November 11, 2014
As part of our interview protocol, we have asked many pastors about the Eucharist—and how they help parishioners appreciate its sacredness each week. Three of these pastors, including Fr. John Antony (Immaculate Conception in Fort Smith, Ark.), had imaginative recommendations:
One pastor in the South attempts to keep the liturgy fresh by changing host manufacturers, choosing different sizes, shapes, and textures for different liturgical seasons. Said the pastor, “We want you to notice what’s going on.” At the time of our interview, the parish was using a rectangular host from Michaels. The parish also varies the response to petitions. In the season of Advent, for example, rather than “Lord, hear our prayers,” the parishioners are prompted to respond with “Christ our Light, hear our prayer.” “It’s interesting how the people really respond[…]we change things so people are constantly coming and seeing different things within the liturgy that are subtle in a lot of ways but bring about the idea that this is a different season,” said the pastor. “[We want] to make the liturgical year experiential, not just the same every time you walk in.”
At another parish in Florida, there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament before several of the masses, including the Saturday vigil mass. Before the mass, said the pastor, “We take the monstrance from the altar, we have a quiet prayer[…]we pray the Rosary together, and I invite the sick to come up for the Anointing of the Sick.” The practice began in 2005, as a creative response to the Year of the Eucharist. The elderly in particular have embraced this pre-mass ritual, the pastor said.
Perhaps the simplest approach of all, Fr. John Antony of Immaculate Conception in Arkansas makes sure to say the Words of Consecration very slowly. “That’s exactly what they told us in seminary not to do,” Fr. Antony laughed. In seminary, he was told not to emphasize any particular portion because he risked de-emphasizing the unity and seamlessness of the mass. “That’s certainly true,” he says, “and I don’t mean to take anything away from that, but the Words of Consecration are the most important things a man could ever say in his whole life. I wanted to slow down and pay attention and make sure I’ve said it right, with as much meaning as I can muster[…] People are like, Whoa, what’s going on? Did you forget the words? And I say, No, I want you to pay attention. I’m about to say something really important.” After mass, Fr. Antony says folks tell him they appreciated his reverence. He also notes that they still make sure to get through mass in an hour or less—even with the added emphasis on the Words of Consecration—to be respectful of people’s time. “I’ve always felt that, if all we ever did as priests to say those words, even once, and change bread and wine into Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that’s everything. My motto is ‘Bringing People Closer to Christ,’ and that’s a profound way to do it.”