In my last morceau I dealt with the formal end of our Eucharistic celebration – the final blessing and dismissal. If you’ve followed this series of articles on the Mass over the past two years, perhaps you’re rejoicing that I’ve finally reached the end of it!
Maybe for that reason I’d like to “tack on” just one more thing about the Mass. Because the Mass really does have one more part! The reason I add it is simple: in my life, especially when I was growing up, this addition was very, very important for me.
What=s this important “last part” of the Mass? It’s the conversation and critique about it that goes on after it’s over. When I was young, my parents especially used to make sure that we talked about the Mass we’d just experienced while on the way home. They would ask my sisters and me all about the Bible readings and the priest’s homily, making sure we’d gotten the point (and urging us to wonder out loud how it could have been better!). They’d help us recall the music we’d sung and heard, whether it was of good quality or not, and how it “fit in” and added to the worship. They also would make sure we had noticed anything unusual that had happened, like maybe a second collection or prayers for some special purpose. We were asked about what we liked and didn’t like, although we also always had to explain why. Most fun of all, we also got to recall what “went wrong,” so that grumpy or goofy priests, sour musical notes, sloppy altar servers and extraordinary ministers, mumbling readers and clueless ushers, all were gleefully pointed out again – even though again we also always had to point out how we would have done better if we’d been in their place! In short, it wasn’t fair to criticize unless it was constructive criticism.
This kind of ongoing conversation about what we’ve experienced at Mass is a good thing. For one, it was a great educational approach for us when we were kids. It is also a good way to dream up more practical applications of the Gospel message just heard and celebrated. But also, that kind of reflection on and discussion about our personal experiences – of the Mass or of other things of which we’ve been a part – is part and parcel of what it means to be a considerate Catholic. If we’re serious about our faith, we actively look for ways to improve. As persons in a loving relationship with God and His Church, we’re never content unless we’ve made sure that we’re not taking things for granted.