Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 42

Vatican website translation:

42. But because it is impossible for the bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his Church, he cannot do other than establish lesser groupings of the faithful. Among these the parishes, set up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the bishop, are the most important: for in some manner they represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world.
And therefore the liturgical life of the parish and its relationship to the bishop must be fostered theoretically and practically among the faithful and clergy; efforts also must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass.

Latin text:

42. Cum Episcopus in Ecclesia sua ipsemet nec semper nec ubique universo gregi praeesse possit, necessario constituere debet fidelium coetus, inter quos paroeciae, localiter sub pastore vices gerente Episcopi ordinatae, eminent: nam quodammodo repraesentant Ecclesiam visibilem per orbem terrarum constitutam.
Quare vita liturgica paroeciae eiusque relatio ad Episcopum in mente et praxi fidelium et cleri fovenda est; et adlaborandum ut sensus communitatis paroecialis, imprimis vero in communi celebratione Missae dominicalis, floreat.

Slavishly literal translation:

42. Since the Bishop cannot always and everywhere himself preside over the entire flock in his Church, he ought of necessity to constitute gatherings of the faithful, among which parishes, established in order in a location under a pastor representing the Bishop, have pride of place: for in a certain sense they represent the visible Church established throughout the world.

Thus the liturgical life of the parish and its relationship to the Bishops is to be promoted in the thinking and practice of the faithful and clergy; and let working toward a sense of parish community, especially indeed in the common celebration of Sunday Mass, flourish.

Article 41 highlighted the importance of the liturgical assembly constituted by a presiding (Ordinary) bishop, surrounded by the groupings of presbyters and deacons, together with the faithful in full and active participatory prayer as an image of the Church hierarchically and communally constituted. Article 42 recognizes that such diocesan-wide liturgical celebrations, while in some sense theologically normative, are not always possible or practical. Other gatherings of the faithful, especially the communal Sunday celebration of Mass in a parish, are commended as imaging other aspects of the mystery of the Church. What is of special interest is the emphasis placed on the role of the (Ordinary) bishop as somehow represented in the liturgical ministry of pastors (dare one say all the clergy presiding at the liturgy in a given diocese?).

Readers of Pray Tell might wish to discuss how vividly the sense of the local (ordinary) Bishop as in some way represented in the liturgical activity of parishes exists in the “thinking and practice of the faithful and clergy.” A second topic might be the idea of a “common” celebration of the Sunday Eucharist in a parish. What values underlie the multiplication of Mass times in particular parishes?


  1. I have been in various dioceses, including one where the parish church was the only Catholic church in a whole county. There was one Mass that people had to drive 18 miles to attend. I rode a 50 mile circuit to attend to three churches. Ironically I have also been in a place where there is priest shortage because the 40 multiple Masses within 10 miles cannot be perpetuated. None of these churches are anywhere near capacity…usually one third full. Perpetual convenience is one value and the poor liturgy but still Holy Communion is the second value I see.

  2. What values underlie the multiplication of Mass times in particular parishes?

    1. Number of parishioners
    2. Size of church building
    3. Liturgical preferences (music, incense)

    There are others I find it hard to put quite so briefly. For example, my wife and I prefer to go to Mass earlier, rather than later, in the morning. Others may not.

  3. The age of scheduling mass times for the convenience of people is coming to an end. The leaders thus far have refused to supply God’s people with an adequate number of priests since it seems irrevocably committed to worshipping at the altar of clerical celibacy. As the numbers decline, Mass schedules will shrink in parishes that aren’t packed at each mass. I wonder if Francis’s recent comment about the discipline of celibacy will send a signal to bishops that they are free to discuss that possibility with priests and people?

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