Several years ago I heard on radio an American lady psychologist say that a large number of American people were finding increasing difficulty in distinguishing between entertainment and reality. It seemed to me at the time an important insight, explaining so much that we see in the mass media. It seems to Acolyte that it has become increasingly true of large numbers of people in Australia also. The advent of falsely-described “reality television “has accelerated the tendency.

Pope Saint Pius X
Many Catholics, especially the young, bring this social confusion with them to Mass. For 30/40 years in most parishes, people have not been taught or reminded of the worshipping and sacrificial nature of the sacred liturgy. No wonder then that they tend to assess the experience in terms of entertainment”- how good was the “show”? Indeed the former Administrator of the northern Metropolitan Cathedral once insisted on the importance of the musical performance when brushing aside a complaint about the Choir Master standing in the Sanctuary with his back to the altar during the Consecration. The fact that the celebrant facing the congregation is very often concentrating on putting on a good performance only increases this misunderstanding. If any reader thinks this view somewhat extreme, reflect on the celebrant’s gaze after the Consecration when the prayers are addressed to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Is it directed to the Blessed Sacrament on the altar in front of him? Or is he looking out to the congregation, perhaps radiating a benign smile?

This brings us to the nub of the “full and active participation “in the Mass which the Council, and long before it Pope Saint Pius X, called for.This participation is NOT being a reader, NOT being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and Not even doing anything physical other than kneeling,standing or sitting as required. So, what was it that the great Saint and the Council were calling for? The words used were “paticipatio actuosa”and NOT “participatio activa”. The latter is what the “spirit of the Council” people have pushed – physical involvement on the part of the laity. BUT NO, neither Pope St.Pius X, who first brought the phrase to prominence, nor the Council wanted that. Rather, what they desired was spiritual and mental participation in the offering of the Mass – uniting heart and soul and mind with the prayers and action of the Mass, actively engaging our attention and intention in the great work which the liturgy is.

Even in those far off days of the late 1800’s , let alone the Council’s 1960s there were universally available good vernacular translations of the Latin prayers of the Mass of the time.

But for the “now”people to really engage heart and soul and mind they must be taken out of the popular confusion of reality and entertainment, to realise that the Mass is for their salvation, not their entertainment. It is not something they watch , it is the great reality they DO – worshipping God Most High and offering the great sacrifice with the Priest who alone has the power, operating” in persona Christi”, to bring about the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body, Blood , Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Coming together to worship God in this Divinely given way, is one of the most significant realities of our lives. It would be tragic, through social conditioning, to absentmindedly come to regard it as a spectacle to be watched. In that sense, it’s not about US – it’s about HIM.


The reverence due to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament


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