The church I am attending is not violating the law... right?


This is a very basic and simple question. I am just not that familiar with all rules and customs. I haven’t been in this situation before.

I am living in Yellowstone National Park for the summer. The nearest town with a Catholic church is, obviously, a tourist town. There is no priest there. There is a sister.

I attended Mass. The Mass seemed pretty normal. It included the Eucharist.

What role does the priest fulfill (for the purposes of Mass, not things like confession) that the sister does not? We were supposed to be able to receive Communion even without a priest, right? This church isn’t overstepping its bounds, is it?

A simple question, but no one is born knowing these things, so please let me know. Thanks.


Only the Priest is allowed to celebrate Mass. A eucharistic minister is allowed to do a eucharist service that involves the host already being consecrated. The mass is the taking up of the bread and wine and consecrating it so it becomes the true body and blood of Christ. The priest takes on the role of Jesus.


I think that sounds like a Communion Service, not a Mass. If there is no Consecration then there is no Mass.


No priest = No Mass. The sister could have legitimately offered a communion service, but it should be noticeably different from Mass and cannot include either the Eucharistic prayer or the Gospel reading.


Have you received a dispensation from your priest to miss Mass? As far as I know, a communion service does not fulfill the obligation. Perhaps there is another Catholic church nearby?

Here is a list of Catholic churches in Yellowstone.


Some parishes use a ritual that is almost like a Mass. The proper ritual is in “Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest” and is nothing like a Mass. The book can be bought at It’s $45 + shipping.


No Gospel reading? I hadn’t heard that before. But then, I haven’t been to that many Communion services. I thought that Communion services tended to flow much the same as a Mass, just minus the Eucharistic prayer. In other words, I didn’t realize there were any changes in the Liturgy of the Word portion. Good to know.


Is it really “nothing like Mass”? It’s been many years since I’ve been to a Communion service and I definitely didn’t know as much about things back then as I do now, but I recall thinking it seemed a whole lot like Mass – just without the consecration.

Obviously, that’s a pretty important difference, but I can understand how the OP would be confused.


There is supposed to be a Gospel reading, according the the instructions in “Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest.”

First is a greeting, then the Liturgy of the Word, which is the readings and Psalm out of the missal. After the Gospel the lay leader is allowered to give a reflection - not homily - on the readings. Then the Creed, Prayers of the Faithful, and taking up of the collection. The Communion Rite is next, which includes a prayer said by the lay leader, then the Our Father, the “Behold the Lamb of God” with response, then Communion. After that is the closing prayer and sign of peace. It is weird having the sign of peace at the end, but you get used to it.

I think there is another ritual or 2 in the book, but it’s at the church so I can’t be sure how they go. This is the one our parish agreed on.


Which is why the Bishops changed it. There was too much confusion when it looked like lay people - including sisters - were “saying” Mass.


PietroPaolo is mistaken in this. The Liturgy of the Word is the same in a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest as it is at Mass. The Pastor may even have left a homily for the leader of prayer to read.

  1. As a rule the texts for the prayers and readings for each Sunday or solemnity are to be taken from The Roman Missal (Sacramentary) and the Lectionary for Mass. In this way the faithful will follow the cycle of the liturgical year and will pray and listen to the word of God in communion with the other communities of the Church.

I really thought the Canadian Bishops had made up their own Sunday Celebration of the Word because it could never be mistaken for Mass, but yesterday when I looked at the layout for a SCAP directly from the CDW, I realized that what they laid out is pretty much what we’ve got and the order is different from using the format of a Mass without the EP.


I was under the impression there could not be a Gospel reading as only a Priest or Deacon can read the Gospel. And what exactly differentiates a “reflection” from a “homily”- it sounds like a distinction without a difference.

All in all, the whole idea of having “Mass” without the Eucharistic Prayer seems to suggest that the priest is non-essential to most of the Rite. Personally, I’d rather see the whole thing done away with, but mother Church knows better than I. :shrug:


The point is, it is NOT the Mass - it is a Communion Service. There is no way the bread and wine can be consecrated at a Communion Service. A priest is absolutely necessary at a Mass.

