The reason why I embarked on this study was to point out phrases, actions and things that we see and take for granted. My hope is that we will take time for a second look, increasing and renewing our knowledge for a deeper understanding of the familiar so as to enhance our devotion. Let us start examining familiar phrases in our prayers and liturgies. Every Mass begins with words that ask God in his mercy to forgive our sins. One of the most common phrases used is “Lord, have mercy” or in Greek, “Kyrie Eleison.” The Greek word “eleison” has different shades of meaning as it is used in the Scriptures. The most obvious sense is asking God to forgive us, his sinful people. But the word is used also in the beginning of the Scriptures after the great flood that destroyed the then-known world. In that context, it is asking God’s help for a new beginning. As the people of God started anew after the flood, we want to start anew after God’s forgiveness, for which we ask. The emphasis in that sense, without losing sight of God’s mercy, is asking God to help us begin anew, much like our purpose of amendment in the Sacrament of Penance. Starting all over after experiencing God’s forgiveness is one usage of “Lord, have mercy.” Another Scriptural time we find the word “eleison” used is in the anointing of the King. Here another sense makes itself known. When used thusly, it is asking God’s help in a new vocation— a new role in life. This request is appropriate as we begin a new job, a new day or a new endeavor in our lives. It may help to think of these additional meanings as we say or sing the familiar words, “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleson, Kyrie Eleison.” Our thoughts are not totally or only on our sins; rather, we look to the future, seeking to amend our lives and/or to ask for assistance in new projects, work and vocation.
The word tabernacle means a tent or a shelter. It indicated the presence of God among the exodus Jews. It later became the Holy of Holies when the Temple was built in Jerusalem. In the Holy of Holies were kept the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the seven-branch candlestick and the loaves of unleavened bread. It was a special recognition of the presence of God; the Temple was the only place where sacrifice could be offered. Today, we have a more special and unique presence of God in our tabernacle. Christ is really present, body and blood, soul and divinity. This presence is marked by the burning lamps and by our genuflection as we honor Christ present in the Eucharist before we come to and after we leave this special presence. The tabernacle now is a place where we keep the Eucharist to be taken to the sick. Also, we pray before that presence on our visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Older Mass-goers are used to seeing the tabernacle on the altar itself. The tabernacle has now a separate stand for itself. It reminds the faithful that not only do we believe in the real presence, but also in the real activity of the Eucharist. In the liturgy (Mass) is the re-presentation of the death and resurrection of Christ. Although we always think of Christ’s presence in the tabernacle and in the liturgy, we also believe that in the Mass there is a prolongation of Christ’s activity on the Cross and in the resurrection. Mass is not just an opportunity to go to communion but to enter into the continuation of Christ’s action for our redemption. Christ does not suffer again, nor rise again, but this is an action in which Christ continues to present himself in the same actions that took place on the Cross, and when he rose from the empty tomb. It is in the Mass that we bring our crosses, trials and needs and join ourselves to the praise, thanksgiving and petition of Christ in the Mass. We must not forget the resurrection. It is indeed the victory of Christ’s resurrection in which we share as a result of our baptismal graces. It is hoped that we will see Mass, not just as an opportunity to receive our Lord, but to share in this real and yet unseen mystery of our redemption in his death and resurrection. Between the consecration and the communion is a time of internal participation for us. This is the intense participation in the Mass and not just the externals of singing, reading and private prayer; Christ is taking us to the Father. The hosts that are left from this activity are kept in the tabernacle for our adoration and for being taken to the sick. Many hoped that moving the tabernacle from the main altar might help us to better discern the two aspects of the Eucharist— Christ’s abiding presence in the tabernacle and his activity on the altar of sacrifice.
FSSP transform a modernistic free-standing altar into a very beautiful High Altar. The church that this took place in is in France and is now operated by the Fraternity of St. Peter. The complete time for this “Altar-ation” was just about 15 minutes!
A number of years ago, I posted this simple video of an ugly modern communion table being transformed into a visible altar of sacrifice. The posting was a whim, a small aside. The discussion that followed floored me. This was much more important to believers than I had thought. This is all for the good.
Here is the Discussion
MARY O: Deo Gratias!
GERRY L: Amazing! That’s how it should be.
ANNA MARIA: To Mary O— A big “Amen” to your comment. I couldn’t say it better. To Father Joe— Thanks for posting this! Where there is a will there is a way. I hope we see more of this Stateside!
JOHN S: Next stop improve the music!
