Drilling into an article on “active participation”

I discovered on CNA a interesting feature. Louie Verrecchio writes a column called Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II.  One of his columns concerns active participation in the liturgy.

WDTPRS has been working to spread a correct understand of active participation for a long time and combat the madness that has corroded our identity through a distorted understanding. 

Let’s see what Mr. Verrecchio has to say, with my emphases and comments.

July 23, 2009
Active Participation: Doing liturgy and becoming church
By Louie Verrecchio

I don’t remember the first time I encountered the phrases "doing liturgy" and "becoming church," nor do I recall my specific reaction. [I remember.  The US seminary I was in, and out of.  And I felt sick.]  Regular readers of this column, however, can pretty much imagine what that might have been, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

I’d like to share with you a snapshot of my home parish, which I suspect is probably not unlike most others.

My parish of record is a warm and inviting place. It’s my home-base community within the Church Universal; a place where I have worshipped and celebrated and mourned with family and friends for many years.

I have a great deal of affection for my parish’s pastor. He is a kind and genuinely loving caretaker of souls who has offered me and others who are dear to me priestly ministry and good counsel on more than one occasion.

Why then over the last twenty months or so have I been traveling more than thirty miles out of my way to participate in Sunday Mass at a different parish? Simply put, because my home parish has unfortunately become overly enamored with the idea of "doing liturgy" and "becoming church.[Anyone else had this experience?  Stop!  STOP!  Don’t trample… okay… I get it!]

To that end, my parish has a "Liturgy Committee" whose mission statement – taken almost verbatim from the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy – reads, "Our goal is to enable the People of God to engage in full, conscious, and active participation in the celebration of the sacred liturgy."  [A good goal… provided they have a correct understanding of what that means.]

The result of their effort is a Mass that is increasingly nuanced by what appears to be the self-imposed pressure to constantly inject new forms of creativity into the liturgy. In practice this means that liturgical prayers and procedures are altered; liturgical roles are assigned to as many lay persons as possible, individuals are singled out during the Mass for special recognition and applause, and music for the Mass is apparently selected more for the catchiness of its tune than for the meaning of its content[Anyone else had this … no wait… STOP already!]

I have no doubt that the Liturgy Committee means well, but I wonder how many its members have actually read Sacrosanctum Concilium; the aforementioned conciliar document to which they attribute their stated mission?

Those who have explored the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy would know that the Council’s idea of "active participation" has nothing whatsoever to do with turning the Mass into a production with an ever increasing number of lay cast members, much less its entertainment value.

Before we examine the Council’s thoughts more closely, it’s important to consider that the desire for liturgical participation on the part of a well-formed laity was not invented in the 1960’s.

In 1947 Pope Pius XII lauded and encouraged the laity’s active participation in the liturgy – yes, the Traditional Latin Liturgy – saying:

"Therefore, they are to be praised who, with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the ‘Roman Missal,’ so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church. They also are to be commended who strive to make the liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant." (Mediator Dei – 105)

Pope Pius XI some two decades earlier had offered similar encouragement saying, "The faithful come to church in order to derive piety from its chief source, by taking an active part in the venerated mysteries and the public solemn prayers of the Church." (Divini Cultus – 1928)

Neither of these examples represent "out of the box" thinking, mind you; on the contrary. Active participation in the liturgy is as old as the Church itself as indicated by St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians, a letter written sometime in the mid-first century, in which he underscored the importance of proper disposition when participating in the Body and Blood of Christ. (cf 1 Cor. 11:23-34)

So [here is the big question] what does active participation in the context of the Mass as we know it actually mean, and what did the Council have in mind? For clarity of the matter, let us turn directly to one of the Council Fathers, Pope John Paul II.

In his Ad Limina Address to the Bishops of the United States in 1988, the Holy Father saw fit to expound upon some of the misunderstandings that lead to "abuses, polarization, and sometimes even grave scandal" in the liturgy.

"Full participation does not mean that everyone does everything, since this would lead to a clericalizing of the laity and a laicizing of the priesthood; and this was not what the Council had in mind," the Holy Father said.

"Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive," he said, honing in on the most overlooked point of all. "Active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it."  [Get that?]

The Council Fathers notion of how authentic participation is achieved is indicated in the very title to Chapter II of Sacrosanctum Concilium, "The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation."

You see, "instruction," according to the mind of the Council, is the essential key to "participation;" one cannot possibly hope to penetrate the sacred Mysteries in such way as to actively participate in them without first comprehending, to the extent that it is possible, what is taking place.  [He is correct.  And that phrase "to the extent that it is possible" is important by the fact that we are dealing with an encounter with mystery.  The point of worship is an encounter with mystery.  Our understanding, opened by what we can learn and comprehend, edges us a little close to that chink in the rock through which we peer at the God who passes by.]

To the Council Fathers, fostering active participation among the laity meant providing the "liturgical instruction" necessary in order for the "faithful to take part in the sacred liturgy fully aware of what they are doing." (cf SC 11)  [Perhaps a bit too optimistic, unless we mean that we come to understand that we don’t understand.  What we know helps us to know what we don’t know.]

The Mass itself is a teacher[well… yes… okay… well… Mass is not a didactic moment.  Mass is not a teaching experience.  Yes, we learn things through the texts and other elements, but the purpose of Holy Mass is not for "learning".] according to the Council Fathers, [?] and they envisioned a revised liturgy that might more effectively communicate our belief that "every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others." (SC 7)  [I don’t think SC 7 supports the claim that "Mass itself is a teacher".  Yes, we can learn things from perceptible signs. But this is not the point of Mass.]

"Liturgy," in other words, is not so much something we "do" as it is a gift we are privileged to receive along with the invitation to unite ourselves to the Lord’s sacred action[EXACTLY.  A constant theme here at WDTPRS has been that the core of a proper understanding of active participation is interiorly active receptivity. Our active participation begins with our interior character, our baptismal character which makes us members of Christ and allows us to receive the other graces offered through the sacraments.  We must strive to unite ourselves to the liturgical action, which is really being enacted by the true Actor, Christ the Priest.  Our interior receptivity becomes outward expression at the appropriate times and in the appropriate ways indicated in the liturgical rites.] Likewise, "church" is not so much something we "become" as it is that which we already are by virtue of our incorporation into Christ’s Body through Baptism; the gateway to fully conscious and active participation in the sacred liturgy.  [After years of writing this in my columns and on the blog, I sense that progress has been made.]

A focus on "doing liturgy" and "becoming church" has brought us to the unfortunate point where Mass in many places, including my parish, all too often obscures the inherent sacredness of the action as much as it communicates it.

Though I admit to being somewhat apprehensive, I will one day "bite the bullet" and respectfully share some of these thoughts with my pastor in the hope that by the grace of God I may be able to repay him well for the good counsel that he’s so freely given to me over the years.


Louie Verrecchio is the author of Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II; a highly acclaimed adult faith formation tool – endorsed by George Cardinal Pell – that has been helping parish based study groups and individuals worldwide to faithfully explore the documents of the Second Vatican Council since 2004. For more information please visit: www.harvestingthefruit.com


WDTPRS kudos to Mr. Verrecchio for getting it right!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Central Valley says:

    This letter documents life in 95 percent of the parishes in the diocese of Fresno California.

  2. sekman says:

    This is a fantastic article. Father I really appreciate your commentary, it helps us from being led astray by some off key comments, notably in this article the point on a learning experience. Mr. Verrecchio does most definitely deserve WDTPRS Kudos.

  3. Central Valley says:

    Without strong pastoral oversite of liturgy “committees”, the committees tend to direct to liturgy toward man and not to GOD. The liturgy is about GOD, not man. I will have to order Mr. Verrecchio’s book. I am sure he points out how the modernist have bastardized the documents of the second vatican council.

  4. Hidden One says:

    That portion from the ad limina address which is in bold and followed by “[Get that?]” shall find much use in my anti-stupidism-in-the-liturgy crusades in the future.

