Posted April 13, 2006 in Word Made Flesh:
My Day is a Mass

by Fr. Pat McNulty.

On Holy Thursday I often think about a rather unusual Eucharistic experience which happened to me about thirty years ago when I was confined to bed for many weeks.

I was not able to do anything—most of the time I was not even able to get out of bed—but I arranged to have an altar close by so that I could say Mass from my bedside. Often, just after I’d begun, I would have to lie down again for a while before I could continue. So it took me a long time to say one Mass.

I knew at the time that it was an unusual way of saying Mass, but I had forgotten about it until I began to live in poustinia. Here, on the days I am in the cabin itself, I offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice alone (though with the Communion of Saints, of course), and take a fair amount of time during the legitimate times of silence.

After the Sign of the Cross and the Penitential Rite, I read the Scriptures slowly, line by line, and meditate on each of them. At the Prayer of the Faithful, I mention by name many of those for whom I have promised to pray and for whom I know I need to pray.

I pray the Canon very slowly and with great attention, and then I sometimes read a selection from the writings of a saint as part of the period of silence after Communion.

Finally, I take a significant amount of time after Mass for some special spiritual reading or the rosary.

Then one night, after I’d been saying Mass like that for a while, I suddenly realized that the Mass had become my day, and my day had become a Mass. It was then that I remembered the Masses I had said from my sick bed those many years ago. That’s when I think I learned to say the Mass this way.

The Mystery

And now, through these “slow-motion Masses,” I am slowly beginning to understand something about the priesthood of the baptized in connection with the Mass. And this is opening the door wider for me to understand something about the mystery of the priesthood of the ordained.

We are all baptized into the priesthood of Jesus Christ, before any of us are ordained priests. And the power that is given to us in Baptism is akin to the power given to Christ as priest, namely, the power to take the mundane, everyday life we live, experience it as he did, and bring it before the Father in sacrifice as he does.

This priesthood is not about ritual or rights. It’s about a particular kind of identity with Christ. Through this identity, our everyday life—and I mean the everyday life of priests and laity alike—comes to its full meaning and purpose, pointing us to the Eucharistic Christ and finding its fulfillment there.

It is there, as the baptized, that we first discover the dominion of his priesthood. And once we understand that, and actuate that in our own personal lives, then the priesthood of the ordained becomes clear—that new sacrament of priesthood through which Christ joins himself to the individual, to his life, his joys, and his sorrows. We become one with him through his Body and his Blood in a “a holy communion” that is beyond description.

The priesthood of the baptized is brought to its fulfillment by the priesthood of the ordained through which all become one in Christ in that Eucharistic moment. In both instances, the sacramental phenomenon is not about ritual or rights, but it is rather about a particular union with Jesus Christ.

The baptized need to understand more clearly this priesthood of the ordained. And the ordained need to understand more profoundly this priesthood of the baptized. All of that so that our “holy communion” can be complete, us in Christ and us in each other in Christ.

What Catherine Said

I discovered (and I am discovering it more and more of late) how profound this relationship is when I began to experience my whole day as if it were a Mass. This is the image I have of what our foundress, Catherine Doherty, meant when she said to us, as she often did, that “we live between two Masses.”

I make that connection in my own life as I get out of bed in the morning, dip my finger into the holy water close by, and make the Sign of the Cross. Then I pray, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,” while I am brushing my teeth and getting dressed.

Some time during the day, I might pray the Gloria, repeat a passage from the Gospels that I remember by heart, pray the Creed, etc., etc. At around noon I begin thinking about what has already happened to me during the day, about what I will have to offer at the next Mass when I place my host on the paten.

What I have to offer can be anything from cleaning my outdoor jon to listening to someone who is struggling to believe, to writing letters, doing the laundry or driving to the village on an errand.

And guess what? Before the day is half over, I am already mentally and spiritually at the Offertory Procession at Mass! So by the time I go to the community Mass, be it that afternoon or the next Sunday, my heart has been honed on Eucharistic words and images all day or all week long.

I am living the priesthood of the baptized because my everyday life is the stuff of my Eucharistic Prayer, and because the Eucharist is my first thought of the day as I dip my fingers into the holy water in my room, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Then when the day ends, it’s only natural for me to say those final words which the baptized say at the end of Mass, “Thanks be to God.”

Then one day the priesthood fell into its proper Eucharistic place for me: I am baptized with you and ordained for you. We both live our lives “between two Masses.”

Let’s pray that somewhere in this everyday-ness of our lives, the baptized and the ordained can meet. If this happens, then perhaps our contemporary sense of priesthood can rise above issues so that we can truly live together between two Masses.


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