By FR. R. MORE O'FERRALL
Secretary of the Apostleship of the Sea, National Board of England and Wales
HEN was the Holy Eucharist the year. so that they could have a instituted? In the evening
of Maundy Thursday, when Our Lord and the Apostles had just concluded the Paschal Supper.
In the centuries that followed. customs gradually changed, until it was almost taken for granted that Mass must be celebrated in the morning and that Holy Communion must be received fasting.
There have always been exceptions, however. when the customary rules of the Church were relaxed: thus it is traditional for Midnight Mass to be celebrated at Christmas, and another obvious example is the reception of Holy Viaticum nonfasting.
When concessions of one kind or another were granted. they were not always well known, and so was bred more and more the false idea that the Church is utterly rigid in these matters.
As an example of such misunderstanding, perhaps I may mention a reminiscence of my own.
My former parish priest, sonic time prior to the 19th Centenary of the Crucifixion. mentioned to me that he thought it would be splendid if a Triduurn could be held at Lourdes in 1933, when Masses could be offered continuously day and night: I fully agreed that this was a most attractive suggestion, but privately I thought that this plan would never be accepted by the Church authorities.
As you may remember. I was completely wrong because my parish priest duty arranged that Triduum of Masses: the present Holy Father sang the first Mass at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
Perhaps it will be useful to consider briefly other developments since the Reformation.
sT. Vincent de Paul was of
course devoted to seafarers, and indeed he drew up Rules for Sea Apostles. The galley-slaves of his day had their own chaplains and he himself was at one time their chaplain-general.
St. Vincent obtained special faculties on behalf of those unfortunate seafarers and for their chaplains, because Mass used to be said on board ship. At the same period there were ships on the African coast where priest-slaves used to say Mass and the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.
We may well suppose that the sea-missionaries of the 16th and 17th centuries also obtained special faculties for their work.
The year 1905 is one specially memorable in the history of the Sea Apostolate because it was in December of that year that the Holy See issued the Instruction lam inde to facilitate the great work being done among seafarers by the Assumptionists. Included among the many privileges granted on that occasion were the following :
Portable altars were permitted.
Mass might be offered at sea.
Permission was given for Mass to be offered one hour before sunrise or one hour after mid-day.
The Blessed Sacrament might be reserved on hospital ships or vessels owned by Assumptionists.
-Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament might be arranged at any time.
THE existing Code of Canon Law requires that a priest must be fasting from midnight before saying Mass (Canon 808). On March 22, 1923, the Holy Office mitigated the law by permitting Ordinaries to dispense under certain conditions when a priest has to duplicate or to say Mass at a late hour for the good of the faith ful. Liquids only and no intoxicants were allowed.
A further and very significant relaxation followed on July 1, 1931, when such a dispensation was permitted in the case of priests requiring medicine for their own good.
In Russia and Mexico wide dispensations were granted on account of persecution, but details are not generally available.
An interesting faculty was granted to the Bishop of Munster in 1938 to enable him to dispense metalworkers On night-work throughout drink before Holy Communion once a Since t month. in he new Code, it has often been possible to obtain a dispensation to break the fast before Holy Communion, for reasons of health, and this relaxation is sometimes extended to those who have care of the sick.
Particularly during the war of 1939-45 many concessions were made to different classes of persons. Thus permission was given to a National Defence worker to receive Hy Communion three hours after taking even solid nourishment: such a privilege may be used in the afternoon or evening, as well as in the morning.
During the second World War. permission was granted for afternoon Mass on Christmas Eve, where it was impracticable to have Midnight Mass.
The wide concessions given to chaplains to the Forces need not be enumerated here, hut permission for Evening Mass was included. Members of the British Merchant Service enjoyed the same privileges as Royal Naval personnel, but when hostilities ceased, merchant seamen with few exceptions ceased to enjoy any special privileges.
AT the Apostleship of the Sea Congress held in Hamburg in 1934, the question of Evening Mass and a mitigated fast for seafarers was discussed by a distin guished gathering which included several Bishops. A resolution was passed unanimously urging the importance of such concessions.
Again, the report of the Glasgow Congress in 1938 shows Fr. Van Rixtell pleading for these privileges, and in the same year Fr. Reinhold. former port chaplain of Hamburg, was strongly advocating Evening Mass in America.
In 1947 the Archbishop of Westminster was granted a faculty by which he could dispense seamen from the Eucharistic fast under certain conditions.
It is many years since Evening Mess was first permitted on occasion for the night workers of New York and Paris. In France and Germany, Evening Mass is not uncommon now: I have recently received accounts of life in Hamburg and in Jugoslav towns. for instance, showing that Evening Mass is quite an ordinary occurrence in those places.
For years seamen in Bombay have had the privilege of Evening Mass, and this concession has quite recently been extended to night-workers in that Archdiocese.
Lately, the Archbishop of Bombay has paid visits to ports in some thirty different countries and everywhere His Grace found that chapplains emphasise most strongly the need of special privileges on behalf of merchant seafarers.
It is interesting to note the liberality of Canon Law in reference to faculties for Confession at sea and at ports-of-call during voyages. Incidentally. however, the only reference in the Codex to Mass at sea is a prohibition.
M Eloi Dekker has made a scholarly inquiry into the question of Evening Mass. His concluding words are these: "The deciding factor is the needs of the faithful. Pastoral need is dominant over custom. . The recent concessions of the Holy See (about Evening Mass) are therefore, in spite of appearances to the contrary, in the purest line of the tradition of the Church."
The following is the considered judgment of one who knows all the facts: it was written to me by Fr. H. A. Reinhold in July, 1949:
" I personally became convinced that it was necessary to give seamen a chance to assist at Mass in the evening, when I observed their work schedule (and the resulting habits) as a seamen's chaplain at Bremerhaven and Hamburg, and on my many trips to various ports of the
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