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There is Always a Way to Respond

For the past month, the staff and I have welcomed your comments as to what your experience of the liturgy has been at Saint Noel. We have been humbled by the overwhelmingly positive feedback several parishioners and guests have taken the time to share with us, and we thank you for that. Additionally, a few concerns have been shared, as well as some negative comments. In my mind, if someone has taken the time to write these out, others may be thinking it or wondering the same for themselves. Since many were received anonymously, I wish to use this column to respond and clear a few things up this weekend and next.

As a priest, I am charged to teach, preach, and sanctify (and in that order). In my role as pastor and shepherd, I will always walk beside you. There are times, however, when I will need to walk ahead and lead, and others when I will need to follow behind and prod. Drawing on that imagery, I offer my polite, respectful, and sometimes, firm response.

“Why does Fr. Terry have such long pauses during the Mass?” Very simply, the liturgy demands it. Just as music is integral to each celebration, so too, are moments of sacred silence. These are never meant to drag Mass on needlessly, but are purposely built-in for our prayerful reflection. Key moments when sacred silence is to be observed include:

► Before the Opening Prayer (Collect) is prayed, when the presider says, “Let us pray,” he means just that—that we all take a moment to collect ourselves and pray. He then absorbs everyone’s personal prayers with the formulated prayer of the day. As he invokes the Trinity, he brings his outstretched hands in, “collecting” the prayers and intentions of the faithful at that celebration.

► After the Second Reading, and before the Gospel Acclamation, a moment of silence is to be observed to: 1.) reflect briefly on God’s Word proclaimed thus far (First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, and Second Reading); and, 2.) to offset the distinction of the proclamation of the Gospel.

► Following the homily, silence is to be observed for the assembly to reflect on what was offered by the homilist.

► When the Host and Chalice are elevated during the Eucharistic Prayer, the Mass is on “pause,” and a moment of adoration takes place.

► After our reception of Holy Communion, a moment of prayerful silence is to be offered for all of us to give thanks and praise for the gift just received.

I think it is important to bear in mind, when the Mass is celebrated, we are outside the context of time. We live in a very loud and busy world, and we have to learn to be comfortable with silence. The late Fr. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk, wrote in his work, Invitation to Love, “God’s first language is silence. Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.” In 1 Kings, Elijah seeks shelter at Horeb, the mountain of God. Suddenly, the word of the Lord tells him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” First comes a strong and heavy wind, then an earthquake, then a fire. God is in none of these. Only after the fire does Elijah hear “a tiny whispering sound.” At this, Elijah hides his face in his cloak and stands at the entrance of the cave. Only then does the Lord speak to Elijah. Unless we learn to listen for that still, small voice in the silence of our hearts, we will never be able to hear the guidance the Holy Spirit is trying to give us. The world is a noisy place and we can get lost in it. May we always take time to sit in the silence and stillness, and come to know that God is God.

 Fr. Terry


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