  5. ray from mn says:


    Be still and know that I am God

  6. Paulus says:

    Central Valley – Not to dive down one of Fr. Z’s proverbial rabbit holes but I recently attended a Mass in Three Rivers and while it was a bit, um, colorful I was gratified to note an announcement regarding diocesan sponsorship of a program featuring the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. You would would be hard put to find such a thing in the diocese of San Diego, which is where I hale from. The diocese website looks as though it’s frequently updated, the bishop takes sides on issues and there’s even real Latin on the homepage. Real Latin!

    OTOH we’re blessed with St. Anne’s, which is only a 15 mile drive from my house.

  7. jaykay says:

    “to the extent that it is possible”

    But… but… surely everything is possible to us now? Are we not as gods? Well, that’s what the funny slithery guy said. Now where did I put that apple down…?

  8. Agnes says:

    Ahhh, how refreshing. Thanks for the good news, Z.

  9. ssoldie says:

    May I quote from the 1957 Marian Missal: “The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Alter. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the Alter. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Alter. When acting in this way you have prayed Holy Mass. His Holiness, Pope Pius X. This has been so plain. Why all the ambiguos language at Vatican II, simply quote, what Pope Pius X and the other Popes in the past have said. Now go pray “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven”

  10. jamie r says:

    I think SC 33 and 34 do, however, call attention to the didactic nature of the liturgy. It is, in fact, the section heading. It is, of course, not what the liturgy primarily is, which SC 33 also makes clear. Teaching may not be the primary point of the Mass, or of the rest of the liturgy, but it certainly does teach us. I don’t even think teaching could be called accidental to the liturgy. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have things like the office of readings in morning prayer. It also did a good job of teaching people Latin, back in the day (As a side note, and I’m sure you know this Father, but it’s worth remembering that the primers from which children learn to read take their name from the office of prime and developed from lay medieval forms of the Little Office of the Virgin).

    Also, I like that Mr. Verrecchio highlighted that the bad, false sort of active participation involves giving the laity clerical roles. It’s important to remember that not only does it blur our understanding of the priesthood (which leads to silliness like the women’s ordination movement), it also blurs our understanding of the laity (which, in fact, leads to similar silliness). These “liturgy commitees,” seem to give the people the idea that the best way to be a good layperson is to imitate the priest without becoming one, rather than that the best way to be a good layperson is simply to be a good lay person.

  11. jamie:  Good point.

    Let’s have a look at SC 33:

    C) Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgy

    Although the sacred liturgy is [Nota bene…] above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer. Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read "which were written for our instruction" (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace. Wherefore, in the revision of the liturgy, the following general norms should be observed:

    It is after this that SC says that there should be "noble simplicity" and that Latin should be retained, etc.

    I didn’t deny that things can be learned from liturgical texts and the rest of the action.  I stated that specifically.  I think it is important never to give too much ground to this point, and lose sight of the foremost goal of liturgy.

  12. Central Valley says:

    Don’t be fooled by the Fresno diocese web site or the smiel fo the bishop. What lies beneath the diocese of Fresno can make Los Angeles look like Disneyland. The Inatian retreat advertised is one thing, but who will lead it? For he oen advertised Ignatian retreat there are too many Medjugore pilgrimaged advertised, too many youth Masses. Don’t be fooled by a visit to one Parish in Three Rivers. In Fresno, orthodoxy is “tolerated” but not promoted.

  13. sekman says:

    My pastor often uses the clericalism card to refute some changes, most recently applying it to the news of the removal of the Eucharistic prayers for children and the new translation of the Mysterium Fide. Personally I tend to think that there is a ever growing trend of laityism, a healthy amount of clericalism is needed to keep the laity in check, especially in post-conciliar times.

  14. mvhcpa says:

    First off, I want to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the concept presented here that “external” DOES NOT EQUAL “active”. I also want to state that when you see a question I pose in this post, please do not assume it is a rhetorical question suggesting its own answer (although it might appear to be structured that way).

    Over the past few years, inspired by Father Z’s great work on this blog, I have wrestled with the question of what the Liturgy really is and what the point is of having it (and what the point is of participating in it–even before the question of HOW to participate in it). My struggles are probably due to my typical pathetic American ’70’s catechal formation. Growing up, I thought the Mass was just the method of consecrating hosts so we could go to Communion. Oh, and we were there to worship God. Oh, and we HAD TO GO because GOD (or Dad) SAID SO (something about the Third Commandment…).

