Occasionally I’ll get into a friendly discussion with someone I have just met when I’m out somewhere and there is time to talk. Sometimes during those conversations the subject of God and Religion comes up.In some of those conversations, someone will tell me, “I’m non-Catholic but I was Catholic, or I was raised Catholic and now I’m non-denominational and I go to a church I really like.” It makes me think about why they no longer attend the Catholic Mass. But even more I think about what it is about their church that they really like. In general, I have found two things that seem to be the most attractive. The first is an individual; usually a Pastor, who has made an favorable impression. The second is the church service. One person invited me to see the service on You Tube. I found it to be very entertaining. There was a very professional sounding band of musicians. There were a number of very good singers and they were singing modern gospel songs. They were actively performing all in the name of the Lord. After the singing a minister stood at the podium and gave a moving speech quoting scripture along the way. I’m sure that every member of that church felt good about themselves, their life and relationship with God.
The question in my mind has been why someone would leave the Catholic Church for another church. The reasons are many. But one thing I had to ask myself is what do I know about the Mass? When I attend Mass on Sundays, what happens there? What am I supposed to do when I am there? How many people leave the Catholic Church because they never really understood the Mass?
That is why in this post I have included, in brief, a description of the Catholic Mass from beginning to end from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website. I hope that it will help Catholics and non-Catholics as it has helped me to understand the Mass.
The Catholic Mass.
Remember the Catholic Church is a Temple of Christ. In the same way as the ancient Jewish tradition anyone who enters the church recognizes the presence of God.
For the people to dispose themselves properly to listen to the Word of God
and to worthily celebrate the Eucharist
The priest, deacon and other servers enter the church and approach the sanctuary in procession with hymns by choir and congregation.
After bowing, kissing the altar and makes the sign of the cross, the priest signals the presence of the Lord. This is the beginning of the Mass.
The Penitential Act follows the greeting. At the very beginning of the Mass, the faithful recall their sins and place their trust in God’s abiding mercy. The Penitential Act includes the Kyrie Eleison, a Greek phrase meaning, “Lord, have mercy.” This litany recalls God’s merciful actions throughout history.
The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb.
The Priest then calls upon the people to pray to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. People respond with Amen.
Liturgy of the Word
This part of the Mass consists of Scripture readings taken from the Bible. The first reading is from the Old Testament.
The second reading is a Responsorial Psalm sung between the readings. The psalm helps us to meditate on the word of God.
On Sunday’s there is a letter read from the New Testament of St Paul
The last reading is always taken from one of the four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The faithful stand during the reading of the gospel out of respect for the teachings of Jesus Christ.
After the Scripture readings, the celebrant preaches the homily. In the homily, the preacher focuses on the Scripture texts or some other texts from the liturgy
When the homily is finished the Priest then leads in saying the Apostles Creed. This ancient prayer is to affirm the basic beliefs of the Catholic Church.
The Liturgy of the Word concludes with a final prayer and petitions offered for various needs of the people.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
The priest and servers prepare the altar for the supper. A collection is made and representatives of the people bring forth gifts of bread and wine and money from the collection.
The Priest then says the Eucharistic prayer, the heart of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In this prayer he acts in the person of Christ as head of his body, the Church
Consecration of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in this way: A prayer glorifying God with the Sanctus hymn being sung, the epiclesis calling up the power of the Holy Spirit,
The Institution narrative and Consecration, by which, by means of the words and actions of Christ, that Sacrifice is effected which Christ himself instituted during the Last Supper, when he offered his Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine, gave them to the Apostles to eat and drink, and leaving with the latter the command to perpetuate this same mystery. (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19)
The anamnesis, by which the Church, fulfilling the command that she received from Christ the Lord through the Apostles, celebrates the memorial of Christ, recalling especially his blessed Passion, glorious Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven.
The Communion Rite
Begins with saying the Our Father and offerings of the sign of peace to one another by the Priest and people
The people approach the altar and, bowing with reverence, receive Communion. People may receive the Body of Christ either on the tongue or in the hand. Receiving the blood is optional. Only those in communion with the Catholic Church may receive Holy Communion.
The Communion Rite ends with the Prayer after Communion which asks that the benefits of the Eucharist will remain active in our daily lives.
Any messages are announced. The people are then given a final blessing, “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” with the sign of the cross.
The liturgy does not simply come to an end. Those assembled are sent forth to bring the fruits of the Eucharist to the world.
The celebrant says, “Go the Mass is ended.” The people say, “Thanks be to God.”