Tag Archives: liturgy

Plenty of reasons to love Mass

December 3, 2011

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The spirit is alive in today’s Catholic Church. Here’s another great blog of reasons to love  going to Mass. This is just one a a double handful of good bullet points:

  • Beliefs – no mincing words on Sunday. In a 60-second declaration we stand up and tell you what we believe, not what we feel. It’s the Catholic elevator pitch!
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9 Reasons Catholics Go to Mass

November 29, 2011

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According to Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley

Catholics come to Mass because we desire:

1. To respond to God’s love.

2. To encounter Christ in the most profound way possible.

3. To gather and pray with our parish family.

4. To strengthen our particular family.

5. To witness to our faith and provide a living legacy to our children and grandchildren.

6. To be transformed by Christ’s grace.

7. To participate in Jesus’ victory over death and the salvation of the world.

8. A foretaste of heaven.

9. To follow God’s loving guidance and to commit to deepening our relationship with 
God.

Any of these at the top of your personal list? If your reason isn’t listed above, what is it?

 

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Mass? On Thanksgiving?

November 21, 2011

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There’s ‘having’ to go to church, and there’s ‘wanting’ to

“Mass? On Thanksgiving?” the man-child’s voice asked with not a little incredulity. “We don’t have to go to Mass on Thanksgiving.”

No, the voice of reason and rationality answered.

You don’t have to go to Mass on Thanksgiving, I said. I just thought you might want to go to thank God for all the gifts you’ve received during the past year.

I might as well have been talking to the deceased turkey on the counter that was having its cavity stuffed at the moment.

That conversation happened 20 years ago.

I remember writing a column about it at the time — yes, in the old Catholic Bulletin — because a debate was going on at the time about holy days of obligation. Very few Catholics were attending those “obligatory” feast day Masses, and although it took several years, the “obligation” was removed. Now, as we know, in the United States we observe several former obligatory attendance feasts on the nearest weekend. (Immaculate Conception — Dec. 8; Assumption — Aug. 15; Ascension Thursday).

But back to Thanksgiving 1991.

The assigned lector was unable to make it, and as I walked into church, the pastor grabbed me to fill in in the emergency.

That’s where an insight came into the difference between “having to” and “wanting to” go to Mass.

When you lector at weekend Masses, you can see all the folks who duck out at Communion, all the folks who rush out to their cars at the first note of the recessional hymn, all the folks who are in the parking lot before the priest even makes it halfway down the aisle to the back of church.

On that Thanksgiving Day, when the only people who were at Mass were the folks who didn’t feel “obliged” to be there but “wanted” to be there, guess how many people left Mass early?

Not a single one.

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A Vatican II Catholic tells why he loves Mass

November 18, 2011

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I’m going to love Mass come Nov.26-27.

I love Mass now, of course.

I loved Mass back in 1963 when I was an altar boy and “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” was rolling off my tongue although I had not a clue what it meant.

I loved Mass in the late ‘60s when we had guitar Masses in the high school gym – and 1,100 high school guys – yep, all guys – belted out “Sons of God, hear his holy word, gather ‘round the table of the Lord.”

And I loved it when we had “low Masses” for just our homeroom in the high school chapel and the presider invited all of us to come close around the altar to better see and know and understand what was happening at the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

 A prayer for all times and places

I loved Mass in the Bradley Hall auditorium when the Newman Center took it over for us Catholic college kids Sundays, and I loved it in the dark and sparsely populated old church at what used to be St. Pat’s on the south side of Peoria, Ill., before it was closed.

I loved Mass in the crowded church basement at St. Bernadette in Drexel Hill, Pa., in the quiet of the weekday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, in the boisterous cacophony of joy-filled Catholics at St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis and in the comforting community prayer of Presentation of Mary in Maplewood, Minn., where at the end of Mass a spontaneously erupting round of applause for some terrific liturgical music is not uncommon.

So when we Catholics begin praying new words at Mass the weekend of Nov. 26-27 instead of the words we’ve prayed for more than 40 years, I’ll still love Mass.

 We can deal with change

When as we are praying the new words of the Creed and get to the word “consubstantial” I’m probably going to still shake my head and wonder how in the world anyone thought that was a good idea. But I’ll probably get used to it.

Thinking about that change in particular led me to consider other words we use infrequently in every-day life but all the time in prayer. We seem to be okay with asking the God to “forgive us our trespasses” – and how many of us regularly use the word trespass as a synonym for sin?

But this wasn’t meant to be an exercise in apologetics on behalf of the new Roman Missal. I’ve read at least a dozen explanations explaining the need for the changes and just as many commentaries questioning those explanations.

Frankly, neither matter.

I’ll still love Mass.

