Saturday, October 29, 2011

Getting More of the Mass Part 3: Joining in the Prayer of the Church

In the third part of this series, I would like to expand comments I shared recently at our parish Roman Missal sessions. This is another piece about the particular points of "internal participation" by the Assembly.  (Part 1, Part 2)

After the singing of the Glory to God, the altar server brings the Missal to the presider and, after he opens it, he says "Let us pray."  Ideally, he leaves a moment of silence here, although in practice, we all have been at Masses where there is no more than a split second.  Here is why silence is so necessary: this invitation to pray is not so much about the words he will speak in the Collect (formerly the Opening Prayer), as it is about what each person present is being asked to do at this point.

The new General Instruction of the Roman Missal says this:
Next the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions. Then the Priest pronounces the prayer usually called the “Collect” and through which the character of the celebration finds expression. (54)
This, again, is a point on which we have not really catechized people well. Their internal participation piece  here is the adding of their own intentions for prayer for that day.   Again, since most people have had little catechesis on the Mass since childhood, I am not sure many were taught that this is a point in the Mass where they have a role of their own and that this is not just about the prayer Father is about to say.

The practice by many priests of leaving little or no silence here says to me that either they were not properly formed about the purpose of the silence, or they have little regard for the participation of the people. (One of the small delights for me of celebrating Mass with my new local Bishop, R. Daniel Conlon, has been that he leaves significant and noticeable silences at all of the points in the Mass where the rubrics direct the priest to do so.)

So, what is the catechetical implication for this?  Adults and children need to know they have the right to come to Mass bringing their own intentions for the celebration to lay before God at the altar.  Besides the published intention of the Mass that day, this prayer of the people, offered through Christ to the Father, carries their own individual needs and intentions for the needs of their families and friends to the very throne of God.  So, part of the preparation of every person coming to a Mass should be a moment to consider what they need to offer up to God that day in prayer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Study Shows American Catholics Vary on Understanding the Real Presence

The recent survey of American Catholics published in NCR is quite revealing not only about attitudes about the faith, but also about how well catechesis has succeeded or failed.  When it comes to belief that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ, results are unsurprising, if somewhat disheartening for those of us in the work of catechesis.  The reasons for attending Mass are also revealing.  Three out of four said they go because they "enjoy the liturgy."

The report on knowledge and beliefs about the Eucharist is here.  

This is definitely a call for liturgical catechesis of adults!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting More Out of the Mass - Part 2: Sign of the Cross

In the second  part of this series, I would like to expand comments I shared recently at our parish Roman Missal sessions. This is another piece about the particular points of "internal participation" by the Assembly. (Part 1)

In speaking of the Sign of the Cross, I want to share a favorite quotation from the great liturgical scholar Romano Guardini (1885-1968):
When we cross ourselves, let it be with a real sign of the cross. Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, let us make a large unhurried sign, from forehead to breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it includes the whole of us, our thoughts, our attitudes, our body and soul, every part of us at once, how it consecrates and sanctifies us. It does so because it is the Sign of the universe and the sign of our redemption. On the cross Christ redeemed mankind. By the cross he sanctifies man to the last shred and fibre of his being. We make the sign of the cross before we pray to collect and compose ourselves and to fix our minds and hearts and wills upon God. We make it when we finish praying in order that we may hold fast the gift we have received from God. In temptations we sign ourselves to be strengthened; in dangers, to be protected. The cross is signed upon us in blessings in order that the fullness of God's life may flow into the soul and fructify and sanctify us wholly. Think of these things when you make the sign of the cross. It is the holiest of all signs. Make a large cross, taking time, thinking what you do. Let it take in your whole being,--body, soul, mind, will, thoughts, feelings, your doing and not-doing,-- and by signing it with the cross strengthen and consecrate the whole in the strength of Christ, in the name of the triune God.
(Sacred Signs,p. 14)
As we begin Mass, if we keep the importance of this ritual action in mind, we will begin our communal prayer in the best possible way - involving our entire selves.

