Mentioning a Blessed in Eucharistic Prayer I

Date: November 6, 2022
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Question: When a marble altar was consecrated by the bishop, he placed a first-class relic (blood-drenched cotton) in a small niche in the altar, sealed with a marble cover. Now, I have always mentioned the blessed’s name, the foundress of a religious congregation who have a retreat house within my parish, in the Roman Canon of the Mass, and pasted a typed name in the appropriate place in the altar missal. Is it permissible, licit, valid, to recite viva voce, the blessed’s name within the canon? If not, may I recite the name silently? -- F.A.C., Comayagua, Honduras

Answer: I would say that this is not habitually a correct procedure.

The mention of a patron saint or the saint of the day is legitimate only in those Eucharistic Prayers that specifically allow for such an addition or inclusion. In the majority of cases this would only be when Eucharistic Prayer III or one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions is used.

This would primarily mean the saint whose obligatory or optional memorial is celebrated that day on the universal, national or diocesan calendar. Blesseds would usually be mentioned only if their feast day is celebrated in the national or diocesan calendar or they had a direct connection to a particular church building which conserved significant relics.

The titular patron of a church, either saint or blessed, may be mentioned every day. Likewise, it is probably legitimate for a religious priest to mention the founder or patron of his congregation when celebrating in in churches or oratories administered by his order.

Recently, the Italian bishops’ conference received permission from the Holy See to insert this possibility also within Eucharistic Prayer II, and hence it is possible that other bishops’ conferences, if they wish, could also obtain similar permission. It could also eventually happen that the Holy See might even publish an updated Latin version of the second anaphora with this amendment included.

However, we are in the area of hypothetical possibilities. Only if and when such changes are officially promulgated may they be applied. For the foreseeable future the current liturgical norms should be observed.

For the other Eucharistic Prayers, especially the Roman Canon and Eucharistic Prayer IV, their particular theological character should be respected which would currently exclude the mention of particular saints except those foreseen in the Roman Canon.

With respect to this latter prayer, before Pope St. John XXIII added St. Joseph, the Roman Canon traditionally listed 39 saints in two separate groups. This list may now be shortened to seven by omitting the saints following St. Andrew in the first group and after St. Barnabas in the second.

The full list is:

First: Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude [apostles], Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, [5 Popes] Cyprian [bishop of Carthage], Lawrence [deacon], Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian [5 laymen]).

Second: John the Baptist, Stephen [deacon protomartyr], Matthias, Barnabas [apostles], (Ignatius [bishop of Antioch], Alexander [Pope], Marcellinus [priest], Peter [exorcist], Felicity, Perpetua [2 married laywomen of Carthage], Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia [4 virgins], Anastasia [a laywoman of Sirmium]).

Although all of the saints listed enjoyed veneration in Rome, they were chosen in ancient times insofar as, with the exception of John the Evangelist, all were martyrs and hailed from the principal Christians vocations. Therefore, they represent the whole Church united in offering the most holy sacrifice of the altar. In this way the occasional use of the full list can usefully illustrate the universal call to holiness.

If the name cannot be legitimately mentioned publicly, I do not think there is any reason to add a name silently or inaudibly. The nature of the Eucharistic Prayer is essentially public and vocal, as is the honor attributed to the saints.

Finally, our reader mentions that the relic placed by the bishop within the altar was blood-soaked cotton. This would appear to be less than ideal, since the current norms of the ritual for consecrating a church and altar and in those of the Ceremonial of Bishops imply that such relics should be more substantial.

Hence No. 866 of the Ceremonial of Bishops gives the basic norms for relics:

"The tradition in the Roman liturgy of placing relics of martyrs or other saints beneath the altar should be preserved, if possible. But the following should be noted:

"a. such relics should be of a size sufficient for them to be recognized as parts of human bodies; hence excessively small relics of one or more saints must not be placed beneath the altar;

"b. the greatest care must be taken to determine whether the relics in question are authentic; it is better for an altar to be dedicated without relics than to have relics of doubtful authenticity placed beneath it;

"c. a reliquary must not be placed upon the altar or set into the table of the altar; it must be placed beneath the table of the altar, as the design of the altar permits." 

Smaller relics would probably be better placed in other areas of the church such as a side altar or an alcove along with an image of the saint where they can be duly venerated.

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