One of the least-used sections of the Roman Rite is the chunk of pages nestled between Ritual Masses (sacraments, etc.) and Votive Masses. Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions take up only 87 pages in my parish’s Missal. But these paper sheaves are as pristine as they were during shipment some five-plus years ago. I suspect it is the same for the big book in your parish’s sacristy.
What are these Masses and Prayers? The rubrics tell:
This section groups together Masses and prayers for various intentions, which may be used in many situations, and for various needs and occasions.
If the faith community has a special intention, this resource may be used. Note that this section is not only for a particular celebration of Mass under one of the themes given, but also for insertion into a Mass celebrated for another reason. Even prayer outside of Mass, either public or small group or even as an individual person. Just because a prayer is designated for use at Mass doesn’t mean it can’t be utilized for a spiritual purpose at another liturgy, at a devotion, or some other prayer context. You all recall that you pray the fourth Sunday prayer for Advent in the Angelus, right?
Some info for the clergy:
The texts found in the first two parts may be used either in a Mass with the people or in a Mass without the people. The texts collected in the third part may, in general, be used in Masses celebrated without the people, unless at times a pastoral reason suggests otherwise.
By the way, those three parts consist of these: For Holy Church, Masses 1 through 20; For Civil Needs, 21 through 37; For Various Occasions, 38 through 49.
When can these Masses be celebrated?
In case of some grave need, a corresponding Mass may be said on the instructions of the local Ordinary or with his permission, on any day except on Solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, days within the Octave of Easter, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed All Souls’ Day, Ash Wednesday, and on the weekdays of Holy Week.
It would seem that a bishop can designate parishes in a diocese to use a “VNO” Mass for a “grave” need. Even on an Ordinary Sunday in some cases. For that, I would think something serious should be afoot. A natural disaster befalling the area, for example. Or something universal, like a papal conclave. Not just bad news though; also something good like the canonization or beatification of a local saint, or a special diocesan event. But generally, we are discussing a weekday or weeknight liturgy.
Notice also that a parish may ask permission to observe a VNO Mass. Some equally serious reason, I would think: crisis or celebration on a local level.
Some of the VNO prayers can be used on certain days when the whole Mass (readings, etc.) cannot be celebrated. This judgment is for the priest, not the bishop necessarily:
If, however, some real necessity or pastoral advantage requires it, in the judgment of the rector of the church or the Priest celebrant himself, an appropriate Mass or a Collect may be used in a celebration with the people even if on that day there occurs an Obligatory Memorial or a weekday of Advent up to and including 16 December, or a weekday of Christmas Time from 2 January or a weekday of Easter Time after the Octave of Easter.
A reminder for those doing propers during the Easter season:
During Easter Time, Alleluia is added to the Entrance Antiphon and Communion Antiphon, unless this would be not in accord with the sense.
Ordinary weekdays should pose no problem to the use of these Masses, even if just a few or even one prayer:
In a Mass for a weekday in Ordinary Time, the Priest may always use all the prayers of this series, or even only the Collect, observing what is indicated in no. 1. In certain Masses, the liturgical texts given for a man may be adapted for a woman, with the necessary change of gender; in addition, those expressed in the plural may be used for individuals, with the necessary change to the singular.
A note on liturgical color:
These Masses may be said with the color proper to the day or the liturgical time or with the color violet if they have a penitential character, see e.g., nos. 31, 33, 38 (cf. GIRM 347)
Mass number 38 is for the Forgiveness of Sins, but the other two are against the situations of war and famine respectively. Interesting that violet would be an option there, isn’t it?
My plan is that every now and then we’ll look at some of the texts of these Masses, and hopefully discuss when such a Mass could be celebrated. In the next post, I’ll outline the 49 VNO Masses and we can take the discussion from there.
Meanwhile, do any of you lay people have an experience with celebrating a Mass such as these? Any clergy make it an occasional foray into these? What about using these prayers, be they from MR3, MR2, or MR1?