KRISTIE: Beautiful! And I agree; that is how it should be! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it spread State side? Thanks Father Joe! You are awesome!
VICTORIA: Reverent…one aspect of many of the beauty of Catholicism. (I didn’t witness this reverence in the Baptist, Unitarian, Nondenominational, or Methodist churches.) I’m sooo happy I’m Home.
BOB: John S— Sanctus fumus! More Palestrina, that’s what wants here!
LADY GODLESS: Well, that was nice! It looked too much like a lethal injection gurney before.
REGINA: Fr. Joe, this is why women are not priests…I spent an hour reading your blog and it reminds me of something I already know— men have a thick skin. They are tougher than us women. I heard a caller to a secular radio station say that the gates of hell referred to in the bible would not prevail against the Church, which, as the caller pointed out, was a battering ram. I loved this insight— you are a battering ram! Keep battering those gates Father! I pray for you.
ANITA MOORE OPL: One of these days, the change will be permanent. We can look at the cost as a penance for having wrecked the old furnishings in the first place. Is it possible there are some bishops who will not get out of Purgatory until the wreckovations they ordered are undone? If so, that makes the restoration of the Churches even more urgent.
HIDDEN ONE: I know a few altars that could use that kind of treatment… at least one of which a renovation group could sneak into, remodel, and leave, likely without being noticed. *sigh*
MR. FLAPTRAP: This is the installation of the new altar at my parish, St. Raphael’s in Rockville, Md. The old altar was similar in style to the original one in this video (four round concrete legs and a slab.) The base on the new one features the three archangels named in the Bible.
FATHER JOE: Yes, I remember the before and after. There are also shots of the late Father Bill Finch who died after Mass on Holy Thursday 2009. Rest in Peace. Thank you for sharing the video.
I recently joined a parish where altar, tabernacle, and crucifix are in a traditional vertical line of worship as in the video. Sadly, I am aware of only a few churches in the archdiocese of Cincinnati that are configured with the tabernacle placed at the altar. I must drive farther to my new parish, but the trip is well worth it because I now experience a much deeper sense of worship, adoration, and reverence for the Eucharist.
I pray our new archbishop will institute a uniform policy to place the tabernacle at the altar in all parish churches in the archdiocese. This would be a huge achievement for the catechesis of young and old on Christ’s Eucharistic presence.
Pope Pius XII, in his 1956 Address on the Liturgy, addressed with prophetic insight what would happen only a decade later shortly after Vatican II by warning: “To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and their nature should remain united.” Indeed, Church tradition for seven centuries — from mid-thirteenth century until after Vatican II — had placed the tabernacle at the altar. Surely the Holy Spirit inspired the holy union of tabernacle and altar over so many centuries.
This is a really informative website. Keep up the good work, Fr. Joe! God bless.
JOHN: The problem today is that the priests have been formed to think that they are pastors first and the Mass means very little.
FATHER JOE: That was not my experience. Most priests I know would argue with you. The Eucharist is the center of our lives.
If you look at the new Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 by Pope John Paul II, take a look at Canon 276. This canon directly addresses the question of how Catholic priests are to pursue holiness. It lists:
First, the obligation to ‘faithfully and untiringly….fulfill the duties of pastoral ministry’; Second, the obligation to Sacred Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist; Third, reading the breviary.
FATHER JOE: Are you being purposely deceptive? The code begins by saying, “In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.” The initial statement of the canon stresses “the mysteries of God” and the chief among these are the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. Priests have been empowered by Christ to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and to forgive sins. I suspect that you have a watered down appreciation of the pastoral ministry. A man is not ordained chiefly for his own salvation but for that of others. Jesus washed the feet of his apostles and told his followers to do so for one another. The priest is the servant of God who lays down his life for others. A pastor serves God by sacrificing his life for his flock. Only priests can offer the Mass and forgive sins. This has not changed since Vatican II.
JOHN: Canon 276 sets forth a weird priority of obligations. For years Catholics (including priests) have been taught that because the Eucharist is the centre of the Church the obligation to celebrate Mass was far and away the most important in priestly life. In fact, this principle was often demonstrated by the famous example that a priest will still celebrate Mass even though there is no one in attendance.
FATHER JOE: I suspect you are not appreciating the language of the Code. It is still recommending that priests celebrate daily Mass. Most if not all priests I know do precisely that. Indeed, many of us offer the Mass several times a day.
JOHN: The obligation of all priests to pastoral duties also undermines the life of any priest living the contemplative life.