 Why Mass matters to me

At Mass my whole person is lifted up by thoughts I don’t usually have the rest of the week, thoughts on a higher plane, a level beyond my work, my loved ones, my hobbies.

At Mass I’m challenged to be a better person than I have been. I feel as though I absorb ideas of how to follow Jesus and the ways he said we need to live.

I’m challenged to reform and I’m inspired to keep on the journey – not just do what I’ve been doing but do it better, maybe do more.

At Mass – no matter where or who or how many people are in the pews or folding chairs – I feel affirmed in my choice to be part of this 2,000-year-old tradition. Note that word “choice.” Nobody is forcing me to be at church. I go because I want to. Because I get something out of it. And what’s affirming is that I feel part of something good and valued by others.

I love Mass because when I kneel down after receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at Communion I feel something deep inside me pushing me to imitate that Jesus in every part of my life, reminding me of what kind of person I’m supposed to be, comforting me that because I’ve taken Jesus into my heart he is with me, fortifying me and giving me the nourishment I need to be that person God made me to be, that God expects me to be.

 I’m not the only one who loves Mass

I understood a lot more about loving Mass when a fact-finding tour took me to Lithuania just after the fall of the Soviet Empire.

Our group of Catholic journalists went to Eastern Europe to see how we Americans might help our brothers and sisters as they brought their publications from their underground existence into the light of freedom.

The priests in our group presided at Mass in a hotel room in Vilnius, and we’d invited an American to join us. She’d been working in Lithuania doing development work for two religious agencies.

Rebecca Martin cried her eyes out through the entire liturgy.

“I’m sorry,” the 25-year-old from Indiana said, drying her eyes. “I’ve been here for two and a half years. You don’t know how much it means to hear Mass in your own language after so long.”

Bob Zyskowski is associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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20 takeaways from a pastoral letter aimed to help Catholics get more out of Mass

November 15, 2011

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Snippets of meaning from Archbishop John Nienstedt’s pastoral letter “Do This In Memory of Me”

With my highlighter in hand as usual, I read the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ first pastoral letter on the Sacred Liturgy. Here’s what caught my eye or touched me as worth remembering — or at least giving more thought to:

  1. “The words of the priest gave voice to the unspoken prayers of those gathered in faith.”
  2. “The words obviously are important, but their true importance lies in the mystery by which those words are animated, inspired and inflamed.”
  3. “…with the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal . . . we have the marvelous opportunity to stop and reconsider the important role that the Mass plays in our lives as individuals, as parish communities and as an Archdiocese.”
  4. “…the purpose of the Church is to call her members to holiness.”
  5. “…sanctity for the Christian is not a solitary activity.”
  6. “In the community of believers, our own hearts’ hopes and sorrows, joys and disappointments find reception, affirmation, and transformation as they are offered as one with Christ to the Father in prayer.”
  7. “The Liturgy . . . finds its origin in Christ’s call to be ‘gathered’ . . . . He calls us to holiness, but always in and through the church and her Liturgy . . . . this is the reason for the Church’s existence: to bring the baptized into a closer relationship with Christ as members of His one Body who pray the Liturgy together with Christ for the glory of God and the good of all.”
  8. “Our corporate prayer is thus a prayer that what has been accomplished in Christ might be accomplished in us, and that like Christ we might be sent to bear fruit for the life of the world.”
  9. “Unity does not mean ‘going along to get along.’ That would be a false unity, and one that cannot endure.”
  10. “As we are gathered around the one bread and the one cup, we are strengthened and summoned to form an ever greater unity of mind and heart with Christ Himself, so that we might be joined more closely to one another. Our unity with each other comes from this unity in Christ.”
  11. “Fundamentally, the Church’s Liturgy is not the expression of local customs or the particular interests of a parish or a priest. True enough, an assembly or a presider often do bring with them gifts and talents that should be shared with all, including at the offering of praise that is the celebrations of the Mass. But at its heart, the unity of the Roman Rite, reflective as it is of the Church’s universality, is meant to shine through our liturgical celebrations as an expression of our unity through one common expression of faith.”
  12. “How we pray together manifests what we believe.”
  13. “The new texts of the Church’s prayer provide a grace-filled moment to re-examine our liturgical practices, and to ensure that the liturgical life of our parishes, religious communities, and various apostolates are in conforming to the liturgical norms of the Church.”
  14. “Of course, it is not enough that we simply follow the liturgical law of the Church . . . we must strive to understand more fully just what it is that we are doing when we assemble. “
  15. “. . . take the time simply to listen to the Liturgy itself. We all must strive, clergy and laity alike, to hear with true docility the words the Church has given us, and the memories she cultivates within us as her prayers are proclaimed in our midst.”
  16. “When we stop to listen to the words of the Mass . . . we discover anew the mysteries of faith and enkindle the sense of wonder which marked the disciples on the road to Emmaus when they discovered the Living Christ, present to them.”
  17. “(Author Matthew) Kelly suggests that every Catholic ought to bring a journal to Mass which has inscribed on the cover, ‘What’s the one thing I need to do today to be a better person?’ He guarantees that if we have that single focus in mind as Mass begins, we will discover the joy and meaning that lies at the heart of the Eucharist. I think he’s right. I suggest we try it out.”
  18. “For many, even good Catholics, Sunday Mass can become just one more activity to fit into the schedule, rather than the culmination of the past week and the beginning of a new period of time.”
  19. “For human beings caught up in a whirlwind of activity, Sunday is meant to be a call to a contemplative re-examination of where our lives have been and where they are going. Sunday is meant to give meaning to the other six days of the week.”
  20. “We listen to the words of the Liturgy so that we may truly speak them in our daily lives.”
Care to read the pastoral letter in its entirety: Click here and you’ll have the option of reading it as it appeared as a special section in The Catholic Spirit or downloading a PDF.
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When it comes to bringing up the gifts at Mass, there’s no place like — well, anywhere BUT home

July 22, 2011

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It happened to me again, this time in England, of all places.

On vacation this summer (my treat to myself for my 60th birthday), the closest church to the apartment we rented in the Camden neighborhood of London was Our Lady of Hal (named for a miracle in the Belgian town of Halle). My wife and brother- and sister-in-law and I joined maybe 3-4 dozen worshipers for the 8:30 Mass on Sunday morning.

Of course I was asked to help bring up the gifts.

My wife, Barb, just shook her head.

She shook her head first, because when we were out of town one weekend last year and caught the Sunday evening Mass as St. Peter in North St. Paul, we were asked to bring up the gifts there.

She shook her head, secondly, because we NEVER get asked to bring up the gifts in our own parish. Well, that’s not exactly true; we were asked — once in 28 years — the one weekend where we scurried to get to the 5:30 Saturday evening Mass — which we never go to — and Barb rushed out of the house in sweat pants. She tastefully declined to walk down the aisle with the Eucharistic bread and wine dressed as she was.

Of course it’s not like there’s a badge of honor one gets for  bring up the gifts or any special graces, and it is not a sign of one’s holiness or anything else, but you would think that the odds are pretty good that at more than 1,000 Masses at your parish you might be asked a handful of times to participate in the liturgy in this way.

I keep reminding Barb about how biblical it is that we two “prophets” are not regarded in our own country, so to speak.

(Don’t tell her that when I went to Mass at the St. Paul Seminary recently guess who brought up the hosts!) — BZ

 

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New prayer guide lives up to the ‘essential’ in its title

April 1, 2011

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To title a book “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass” takes either courage or hubris. This new Alpha paperback by Mary DeTurris Poust lives up to its name.

Just over 300 pages and just $16.95, it could be a textbook for those on the journey to enter the Catholic Church, but even cradle Catholics will find it valuable when looking for a spiritual refresher course or a source of comfort in time of need.

What I liked best about this prayer guide was that it wasn’t dogmatic. It was authoritative without being authoritarian, often a lost trait in Catholic life in the 21st Century. Poust is clear:

“Pick 10 Catholics out of a group and ask them about their prayer lives, and you’re likely to get 10 very different answers. The bottom line is that there is no single prayer path to God. As long as you’re constantly striving to make a connection through some form of prayer, you’ll keep moving forward.”

Poust makes the great point that prayer didn’t start with Christianity or even Judaism. For as long as humans have walked the earth there’s been a drive to connect with something greater than us, she writes: “We’re hardwired for it.”

No rant, no slant

She solidly explains why Catholic prayer is different, and goes on to take a closer look at basic Catholic prayers and prayer life. None of it is ideologically slanted; it’s not liberal, it’s not conservative, it’s just Catholic.  And it’s extremely education oriented. Throughout there are pull-outs labeled “Definition,” “Prayer practice,” “Wisdom for the Journey,” and “Misc.” that add knowledge, flavor, and practical ideas to try, plus quotes from the famous and note-so-famous that bring a topic to life and make it real for anyone who sits in a church pew.

Each chapter concludes with “Essential Takeaways,” bullet points that reinforce the teaching of those last few pages.

Basic devotions to Mary, the Litany of the Saints, “Help form Holy Men and Women” like the prayers of St. Bernadette and St. Anthony of Padua will end up being “bookmarked” to return to when certain needs arise.

Mass gets treatment it deserves

Six full chapters explain the greatest Catholic prayer, the Mass. This portion of “The Essential Guide” is so well done, taking readers from the historical perspective through the gestures and postures, explaining the three basic parts of the Mass and the prayers in each, and helping readers understand the “why” behind the words and actions of the Eucharistic Liturgy.

This is an up-to-date primer on the Mass that explains what the coming changes to the liturgy will entail and why the church is making the changes.

It takes a welcome open-minded attitude toward modern technology, seeing the Internet and digital media as an asset that isn’t a threat but rather enhances prayer, connecting people in ways never before possible while still encouraging the closer relationships that face-to-face encounters provide.

Poust sees prayer possibilities everywhere, and she throws out for readers some things to try, including seeing household chores and eating as prayer, something I’d never have considered. Praying while walking is another suggestion. Rational, open-minded readers will appreciate her balanced explanation of the ancient tradition of walking a circular labyrinth in prayer:

“Some traditional Catholics are wary of the labyrinth, saying it’s a pagan tradition, while others emphasize its usefulness in teaching pray-ers to slow down and focus their thoughts not on achieving a spiritual goal, but on the journey itself.”

Finally, there’s a helpful glossary and an appendix that lists additional resources, plus an index. I could only see one weakness: the photography. The author’s columns, blogs and books are a testament that she’s an accomplished writer, but the photos here are, for the most part, simply the snapshots of a tourist. A book this good deserves professional photography.

But that’s such a minor issue. This maybe one of those books you find you keep close by, refer to constantly, and swear by because it has become so, well, essential. — bz

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Ease into the changes that are coming to Catholic Mass

March 1, 2011

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The changes in the Mass that Catholics saw following the Second Vatican Council were fought by a few, loved by some and endured and eventually accepted by many.  Now that a new English translation of the Mass is coming our way in Advent 2011, publishers are cranking out explanations to help smooth the transition from words many have said and heard for 40 years to words we’ll say and hear come November.

I read one awful one — I won’t name it lest it get any undue publicity at all — but it was attack-dog like in blasting anything that has happened in Catholic life since 1962 as the reason Rome had to “correct” the Mass.

On the other side of the ledger is “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts,” a product of Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago. Written by Father Paul Turner, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO, this simple, 50-page booklet is a pastorally sensitive work that is well worth the $1.25 per copy. And there are discounts for parishes that purchase in bulk.

Explaining first why and how the Mass text have been revised, the booklet takes a factual yet positive approach to the changes, but it does so with the sensitivity of an understanding and compassionate pastor who knows his flock. Take for example:

“The new translation employs a more formal style than we use in ordinary conversation. Many sentences are longer. The vocabulary is broader. As with all change, there will be challenges. The adjustments will take some effort, but the results should be worth that effort.”

And then there’s this:

“By turning attention to the original Latin texts, the Church has raised some unintended fears. Many Catholics who lived through the era of the Second Vatican Council want reassurance that its reforms will remain. They hope that the recent compassionate outreach to those who prefer the 1962 Mass in Latin does not foreshadow a wholesale withdrawal of the vernacular. It does not. English is here to stay. It will be enriched through a reexamination of the original texts in Latin.”

Father Turner points to differences in attitude and rhythm that some may notice, and, as he walks readers through the various places in the Mass where words have been changed, consistently reinforces that the aim was to enrich our prayer by bringing the language closer to the original, often highlighting echoes of passages from Scripture.

He notes where changes are small and minor and when they are major, as in the words of the Gloria and the Creed. The previous translation and the new translation are printed side by side so the changes can be absorbed visually, too.

The changes are pointed out, the differences explained, and the purpose for the change named: Here’s what the translators were trying to achieve. Again, it’s a very positive analysis, one that seems intended to help Catholics appreciate the benefit that the translators were aiming for.

Yet this work isn’t afraid to point out that the word “consubstantial” that we’ll be reciting in the new translation of the Creed is, in the author’s words, “a mouthful” and “a very unusual word.”

“In the entire revised translation of the Mass, this is probably the one word that will raise the most eyebrows,” the booklet notes. It certainly did for this writer, and I’m not convince it isn’t a mistake. The meaning and use are explained, though, as describing a very unusual thing — the nature of Jesus Christ — and Jesus is not like anything else.

I’m still not sure that isn’t simply rationalizing, but I’m going to take heart in Father Turner’s reminder that after a time and so many uses Catholics will get use to the new language.

Others won’t think so, of course, and their proof may be in those who haven’t gotten over those Mass changes from the 1960s. I’m hoping, though, that these changes are going to have a side benefit that will outweigh whatever negative emotions linger from these new revisions of the liturgy: Helping Catholics better understand and appreciate the Mass. As the changes are explained, booklets like “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts” take each part of the liturgy and help readers see its purpose, why it’s part of the Catholic tradition, how we are brought closer to God and to one another through our prayer together. That’s a good thing. — bz

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