My question is simply - since according to the rubrics there need to be relics, how is the Tridentine Mass going to be celebrated come September 14th?

The only way I can think is the use of Altar Stones. I just don’t know how we can get them when it requires 1) the relics of two saints, at least one of whom must be a martyr and 2) has to be blessed by a bishop.

Does anyone have any ideas?


Is it common for the current Missal to be celebrated without an altar stone?


I thought it was… I’m not sure if there are relics in any of the free standing altars.


I can’t remember any citations of any documents off the top of my head right now but if I remember correctly before VII it was generally required for Mass to be offered on an altar containing relics.

And today it is permissible to offer Mass without the presence of relics but most altars will have them.

I know of one nearby Church that does not have relics in the altar but has many relics in a case under the altar.


The Eastern Catholic Churches have relics sealed in a cloth that is placed on the altar rather than in the altar itself. This might be a possibility if an altar doesn’t have any relics and a priest wanted to offer the TLM on it.


The altar on which the TLM is offered MUST contain relics that are normally contained in the altar stone embedded in the altar.

However if the altar does not contain relics it does not invalidate the Mass. My pastor came to my hometown parish to celebrate the TLM and the altar there was made entirely of stone. There was a place in the altar for relics to be placed but it was not sealed and none were in there. the priest of the parish was notified and he placed relics into the “tomb” in the altar to comply with the TLM rubrics. (Even though that sort of practice was not “legal”, for the priest himself to place relics into the stone- at least we did the best we could to come as close as possible for the requirement.)

I would say if the TLM is to be at a location on a regular basis you would actually need to have the Bishop come and consecrate the altar and embed the relics into it, as required for the TLM. Now that is not easilly going to happen, at least not in the near future. Maybe later on down the road.


Every NO (and sometimes post-modern looking) church building I have been in has had relics sealed in the mensa. Even the altar in the monstrosity of a cathedral in my archdiocese is built atop the tomb of a martyr with a cross at the base denoting exactly where the relics touch the altar.

Our freestanding altar has relics imbedded in it.

Key words.

As much as a stickler as I am for rubrics, this is a practice that will have to be rebuilt. And it may be difficult with some of the Bishops to get them to consecrate an altar stone. The relics the priest should work on getting if he plans to offer the Traditional Mass regularly.

I do not presume to speak for God, but I can only guess that He would prefer people receive the spiritual fruits of the Traditional Mass than have it not be offered because there was no proper altar. I’ve seen Mass offered in some strange places, including the hood of a HMMWV. And were it 1950, I doubt those priests would have happened to have an altar stone with them in some of those circumstances.

Pax tecum.

The antimension can only be used by Papal indult. But perhaps it will be given freely or perhaps an altar-stone could be used .

Surprisingly, the rubrics of the missal do not directly mention the relics in the altar. They only make reference to the altar being validly consecrated. I suppose that supposed the relics in the altar especially as mentioned in the Pontifical and laid down in the 1917 Code of Canon Law and decrees of the Congregation of Rites.

Digressing slightly, as regards validly consecrated altars, I’ve copied part of an article written due to the fact that Ireland had, until the beginning of the 20th century, a faculty for celebrating without relics.

St. Liguori tells us that there are two opinions of theologians on this question. Some theologians thought that relics were necessary for the consecration of an altar. This opinion was founded on certain texts of Canon Law, and on the custom of the Church, which according to these theologians was sufficiently manifested by the prayer in the Missal, " Oramus te Domine per merita sanctorum tuorum quorum reliquiae hic sunt," &c.

The second, and more common opinion, on the contrary, denied that relics were necessary for the consecration of altars. For this opinion St. Liguori quotes such names as Suarez, Lugo, Laymann, Vasquez, Palaus. These eminent theologians argued that there was no clear precept commanding the insertion of relics in altars ; or, if the precept ever existed, that it had been abrogated by contrary custom. And as to the prayer in the Missal they replied that it should be understood conditionally, " Ad orationem autem illam Missae Quorum reliquae, &c., respondent intelligi sub conditione si adsint."

