“All the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity,” said Pope Pius XII. Yet, how are the faithful supposed to do so practically speaking?
An elderly lady once told me that when she was growing up long before the Second Vatican Council, the Sisters in her Catholic school taught all the students to play their PART at Mass. PART stands for Petition, Adoration, Reparation, and Thanksgiving.
In his passion, the Lord Jesus offered up petitionary prayer to the Father, and he does so still even now in the heavenly places. On the cross, Jesus pleaded “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). In heaven, he pleads now for the Father to send forth the Spirit and renew the face of the earth. In order to join the Lord heart to heart in his worship of the Father in the liturgy, the first thing we need is a heart for petition or intercession. One of the most basic functions of Christians in the world is to plead with God and call down graces upon people, and the best place to do so is together in the celebration of the Eucharist. Many petitions go up to God throughout the course of the Mass. Our role is to listen intently to them, make them our own, and concur with a heartfelt “Amen.” It is also important, of course, to send up our own personal petitions for particular people whom God has brought into our lives or put on our hearts. We might well be the only people who really pray for them, and it might well be that Providence has planned for our prayers in particular to be of special help to them. Only in eternity shall we see the fruits of prayer. In the meantime, we simply keep asking. “Pray at all times without growing weary” (Lk. 18:1).
In his passion, as well as in his heavenly worship now, the Lord Jesus adores the Father. To adore someone is to acknowledge with love the outstanding qualities of the person. Adoration connotes being in awe over some special goodness we are beholding. People stand over the crib of an infant and just adore what they see. Adoration in the heart naturally tends to spill over into words and gestures of love and praise. People who adore an infant tell of how sweet and cute the child is and flash smiles at the opening and closing of tiny fingers. In a different and more exalted way, the Lord Jesus lives in awe before the Father. All the words and deeds of the Lord reveal the depths of his adoration. In order to join the Lord Jesus heart to heart in his worship of the Father, we too need a heart full of adoration for God. “Adore the Lord in his holy court” (Ps. 96:9). The words and gestures of the liturgy are designed to be signs of our heartfelt respect, adoration, and gratitude. When we stand at Mass, it is a ritual gesture. Standing shows respect to a person. (Everyone stands when a judge enters a courtroom.) Sitting for the readings is not just a moment to relax, but a gesture that signals attentive listening (like Mary of Bethany sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him). Kneeling during the Eucharistic prayer signals a more profound awe before what is taking place. When our minds correspond to the posture of our bodies at Mass, our participation is fruitful indeed.
In his passion and in his heavenly worship now, the Lord Jesus offers to the Father reparation for the sins of the world. On the cross, the Lord Jesus offered himself in the process of being slain. Now in heaven, however, the Lord offers himself as the Lamb Once Slain and Living One. It is all one and the same act of the sacred heart offering to the eternal Father something of such great value that it outweighs all the sins of the world. No matter how great the sins of the world may be at any one point, the offering of the body and blood of Christ is always far greater. In order to join the Lord Jesus heart to heart in his worship in the liturgy, we too need a heart intent on making reparation to the Father. What shall we offer to him? We should be intentional about offering him the Eucharistic sacrifice on the altar. It is good to make these words our own: “Eternal Father, I offer you the body, blood, soul, and divinity of your dearly beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” When the priest elevates the host at Mass we too should lift up our hearts, and offer ourselves along with Christ to the eternal Father. We should offer up to God all of our sufferings, sorrows, burdens, and trials just as Christ did on Good Friday. We should know also that when we offer it all up in love, it will surely have big effects upon the world. It is high time for Catholics to recover a sense of what it means to Offer It Up and realize again how powerful it is to do so. By offering up our sacrifices in union with the sacrifice of the Lord on the altar, together with him we obtain from the Father new graces for the world.
Finally, in his worship both on Good Friday and now in the heavenly places, the Lord Jesus abounds in gratitude and thanksgiving. In order to join the Lord Jesus heart to heart in his worship of the Father, we too need a heart full of gratitude. To count one’s blessings is perhaps the most basic religious exercise of all. In our weakness, we all tend to focus on our struggles and sorrows, but it is much more fruitful for us to focus instead on our blessings and literally start counting them. One simple thing to do is to get out a rosary, go through the beads one by one, and on every bead name a blessing and make a quick act of thanksgiving to God for it. When we count all the blessings God has poured forth upon us, the memory of his blessings gives birth to gratitude and thanksgiving — the original meaning of the word “eucharist.” “How shall I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise, I will call on the Lord’s name” (Ps. 116:12-13).
Pope Pius XII tells us that the faithful are to participate in the liturgy “not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest.” It is often difficult not to give away to distractions and lose concentration or zeal for worship in the celebration of the Eucharist, but we can always ask for the grace to participate more lovingly, devoutly, and attentively. Prayer to the holy angels before Mass is very helpful in this matter. So, too, is a period of silence and recollection. But when it comes to remaining united as closely as possible to the High Priest during the liturgy, now you know how. Play your PART at Mass.
Father James Dominic Brent, O.P. is a Dominican Friar who lives and teaches at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. Several of his homilies, spiritual conferences, interviews, and radio spots can be found on his personal Soundcloud site. He frequently lectures for the Thomistic Institute and appears on Aquinas 101.