    I never understood how listening to some bible stories (which I already heard every three years), and singing some GOSH-awful songs constituted worship. If worship meant the prayers I could say to God between the scripted parts we had to follow, then I figured I could do that anywhere and anytime (such as a LOT less earlier on Sunday morning).

    So, although I never skipped Mass because I thought it was pointless (I have been less than a weekly Mass attendee in the past, but for other reasons), I am REALLY wondering why we have it and why we attend it. This question is made even harder for me (which may seem surprising) by my own discovery a few years ago and continued enjoyment of the Extraordinary Form.

    In my research on this, I came across the old acronym PART (petition, adoration/praise, reparation, thanksgiving), but I still wonder exactly how Mass does these things. I understand now (as much as you can understand a Mystery) what the phrase “sacrifice of the Mass” means, so there’s the R. Only, we aren’t doing that; the priest is, and, as most folks here agree, we aren’t the priest and vice versa. So why am I here for that? Certainly we praise and thank God with our songs (in the Ordinary Form), but are we really praising when singing NO hymns like “Lord of the Dance” or even when the EF schola does the singing for us? And, yet again, I can praise God and sing my own hymns at home.

    Once I am convinced of WHY I should be at Mass, then it’s time to figure out WHAT we should be doing at Mass. I posted maybe a year ago on a thread about clapping at Mass that there seem to be two views of the Liturgy–one emphasizing silent, awe-struck reverence at the replay of Calvary right there in front of us on the altar (that goes for EF AND OF), the other emphasizing external praise and community joy over the resurrection of Christ (only OF–unless you think separate individuals gathered together with only the same end and purpose makes for a community–and I don’t think it does). I myself believe that the Church and the world will be better off if the EF should become the “ordinary form” once again, and I am comforted by the fact that there really shouldn’t be any of the “surprises” described above when I attend the EF. And I know most folks here speak of “assisting” at Mass (EF or OF). But, how do I assist anything within an environment of private devotion (saying your own Rosary) and an unfamiliar language (I suppose I/we could all learn Latin, but really…)?

    So, while I understand that externalactive, and I welcome the explanations given above regarding internal active participation through receptivity to the Mystery of the Mass, I still have to wonder, what do I do now that I am at Mass. I enjoy singing good hymns (Like “Immaculate Mary” and “Hail Holy Queen” which I hope I get to sing tomorrow morning–Assumption and IC are the only times you do hear them), and I enjoy joining my voice (but not hands) with other folks using words the meaning of which I know, like “Our Father,” but I also like to reflect in silence about the great sacrament I either am about to receive or have just received (“Meditation Hymn” is SUCH an oxymoron). So whaddaya’do?

    Well, one answer, with which I agree, comes from the quotes from the Piuses (“Pi’i”?) about praying the Mass through following along with the Missal and answering the priest. However, these quptes are interesting in light of a film some of you might be familiar with called “Reform or Revolt” (in two parts on YouTube). That film traces the origins of the “liturgical movement” which led us ultimately to the Novus Ordo. The film notes that vernacular Missals were prohibited (if I remember right) under pain of EXCOMMUNICATION (the film is vague on the reasons given for those bans). Even when translated Missals became licit (in the same way, the film suggests, as Communion in the hand and altar girls became licit), the film quotes a noted, orthodox priest of the time stating that it is preferable NOT to have a Missal, because you READ more having one, but PRAY more at Mass without one. (These are also very interesting and persuasive points.)

    However, if I know not what the prayers being muttered in a “foreign” language are, how am I “praying the Mass”? And if I am not praying the Mass, then am I not just praying like I can do at home (maybe after I watch football on Sunday)? I even remembering seeing some advice on a post on this board to someone attending their first EF Mass and not being able to follow in the Missal: (something like) “Sit back and enjoy, and trust that the priest is saying the prayers for you.” If I take the bus and leave the driving to the priest, we are back to the question, “Why am I here?”

