T WAS a privilege for me to be the main celebrant of the Colloquium Mass on Wednesday morning, and I would like to reflect a bit on the experience.
The Mass was celebrated in the Ordinary Form with a mixture of Latin and English elements. The liturgical celebration was the Memorial of Saints John Fisher & Thomas More, Martyrs. The church was the Shrine of St. Joseph in the Columbus Square neighborhood of St. Louis. Originally founded in 1843 by the Jesuits, the church is impressive in its design. Particularly notable is the woodwork in the sanctuary and sacristies.
Because of what transpires sacramentally, every Mass is beautiful. Not every Mass, however, is adorned with the same degree of beautiful elements. It was a joy for me, as a priest, to offer this particular Mass, adorned as it was by such beauty in the music, vestments, and architecture of the place.
It is my custom, at Sunday Masses in my parish, to chant the orations and most of the dialogues, so doing so on Wednesday was natural. Rarely, however, are the responses of the people so strong as they were from the Colloquium participants. Celebrating Mass in the presence of so many music directors and choristers is a rare joy. The chanting of the readings is one special addition that elevates the Colloquium liturgies each year beyond what most parish liturgies offer.
One of the things I enjoyed most about celebrating this Mass was the beautiful singing of the Kyrie, the Gloria, and the gradual. Both the Kyrie and the Gloria were plainsong (Mass IV, I believe), and the liveliness and sweetness of the singing was truly uplifting. The gradual, so expertly sung, gracefully fulfilled its purpose of fostering meditation on the Word of God. I felt more recollected during these portions of the Mass than I often do.
Rarely do I begin Mass, either on Sundays or on weekdays, without first having read the readings. Wednesday’s Mass was a rare exception. Why? The celebrants of the Colloquium liturgies are expected to give a short sermon (a “fervorino”). When I saw the Introit chant (Multae tribulatiónes justórum) printed in the Colloquium music book, I knew at that moment what direction I would go with the homily, and so I found it unnecessary to ask what the readings would be. Sacrosanctum Concilium, after all, specifically calls for preaching to “draw its content mainly from Scriptural and liturgical” sources (SC 35, emphasis added). It was delightful, then, to discover that the (beautifully chanted) readings resonated very well with the message of the Introit and the message that I tried to convey in the sermon.
This Mass provided a welcome respite from the optional practice of daily intercessions. I have written about this tiresome practice before. When the Roman Canon is offered, all the traditional categories for general intercessions are well covered, thus making the bidding prayers superfluous.
The offertory was particularly beautiful, with its focus toward the magnificent high altar, the use of incense, and the complement of quality music. As the motet Sacerdotes offerunt was sung, my thoughts were focused on the task at hand. I was also reminded of the lives of the two saints being celebrated, whose self-offerings are exemplary models of ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the lay faithful.
Distributing Holy Communion is a humbling act for every priest. It is so much more than a perfunctory task (as I recently reflected). In the Extraordinary Form, the priest actually vocalizes a prayer for each individual who comes forward to receive from him. In the Ordinary Form, although there is no such prescription, I make a private prayer for each person as he or she receives. At the Colloquium Masses, as in the Masses I celebrate in parishes and other places, the genuine devotion of the people is inspiring for priests. Surely we have all experienced exceptions to this, but just as surely, during the Communion Rite at Wednesday’s Mass, the people were able to lead me (and I presume one another) more deeply into the sacred mysteries.
This will conclude my series of reflections on Colloquium XXVI in St. Louis. Pastoral duties required me to leave a bit early, so I will not have reflections to offer about Friday or Saturday. I am grateful for the chance to spend time with Colloquium friends, as well as the opportunity to make new ones.
With gratitude to the CMAA board and all the organizers of the annual Colloquium, I hope to join everyone again next year!