Next: the Collect

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting More Out of the Mass - Part 1: Joining in the One Voice of the Body of Christ

(This is the first in a projected series of posts based on the talk I gave on the new Roman Missal at my parish this week, describing the changes in the words of the Mass, but along the way, helping people understand their role at Mass as the Assembly. I want to expand some points and share - in hopes that some would use these to enrich catechesis on the Mass. )

It has often been said we get more out of the Mass if we put more into it.  But what should the average person in the pew "put in"? We teach children and young people - and adults entering the church -  external participation: that they should sing, say the words, and do the postures (stand, sit and kneel). But do we teach them what should be going on inside? Internal participation is what should be going on in our minds and hearts as we do these physical things and during the spaces and silences in the Mass which are specifically there so that we can add our part of the prayer. Why do we go to Mass? Not merely to sing and say the words. Not merely to do the same postures and gestures that others are doing. These are external signs of an internal disposition.

Every Catholic pretty much knows they should enter the worship space, genuflect to the tabernacle, and kneel for prayer to prepare themselves for Mass. But from what I see as a cantor, facing the Assembly, many are not quite so clear on their role in the song during the Entrance Rite.  We are not merely there to listen to the music and watch the procession of the presider and ministers.  However, from the number of people who do not even open the songbook, even in a community where many do sing, it is clear no one has ever told them why it is important to do so.

Why should everyone join in the song-- even if we hate our voice and think we cannot sing?  (A common excuse, by the way.)  What is the purpose of that song? Quite simply to help us to "park our egos" at the door. By joining our voices to the song, no matter if it is repeating the chanted entrance antiphon or a congregational through-composed song, we become part of the one voice  - the one sound of the assembled Body of Christ. For the hour we are at Mass, we take on our proper role as members of that Mystical Body. We claim our identity not as individuals, but as members.  This is true full and active participation. It signifies our assent to taking on the role of members of the Assembly - the People of God at worship, doing our "work" in the liturgy: lifting our prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, with the leadership of the ordained priest in his proper role.

This internal disposition as part of a corporate identity is why, later, at the Creed, we say "I believe..." - it is a statement of belief - that we say in our oneness,  not just as individuals.  It is also the same reason the Church asks that national symbols remain outside the worship space - as demonstrated by the rubric which asks that flags be removed from a casket at a funeral, and replaced with the pall, symbolic of our baptismal membership in this gathered assembly. As members of the Mystical Body, we have no individual identity as belonging to a particular nation.  This is an attitude. It is what makes Mass not "about ME".

Want to know more? Read Mystical Body, Mystical Voice, by Douglas Martis and Christopher Carstens (Liturgy Training Publications) and Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship.

Next: The Sign of the Cross.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Of Hobgoblins, Cups, Chalices (and Grails)

Last week at choir practice at my parish, our choir director asked me why in the new Roman Missal the Latin word "calix" is translated as "chalice" in the Words of Institution but when we sing Memorial Acclamation B, it is "Cup".  We had, at all our parish Masses last weekend, watched the LifeTeen parent/adult video on the Roman Missal changes, in which it explains in some detail the first usage. However, on Thursday night, as the choir practiced the new acclamation, the difference struck her.  I could not give her an answer. So, I asked.... several people through the social networks.

Knowing he'd have the Latin text close at hand, I first checked with Jeffrey Pinyan.  I asked him if the Latin was the same in both places.  He assured me it is - and that he did not know why there was an inconsistency.  Next,  I checked in with Diana Macalintal of the Diocese of San Jose. She speculated that perhaps the Memorial Acclamation is quoting 1 Cor 11:26.. and referred me to another blog post by Fr. Ray Blake, that says in the original Greek, the scripture uses "poculum". This leads me to wonder - are we translating the Latin text of the Missal, or are we going back to Scripture (just saying!).

When I asked Jerry Galipeau, he admitted he did not know either, but that very question had been raised at one of his sessions the week before. He proceeded to put the question into a post on his blog the next day.  His post has just been picked up by Fritz Bauerschmidt over on the Pray Tell blog.  Both posts are generating a number of interesting comments, but no definitive answer.

Amid all the complicated answers, there are those who simply say what Fr. Richard Fragomeni answered when I spoke to him about it before he celebrated a regional Mass with some of our catechists Saturday morning: "It's probably just a mistake in translation of the Latin."

Maybe it is indeed a case of "Why ask why?".  Ralph Waldo Emerson may have said it best: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  Then again, maybe Stephen Spielberg had it right all along (wait for it):