Thursday, July 19, 2007

THE FIRST, THE LAST, AND THE ONLY II

(Continued from yesterday. Here are some specific suggestions for people who take up different ministries at mass.)

EMHC, be careful about referring to the sacred species as bread and wine as in, “Am I distributing Bread or Wine today?” You know what you mean and I know what you mean, but unfortunately far too many other people do not. Try to use more specific terms such as Body and Blood.

Also, guard against becoming “used to” your ministry. Remind yourself often of the awesome and sacred task that you are permitted to do. Make that a part of your prayer. The first time I ever distributed the Body of Christ was in the seminary. Every host that I distributed was like giving away a piece of my heart. And the incredible unworthiness I felt giving Him to His priests that were in attendance but not concelebrating was almost overwhelming. Do you remember the first time you distributed? Try to recapture the awe and the reverence you had. The miraculous in the abundance we have access to it as ministers of His Body and Blood can become common to us through familiarity. We have a special duty to fight that mind set.

Lastly, we must fight against falling into a rhythm of distributing Him to people as if laying down playing cards, “Body of Christ Body of Christ Body of Christ . . .” Wait for the “Amen”, which signifies their agreement with your statement. Be deliberate.

Lectors, treat your book with care and reverence. Always handle it with both hands, opening it, closing it, and setting it down as if it were an ancient and valuable manuscript for in many ways it is.

Servers you are one of the very public faces of the parish. You have a particular calling to not only participate inwardly but outwardly by making the responses, singing, and making the appropriate gestures well as one of your many roles is to be an example for the congregation and lead those who may not be familiar. And how solemnly you do your job will go a long way in setting the tone for the entire parish. More than you think! (See yesterday’s post.)

Musicians, speaking to you as a former church musician, I know you put in more work than anyone knows. (Many people assume you show up at the wedding or funeral or Easter mass, play for your hour and go home. What is the big deal? You and I know better.) You start practicing for Christmas when the only other people in the world thinking of Christmas is K-tell, but you don’t actually start singing the music until everyone else stops. And though you are singing Christmas on the weekend, you are already practicing the Easter cycle during the week. You too set the tone (pun intended) for the parish. If you do your job poorly you drive everyone nuts. I once had mass with Pope John Paul in his private chapel. There were about five Polish nuns trying to sing harmony in the back of the chapel. They were horrible. And that is a charitable understatement. There I was in the center of Christendom with the Pope and what do I remember most clearly? Remember, Saint Augustine did not say, “He who sings prays twice”, he said. “He who sing well prays twice.”

At times you will be busy with folders or sheets of music. It happens. Emergencies crop up. (Communion is going long. Offertory is going short. I did not know Father was going to do this today! Quick! Get out . . .) But be vigilant to return to prayer as quickly as possible. Your music must be a reflection of your prayer.

Ushers, I don’t know you, but I know you are cool. You have something short of a secret society. I was never an usher and feel less for it. You are a cross between an airline attendant, Swiss Guard, a Brinks Truck Driver and a bouncer. My God Father and Uncle Leo was an usher. He was 6’5”, big, had a gruff voice, and nobody messed with him. He always seemed to collect more money than anyone no matter what section he was assigned.

Ushers always have the best stories. My current favorite is about a group of ushers who caught a thief at one of our local parishes. Someone came in dressed in a coat and tie, picked up a basket, made a collection and walked out the back door. The ushers caught him though. He came back the next week for a second take.

Ushers, I have three bits of advice for you. First, you are pulled away from mass a lot. Do your best to keep it to a minimum. God and your worship of Him is always the most important thing that you do. Secondly strive more than anyone to be gracious to strangers. You are many times the one person with whom a visitor makes contact. My last parish had 4,500 families. It was hard for people to get to know others or make contact. It was like trying to get to know a city. Conversely, my home parish at its zenith was only 200 families but it was very closed owing to most of the people either being related or Slovenian. You can be the difference between people thinking a parish cold or friendly. Lastly, remember this: Those who most need love are seldom those who deserve it.

No matter what any of us do the Church will survive. As I’ve said before it is not we that will save the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church is there to save us. But we may be the source in which the faith is saved in an individual.

3 comments:

Rob said...

Father,

Off-topic (You did an off-topic with me, I figure you owe me. :D)

I finally figured out how to post my four-year scripture reading schedule. I just have the general plan up now. I will post this coming year's daily plan soon. (The next "scriptural year", in my universe, starts on the day after the Feast of the Assumption, August 16th.)

Let me know what you think of the idea after you see it. I am a little concerned about the wisdom (or lack of wisdom!) in this approach to scripture.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to add one for Sacristans - sometimes it is so easy to participate in the Mass as if it were a 'project', seeing only the details, and not entering into the mystery. Very much a "Martha" experience.

Lesley

tara said...

Father,
I tried to be a Eucharistic Minister, but when distributing the Precious Blood, my hands shook--out of fear.

All I could think about was "This is Jesus"--in handing the cup back and forth there is a probablity in spilling--ahhh, if that happened I would just lay right down and die.

Now, my husband and I are ushers--collecting money-- is much less stressful.