    Don’t give me the answer “Bacause GOD said so, and the Church said so, which means God says so that way too, and you’ll go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks if you don’t.” If I understand the main bent of Aquinas, God has a GOOD REASON for everything he commands us to do, and we are built to understand His reasons. Enlighten me, if y’all can. I apologize for such a long post, but I have been ruminating on these matters for quite a while now, and I can’t go any further on my own. I thank Father Z and all of you for creating and maintaining a true faith community, a great aid to folks trying to work out a better understanding of their faith.

    Michael Val

  15. mvhcpa says:

    Well, Father Z’s quote of SC (posted while I was writing) points me in a good direction, but I still yearn to understand this fully, especially in the light of the positions expressed in the “Reform or Revolt” film.

    Michael Val

  16. mpm says:

    Michael Val,

    Not sure if this helps, and I’ve not seen the YouTube film.

    Only by attending Holy Mass, can we (as adopted sons in the Son, i.e., members of Christ’s Body) unite ourselves in communion/fellowship with Christ, our Head, who is personified by the priest celebrant, in offering with Him His one Eternal Sacrifice to the Father, on our behalf.

    In so doing, we are made (by infused grace, affecting our minds and wills) more like Christ (whether it feels that way or not).

    When Holy Mass is celebrated poorly (whatever the Form or Rite, and whether by the celebrant, or by me), which is often the result of “creativity”, it creates a “cognitive dissonance” which tends to defeat the subjective aspects of this encounter with Christ.

    True Catholic liturgy needs to be repetitive (the root meaning of liturgical “celebrare”), and repeated.

  17. priest up north says:

    Great article.

    I would add a couple of things:
    1- the term “active participation,” which might be better translated “actual participation” was used by Pope Pius X in the 1903 motu proprio “Tra le sollecitudini,” which is a short statement on liturgical music. In this statement, he calls such authenitic participation the “indispensible font.” His words are all in the context of providing principles for liturgical music, of which Gregorian Chant is said to be “the Chant proper to the Roman Church.” Hence, this term is not to be isolated in the way of “doing stuff.”

    2-His remark on SC devoting an entire chapter to active participation: after declaring such active participation to be the aim ahead of others (paragraph 14), the subsequent paragraphs speak of formation of the clergy and catechesis of the faithful as the means to attaining this aim (not in changing the liturgy through expedient innovation…)

  18. TJM says:

    The typical “liturgy” committee: amateurs teaching amateurs how to be amateurs. After the virtual abolition of ad orientem celebration, the creation of “liturgy” committees was the second most deleterious development following the Council. Tom

  19. The Mass is a teacher the way someone’s sensei or master of a craft is a teacher. If we work (in this case, pray) along with the master, we learn. It’s not always about asking questions and getting answers; there are forms of knowledge which are not verbal, and acts which shape us from the inside out and the outside in.

    Re: sacrifice

    We do offer sacrifice. It’s right there in the Mass prayers: “We lift up our hearts to the Lord.” Our minds, our bodies, our actions over the past week and what we are planning to do —
    we are a priestly people, and that’s what we offer. The priest offers more; but we offer that.

    Praise together, right before the face of God in the tabernacle, and in the context of Jesus’ continuing great sacrifice and His liturgy, does indeed have infinitely more value than even the most mystical and inspired praise at home. Likewise petition. Attending one Mass has infinitely more value as a prayer than any prayer at home. That doesn’t mean you never pray at any other time, because even a sliver of prayer pleases God. But there’s no comparison between them.

    As for thanksgiving, the Eucharist is the great “todah”. Christ thanks His Father, and we thank right along with Him. Again, infinitely better than even the most heartfelt prayer of thanks done alone.

    As for the rest, I honestly think you are overthinking this. If you love a woman, would you love her less because she spoke a foreign language? Wouldn’t you be able to be involved with her in many ways: by studying her language; and by studying her face; and by sitting in the sun next to her and thinking about her and the beautiful day, without even opening your eyes? Regardless of the Form or indeed the Rite, you don’t have to have the same experience at every Mass every minute every day or week — or an equal experience, or a constantly greater experience, or the same kind of experience. Participation is a matter of will and intent, not some sort of thought puppeteer making us all think the same thing the same way. Be a little more confident and just live in the Mass your own way at every moment. (Assuming it’s something reasonable, and not running around nekkid in church.)

