So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Picnic Mass

A real kick in the Mass.
A high school group goes on retreat. The pastor/chaplain insists on holding Mass on a rock outcropping or some fallen rotting log. Flies buzz around the chalice and land on the consecrated hosts, or the hosts are blown about like confetti. Eager young disciples "take" communion with grubby hands they've just wiped on their muddied skirts or trousers, snapping the host from the hands of the priest like a nacho chip. "Hey, where's the dip?"
Take care and prepare.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters, and tell the householder, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready.” And they went, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover.—St. Luke 22:7-13
Note the following words or phrases emphasized in the above passage:
  1. Go and prepare... .
  2. ... prepare it... .
  3. ... guest room... .
  4. ... a large upper room furnished... .
  5. ... they prepared... .
Take particular note of the words 'prepare' and 'prepared'. Christ chose a large furnished room for the Last Supper, the first Eucharist, the first Holy Mass where He also established the priesthood. Christ wanted a special place to be prepared, so He entrusted to His two closest Apostles the task of attending to the preparations.
Who were the first Catholic priests? The twelve Apostles, who were ordained to the priesthood by Jesus Christ Himself.

When did Jesus make the twelve Apostles priests? At the Last Supper, on the night before He died, when He gave them the power to change bread and wine into His Body and Blood. "Do this for a commemoration of me."—St. Luke 22:19
Take the necessary time to prepare properly for Mass.

Preparation is important! Jesus sent others ahead to prepare the Feast of feasts. Jesus could have celebrated that first Mass at some impromptu outdoor location. The Garden of Gethsemane, perhaps? But, He didn't! A special place was prepared where He could gather with His closest disciples. Certain necessary plans were carried out in obedience to the Master's command. Should we prepare any less for the sublime gift of Holy Mass?

If tempted to celebrate a "Picnic Mass" with plastic cups and paper towels for linens, then pastors, chaplains and assisting sacristans should keep in mind the occasion when Peter, the chief apostle, and John were sent to prepare the guest room so that Jesus could celebrate with the whole company the first Mass and ordain the Apostles. Peter and John—the first sacristans!

Less is more?

C'mon folks, we can do more and better to honour our King and Saviour!
Dear priests, if you are able to persuade members of your flock to 1) purchase enough food for a weekend excursion and 2) pay for gas to drive 100 miles or farther to 3) occupy cozy rented cabins or full service campsites, then surely you can convince a few others to lug in 4) a decent folding table, appropriate linens, an altar crucifix, alb, amice, chasuble and stole, at least two candlesticks and, of course, the cruets and other sacred vessels for Mass. 
And when that beautiful Mass is celebrated, a pall will be used to cover the chalice! A second pall can be used to cover the paten containing the hosts. Use double-sided tape or use table clips to fasten the altar cloth to the table. I've seen large rocks employed to weigh down the altar cloth. In a pinch, a rock will do. Clips for attaching table cloths to picnic tables can be purchased for a very reasonable price from most hardware stores or specialty shops. So, jam a crowbar in your wallet and purchase some table cloth clips.
Excuse #1—"But,... that's so much to take care of. Can't we just keep things simple?"—Would you like a little cheese to go with that whine?
Simple does not mean bleak nor dumbed-down. Is it really too much trouble to pack in a few items so that Mass will look like Mass and so that the Mass will be celebrated without fear of an altar cloth being turned into a sail? Even if it is burdensome to pack in the necessary items for Mass, and arms are strained lugging in a table, can there be any doubt that a little extra work done in service to the Lord is good for the soul and a benefit to others, especially those souls in purgatory?
Excuse #2—In the 1970s, Father Faithful from Poland celebrated Mass outdoors. What's wrong with celebrating Mass under a beautiful forest canopy?
God's creation is magnificent! Creation is good, for He created it so.
The hypothetical (but frequently typical) Polish priest and his people were living under a communist dictatorship that regularly made people disappear because they committed counter-revolutionary activities such as celebrating Mass. In the People's Republic of China, our faithful Chinese brethren in communion with Rome have been known to prepare Masses celebrated on boats away from the prying eyes of local communist party officials. Our brothers and sisters in Mosul have had their beautiful churches wrested from their possession. Their altars and sanctuaries lie in ruin. Our war-weary brethren are forced to celebrate Mass much as the early persecuted Christians did, clandestinely in homes and hidden places arranged for Mass. Exceptional circumstances merit exceptional consideration. Laziness does not.
"There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us."—St. John Vianney.

In the midst of suffering and persecution, the persecuted make do with what they have to honour the Lord. The Chaldean celebrations of the Holy Liturgy in Iraq, which these days are likely very humble liturgies by comparison with what can be offered in North American and European parishes, are glorious nonetheless, for the Lord is honoured in their poverty and persecution. The sufferings of Iraqi Catholics greatly honour the Lord. What excuse do we have if we offer a banal liturgy simply because we're too lazy to haul "gear"?

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