I had a great experience this morning. My family and I attended Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Merchantville, NJ. While this is not my regular parish, I do attend daily Mass there. For some time, however, I’ve wanted to experience their Sunday Mass. Today my family and I went and I was blown away!
What was so special about this Mass (and this parish), you might ask? Every action, no matter how small, showed tremendous respect for Our Lord and helped me to better understand what was taking place at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Here’s some of what I saw:
- Six altar servers, 4 of whom knelt directly before the altar during the Eucharistic prayer. Two of them also carried candles and stood beside the priest as he read the Gospel.
- Bells were rung during the consecration
- Two additional priests and a deacon assisted the main celebrant in distributing Holy Communion.
- Hymns were all Catholic and traditional.
- Ushers stood and watched people receiving Communion to ensure that nobody treats the Blessed Sacrament with disrespect.
- No, and I mean NO, improvising during the Eucharistic prayer.
- No hand holding during the Our Father (like it or not, folks, this is a Protestant practice and Catholics are not supposed to do it!)
- Real Catholic teaching in the homily!
Some of you may read this and think, “What’s the big deal? This is the way my parish does it”. If that’s the case consider yourself blessed because many Catholics are not that fortunate. I’ve personally experienced many irreverent actions at Mass. I’ve even encountered a priest who regularly ad-libs his way through the Eucharistic prayer, even modifying Our Lord’s words of institution. Many of us who try to raise issues like this often get accused of being Pharisaical and too rigid.
As a Catholic, don’t let anyone ever tell you that details don’t matter, especially when it comes to the celebration of the Holy Mass. We are flawed and imperfect humans who are easily distracted and need all of the help we can get when it comes to our faith. Attention to the details at Mass reminds us of the fact that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ is TRULY present on that altar. That fact often gets missed because of careless and lackadaisical actions on the part of people who should know better. If we really believe that Jesus Christ is present at Mass and that we are being transported to and participating in His Sacrifice on Calvary, then we should act like it!
Father Anthony Manuppella, the pastor of St. Peter’s does a fantastic job of helping his parishioners to better live their Catholic Faith. Please visit their website and if you’re ever in the Merchantville, NJ area, make sure make a visit to this outstanding Catholic parish!