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Cabrol F. Chapter XII-5. Different kinds of Mass


By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol




The Papal Mass and the Stational Mass. — These have been described in Chapter IV. The latter was called Stational because there was a Station on that day. Except a few points already mentioned, they were the same as the following:

Pontifical Mass. — It has been already stated that if we wish to understand the sequence of the ceremonies at Mass, and really enter into the spirit of them, we should be present at a Pontifical Mass, which, more than any other, has faithfully preserved that ceremonial described in Chapter IV. It is, in fact, the Papal Mass, and, with but few differences, that which is celebrated by Bishops and certain Prelates. It is described at length in the Ceremonial of Bishops.

Solemn, or High Mass. — All the ceremonies which are the privilege of Bishops, such as crosier and mitre, throne, the number of the ministers (assistant Priest, Deacons of honor, bearers of the insignia, etc.), are omitted; but the Introit, Gradual, "Kyrie," Lessons, etc., are sung as in Pontifical Masses, and by the same ministers. These comprehend, after the Deacon and sub-Deacon, a "Ceremoniarius," acolytes, and a thurifer.

Sung Mass, or Missa Cantata. — Here there are neither Deacon nor sub-Deacon, the ministers being reduced to one or two servers; but the same parts are sung as at High Mass. This Mass is sometimes called in French, "messe cardinalice."

Conventual Mass is said in Chapters of Canons, in Collegiate churches, and monasteries. It may be either sung or said, with or without ministers.

Missa lecta, a Mass which is not sung, is often wrongly styled Low, or private, Mass, for the rubrics prescribe certain parts to be said aloud. At this Mass the Priest, with one, or sometimes two, servers, accomplishes the various ceremonies of Mass, but nothing is sung.

The history of Low Mass has given rise to certain errors; its evolution is less well known than that of Pontifical Mass. But there can be no doubt that in very ancient days — let us say about the third century, but most probably before that epoch — there were (beyond the Eucharistic synaxis celebrated by the Bishop, surrounded by his clergy and the faithful), both in cemeteries and in private houses, private Masses said, from which all the ceremonies had been shorn. The story of Hesperus, cured after a Mass had been said in his house, is well known; Mgr. Batiffol relates it according to St. Augustine.[1] There are other examples of private Masses said in domestic oratories, the existence of which is proved from the fifth century.

About this time, too (sixth century), churches began to be built with several altars or chapels, a fact which evidently indicates private Masses. The Sacramentaries or Missals drawn up from the seventh-tenth centuries might have served either for a Pontifical or a private Mass. There must have been also, about this time, and even before it, "Libelli," or leaflets composed of several Masses for the use of the Priest. Of these we have spoken in the "Books of the Latin Liturgy," mentioning as one of the types of this "Libellus" that of the "Masses of Mone."[2]

Missa solitaria. — In certain dioceses and missions the Priest has obtained permission to say Mass without a server, making the responses himself, in view of the practical impossibility of finding anyone to serve Mass.

Votive Masses. — As its name indicates, this Mass is said in virtue of a Vow ("votum"), or, in a wide sense, for a special intention. It is thus distinguished from the Mass of the day, the character of which is fixed by the calendar. There are certain days in the year, simple Ferials, or those on which the Mass is assigned to a Saint with a simple rite or a semi- double; and on these the Priest can usually celebrate a Votive Mass In the Missal a whole division, following the Common of Saints, is devoted to Votive Masses. Some are in honor of Our Lady, or other Saints; others again for different circumstances, or devotions, as in time of war, or of peace; of famine or epidemic, etc. They are thus devotional Masses which, unlike the Mass for the day, are not attached to the calendar, nor to the Office said on that day, which itself is in relation to the Mass.

Some of these Votive Masses are very ancient, and their texts deserve study. Some may already be found in the Leonine and Gelasian Sacramentaries. The Mozarabic "Liber Ordinum" contains a considerable number. A Missal attributed to Alcuin has Votive Masses for every day in the week, in honor of the Holy Angels, of the Eucharist, of Our Lady, etc. Franz, in the book we mention, has made a most learned study of them.

Here is the list of Votive Masses in our Missal:

De Sancta Trinitate, 
De Angelis, 
De SS. Petro et Paulo, 
De Spiritu Sancto, 
De S.S. Eucharistiae Sacramento, 
De Cruce, 
De Passione, 
De Sancta Maria, 
Pro eligendo Pontifice, 
In anniversario electionis Episcopi, 
Ad tollendum schisma, 
Pro quacumque necessitate, 
Pro remissione peccatorum, 
Ad postulandam gratiam bene moriendi, 
Contra paganos, 
In tempore belli, 
Pro pace, 
Pro vitenda mortalitate, 
Pro infirmis, 
Pro peregrinis, 
Pro sponso et sponsa.

"Missa sicca," or Dry Mass. — This is rarely in use to-day. Whether an abuse, or simply from singularity, it was fairly widespread in the Middle Ages. It was a Mass without Offertory, Consecration, or Communion; and thus in reality not a Mass at all. Since there was neither Sacrifice nor Sacrament, it was merely a rite (sacramental, if we wish to call it so) which reproduced the ceremonies of the Mass, with the exception of the parts mentioned. It was regarded as a substitute for Mass. Thus, for marriages or deaths celebrated in the afternoon, a Dry Mass was said. As many Dry Masses as it was wished to say from private devotion could be celebrated on the same day; they were also said for those who wished to have as many Masses on the same day as possible. Bona very justly protests against this custom, which seems to him an abuse. As a private devotion, the "Missa Sicca" is still in use among the Carthusians.

Mass of the Presanctified. — A very different thing is the dignity of this Mass, of which we have already spoken. In the Greek rite it is much used during Lent. Properly speaking, it is not a Mass, since the Sacrifice is absent. But Holy Communion is given at it, and it was really instituted to satisfy the piety of those who wished to communicate.

Some other kinds of Mass. — The "Missa Nautica" and "Missa Venatoria" are also Dry Masses; since by reason of the fear of tempests, or for other causes, the essential parts are suppressed.


1. op. cit., p. 44. Cf. also Fortescue, Votive Mass, in Catholic Encyclopedia.
2. See also our article "Missel" in DACL.


The Stational and Pontifical Mass is described in Chapter IV; see the authors mentioned in the Bibliography of that chapter.

On the ceremonies of the Pontifical Mass, see also:

ADRIAN FORTESCUE "The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite" London, 1918) Cf. also HAEGY, "Ceremonial" (edn. 1902), and L. HEBERT, "Lecons de Liturgie" (1921).

On Votive Masses the most scholarly work is that of AD. FRANZ, "Die Messe in Deutschen Mittelalter" (Freibourg-im-Breisgau, 1902), PP. 115-292 For the rules concerning these Masses, see HEBERT, loc. cit., Vol. II, P. 118.

FORTESCUE, in his work "The Mass," and in his articles to be found in the "Catholic Encyclopaedia," gives some information as to these Masses.

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