One time the priest forgot to consecrate extra hosts for the next week. My husband had to make a quick trip to the closest town and ask for consecrated hosts. He had the ciborium with him.

I think you are right about the difference between a homily and reflection. In a well-run parish I would expect the priest to have oversite about the content of the reflections.


You are correct in that Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest do not meet one’s obligation to attend Mass. But if there is no way to attend Mass then it is understood that one does not have such an obligation.

Not everyone who visits Yellowstone has access to a car or other means to travel to a “nearby” parish. It would not surprise me that some of the parishes in those communities can’t offer Mass every week.

It looks to me that visitors to Yellowstone cannot easily know in advance whether a particular Catholic service will be a Mass or or a Sunday Celebration in the absence of a Priest.


But it’s not Mass. It’s a Liturgy of the Word + Communion.

In the Canadian ritual for this we have
Gathering Song (no procession, the leader of prayer goes to his/her seat and then the hymn starts)
Sign of the Cross
Greeting: **
If it’s a deacon it’s the traditional greeting
“The Lord be with you.”
If it’s a lay person, many options given, for example
"Let us praise the Lord Jesus Christ,
who is present among us and in the Word and who keeps us united in love.
Bless the Father and the Sun and the Holy Spirit. *
**R. Blessed be God for ever. **

Introductory Remarks: for example, the one below or a similar one for parishes that don’t have a Pastor.
Today, we, the people of God,
gather to hear and respond to God’s word,
to return praise and thanks,
[and to share Christ’s sacrament.]
We look forward to that day
when we will once more celebrate the Eucharist,
as Christ commanded us to do in his memory.
Our community makes its worship in union with the Church throughout the world,
with N. our Pope, N. our bishop,
our pastor, Father N. who is unable to be with us,
and with our brothers and sisters in neighbouring parishes
who keep holy this day
in the celebration of the Lord’s sacrifice and supper.*
Opening Rites**
Choose 1 of several options
Sprinkling rite
Penitential Rite
Litany of Praise
Sung Kyrie
Sung Gloria
Opening Rite of Ritual books – for example if this is a funeral or there is a baptism.
Opening Prayer (our SCAP ritual book gives us collects for all Sundays of the year.)

Procession and Enthronement of the Word of God
First Reading
Second Reading
Gospel Acclamation
Homily or Reflection
Profession of Faith
General Intercessions
Proclamation of Praise (Hymn, or Prayer or the Gloria)
Sign of Peace

COMMUNION RITE (our rite recommends that this rite be done by a different person so the Leader of Prayer need not be an EMHC, the EMHC would do the Communion Rite)
Lord’s Prayer
Invitation to Communion (Behold the Lamb of God…)
Prayer after Communion

Collection – here because you don’t want to do anything that seems like an offertory between the Liturgy of the Word and the Rite of Communion. The collection is not brought forward - though we’ve been having a hard time convincing our ushers of that.


Thanks for the clarification. :thumbsup:


Good point. We have been bringing it forward. That is something that will have to be brought up at the next meeting. Thanks!


I think that sounds like a Communion Service, not a Mass. If there is no Consecration then there is no Mass.



So it is Communion Service. Not Mass.

Two questions:

  1. what is the Eucharist, if it cannot be blessed due to the lack of a priest? Is it just bread, or is it still the body of Christ?

  2. I do not have a dispensation from a priest to miss Mass. I am a fledgling Catholic trying to learn all I can. I work as a ranger until the end of September. There is no applicable option other than this one as far as my schedule is permitting, and even this one (Communion Service) is something I can only do bi-weekly.

What do I do?


The Eucharist is consecrated by a priest at a Mass and then reserved in the tabernacle. Communion services use previously consecrated hosts reserved in the tabernacle. Therefore you are receiving the Eucharist.

If you cannot attend Mass due to the situation you describe, there is no obligation. We are not called to do the impossible. Attend the communion service when you can, attend Mass when you can, and discuss any worries or concerns you have with a priest when you have access to one.

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