Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Take care of the Mass!

“Pambansang Buwan ng Katekesis” is September, says Word and Life’s “Patnubay sa Misa”, a mass guide in Tagalog that we are using in Tarragona Filipino Catholic Community (TFCC) for the past seven months. And taking advantage of this theme, I started giving short catechesis to the mass-goers, using Powerpoint presentations, before the Final Blessing of the Eucharistic celebrations.

(I hope liturgists – and other liturgy “experts” – would not react against this method, for I deem it opportune the time before the final blessing to give a little catechesis – in lieu of announcements – because, for the moment, it’s hard to gather an audience after the mass. As soon as I give the final blessing, everyone would disperse.)

There’s an urgent need to impart catechesis – not only the opportunity to celebrate masses in Tagalog – to OFW’s here, because without it, it would be hard for them to appreciate the liturgical celebrations. Without due appreciation and reverence towards the Holy Eucharist, the Mass would just be – in the words of Bishop Rimando (Auxilliary Bishop of Davao) – like “ordering food in a restaurant”.

* * *

“We will dedicate at least five minutes in silence before starting the mass”, I said, as I took the microphone and interrupted the growing uproar among children running to and fro in the Church alley, among mothers exchanging beso-beso and the latest craze in town, friends sharing experiences, etc.

“Whenever we have visitors at home, we always make sure that the house is orderly and we make some basic preparations. It’s the same with the Holy Eucharist: we have to prepare ourselves to receive Jesus in our heart,” I explained. Immediately, a deafening silence ensued. The same silence took place right after communion when over the microphone, I invited everyone to spend a moment of silence, thanking God for the Holy Communion that we received.

It’s amazing how we, Filipinos, still conserve a great deal of docility even in other countries! I can’t find any reason why this can’t be observed in our parishes there in the Philippines.

* * *
“Had Vilma Santos been here in front, I’m sure all of you would be vying for the nearest bench, to be seated near the actress,” I noted. They all laughed, thinking it was a joke. “But Jesus is here in front of us! Is He less important than Vilma Santos?” I saw some of those who understood transferred to the front pews.

Before the Mass started, I noticed that most mass-goers preferred the seats near the door, so that the front pews are left vacant. Perhaps, we only wanted to feel more comfortable, that’s why we prefer seats located near the door and far from the altar. But is there a place more comfortable than that which is near Jesus?

* * *

“For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "Have a seat here, please," while you say to the poor man, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2: 2-4)

As these words of the Second Reading were proclaimed, suddenly a man, wearing shorts and with no shirt, entered through the door and walked right in front of the altar, kneeled at the first pew and started to weep. “How well he understood my analogy about Vilma Santos,” I thought to myself. I made a gesture to others to take him out. They persuaded him but he refused.

After the proclamation of the Gospel and before giving the homily, I personally asked the man, who – I immediately perceived – is drunk, to leave the church out of respect to the on-going mass celebration. He resisted at first, but when he noticed that various Filipinos are surrounding him, he gave in. Reaching the door, two local police officers accompanied him to we don’t know where.

I don’t think it’s depriving him to pray in the church or making distinctions, like the Apostle James has warned us against. It’s simply a question of showing respect to the Holy Eucharist that we should wear, at least, presentable clothing during the Eucharistic celebration. In the same way that we wear our best attire when we meet an important person, why can’t we do the same in meeting Jesus in the Holy Eucharist? And of course, it’s totally disrespectful for someone drunk to meet Jesus in the Eucharist!

* * *

If we really want to celebrate September as “Pambansang Buwan ng Katekesis”, I think, we, priests, need to place more emphasis on some aspects of our faith that are already given less importance, neglected or taken for granted, like some important details in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Negligence, ignorance or simply our lack of sensitivity in these things could affect so much the solemnity of the celebration.

And who else than the priest himself could well remind the people of the importance of these things?

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"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.