After the Restoration of a Church
Date: September 17, 2023
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC
Question: My parish church has recently undergone a restoration where the roof has been replaced, along with the pews, floor, etc. The altar, however, has been left untouched. Must the church be rededicated? Or is a blessing of the church enough? -- D.F., Singapore
Answer: In general, it should not be rededicated or blessed.
The Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 916, explains the reasons:
“DEDICATION OF A CHURCH ALREADY IN GENERAL USE FOR SACRED CELEBRATIONS
“916. In order to bring out fully the symbolism and the significance of the rite, the opening of a new church and its dedication should take place at one and the same time. For this reason, care should be taken that, as far as possible, Mass is not celebrated in a new church before it is dedicated.
“Nevertheless, in the case of the dedication of a church where the sacred mysteries are already being celebrated regularly, the rite set out in nos. 864-915 must be used.
“Moreover, a clear distinction exists in regard to these churches. In the case of those just built, the reason for a dedication is obvious. In the case of those standing for some time, the following requirements must be met for them to be dedicated:
“-- that the altar has not already been dedicated, since it is rightly forbidden both by custom and by liturgical law to dedicate a church without dedicating the altar, for the dedication of the altar is the principal part of the whole rite;
“-- that there be something new or notably altered about the edifice, relative either to its structure (for example, a total restoration) or of its status in law (for example, the church's being ranked as a parish church).”
Since, in the case above, the altar has been left untouched and cannot be dedicated anew, the church cannot be dedicated.
However, individual elements of the renewed church that are set aside for liturgical use may be blessed -- for example, a new tabernacle, chair or ambo.
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Follow-up: Interrupted Mass
Pursuant to our September 9 comments on the procedures to be followed if a Mass is interrupted due to a priest’s illness, a deacon from Florida asked the following:
“May a deacon assistant, during a Sunday Mass where the celebrant becomes ill at the beginning of the Our Father (after the words of consecration have been pronounced by the celebrant) and no other priest is available, continue with the Our Father and the rite of communion outside of Mass, distribute the consecrated hosts? May he also use the closing prayers, give the final blessing and dismissal within the same outside of Mass ritual?”
I would say that, generally, the response would be negative but with a caveat.
In our earlier reply, we mentioned that the older books stipulated that any consecrated hosts in an interrupted Mass should not be distributed until another priest can come to complete the Mass because any hosts administered to the faithful must be the fruit of a completed sacrifice. Under normal circumstances, this completion is done when the priest consumes the sacrifice that he himself has celebrated.
The sacrifice is not just the transubstantiation of the Sacred Species but includes the various prayers and intercessions of the whole Eucharistic Prayer and those of the other rites of the Mass. This completion of the sacrifice is also the reason why the celebrant must always consume the sacrifice he has celebrated.
Although the possibility of communion outside of Mass exists, the rubrics of this rite underline that it must always in some way flow from the celebration of the sacrifice and be a preparation for participation in the same. As the Rite for Communion outside of Mass explains:
“15. The faithful should be instructed carefully that, even when they receive communion outside Mass, they are closely united with the sacrifice which perpetuates the sacrifice of the cross. They are sharers in the sacred banquet in which ‘by communion in the body and blood of the Lord the people of God shares in the blessings of the paschal sacrifice, renews the new covenant once made by God with men in the blood of Christ, and by faith and hope prefigures and anticipates the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes.’”
Therefore, according to the general principles involved, the hosts consecrated in an unfinished Mass should be reserved until a priest completes the Mass.
That said, however, if no priest can arrive within a reasonable time to complete the celebration, there may be some caveats in the light of new pastoral situations that have been created.
Let’s take the situation presented by our deacon. If there are sufficient hosts already reserved in the tabernacle, I think it would be possible for the assisting deacon to reserve the hosts and chalice consecrated during the Mass until a priest can come and use the hosts in the tabernacle following the Rite for Communion outside of Mass from the Our Father onward and concluding with the prescribed prayers from this rite. Something similar could be said if there were no deacon but duly instituted acolytes or authorized extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
Although the theological principles behind the procedures given in the earlier rules remain substantially the same today, the rites have changed. Therefore, there are new situations that the earlier legislators and authors would never have foreseen.
For example, the earlier legislation would never have foreseen the possibility of the celebrant having consecrated several chalices for administration of Communion under both species. In the case of an interrupted Mass in which no priest was available to complete the celebration within a reasonable time, those responsible for the celebration would be caught between the above principles regarding completion of the sacrifice and that of not reserving the sacred blood and, maybe, even the material impossibility of such a reservation.
The ideal would be to contact the bishop and ask for his instructions or permission to distribute Communion. If the bishop or his delegate were not available, I think that it would be understandable if a deacon or other ministers chose to distribute Communion following the rites as best they can, rather than risk the possibility of corruption of the Sacred Species.
Nobody can foresee and legislate every situation, and sometimes those present in dramatic circumstances will have to opt for what they perceive as the most reverent, respectful, and theologically sound solution.
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