mass celebrated by a priest with only one minister to assist him and to make the responses, the rite of Mass with a congregation is followed (cf. above, nos. 120-169) the minister saying the people’s parts as appropriate.

When this is the case the priest follows the order of the Mass with the a congregation from the Sacramentary.

You can read the entire commentary on a Mass with only one minister at the bottom of this page: usccb.org/liturgy/current/chapter4.shtml#sect3

So if it is just the Priest, no server or congregation, and he want’s to celebrate the Mass, he can not do so?

Yes, he can.

Sorry to disagree, but my understanding is that the Preist cannot do private celebration with only himself. Mass is to be celebrated as a community, even if small.

GIRM 254. Mass should not be celebrated without a minister or at least one of the faithful, except for a just and reasonable cause.

That’s a common misconception, so you’re not alone.

A priest can certainly celebrate Mass, even if he is the only human being present in the church at that time.

Yes, Canon Law allows for that: “A priest may not celebrate the eucharistic Sacrifice without the participation of at least one of the faithful, unless there is a good and reasonable cause for doing so.” (Can. 906)

Some in fact disapprove altogether of those Masses which are offered privately and without any congregation …] They are mistaken in appealing in this matter to the social character of the eucharistic sacrifice, for as often as a priest repeats what the divine Redeemer did at the Last Supper, the sacrifice is really completed. Moreover, this sacrifice, necessarily and of its very nature, has always and everywhere the character of a public and social act, inasmuch as he who offers it acts in the name of Christ and of the faithful, whose Head is the divine Redeemer, and he offers it to God for the holy Catholic Church, and for the living and the dead. This is undoubtedly so, whether the faithful are present - as we desire and commend them to be in great numbers and with devotion - or are not present, since it is in no wise required that the people ratify what the sacred minister has done. (Mediator Dei 95-96)

Thank you very much. I ask this because I wondered what the differences would be, is there a special Order to follow, or does the Priest just omit certain parts? There is (used to be) several Altars in the Crypt of my home Church for Priests to privately celebrate the Mass. I say used to be because they are renovating the Crypt and don’t know if they will still be there.

It’s described here in the GIRM

The order of the parts is the same. Some parts are omitted. The priest doesn’t say “The Lord be with you” for example.

Out of curiosity: what is and is not considered a good and reasonable cause?

There were some differences in the 2nd edition of the Roman Missal, but most of those differences were removed in the 3rd edition. For example, in the 2nd edition, the priest (and minister) would do the Penitential Rite at the foot of the altar and then go up the steps to kiss it (not unlike the Extraordinary Form of the Mass). That’s one change I wish they would not have removed (not that I’d ever see it, of course!).

Well, that’s not something that can be outright defined. It’s up to the prudent discretion of the individual priest. A “just cause” almost means that it’s up to the discretion of the person who makes the decision. In contrast “grave necessity” is the highest standard. Those 2 standards are at opposite ends of the spectrum–and that’s the point here: “just cause” is the lowest standard. It’s almost like saying “use your common sense here.” At the same time, it’s not something that is simply an option. Sometimes, the Church says, do A, B, or C, as you like. This is not one of those times. Here, the Church is saying “don’t do this” but if you feel you have a good reason (and you’re being “reasonable” about how you come to that conclusion), then it’s permitted.

This is an example of one of those times when we have to look to custom as the best interpreter of the law. Custom refers to how the law has been legitimately interpreted and applied in similar circumstances (like common law or case law, or precedent in the civil law). Custom doesn’t mean “that’s how we’ve done it for a while” as some people mistakenly think.

I can give a handful of examples of when it would be a “just cause” for a priest to celebrate a private Mass, based on experience and based on how that principle has been legitimately applied by priests:

The priest has daily Mass scheduled, but no one else shows up. This happens in small parishes, even though readers who come from large parishes might find this hard to imagine.

Father’s day off, when no Mass is scheduled, and he says Mass when the time is opportune (in other words, not on a regular schedule where he can say something like “even though it’s not in the bulletin, I say Mass at 10 if anyone wants to come”)
On my own day off, my Mass might be anywhere between 8 AM and 11 PM, so I couldn’t possible schedule someone to be there with me, because most days, I don’t even know myself what that time might be.

The priest is travelling, or maybe on vacation and spending a few days alone in a cabin in the woods.

More than one priest at a parish. Priest A celebrates the one scheduled Mass that weekday. Priest B says a private Mass whenever he has the opportunity.

Even the obvious example of a priest who says a Mass (let’s say one that isn’t on the schedule–again more than 1 priest, or a travelling priest), and no one is available to be there, even though he’s asked around and made a good effort to find someone.

Priests should make their Mass times known to people (of course), but depending on the circumstances this isn’t always practical. And he should make an honest effort to locate at least one person who can be there. But at the same time, it just doesn’t always work-out that way.

Thank you everyone for your answers, they are very helpful. Ok so here is a scenario. Would the Priest desiring to offer a Mass privately for private intentions be ok? Or offering because he does not have a scheduled Mass that day, and just say it privately in his room (or Chapel, side Altar, etc))?

There’s really no answer to the first question because it’s not about the intention of the Mass. Here’s what I mean:
Scenario 1: The is a whole bunch of people around, any one of them might very much like to attend that Mass. The priest says the Mass without inviting any of them. That would probably not be a good reason.
Scenario 2: The priest gets a phone call that a close friend (lives far away) has died suddenly. He walks over to the Church and says an unannounced Mass for the friend’s soul. Good reason.
I’m just trying to illustrate that it isn’t about the intention. It is about how much effort the priest puts into “finding” at least one person to be there at the Mass. Depending on circumstances, “how much is enough effort?” is very relative.

As for your second question, that’s a pretty typical reason for why priests do indeed say private Masses–so that one’s a clear yes; but only if it’s not because he’s intentionally not-scheduling the Mass for no reason other than that he doesn’t want anyone there. (is that enough negatives in one sentence? Sorry Sister…)

Thank you Father! Sorry for being redundant hah. It is wonderful to know that the Mass is being celebrated hopefully every hour of everyday until Christ returns again in glory.

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