Thursday, March 12, 2009


It takes a lot of people to support one person who is going to “make it on their own.” So a person decides they are going away from civilization and live completely independently out in the wilderness. I don’t want to knock the talent, bravery, and perseverance such a bold initiative may entail, but I do want to say it takes a whole lot of people to enable that individual to make it on “his own.”

Nobody walks into the woods naked. And then there is the ax for example. The metals had to be mined, forged, connected to a wood handle, packaged and shipped, delivered to a store and sold to the person who needs it to be able to not need anybody. And that does not account for the people who made the machinery to mine the metal, forge it, made the vehicles so that it might be shipped so forth and so on. All of our seemingly single actions in reality may take scores, hundreds, or thousands of invisible people who make what we do possible. That is the truth of the Verizon commercial where every phone call is backed by hundreds and hundreds of technicians and laborers.

You might also be surprised at how many people it takes to get an average Sunday Mass off the ground. It can seem so effortless if all a person does is show up on the weekend. But it takes massive amounts of coordination, people, and planning. There is of course the Celebrant and of he is lucky the deacon or two. A good number of servers to have is about four and somebody needs to schedule (and train) them. There is the lector (and the person who schedules and trains them.) There are the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and the person who must schedule them. If there are eight stations and assuming there is a priest and deacon, that is fourteen additional souls to cover them. A sacristan is needed to get the vessels and linens ready.

You need ushers to take up the collection, usually about eight. If you are fortunate you also have greeters that help pass out song books and welcome people to the parish. Let us say four per Mass. There is the choir, the choir director, musician, and cantor. There are the two or so people who bring up the gifts. The sexton unlocks the place and turns on the lights so we can all get it to do our jobs. If you have Children’s Liturgy of the Word that is at least another handful of people at Mass. There are those involved with RCIA who leave with them before the Liturgy of the Eucharist to help them reflect more deeply on the Word. So far that is a little over 100 people. You could multiply this a couple of times for all the Masses of a weekend.

Then there are those who jobs are important but have either been done before or after Mass. There are counters, people who wash and iron all of the linens, clean the Church, make the purchases of bread, wine, and candles, make repairs on broken kneelers, decorate, schedule the intentions, write the Prayers of the Faithful, hold practices when necessary, type up the announcements (not to mention of the bulletin) and clean and lock up when everybody else has gone home. (This is why I am reluctant to clap for any one group of people at Mass.)

And one of the most important of all the roles is participation in the Mass. Most of above roles are secondary. When people artificially multiply the secondary roles it places the false thought into people’s minds that the secondary roles mean that someone is MORE involved. But nothing is more important that the active, conscious, and full participation of the man, woman, or child who comes to pray.

Now – can you imagine what it takes to have just one Papal Mass in a field in the United States?


Anonymous said...

And to think, Father, that I just used to show up on time for Sunday Mass and go home--never thinking that my help might have been needed in some secondary role. When I was a child, "showing up for Mass" was all that was required. Looks like I carried my childhood experiences into adulthood for many years, until I had a spiritual renewal. And another thought: those who want women and married men to be ordained as "priests" don't realize that the laity are doing their necessary service to the Living God without the need to be ordained.

Anonymous said...

Whew! And it would be really nice if more people would volunteer to do some of those posts--so the same people don't have to do them every week.

Foxie said...

I've had experience in a small village where only about 10 people show up for the Mass on Sunday. Priest comes in his little car from the next village with his assistant, they open the church, the assistant lights the candles, little boy comes to do the altar service, priest and the boy dress up, ask someone to read the readings. Boy rings the bell and the Mass starts.
After the Mass people just leave money for the parish in a basket at the door.
It is so simple and it works probably just because the catholic church is so small there. But I like it and I guess that's how the christian church started - little meetings, almost like a family.
Thanks for this blog, so often it gets me thinking ^_^

Fr. V said...

On the other hand Foxie . . .

Out of ten people you accounted for four people taking on roles even in this casual setting - 40% of those in attendance.

Interesting . . .