St James Cathedral - Seattle, WA

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What's Your Favorite Part of the Mass?

Have you ever thought about this? I have to admit, I have.
(I realize this makes me look like a total nerd when it comes to going to church.)

Having a "favorite part" of the Mass is a good thing. After all, so many go to church because they feel they have to, not because they want to. When you start having a favorite part of the Mass, then you're probably there because you want to be there. You even looking forward to being there.

I haven't thought about having a favorite part since I was a little boy. Even as a small child, I remember always liking the liturgy. The rhythm, the ritual, the expected prayers with a little variation from week to week, it all seemed to fit me very well.

I can remember liking the entrance procession- always trying to get a glimpse of the the priest and servers walking to the altar, lead by cross and candles. I think I even pretended to do this at my house growing up when I was about 4 or 5 years old.

I've always liked the bells, whether the ones in the bell tower which rung before Mass, or the smaller ones at the altar, rung at the elevations of the Eucharist. The parish I attend now doesn't have either, so there's a bit of nostalgia for me when I'm at a different church and hear the bells rung.

As I grew older, I started to look forward to the bigger liturgical celebrations for holy days because I liked the more celebratory music and the use of incense and candles.  This became quite a delight for me when I arrived at Saint Meinrad- every Sunday and feast day called for chanting, incense, and additional candles for Mass and Evening Prayer. Liturgically speaking, the Benedictine monks who ran the place could easily compete with the Vatican!

So what's prompted me to talk about my favorite liturgical things? It's actually two unrelated things that have come together- my young kids and the new edition of the Roman Missal.

Let's talk about my kids first.  I had no idea that my kids would start having preferences, especially about church, at such young ages.  My son will soon be three years old and he already has preferences and opinions from which church clothes he wears, to which children's books he borrows from our church's cry room. He notices it when we go to a church other than our usual parish, and and doesn't hesitate to tell us where we should go to eat afterwards.

One Sunday, my son felt that the church should have crayons during the children's Liturgy of the Word, and he thought the pastor needed to know of his concern. I was thankful when he became a more typical two year old and buried his face into my wife's shoulder when the pastor said hello to him after Mass. His one year old sister may not be as shy. She's starting to prefer a particular stained glass window when we go for walks in the back of the church, and she knows her way from the pew to that window, regardless of where we sit. I might be in trouble when they start telling me what they think about the homily!

Now to the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, which has been in use for several months now.  Since the change over, we've all paid more attention to the language the Church uses in the liturgy. There is a lot of redundant description, and much of the text makes more grammatical sense in Latin than in English, but overall the language is much more poetic, scriptural, and ceremonial.

Between the priest and the people, the new text seems much more uneven- the celebrant gets to use all these descriptive, long worded phrases, and the faithful simply respond "Amen." As a layperson, I feel a little slighted, but I've come to really appreciate the parts of the liturgy that the faithful do have.  

The part I've come to appreciate the most is the "Mystery of Faith" which immediately follows the consecration, formerly called the Memorial Acclamation. Here are the three options, and I really like each one:
We proclaim your death, O Lord, 
and profess your Resurrection 
until you come again.
When we eat this Bread
and drink this Cup,
we proclaim your death, O Lord,
until you come again. 
Save us, Savior of the world,
for by your Cross and Resurrection,
you have set us free.
These acclamations are proper (that's liturgical talk for 'belong') to the people at Mass, and in saying (or singing) them, the faithful get to use the same poetic, scriptural, and ceremonial language that the celebrant uses.  They are also speaking directly to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, not just responding to the prompts of the minister.  So you can see, these are much more than the usual short responses "And with your spirit" or "Thanks be to God."

Other parts of the Mass I like, too.  There's a strong sense of conviction when reciting the new Confiteor, and when using "I believe" with the Creed. I'm also a fan of the response for the Invitation to Communion (that better reflects Luke 7:6-7). The difference though, is that all of those parts are proper to both the celebrant and the people.  Instead, the Mystery of Faith is proper to us as laypeople, and the celebrant joins in.  That's not very common in the liturgy.  To use a phrase not found in any edition of the Roman Missal- I think that's pretty cool.

If you have a favorite part of the Mass (or also used to play church as a kid), please share by writing a comment below!



  1. I used to play Mary and Joseph when I was younger! Is that weird?

    I'm not sure what my favorite part of the Mass is (although I really like the third option for the Mystery of Faith you listed above - love that music), but I really miss the "It is right to give God thanks and praise." No idea why, I just get a pang every time we do that staccato "It is right and just."

    1. I feel your pang (pun intended), although I'm getting used to it now.

      In the 1990s I did some traveling in Uganda. Once in a while I could attend a Mass in English. However they also used "It is right and just" because that's what the response was in the vernacular language there. It definitely threw me off a little! I don't think I ever got the response right the entire month I was there.

      Thanks for reading, Jill!

  2. Favorite part of the Mass is the epiclesis, the request to send the Holy Spirit "upon these gifts and make them holy." This is moment transubstaniation takes place. It is a very FULL liturgical moment; one worthy of special reverence.

    Great entry, Paul.

    1. Dan, I completely agree. My favorite part as well. I always have the Prayer I imagery of the angels taking the bread and wine to Heaven and bring back the Sacred.

      Yes, good post, Paul.

  3. My favorite part of the Mass has been for awhile now... the Doxology... Through Him; With Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ALL glory and honor is yours Almight Father foever and ever. AMEN!

  4. I love anything sung because I attend Mass with the Benedictine Monks and their chants always sound beautiful. But hands down, its Communion. I receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. That, and it means, my children don't have to squirm in the pews anymore. They can actually move.

  5. Hey Paul, I hopped over to your blog from the Catholic Bloggers Network, my favorite part has always been from the beggining to the end of the Eucharistic prayer. The words, both before and after the revisions have always been very beautiful, profound and meaningful to me. I've always liked how people are more attentive and reverent during this part of mass, the hymns and sung mass parts that flow in and out of this part of the liturgy, and I guess just the feeling that this is what we are all here for, the Eucharist, source and summit of our christian lives. Great post, I look forward to reading more!
    P.S. I remember playing church when I was little too, I guess it's common.

  6. Great post! Thanks for sharing it through your comment over on Catholic Sistas (


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