FATHER JOE: There are different codes for pastors and monks. It is a different life. Many religious priests in monasteries regularly concelebrate. Most diocesan priests are the only priest present at their liturgies. Some groups like the Trappists only ordain enough priests to care for the community. The other monks remain religious brothers. The old code also placed a pastor-priest’s salvation on the line in how he fulfilled his pastoral duties: not neglecting the needs of his people for the Eucharist and Confession and Extreme Unction. The transmission of the true faith, especially to the children is crucial in both codes. Failure to give adequate care to this would constitute mortal sin.
JOHN: Although the canon refers to all priests (not merely diocesan), one wonders how it can be applied to the many priests living in a monastery.
FATHER JOE: Particular rules of life in orders approved by the Holy See and the codes on religious take precedence since it is seen as a higher vocation.
JOHN: In fact, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to see how monks can be said to have any priestly obligation to pastoral ministry. It would also not be exaggeration to say that the Vatican II theology of the priesthood, which makes pastoral obligations intrinsic to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, undermines the life of the monk-priest.
FATHER JOE: Such ministry is in regard to the religious community. Similarly priests were sometimes given charge of a convent. Their flock would be the nuns. Pastoral ministry always exists in some form, even if it is just Mass for the dead. The word “pastoral” is a reference to the role of a priest as a shepherd. He cares for the sheep and does so according to the powers and authority given him. You are making a false case. Accidentals have changed in some cases, but the priesthood is as it has always been. The old code was even more concerned about accidentals to ministry, like tonsure and clerical property and certain rights.
This approach seems little else that an attempted synthesis between the Catholic diocesan priesthood and the Lutheran ministry. Further, it is a change so radical that it can be safely said that the Catholic priesthood has been turned upside-down.
On October 24, 1995, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a speech given on the thirtieth anniversary of Presbyterorum Ordinis, said that Vatican II attempted to broaden the classical image of the priesthood and to satisfy the demands proposed by the Reformation, by critical exegesis, and by modern life but from the reading of Canon 276 it seems more likely that the Council, in its ecumenical effort, embraced the Protestant ideas of ministry but unfortunately loosened its grasp of the core of the Catholic priesthood. The consequence was that Vatican II produced a document which at its core is little else than a warmed-over version of the Protestant ministry.
FATHER JOE: You mean well, but your hatred of the Church after Vatican II colors your reasoning. Catholic priests are not defined as one would Lutheran ministers. Many Lutherans believe that ordination can expire. The priesthood is forever. Catholic priests offer daily Mass. Many Lutherans do not and are only part-time ministers. Catholic priests offer a propitiatory sacrifice of the Mass (a true re-presentation of Calvary) and offer us the risen Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Protestants have occasional communion services and give out bread and juice. Catholic priests claim to have the power to forgive sins. No Lutheran minister would say that. Look at the catechism, which is far more revelatory about the priesthood than the Code on the rights and responsibilities of the clerical state.
JOHN: These liturgical changes, which were introduced over forty years ago, can now be seen as part of the larger picture. It is no secret that vernacular liturgy, the concept of Eucharist as-meal (implicit in the Mass of Paul VI), and the use of a table in the sanctuary (rather than an altar) were applauded by most Protestant sects. In fact these liturgical changes were the companion of very serious changes to the Catholic priesthood— all under the influence of Protestant theology.
FATHER JOE: Abuses happened, but the liturgical reform and a movement to a vernacular liturgy were being explored even in the 1930′s. We saw the development of the dialogue Mass prior to Vatican II. There is no denial of sacrifice by regarding the altar as also a table. There need be no either/or. As for Protestant sects, we came to appreciate a common love for Jesus, but most of them still reject the Mass and the priesthood. The sacraments are still wholly Catholic and neither the priesthood nor the Mass has lost that spiritual efficacy given them by Christ.
JOHN: And I continue to find it so amusing how everyone thinks of Pope JPII as being so conservative where it was he who introduced a new Code of Canon Law, new Catholic Catechism, new translations of the Bible (USCCB and NAB but approved on the Vatican website and explained as such), proudly proclaimed ecumenism as the cornerstone of his pontificate and participated in false worship that in infallible councils and in encyclical after encyclical proclaimed any Catholic let alone a Pope who would do such was excommunicated.
