This article is as much for Catholics that go to Mass as much as for those non-Catholics that wonder what goes on there. It was inspired by my pastor. Monsignor John Urell, here at St. Timothy in Laguna Niguel. He’s carved out six Sundays to do what I wish more pastors would do more of—that’s use the pulpit to catechize. (Since far too many of us haven’t been to a religion class since our Confirmation days, we all could use some continuing education.) Subject for Monsignor s “six week course” is The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This past Sunday he covered the Liturgy of the Word. (Our Bible-centric Protestant brothers and sisters should be delighted to know just how much emphasis we Catholics put on Scripture in our Sunday service.)
Monsignor opened his lesson with the affirmation that the Bible was our book. “It was we Catholics that put it together”, he explained. The “Real Presence” of Christ was as much in the Word (Scripture) as it was in the Sacrament (of the Eucharist.) At Mass we’re nourished from two tables.
Monsignor related how, thanks to Vatican II, Scripture holds emphasis for at least half of the Mass service. He reminded us how The Lectionary (book of Mass Scripture) is held up in procession to begin the Mass. He spelled out how selections from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the post Christ New Testament and the Gospels are all featured and purposely chosen for common theme. He relayed how The Lectionary is carried in ceremony to the pulpit for the reading of the words of Christ. He explained how the homily is crafted to reflect on the meanings of the Scripture selected for the day.
“If you attended Mass every day for three years”, he said, “virtually the entire Bible would be covered.”
So far Monsignor’s words weren’t new to me. Then he delivered some that caught my attention and hopefully the attention of everyone else present in the congregation.
He told everyone, in no uncertain terms, that it was our responsibility, as much as his, to read the coming Sunday’s Scripture selections before coming to Mass. (As a teacher I can appreciate students doing their assigned reading before class. The Bible was our textbook and we had weekly homework.) He reminded us that the coming Sunday Scripture selections were posted in the bulletin every week.
What’s more, he continued, if the priest’s or deacon’s homily didn’t move us to appreciation of today’s Scripture readings, it was our job (yes our job) to reread and reflect on those readings ourselves.
Here was a Catholic priest not only selling the Bible, but selling our responsibility to make it an personal part of our liturgical lives!
My mom, bless her soul, said the rosary during Mass, and faithfully recited prayers from a prayer book. Our family Bible was used to record the Baptisms, Confirmations and Marriages of family members. Personal Scripture reflection was only something Protestants did. I’d venture to guess this is not the Catholic Church most of them are taught to picture.
When I was growing up the Mass seemed like something that was being done for us. (Heck, as an old Latin altar boy I used to respond for the people in church.) In the pews we watched and witnessed and made token responses. The only pages of the Bible we touched were relegated to those in our St. Joseph Daily Missals.
Now the altar and celebrant are turned toward us and we’re required, as Monsignor advocated, to participate in the Word of God even beyond the hour we devote each week to Mass.
What a turnaround!
Just think what would happen if we all turned around and committed ourselves to doing all we’re called to do.
Nourished from two tables, we have everything we need to both hear the Word of God and live it.
Full recap of Monsignor Urell’s Liturgy of the Word homily
“Yes, Catholics care about the Bible”