We are a priestly people

I con-celebrated a funeral recently. Con-celebrate is a word the Church uses to signify other priests who are celebrating with the principal celebrant. I don’t like the word; you’ll understand why in a few minutes.

It was a wonderful Mass, one of the best that I have ever experienced. One of the reasons was that the priest, whose funeral it was, requested that the Gloria be sung. Many believe that the Gloria should not be sung at a funeral because the liturgical books don’t require it. So what! What better time to glorify God than when you are celebrating a person’s entry into eternal life?

The homily was fantastic also. The priest who preached did way better than I’ve ever done. I really appreciated it, but also, I’m a bit jealous of his capability. I don’t know if I could ever do that well.

Another thing that struck me, was that I was really able to enter into the liturgy. I’ve mentioned elsewhere how meaningful the Liturgy of the Eucharist is to me because I pray it out loud when I am the principal celebrant. Oftentimes it’s difficult for me to really enter into the liturgy when I am not the principal celebrant and am sitting in the pews like everyone else.

This one was different. I know the Eucharistic Prayer we used by heart. I was able to pray it silently with the principal celebrant as he was praying it out loud and I felt every word. I was consciously and actively involved, and it touched my being strongly. When I realized that, I had a minor epiphany. Why don’t we help our people learn the Eucharistic prayers so they can pray them in their hearts as the principal celebrant prays them aloud?

One of the problems, and this was so evident at the funeral, is that we don’t really think the people are a priestly people. I cringed when I heard the principal celebrant say that the priest, whose funeral it was, participated in the priestly ministry of Christ as if the non-ordained do not. Of course he did, but so do we all!

That’s one of our baptismal responsibilities. We are baptized into the priestly, prophetic, and kingly ministries of Christ. It’s in the prayers of the baptismal rite! How can we not know that? It’s in the documents of Vatican II. Two documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #11 and Sacrosanctum Concilium #48, specifically mention that the people offer the divine victim (Jesus) with and through the hands of the priest. That makes all of us priests, participating in the priestly ministry of our Lord. We are all, then, “concelebrants”.

We need to teach our people that. We need to teach them the Eucharist Prayers so they can pray them in their hearts as the priest prays them aloud. We also need to teach our priests to pray the Eucharistic Prayers slowly, deliberately, clearly, fluently and with expression (prosody) so the people have a chance of praying along. Then, when we get to the Great Amen, it should be a resounding amen as we, as a community, make the prayer our own.

When I was a kid, the priest used to “say” Mass and we used to “hear” Mass. Not anymore. Now we accept that we, the priestly people, celebrate Mass together “with and through the priest”. Let’s consciously do it that way.

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