  20. I guess what I’m trying to say is that God is the controlling partner in worship, and that you participate best by just trying to be with Him, tuning our hearts and minds to let Him in. This is not something we’re good at; but that doesn’t matter, because it’s God doing it. Our job is to consent.

    If we sit still, He will speak to us. If we don’t, He will still speak to us. If we are silent, He will speak to us. If we sing, He will speak to us. There is nothing we can do which will cut us off from Him, if we are at least trying. The Form of Mass you attend may help or hinder you, and certainly improvements and more fitting behavior are good things. But. He will still speak to you. He will always speak to you. If you obey His command and at least show up, He will be there. We are never more faithful than God.

    And that’s why I think you’re overthinking this. Trust God and relax. That will do wonders.

    Also, you may want to look about for books of meditations for use at the EF. There are a lot of public domain works from the old days that you can find online, of this nature. Since that’s what they were written for, you may as well use them if you feel you need help. There may also be books that answer your questions, or point you in the right direction for finding answers.

    Hope this helped, and hope it made some sort of sense… It’s like juggling wet soap, to try to put this sort of thing into words.

  21. Sam Schmitt says:

    Michael Val,

    It strikes me that you have prayer backwards – that it is something that YOU do, rather that looking at it for what it is at bottom, a gift from God. True, you have to work at it and concentrate (at least at first), but this is more disposing yourself to receive the gift of prayer, rather than prayer in the fullest sense. Think of it as something that you enter into, rather than something you do or create.

    Perhaps this explains your tendency to be too “literal” in your approach to liturgy – you seem to think that you have to “understand” (in a literal, conscious way) everything that is going on? – or else you can’t be participating, otherwise the priest is doing it “for you” and you would perhaps be better off praying by yourself at home? Again, the priest is offering the sacrifice of Christ, which is itself a gift given to the Church by God. Looked at in this way, the fact that it is in Latin shouldn’t be such a big barrier (and remember that 90% of the mass is the same week to week, so it is not a bad investment to learn these parts if you feel the need).

    I find it interesting that you do appreciate the EF, which many people find refreshing in that it can open the way to a more mature form of prayer – something that we enter into as opposed to something that we do.

    Now I hope I’m not overthinking this myself!

  22. a catechist says:

    Please note that the great quote has a mistaken citation. Pope John Paul II made those remarks ten years later, on 9 October 1998. It’s well worth reading the whole thing. Certainly, you’ll want to have it right if you’re going to smite some liturgy committee!

    It’s on the Holy See’s web site here:

  23. a catechist says:

    The great quote from Pope John Paul II is cited incorrectly by a decade. He made those remarks at the ad limina visit of some US bishops on 9 Oct. 1998.

    The whole text can be found on the Holy See website under JPII, “Speeches”, 1998, October. Well worth reading the whole thing!

  24. robtbrown says:

    However, if I know not what the prayers being muttered in a “foreign” language are, how am I “praying the Mass”? And if I am not praying the Mass, then am I not just praying like I can do at home (maybe after I watch football on Sunday)? I even remembering seeing some advice on a post on this board to someone attending their first EF Mass and not being able to follow in the Missal: (something like) “Sit back and enjoy, and trust that the priest is saying the prayers for you.” If I take the bus and leave the driving to the priest, we are back to the question, “Why am I here?”
    Michael Va

    You raise some good questions.

    You seem to be wondering whether there is any difference between reading prayers privately along with receiving Communion and attending Mass.

    1. The graces of of mass flow from being present at the Sacramental Sacrifice, in the manner of those who were present at Christ’s Suffering and Crucifixion. In that sense, it is not necessary to follow specific prayers in order to receive the grace of attending mass.

    2. Strictly speaking, the priest prays the mass (offering the Sacrifice), not us. We are present as he does it, and we unite ourselves to his celebration by being aware of what is happening. If we are able to follow the specific prayers, then we are obviously more aware.

