Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reverence at Mass

This appeal was written by Phil Ferguson, O.P.L., in 2003
After a quiet weekend, and a noisy day at work today, it seemed like a good one to post today!

Reverence at Mass

Scene: Patton enters field hospital somewhere in Europe during WW II. He is observed going from one injured GI to another. He turns and sees one man. His body is so wrapped – but not in swaddling clothes. Silence envelopes the scene.

While Patton approaches the battered man, he reverently removes his shinny helmet. Patton, a five star general, salutes a non-com. Jesus, the Son of God, salutes each of us – as each of us should bow to He Who Is. Each - an act of profound humility. Patton kneels at the side of this young man. He is struck with awe by the selfless sacrifice. Patton prays. No motion – Heaven and earth are suspended. In a few moments, Patton leans over to the young shattered GI and whispers something to him. We know not what. It matters little. The scene speaks volumes!

Reverence – Patton shows to the man. Reverence – what each one of us at Mass ought to demonstrate to Christ; profound and deeply sensed courtesy, a bow, that one person extends to another. Like gently embracing an infant – wrapped in swaddling clothes. Or two lovers - husband and wife - kissing in front of their children.

I’ve attended Mass at most Catholic churches in Boise. As I entered the House of God, I am oft-overwhelmed by a din almost too awful to bear. Instead of being able to quietly reverence, adore, and praise He Who Is, I hear – so loudly that it grates the ears of my soul and heart – chatter, the kind of banal verbal intercourse that one expects at a party. Nothing wrong with discussing events of the day with one another. But at the Event of Events? The centrality of Catholicism?

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah, 29:13)

There is a time and place for all things under the sun. For the celebration of the Mass, there is only that distinctive time to come and adore Him. I pine to enter His Home, untroubled by the outside world of abominable clatter. I desire to visit Him during the majesty of the Mass with a quietude and serenity that bespeaks that sacrament’s august nature. He is – ought to be – the central focus at Mass - not our friends. No! Him! “This is My Body…this is My Blood of the new covenant…”[Italics added], (MT,26:26-28). Folks, Jesus is truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity at the consecration – the transubstantiation.

After we adoringly receive the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, do we have much time to reflect in our hearts the “…wonder at the God Thou art…”? (St. Thomas Aquinas, Adoro Te Devote). No! Seemingly, everyone, including the celebrant, is already in second gear and about to put it into third. We Westerners are so rushing busy in activities that we seldom take time to live. Not even with Jesus! Not even with Him!

Oh Thou our reminder of Christ crucified, Living Bread, the life of us for whom He died
(St. Thomas Aquinas, Adoro Te Devote, Tr: Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins)

To be with Jesus, Cor ad Cor - heart to heart - ought to be my goal - at Mass and in my life. I and Thou, as Martin Buber would say. He, that most illustrious Jewish theologian, knelt before Yahweh as he wrote a book of that title. He hit the proverbial nail in emphasizing the personal relationship each person ought to have with Yahweh. “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am.” (JN,8:58-59)

One hour of quiet serenity – is that too much to ask? He invites us to be with Him. How can we hear Him in our hearts when there is a cacophony before – during – after Mass?

Please – be quiet!

This was originally published in The Idaho Catholic Register


  1. Nice, very nice job.

  2. A completely off-topic quibble...

    Patton was only a lieutenant general (three stars).

    However, I wholeheartedly agree with the rest.

  3. Wow, you got that in the ICR??? The whole chancelry must have been on retreat that day or something!