I watched with anticipation the coverage of World Youth Day on EWTN, and found myself overwhelmed with the amount of people present for a Mass. As the Holy Father was preparing for the Mass, the cameras panned over the crowds and you could hear occasional loud hoots and hollerings when the audience caught a glimpse of themselves on the screen. I was initially bothered by this, don’t they know that the Mass is being prepared and a solemn, beautiful thing is about to happen. I wondered aloud if they could all hear what is happening? The back of the crowd looks to be several blocks away from what is taking place on the altar.
A fb friend shared an aerial view of the phenomena, and I could see several large screens set up, and I’m sure there are speakers as well. As the Holy Father began the consecration, a beautiful, amazing thing happened. An estimated number of 3 million observers and participants went from a dull roar (with occasional loud bursts of hooting and hollering) to complete silence, as the prayer of the priest was performed, and Jesus was made present for us again in the Eucharist.
What a beautiful witness of unity. Remember the Sunflower/Son Follower post? That’s what this reminded me of…three million people all focused on the same point of reference. It was like the Spirit of God was hovering over that place, and ministering personally to each individual who was part of the whole…and here I was, thousands of miles away, and allowed to be part of it as well…the prayer of Jesus for His church and His body in John 17 “that they may be one”, being answered and fulfilled in our sight. Thank you Lord!!!
Soon after witnessing this, another facebook friend posted a very well written explanation of the Mass for her non-Catholic friends and family members. I thought this was an excellent idea, and will try to do the same here, in my own words; a mini course in Mass Education in the event that you might one day find yourself in Mass, and wonder what’s up…or if you are curious about the Catholic Mass with no intention to participate ever. For me, it will be good to be able to verbalize the what and why of the Holy Mass, in case a friend or family member should want to accompany me ever (hint, hint 😉 ).
When you first enter the church building, you will see a baptismal font. Every time we enter and exit a church, we dip our finger into the font and use the Holy water to make the sign of the cross on ourselves to remind us of our baptism. First we touch our forehead (in the name of the Father) then make a straight line down to the bottom of our sternum (and of the Son), then shoulder to shoulder (and the Holy Spirit).
We’ll proceed then into the nave (the inside of the church where the pews and kneelers are) to our preferred seat, and genuflect (kneel and bow) to the Tabernacle, (where the consecrated host is kept). Some make the sign of the cross again when they genuflect, others do not.
Before we sit, though, we will kneel for personal prayer and reflection, to prepare our hearts for the Word of the Lord that will be presented. Some might choose to pray through the rosary, others just silent personal prayer. Personally, I like to focus on the crucifix at the front, and think about the cost of my salvation, and pray that I can respond in a grateful, humble way, as I offer up my own sufferings to participate with His. I ask Him to make my life a reflection of the mercy and grace that has been poured out for me, and on me. If I have friends who are also going through hard times, I will ask Him to come alongside and meet them where they are. I pray for Him to console and comfort them, heal them, minister peace to their hearts, and whatever else might come to mind. I ask the angels and the saints in heaven to pray with me for them, to the Lord.
When I am finished praying, I will sit quietly in my seat and wait for the Mass to start.
When Mass starts, we will sing a hymn for the entrance procession. Altar servers, lectors, a deacon, and the Priest will form a procession down the middle aisle of the church, carrying the processional cross and the Book of the Gospels up to the Sanctuary.
The Priest will make the sign of the cross and greet the congregation:
“In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”
(The congregation also makes the sign of the cross together, and responds, “Amen”).
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (The congregations responds with “and with your spirit“.)
After a short greeting and introduction, we will acknowledge our sins, confess together, and pray for mercy.
I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do;
(striking our breast, we continue…)
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
therefore, I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
OR, the priest may lead the congregation in the Kyrie, or the prayer for mercy.
The priest will give absolution by saying: “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” And everyone replies “Amen“.
We move from penance to Glorifying God by singing or saying “The Gloria”,
This is actually one of my favorite parts of the Mass.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord, God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us:
You take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father, Amen
Following the Gloria, the priest says a prayer to conclude the Introductory Rites, and moves to the next part of the service.
Part 2 – The Liturgy of the Word