Votive mass – updated

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Can I offer a votive mass for the dead for a gathering of our Knights of Columbus on a day that is a memorial on the calendar?


A: On a memorial you have the authority to use a votive mass for “pastoral advantage” (GIRM 376). That certainly applies here. So yes.


Q: My conclusion after reading the GIRM on the Mass of the Dead was
different than yours. I believe that the GIRM treats Votive/Various Needs in one category, and Masses for the Dead in another category. I am not sure why this is so but I suspect that it has to do with the prevalence of the Mass of the Dead in the preconciliar period.

I feel that GIRM 374 and 376 only apply to Various Need and Votive Masses, because:
(a) they occur within the section on Masses and Prayers for Various
Needs, not in the general section.
(b) they are reproduced (with some small variations) within the missal
immediately before the Various Needs section and the Votive Mass
section – but not before the section on Masses of the Dead. The
section on the Masses for the Dead simply reiterates the rule of GIRM
381 before both the “Anniversary” section and the “Various
Commemorations” section.

In addition, if earlier versions of the GIRM are consulted, the difference between the Masses of the Dead and Votive Masses comes across even more clearly. For example, the 1969 GIRM had a provision about celebrating the ‘daily’ Mass of the Dead whenever a votive Mass was allowed, which was removed in later editions.

Thus while the GIRM would seem to give some latitude to the priest celebrant, rector or diocesan Bishop in offering a different Mass on memorials, it would seem to me that this cannot be a Mass of the Dead, which is only allowed on memorials if it one of the “privileged” categories i.e. Funeral, Final Burial, First Anniversary, News of Death. It appears (again, I suspect as a reaction to preconciliar practice where such Masses were commonplace) that the GIRM wishes to restrict Masses of the Dead to certain definite purposes.

With thankful prayers for all your important work.

A: Thank you for this careful reading of the GIRM and the missal, and you are correct. A mass for the dead is not a votive mass, so it falls into a different category. The priest has authority to celebrate a votive mass on an obligatory memorial, but not a mass for the dead – unless it is the mass at the news of death, of final interment, or of an anniversary of death. Or, of course, a funeral mass.