Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It was a Chestertonian night. Last night was the closing of Forty Hours down in Uniontown at which I preached and after we enjoyed a truly delicious meal from the hand of our host, and then a priest friend and I retired to the coziness of Saint Sebastian rectory, had refreshments, a fire in the fireplace as well as at the tip of our noses, and discussed the wonders of the Mass into the late hours.

Fr. “O” (who was trying on that moniker and decided that it did not work) made the argument that the “Ite missa est”, aka the dismissal or, “Go, the Mass is ended” is the most important part of the Mass. I begged to differ (greatly) and accused him of speaking in hyperbole, but like a Saint Sebastian Terrier he held his patch of earth. While still maintaining that he was, perhaps, overshooting his mark (like the cow that jumped over the moon) to make his point, his ideas were still worthy.

There was a tendency, one of which I do not approve, that at the end of Mass, when the priest said, “The Mass is ended, go in peace,” the youth shouted back, “The Mass never ends!” Well, fine. It’s bad enough when priests start jockeying words around at the Liturgy but it is becoming a practice that everyone seems to enjoying the liberty – or rather – license of taking. Coming up to Communion are all kinds of answers to the declaration, “The Body of Christ.” “Yes.” “I believe.” “My Lord and my God.” “Thank you.” Even, occasionally, usually around December 25th and once in the spring, “Sure.” Sure these are all interpretation of “Amen,” but Amen means so much more than any one of these (there you’re right Fr. O) and just saying Amen does cause the priest to have to stop and interpret your answer.

“The Body of Christ.”


“I suppose that means you hold to the ancient teachings of the Church that this is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that you are agreeing to treat the Host as such when I hand Him to you. Or is it just that you have never been to Communion in a Catholic Church before or you have never been catechized or you are an artist which makes you dangerous and expensive as Father K was fond of saying?”

But I digress.

The Mass is not something that a Catholic does on Sunday. It is merely (HA! “merely”) the source and summit of a life lived. What was celebrated around altar is not to be left there but rather taken out into the street. Bits of the Mass should be scattered everywhere like streamers after the home team wins the homecoming game. The Mass should be strewn in our trees, tossed about our houses and workplaces like confetti. Everything we touch not only leave fingerprints and a DNA samples but traces of the Eucharist. The world should change because you went to Mass. It should be closer to Jesus. It should in some way have received some healing. Our work does not end at the dismissal but that is where it begins! And then, when we have made a thorough mess and spread the Word and Mission of Jesus around our cities and towns like good graffiti artists, we are to gather it all up again and bring it back to its source as an offering to God Who will only in turn feed us, bless us, and sent out again.

That’s what it is to celebrate and be part the Body of Christ.

Let the Church say, “Amen!”


Soutenus said...

I LOVE this post. Amen!

Warren said...

This aspect was emphasized at the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City last June (2008).

The language used, was that unless the Eucharist is lived in this way, brought out to the world, it is a truncated Mass. Just as those who leave early (especially those who leave right after receiving the Eucharist) are disrespectful of the sacrifice of the Mass, those who leave at the proper time, but do not bring the Mass truly out into the world with them, are living a truncated, reduced experience of the Christian life.



Anonymous said...

Fr. V (great ring to it), it sounds like you've proven Fr. O (not so great a ring) right, right? If the power of the Eucharist is to make us holy and to help us sanctify the world, then it all starts with the "Ite" because the " Missa est" . [And good Latinist that you are, you have certainly recognized that the word "Missa" is a derivative of mitto mittere "to send; to dispatch" ]

Re the fire, did you remember to open the flue?

Anonymous said...

I've had the honor and privilege of being an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist for several years now, and I'm always dumbfounded by behavior at Communion. I try to remind myself that the last place I should be judging is at Communion time - especially if I'm an EME - but I still fall short.

Several teens in our youth group recently became EME's, and served (functioned?) at Mass Sunday. I congratulated them and had to laugh when they said, "Some people didn't say Amen!" People - it's really bad if teens think you're not behaving!

Anonymous said...

I am happy to add my "Amen" to this post.

Also, Fr. V., I would love to have heard your talk. Next time you are invited to speak somewhere in northeast Ohio, please put it in the bulletin. Thanks!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...


Anonymous said...

Amen Fr. V

As so often, you have given me a new perspective and challenged me into action!

Dina said...

I love your enthusiasm and word pictures in that last big paragraph.
Greetings from Jerusalem.