No, Mass Is Not “Canceled”

I wrote a clarification of terminology when public Mass was temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.

Priest Celebrating Mass (CC0 Josh Applegate on Unsplash)
Priest Celebrating Mass (CC0 Josh Applegate on Unsplash)

I’ve seen several posts indicating Masses are canceled due to coronavirus. That is simply not true. Public Masses have been suspended so priests are saying Masses without a congregation, but that is different from Mass being canceled.

I have unfortunately seen this error even from dioceses. One diocese had in big letters, “All Masses will be canceled throughout the diocese of [redacted] from Tuesday March 17…” This was odd as the next line was about how they would be live-streaming Masses from a parish and the cathedral, thus indicating Masses were celebrated without a congregation.

All that is suspended is the congregation, not Mass. Plus suspended is a temporary lifting of one aspect, not a permanent removal of Mass as “canceled” might imply.

I think this distinction is important because it points to the value of the Mass in itself, not just for the community. Mass has an infinite value in itself. One line of St. John Paul II always struck me regarding Mass, especially when celebrating without a congregation: “The Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 8) Every Mass has infinite value as it is Jesus’ sacrifice represented. Thus, a Mass celebrated without a congregation is still valuable for the whole Church.

Read the rest on Patheos.

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