FATHER JOE: The Old Catholics broke away from the true Church prior to Vatican II. Many Anglicans practice ancient rituals. However, like so many Latin Traditionalists, their fight over ecclesiology and the authority of the Pope makes them the REAL PROTESTANTS. You can offer the Tridentine Mass and still be a heretic, schismatic, excommunicant, and a PROTESTANT. Unlike certain churches of the East locked into a stagnant tradition; the Catholic Church has a Magisterium that is protected by the Holy Spirit. We have a teaching authority centered upon the Pope which along with the world’s bishops (in and out of council) guides the Church. A few renegade bishops and priests have no such divine protection.
JOHN: This mess will take generations to clean up and millions of souls will be lost because of those who were entrusted to save souls.
FATHER JOE: And some of the lost souls will follow the guidance of illicit bishops who deny the Jewish holocaust and who rebuke the authority of Christ’s Vicar on Earth.
ANNE W. PALMER: I cried and cried when I saw the video. Thanks be to God! I grew up with the traditional years ago. There is such a difference in realization of the sacredness of our precious Lord in the Eucharist. Vatican II was so misinterpreted, adding things that were never there in the first place. I will never understand how that happened. The video makes it so plain. Thank you for posting it. I will share it with as many as possible. By the way, the music was awesome too. I would like to know from where it came? Music also denotes the sacred and that was sacred.
JOHN: Why is my comment still awaiting moderation? [I had to find time to respond in the original discussion.] Is it that difficult or do you not want to acknowledge the new form of the priesthood, which after Vatican II saw thousands leave and starting with the late 1950′s, the “wandering eye” priest (not to be accepted as good) give way to the pedophile, gay, liberal priest who has led millions of souls to hell?
FATHER JOE: There is no new form of priesthood. That is the lie promulgated by those who misrepresent the teachings of the present-day Catholic Church under Peter’s successor. Those who give greater weight to accidentals over substance or essentials fall into grievous error, particularly in regard to ecclesiology and juridical authority. You might not like the current reformed rituals, but the sacraments are intact and the Church endures. As for pedophile priests, many of the lawsuits regard clergy who were formed by the old Latin regime. What is the old saying about people living in glass houses throwing stones?
JOHN: Our Sermon today at the SSPV chapel in Oyster Bay was just that, how the priesthood right before and after Vatican II with its changes in its form as well as intent as I have stated above, is more concerned about being “liked” and knowing the bible than about saving souls and leading those astray to find Christ.
FATHER JOE: You belong to a splinter group of a splinter group, a schism of a schism? You are being deceived. I will pray that you will return to the one holy “Catholic” and apostolic CHURCH.
I’m surprised more people have not responded to this topic and I would really like to know what you think. I’m 62 years old. Although I’m happy to have recently joined a parish with the tabernacle at the main altar, it makes me downright angry that so many parishes in my archdiocese displace the tabernacle. Let me give you a few examples. The parish where I grew up removed the tabernacle from the altar sometime after Vatican II and placed it in a side wing near the choir. They put the baptismal font at the altar where the tabernacle once stood.
Another parish I attended for several years was an older church with a beautiful altar having a built-in tabernacle. When it was remodeled, they put the tabernacle at a side altar outside the sanctuary, and “boarded up” the hole at the main altar with an ornamental cross display.
The last parish I attended for several years before joining my present one actually had the tabernacle as a small wall-closet outside the sanctuary. I finally had my fill of this nonsense and was delighted to find a traditional parish with the tabernacle at the main altar.
Call me “old fashioned” if you like, but to my way of thinking, Christ’s Eucharistic presence is either real or make-believe. If make-believe, then it really doesn’t matter where we put the tabernacle or whether anyone genuflects before it. But if Christ’s Eucharistic presence is real, then where on earth would you even think about placing the tabernacle — other than at the main altar.
As I pointed out in my earlier comment, Catholic tradition placed the tabernacle at the altar for 7 centuries — from mid-13th century until shortly after Vatican II. And contrary to what some Catholics mistakenly believe, Vatican II did NOT mandate or encourage the removal of the tabernacle from the altar. This nonsense resulted from liturgists who used the reform momentum of Vatican II as an excuse to radically redesign churches with the consent of some bishops who frankly were “asleep at the wheel.”
And where has this nonsense led. My observation is that most people do not genuflect when the tabernacle is absent from the altar, and if they do it’s often not even in the direction of the tabernacle. There is also a lot more talking in the pews before and after Mass. In short, reverence for the Eucharist is lacking to some extent and Mass seems more a “communal meal” and less an act of divine worship. At least, that’s my personal experience.