When, therefore, these distinguished theologians tell us, that if there ever existed before their time a precept requiring the insertion of relics in altars, it had been abrogated by contrary custom, we may infer that Ireland has not been singular and exceptional in celebrating for a time on altars unhallowed by martyrs’ relics.

**Does an altar lose its consecration by the loss of its relics? **
At present we only consider what theologians taught on this subject. In our next question we shall draw attention to the decrees of the Sacred Congregation bearing on this

Well, again, St. Liguori tells us there are two opinions. Some theologians, and among them Suarez, held that altars do not lose their consecration, if the little slab which closes the sepulchre of the relics be broken; nor if the relics themselves be removed. Because relics are not necessary for the consecration of an altar in the first instance ; and, therefore, a consecrated altar does not lose its consecration by their removal.

Theologians, however, more commonly held that an altar loses its consecration when the little slab enclosing the relics is broken, or when the sepulchre with its relics is removed. They argued principally from custom, " Eatio quia talis est consuetudo Ecclesiarum ut altaria, fracto sigillo vel amoto sepulchre iterum consecrentur."

The reason given by Laymann for this opinion is interesting in view of certain decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites to which we shall have to refer. Laymann taught that relics are not necessary for the consecration of an altar. And yet though he admitted the probability of the opposite opinion he held that an altar should be reconsecrated if relics had been placed in it at its first consecration, and subsequently lost, by the fracture of the slab which closes the sepulchre, or by the removal of the sepulchre. He argues that the altar loses its consecration not exactly by the loss of the relics, but by the substantial fracture of the altar which necessarily takes place. He writes, “Nihilominus puto servandam esse Ecclesiarum consuetudinem, communi Doctorum sententia firmatam, ut altaria iterum consecrentur; cum enim sigillum hoc [the slab which closes the sepulchre] censeatur praecipua pars mensae, merito ob ejus fractionem, vel amotionem ipsa mensa sive lapis notabiliter confractus vel diminutus aestimatur."
Considering the diversity of theological opinion on this question, which is somewhat akin to the preceding, we again conclude that it is no wonder if even yet there maybe found in Ireland some altars consecrated without relics.

Do subsequent decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites compel us to abandon the opinion of the older theologians, who taught that relics are not necessary for the consecration of altars ? **

The Sacred Congregation of Rites has not directly defined, as far as we can observe, that relics are necessary for the consecration of an altar. The decrees quoted by St. Liguori and Craisson, and referred to by De Herdt, rather deal directly with the question, when do altars lose their consecration ; and define what should be done when the relics have been removed from an altar already consecrated.

Then it is inferred from the decrees that the insertion of relics in altars is always an essential element in their consecration.

De Herdt thus condenses the teaching of many of these decrees, " Tarn fixum quam portatiie amittit consecration em si remotae sint reliquae, fractum sit sepulchrum, vel ejus operculum, seu parvus ille lapis qui claudit repositorium reliquiarum, aut etiam si hoc operculum amotum fuerit" The following passage in De Herdt is also very important, but too long for quotation. The principal decrees may also be seen in Craisson, nn. 3604, 5, 6, 7.

It would not, we think, surpass human ingenuity, to explain these decrees conformably to the opinion of the theologians, who taught that relics are not necessary for the consecration of an altar. For did not Laymann, who held that relics are not necessary, teach that a consecrated altar loses its consecration by the loss of its relics ? Did he not argue that the destruction or removal of the door of the sepulchre without which the relics could not be removed would be a substantial fracture of the altar? And did he not advocate the necessity of reconsecration on the grounds of this fracture of the altar stone, rather than on the necessity of the relics themselves?

<<The only way I can think is the use of Altar Stones. I just don’t know how we can get them when it requires 1) the relics of two saints, at least one of whom must be a martyr and 2) has to be blessed by a bishop.>>

I would imagine an Antimension–either the Byzantine or Western form (a specially blessed cloth with relics sewn into it) would suffice.

Yea, there were travelling mission priests with permission to use one, as they were more easily transportable than altar stones.

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