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We Are All Invited

Invitation card "You Are Invited"

Last week, at mass, I shared with you the sadness of people who know that when they die faith in the family will die. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren do not attend church and many have not been baptised. Nothing to be done, they reflect, except pray and hope and keep on loving.

For many years I have seen this. Families know nothing about the prayers and responses at the Requiem mass. They are glad to be here for the sake of the one they loved, this mass was what (s)he wanted, but they are here out of love and not in faith. The love is a blessing but they cannot share the prayer. That’s one of the reasons I try to arrange Requiem mass at 10.00 am so that our regular mass-goers will give a sense of community in sharing the prayer and singing the hymns.

It’s been happening for a long time. In 1962 there were 72,000 regularly at mass in our diocese, in 1992 there were 37,000, and in 2016 there were 29,000 – and you know how many mass-goers now come from other parts of the world.

Seeking to blame is futile. People choose to believe in God or not, to attend church or not, and no one can touch that freedom of choice. Example is best, persuasion will rarely work and forcing young people to come looks to be counter-productive.

One awful man told me “It’s because people don’t believe in hell”. What a motive for loving and serving God, for praying, to be frightened by the threat of hell! Only the most timid and fearful would fall for that.

Love of God is our message, always has been, and love cannot be forced. Love is always invitation. We are all invited, but fewer people accept the invitation than used to. Those of us blessed with a living faith, weak though we feel it might be, uninspiring as we seem to be told it is, we still want to love and serve God as best we can. If the children, small or adult, follow our example, good: if not we still continue because we know it is the right way to be.

Religion and Church are not numbers, but faith and love. In other parts of the world, the Church is showing tremendous growth. We seem to have lost it here.

God bless us,

Fr John
(14th May 2017)

Related Links: Popular Reads and Fr John’s Parish Newsletters

The Holy Mass

Image from scene in Latin Mass

When the mass was in Latin it was a silent celebration. Apart from the Penitential Rite, the priest and the altar server in dialogue, and the words “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” in the prayer before the Our Father, we heard nothing.

The silence was beautiful and prayerful, people saying the rosary, following the prayers of the mass as best they could in the English/Latin missal, or praying their own quiet prayer. Only at the High Mass or the Sung Mass (do you remember the difference?) did the people hear the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Benedictus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei.

In 1965 came the change (in Italy) and other countries followed, after the discussions at the Vatican Council. Bishops’ Conferences were allowed to approve mass being said in the local languages (the vernacular). For many this was a great blessing, to hear the prayer in one’s own language: for others, it was regrettable, a loss of the universal Latin celebration. But do remember it was a silent celebration – it might have been in any language.

In the new Liturgy, there was still silence – the Penitential Rite, after “Let us pray”, at the prayers of intercession, after Holy Communion. The prayers of the mass were shared by people and priest – Lord have Mercy, Gloria, Holy Holy, Our Father, Lamb of God – and the priest said the other prayers in two voices: proclaiming and quietly (not silently).

The priest proclaimed the offering of the bread and wine and all the Eucharistic Prayer, but he said quietly (not silently) the prayer of pouring the water and wine into the chalice, the breaking of bread over the chalice just before Holy Communion, etc.

Listen to the beauty of the prayer at the pouring of the wine and water: the two become one, an image of Jesus becoming human and thus enabling us to become children of God: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

The breaking of the bread signifies Jesus’ death – the bread/body is broken, and the dropping of the fraction of bread into the chalice signifies resurrection – Jesus’ and ours. Do you have a missal or prayer book?

God bless us,

Fr John
(19th February 2017)

Related Links: Popular Reads and Fr John’s Parish Newsletters