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When It Comes To Mass, Details Matter!

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!

One Comment

  1. Warren says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve recently returned from a trip to Maui. I visited about six parishes, attended Mass at two – daily and Sunday – and was surprised to experience such a casual, almost flippant attitude toward liturgical propriety. Altar candles were frequently shuffled off, in one parish to the extreme right to guard a planter. The Tabernacle is tucked away out of sight at those same two parishes. In one case, the Tabernacle is located in a completely separate building. Though there were two parishes that resembled Catholic churches in terms of architecture and liturgy, and beautifully so, the others were mere barns rife with improvisation by the clergy, intrusive lay led moments (including what I learned was a regular “joke session” to close each liturgy – ugh), bizarre sanctuary designs, hand holding, a Monsignor who feigned humility and demanded to be called by his first name only, really cheesy songs, parish signage with no hint of the word “Catholic” to be found – the list could go on and on. One priest, who shall go nameless, at morning Mass in one fell swoop relegated the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as the Church’s teaching on the reality of Hell to mere myths “told by grandparents to keep their children and grandchildren in line”. I felt like I was back in the 1980s surrounded by aged hippies drunk on the sweet smell of their own self-empowered I’m-ok-you’re-ok pop psychology.

    It’s refreshing to here about solid parishes with priests and laity who are Catholic versus CINO.

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