Weekly instruction on how we worship at Holy Mass
By Archbishop Michael Jackels
One of the mission priorities for the Church in the Archdiocese of Dubuque is to enhance the experience of the Sunday assembly at Holy Mass.
And one of the ways for us to work toward this goal is to pay attention to what may be called the four H’s: hospitality, hymns, homily, and how (to worship).
Regarding how to worship, our Church sets as a goal that we all, priests and congregation alike, participate in Holy Mass fully, consciously, and actively.
And for that to happen, it is important for us to know and understand why we do what we do.
Catholic worship uses a lot of different postures, gestures, words, actions, and objects.
Normally, a person who wishes to communicate something is the one who chooses the word, gesture, posture to express what is in his/her mind and heart.
However, when we celebrate Holy Mass, we are using words, gestures, and postures that someone else chose to express what he/she was thinking and feeling about worship of God.
And so it is a challenge for us to learn what all the different postures, gestures, words, actions, and objects used at Holy Mass are meant to express.
We learn this so to learn the interior spirit of Catholic worship, things like reverential fear of God, mystery, humility, asceticism, thanksgiving, and praise.
And we do that to make that interior spirit our own, allowing it to pass through to the postures, gestures, words, actions, and objects that we ourselves use at Holy Mass.
Without this effort, when we attend Mass, our main (and maybe only) focus might be obeying the rules, which results in something not very attractive or satisfying, spiritually speaking.
A rule-based practice of religion eventually descends into legalism, which wants to know how late you can arrive for Mass and it still counts, and gives no thought to leaving early.
Nobody can be happy with that state of affairs. Rather, we participate in Holy Mass, not only to offer worship to God, which is right and just, our duty and our salvation, but also to be transformed, and to be agents of transformation to make the world different, better.
Therefore, in the interest of enhancing the experience of the Sunday assembly at Holy Mass, I have prepared a series of short articles devoted to one of the four H’s: how (to worship).
They will tell about the different postures, gestures, words, actions, and objects used during Mass, with an eye to helping us to take part fully, consciously, and actively in Mass.
The articles will appear in The Witness and on the Archdiocesan website. They could also be printed in the parish bulletin, or read before the beginning of Sunday Mass, or used in faith formation programs.
The importance of enhancing the experience of the Sunday assembly at Holy Mass can be learned from what Vatican II said about the Mass:
• It is the source and summit of our Christian life.
• It is the best way we have to show others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.
• It is the primary and indispensable source from which we are to derive the true Christian spirit.
Can you think of anything more important?