Mass with One Minister
On occasion a priest may not have a congregation to celebrate Mass. The missal formerly carried a formula called "The Order of Mass without a Congregation," but it has been renamed, "The Order of Mass with the Participation of a Single Minister." By its nature, the Mass requires at least one person (in addition to the priest) to make responses and represent the church.
Right after Vatican II, a priest would begin this Mass at the entrance to the sanctuary with the sign of the cross, greeting, and penitential act. Then he kissed the altar, recited the entrance antiphon, and led the Kyrie. Now he kisses the altar at the beginning, the entrance antiphon is read by the priest or minister, and the priest goes to the chair — just as at every other Mass. He opens and closes the universal prayer, but the minister now leads the individual intentions. When reciting the Confiteor, the priest and minister change the words "brothers and sisters" to the singular because only one other person is there. Oddly, the invitation after the washing of the hands, "Pray, brothers and sisters," remains in the plural, probably because of its traditional plural formula in Latin, "Orate, fratres." At the breaking of bread, the minister leads the Lamb of God while the priest recites the commingling prayer as he drops part of the host into the chalice. The order of these two prayers is reversed, which strengthens the notion that the Lamb of God is to accompany the breaking of the bread. If the minister is not receiving communion, the priest does not say, "Behold the Lamb of God," but he does say, "Lord, I am not worthy."
The occasions for this celebration should be rare, but when they do happen, the church wishes to ensure that it still conveys the complete meaning and communal nature of the Mass.
This bulletin insert originally appeared in Ministry & Liturgy magazine, a pastoral planning resource used by the worship leaders in your community as an aid for better liturgy. Copyright © 2012 Resource Publications, Inc., 160 E. Virginia St., #290, San Jose, CA 95112, (408) 286-8505. Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, Mo., holds a doctorate degree in sacramental theology from Sant' Anselmo University in Rome. Clip art by Marilyn Dale.
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