A friend of Kathryn Jean Lopez recently celebrated his 10,000th Mass. Lopez writes: “A priest…
How many Masses a day can a priest celebrate?
Question: How many Masses is a priest allowed to say in a day? I have been told that, during the week, a priest may only say one Mass a day and on Sunday they may say two, maybe three. However, at various parishes in our area, it seems some priests will say two daily Masses, and in one case, I know a priest who will say as many as four Masses on a weekday. I know with the shortage of priests, Mass coverage is going to become more of a problem.
— Steve Beck, Greenwald, Indiana
Answer: There are limits set by Canon Law as to how many Masses a priest may say. Canon 905 states the following: “A priest is not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist more than once a day except in cases where the law permits him to celebrate or concelebrate more than once on the same day. If there is a shortage of priests, the local ordinary can allow priests to celebrate twice a day for a just cause, or if pastoral necessity requires it, even three times on Sundays and holy days of obligation.”
However, there are exceptions to this due to pastoral necessity. The canon calls the shortage of priests a just cause, wherein a bishop can permit a greater frequency. Most bishops have a common understanding with their priests or a standing policy that permits as many as three Sunday Masses, and two on weekdays. There are situations that occur where a priest may actually say more, but this is by special need and not a regular situation. A funeral may occur and raise the number. A fellow priest may fall sick. Any number of situations may pop up occasionally. Hopefully, such occasions are not common.
The reason for the limits are twofold. First is the human tendency to become less reverent and less prepared when Masses are frequent. Over time, when wearied, many priests will tend to be more hurried, less engaged and less focused. Fatigue takes its toll.
A second reason, more from the past, is that a priest is not to multiply stipends. Stipends are the donations that the faithful give for a Mass intention. Canon 951.1 indicates that a priest is not to collect more than one stipend per day even if he says multiple Masses. In the past, there were abuses where priests multiplied Masses merely for the income. This is not the purpose of celebrating Mass for a priest, and the canon seeks to prevent it.
The Lord’s return
Question: The early Church expected the Lord’s return during their lifetimes. From the works of Jesus, we find in the Gospels, they believed this with good reason. I can’t recall where, but I believe Our Lord said he would be back before they had finished going to all the villages of Israel. On the plus side, the apostles and Paul did not seem perturbed when he didn’t appear before their deaths.
— Joann Capone, via email
Answer: It is debatable whether the early Church expected the imminent return of Jesus. For example, St. Paul warns against such thoughts: “We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a ‘spirit,’ or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition … do you not recall that while I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thes 2:1-5).
As for the Lord’s remarks about not finishing going through the villages of Israel (cf. Mt 10:23) or in Mark 13:30: “Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place,” these are not referencing the second coming but to the destruction of Jerusalem and the persecutions preceding that, which he had prophesied and which took place in 70 A.D. Many confuse the Mount Olivet discourse of the Lord with the Second Coming. However, the Lord’s words are describing the destruction of the Temple, and this is clear from his opening remarks (cf. Mk 13:1-5). This destruction did occur in the lifetime of many who knew Jesus. Hence, the apostles and others were not perturbed, as you note.