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Mishaps at Mass

March 8th, 2012by Fr. Dave Endres

As a Church historian I must confess that I get a certain pleasure out of reading old liturgical manuals. Perhaps it is because there is proof that there were not always “perfect liturgies” in the past, nor today.  So it makes me feel better about my own goofs and blunders while presiding at Mass (especially with the new translation of the Roman Missal).

In the Middle Ages, there was a “Handbook for Curates” that contained answers to many hypothetical Mass mishaps. For instance, what is the priest to do if he realizes that instead of putting wine in the chalice, he put only water and then proceeded to “consecrate” the water? The answer: Take one unconsecrated host, mix the water and wine, and begin the Eucharistic prayer from the beginning.

Later on, the “Handbook for Curates” takes up the question of what the priest is to do if he realizes after the consecration that there is a fly or spider in the chalice. The answer: The fly or spider may be consumed with the Precious Blood, but if the priest “fears vomiting,” he may burn the spider or fly and dispose of its ashes in a suitable way (most likely through burial).

See the Handbook for Curates: A Late Medieval Manual on Pastoral Ministry by Guido of Monte Rochen (trans. by Anne T. Thayer, published 2011) for answers to other theoretical liturgical and pastoral questions (from a medieval perspective!).

Fr. Dave Endres

Fr. David J. Endres is assistant professor of church history and historical theology at Mount St. Marys Seminary/Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati.