Ask a Franciscan

'Say' Mass? 'Pray' the Mass?

I remember hearing priests talk about “saying” Mass at a particular time and place. Now I hear people talk about “praying” the Mass. I’ve been to many Masses in various settings over the years. Some were celebrated very prayerfully. Others, not so much. The first group included moderate speed, good inflection on the part of readers and presiders, and generous use of pauses. God’s word was heard but was also being felt. Why the difference?

The most obvious difference is that “saying” Mass emphasizes the priest’s role; “praying” the Mass, on the other hand, acknowledges the action of the faith community gathered there.

Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy calls for the “full, conscious, and active participation” of those present at the Eucharist. Was everyone engaged in such participation at the Masses that you didn’t find very inspiring? Does the presider deserve all the credit for the Masses that did inspire you? I suspect that you will answer no to both of those questions.

In any large gathering for Mass, people can be at very different places in life. One person has just lost a close friend or relative to cancer; someone else is rejoicing in the birth of a healthy child or grandchild. One couple has recently celebrated a major wedding anniversary while another person’s divorce has just been finalized.

We bring all of life to the Eucharist. A Mass that you experienced as very profound may not be remembered that way by someone else. What seemed very ho-hum to you may have been exactly what someone else there needed to hear that day.

When people celebrate 50 years of married love, they celebrate not simply the high points of those years but also (mostly?) the very ordinary moments that have brought them to that extraordinary day. Anyone tempted to live only for the high points will probably not experience many of them.

Accepting the kingdom of God means being wide open to God’s grace, being content with any place at the heavenly banquet, and rejoicing in whoever is across from me or next to me.

When the kingdom of God has taken deep root in a person’s life, there is no sense of “If only I had X, then my life would be complete.” God is enough for those who accept God’s values and the kingdom that these promote.

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