    3. It is possible that someone at mass be generally aware of what’s happening without specific participation. I often see this with parents who have to deal with very young children. This principle is applicable also to those who attend the TLM but don’t know Latin.

    (Of course, the repetition of Latin prayers teaches people certain Latin words. Years ago I met a kid on train in France who had learned English by listening to the Rolling Stones.)

  25. quovadis7 says:

    Michael Val,

    Kudos to you that you are taking your Catholic faith and the Mass so seriously!

    Here are a few briefs points to consider:

    1) Keep in mind that, during Mass, you are attending the Holy Sacrifice – i.e. Christ re-presenting to the Father the *SAME* Sacrifice that He offered on Calvary. By attending Mass, rather than just praying at home, you *ARE* spiritually at Calvary just as the Blessed Mother, St. John, and St. Mary Magdalene were!

    2) Note that, when you attend Mass, you also can join *YOUR OWN* offerings, sacrifices, intentions, and *EVEN YOURSELF* to Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father. Can you think of a more profound way to “actively/actually participate” in the Holy Sacrifice? There’s a good article (albeit somewhat flawed – since he touts that the Novus Ordo “improved” upon the TLM) titled “The Secret of the Mass” on this aspect of participating at Mass:


    3) Remember also that it is the *BEST* thing for each of us to praise & worship God at Mass rather than at home. Why? Because of 1) and 2) above, which we can’t do at home, and also because we *JOIN* ourselves with the tradition of *ALL* faithful Catholics who have worshipped God at Mass – we join ourselves in union with the Church Miliant (the living on Earth), the Church Suffering (the Holy Souls in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (in Heaven). Why would we *NOT* want to join in that *INCREDIBLE* tradition???

    Hope that these brief points are of help for you to better understand and participate at Mass, and may God bless you immensely as you eagerly strive to grow deeper in your Catholic faith and *LOVE* for His Church (as we *ALL* should – see Rev. 3:15)!

    Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,
    (Peace and blessings to you, through Christ our Lord)

    Steve B

  26. mvhcpa says:

    To everyone who responded to my post,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to think and write your responses. I wish I had gotten this good of a catechesis growing up! I also appreciate you folks apparently understanding that my questions weren’t meant to be simply blunt, but rather direct and probing. Also, just to clear up any possible confusion, I never meant to give the impression that I should just stay at home instead of going to Mass.

    If I had been taught more and better about the sacrificial nature of the Mass, which I am just now understanding better, I think I would have seen more clearly the significance of BEING THERE, rather than just knowing a Mass is going on somewhere in a church somewhere. Not to compare the Mass directly with this situation, but it’s like when I wanted to stay up to see the moon landing on TV, and Mom shuffled me off to bed, saying “You can read about it in the paper”–it ain’t the same as being there when it happens.

    Not to enflame the “liturgy war,” but I think it also underlies my sneaking suspicion that the OF, while valid and with its own advantages, just can’t get the job done very well of uniting us in prayer with the priest. Since it seems we are all taking part in a giant scripted performance, we the laity in the pews are playing our parts, and the priest and the readers and the “Eukies” (what a friend or mine calls Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) are playing theirs, and worship gets manufactured out of that somehow.

    I’ll reflect more on all these points at whatever Mass at which I assist next. Thank you all again!

    Michael Val

  27. robtbrown says:

    1) Keep in mind that, during Mass, you are attending the Holy Sacrifice – i.e. Christ re-presenting to the Father the SAME Sacrifice that He offered on Calvary. By attending Mass, rather than just praying at home, you ARE spiritually at Calvary just as the Blessed Mother, St. John, and St. Mary Magdalene were!

    Can’t someone be spiritually at Calvary outside of mass?

    2) Note that, when you attend Mass, you also can join YOUR OWN offerings, sacrifices, intentions, and EVEN YOURSELF to Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father.
    Steve B
    Comment by quovadis7

    Can’t we also join our offerings, sacrifices, intentions, and even ourselves to Christ’s offering outside of mass.

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