And, what about catechesis on Christ’s Eucharistic presence? What does it say to young and old alike when the baptismal font replaces the tabernacle at the altar, or when the tabernacle is placed at a side altar like a saint’s statue, or when the tabernacle is a wall closet outside the sanctuary?
Eucharistic adoration doesn’t make a lot of sense to me in churches where the tabernacle is displaced. After all, what is the sense of placing the Eucharist in a monstrance on the main altar when the tabernacle is not afforded the same position of honor? Isn’t the same Eucharist inside the tabernacle or am I missing something?
To reiterate the words of Pope Pius XII in my earlier post above: “To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and their nature should remain united.” Also, I think it’s hard to argue with 7 centuries of Church tradition that placed the tabernacle at the altar. Certainly, the Holy Spirit inspired the holy union of tabernacle and altar over so many centuries.
Okay, Father Joe, what do you think about all this? It troubles me spiritually to see such disconnect between my belief about the Eucharist and the placement of the tabernacle in so many churches?
FATHER JOE: In regard to our parish churches, tabernacles are best placed in the center, along with the altar. We pretty much agree. My last parish had a side tabernacle (built in 1971). I moved it to the center where it belonged.
MARY O: “I moved it to the center where it belonged.” God bless you for that, Father Joe.
Gestures are also important. There are at least four major gestures at the Eucharistic Liturgy which could help us to a degree to understand what the Mass is about. Sometimes we heard in the past that since the words of the celebration were in Latin, we could not understand the liturgy. I am suggesting that four simple gestures, if properly interpreted, could help us regardless of the liturgical language. First, the priest holds aloft the bread and the wine. That simple gesture “toward heaven” signifies that the gifts are being offered up to God. That gesture of offering reminds us we should offer up ourselves— our work, our play, our talent, our crosses and our joy to the Lord. As the bread and wine are held aloft, we need not hear the words; the gesture alone alerts us to “offer up” ourselves to God. Second, the next gesture of importance is the holding up again the gifts. Why? Is this merely repetition? Something must have happened to our gifts. They have been changed into the body and blood of Christ. Christ is now present: body, blood, soul and divinity. This gesture, this elevation suggesting to us that the gifts have been changed, allows us to express our faith and devotion. As St. Thomas says in the Scriptures, “My Lord and my God.” Our gifts are changed now and we acknowledge that change as they are held up for our adoration. Third, just before the “Our Father,” there is another gesture called a minor elevation, when this same host and chalice are elevated to indicate that our praise goes on, in and through Jesus Christ who is present in the Eucharist. Fourth, a final gesture is also accompanied by words, “Behold the Lamb of God.” But this gesture alone is an invitation to partake of the consecrated bread and cup. So there are four gestures: gestures of offering, showing and inviting. These gestures (even alone) will help us, I hope, to understand a little of what is going on at Mass. If we hear the words, that is even better, but the gestures can help us, too.
Accidentals are important. Even furniture in the church building has a part to play in our faith. God is present in many ways. A reminder of those presences can be understood by reflection on the furniture in our churches. The altar is the focal point of attention in any Catholic church. It is seen as both a table and as a place of sacrifice. We are fed from the altar with the body and blood of Christ, our spiritual food. The altar is our focal point for the re-presentation of Christ’s saving death and resurrection. The altar is kissed reverently by the priest before and after the liturgy. The altar may be incensed as a mark of honor as the place from which our prayer with Christ rises with pleasing fragrance to the Father. The altar is not only the place of the real presence but also of the real activity of Christ, taking us to the Father. The altar suggests a special dimension of the divine presence. As it says in one of the Canons, we are privileged to stand in God’s presence around the altar. This refers not just to the priests, but to all of us. We gather together, the mystical body of Christ. This gathering includes the angels— holy, holy, holy— and the saints, those named in the Canon, and the relics of saints in the altar stone. They remind us that all of us are the family of God with Christ as our head. As the bread and wine are changed into Christ’s living body and blood, so the worshippers, who gather, as individuals or as the Church, are to be transformed into the “People of God.” Each of us becomes individually a child of God. Every time we gather at the altar there should be some change or transformation, appropriating the dispositions of Christ. The tabernacle is now usually separated from the altar to its own place. It is here that the Eucharistic Christ is reserved for visits, benediction and communion for the sick. This is the original and primary purpose for the tabernacle— that is to reserve the Blessed Sacrament.
