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
- Go and prepare... .
- ... prepare it... .
- ... guest room... .
- ... a large upper room furnished... .
- ... they prepared... .
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
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?
Less is more?
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.
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?
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.