How to Assists at Mass
All the Faithful Can Take an Active Part in this Sacrifice
Assisting at Mass, we should do four things:
- Reconstruct the historic setting in which took place the event in our Lord’s Life, or in that of one of His saints which is being commemorated on the appointed day. In doing this much help may be gained from the Mass of the Catechumens with its different features: the vestments, the chant, the Introit, Epistle, Gospel, etc.
- Offer to God, for His greater glory, the mystery of our Redeemer’s life which is being commemorated, or the acts of virtue which have been practiced by the saint whose feast it is. This is done in the Canon of the Mass; it is not fitting to communicate before having made this offering which appeases the most High and brings us divine grace.
- Ask of God (this is done in the Pater noster) and receive from Him by the merits and intercession of our Lord and His saints, the graces which they themselves received when they were living on earth. (This is the fruit of the Communion and the Postcommunion.)
- To these three ways of interior or spiritual participation, which can be practiced at every Mass, we should, as far as circumstances allow, add exterior or material participation, which may consist: in reading liturgical prayers with the priest, in singing congregational and Gregorian chant at High Mass, in responding aloud at Low Mass, and best of all, in receiving Holy Communion with the priest during Mass. In this way, we shall draw plentiful fresh draughts of the true Christian spirit at its primary source, as Pius X wished.
What is a “Dialogue Mass”
Certain texts of the Mass are reserved to the priest, and should never be said aloud by the faithful: we can still make these parts our own, not by a mechanical repetition but by reverent and serious reflection, corresponding to the thoughts expressed by these prayers.
Other parts of the Mass were originally, and are still to be said by the people. They are of two kinds: those that are to be chanted by the congregation at High Mass, and those that are responded by the ministers, or by the server at Low Mass, on our behalf.
- A first degree of “Missa dialogata” consists in responding aloud with the server.
- A second degree (which deserves properly the name of “Missa recitata”) adds to the first degree the recitation with the celebrant of all the prayers which are sung by the people at Missa Cantata, the Gloria (Et in terra, etc.), the Credo (Patrem omnipotentem, etc.), the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei.
- Moreover, before Holy Communion, we should say not only the Confiteor with the server, but the Domine non sum dignus, which the priest says at that moment on our behalf, may also be said three times with him.
In the Ordinary of the Mass, all sentences that may be said by the faithful, are printed in heavier type in this Missal (see p. 538).
The lawfulness of this use is henceforth beyond any doubt, although it remains subject to regulations from the diocesan authority. It has been expressly authorized or recommended, or even put into practice in the first or in the second degree by bishops of different countries, and it is most favorably regarded by Rome. The approval was given to the first degree in Belgium in striking terms: the Sacred Congregation of the Council approved in November 1922, the following decree of the Provincial Council of Malines: “In order to instil into the souls of the faithful a truly Christian and collective spirit, and prepare them for active participation, as is the evident desire contained in pontifical documents, one must approve (laudanda est) the practice at least in religious houses and institutions for youth, in which all people assisting at the Mass make the responses at the same time with the acolytes. On November 30, 1935, the Sacred Congregation of Rites explicitly approved both degrees of this practice, whenever the Bishop has no objection owing to local circumstances.
Holy Mass and Holy Communion
This assistance at the Holy Sacrifice is the ideal preparation for Holy Communion since it is the same that the Church imposes on the Pope, the bishops and all the priests, whenever they celebrate Mass. It develops in the soul those sentiments of contrition, of faith, of hope, of love and of gratitude, which are indispensable if the Eucharist is to be received with fruit. By means of this preparation, the highest act of participation in the Mass is Holy Communion. It obtains all of its fruits, because it is one of the most perfect applications of the conditions required by the decree of the saintly Pius X, when he said, “a most abundant attainment of the effects of Holy Communion is by a careful preparation and a thanksgiving proper to the reception of this divine Sacrament.”