St. Augustine coined the phrase, “He who sings, prays twice.” The hymns are expressions of praise, our needs and our beliefs. We sing them to show our deep joy at being engaged at the liturgy where the passion, death and resurrection of Christ is re-presented. After a hymn is announced, it is disheartening to witness people not even picking up the hymnal. Some complain that the hymns are new to us. Others might not like the given melody. A number will give the qualification that they do not have a good voice. These are only a few of the objections raised when we are asked to sing a hymn. The lyrics of hymns are prayers, often fitting in with the season or feast of the Church’s year. If you really cannot sing, then read the lyrics quietly as others sing. Lyrics are usually full of profound truths, expertly expressed— especially when the texts are taken from the Psalms or other Scriptures. Lyrics are our prayers to follow, even when the singing part is difficult. Hymns are prayers expressing our relationship with God. Again, it is disheartening to see people leave church early in the midst of our conversation with the Lord. Such is expressed in the hymns and lyrics that are said or sung at the conclusion of the Mass. Sing! Do the best you can. The Scriptures say “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Each of us is at least capable of that.
Just as there is a placed for silence and inner-prayerfulness, the nature of the reformed liturgy necessitates proclamation and public prayer. There is a dialogue in the Mass as we worship God. The faithful participate in the liturgy, not only internally, but outwardly by saying the parts of the Mass which are theirs. We should respond to the minister who exhorts us with “The Lord be with you,” by saying, “And with your spirit.” This response starts us off. The laity should take their role and responses seriously. We begin with response to the prayer of sorrow for sin, either in the long form (Confiteor) or in short responses. While the priest has an indispensible role, it is not his Mass alone. Next, in the responsorial psalm, spoken or sung, the laity shows their acceptance of God’s Word which has been proclaimed to them. The repetition of the verses may give a short, quick reminder of what God just said to us in the readings. The shortest response is “Amen.” It occurs at the end of the three prayers which the priest says for the assembly: the Collect or Opening Prayer, the prayer just before the Preface and the Prayer after Communion. It is our word of acceptance to what the priest is praying in our name. It is our sign of agreement with God and his message for us. The Amen in response to the elevation of host and chalice just before Communion is a sign of our acceptance of going to the Father through Christ present in the Eucharist. At the moment of Communion, Amen is used again. It should be said loudly and firmly, not whispered. The response is “Amen” to the words, “Body of Christ,” not something made up such as “Thank You” or “I Believe,” etc. It means that the communicant accepts all that the Church teaches as well as belief in the real presence. Your Amen heard at that time by others and the priest strengthens the common faith. It is a sign of unity. So let us speak up! These are our prayers. The Mass is the prayer of our family of faith. An enthusiastic response both affirms our personal faith and gives needed solidarity with the faith of others.
There is a place in our private prayers for silence. “Be still and know that I am God,” the Scriptures tell us. When we pray privately, there is a time for silence, for wonder, and for awe as we listen to the movements of God’s grace. Regarding the public prayer of the Church, the Mass, a great deal depends on our private prayer said at other times. Our personal prayers fuel a deeper meaning and relevance to the corporate prayer with its accompanying moments of silence. Unless we are accustomed to private prayer, the place for silent prayer at Mass will not be fruitful. There is a place for silence in the beginning of Mass and for reflection on our sinfulness just before the priest asks the congregation to express their sorrow publicly. Hopefully, at the end of the Scripture reading, the Reader will give us a moment to reflect on what has just been heard. God speaks to us in the Scripture service and it may be that some phrase or word will touch us. Certainly there is an intended theme or message and it is often picked up by our response to the reading. A silent pause, no matter how brief, should come after the Gospel and at the end of the homily. During the preparation of the gifts (of bread and wine), there are moments when we silently offer ourselves, our work, our play and our lives to God. We do not enter into the liturgy cold but rather bring our needs, hopes, aspirations and insights from private prayer. There are moments for private acts of faith at the beginning of the Mass, at the Offertory and at the elevation of the consecrated hosts and precious blood. We pause quietly again to pray for the living and the dead. The most important moment for silence is at the time immediately following Holy Communion. We spend a little time at Mass making our Thanksgiving. Do we realize who has just come to us in Communion or is it “eat-and-run”? The latter is impolite even in ordinary gatherings for meals. Finally, there is the time at the conclusion of the Mass. Unfortunately, while a few are trying to pray quietly in the church, they are distracted by others engaging in conversation. Silence is golden, especially when it reflects a preoccupation with God and his presence.