Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Public Worship and Private Devotion

Dear Parishioners,

Prayer is something that can be a very personal, intimate and private experience and yet it can also be part of a public act of worship.  We can quietly make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, pray the rosary while taking a walk or read the Bible before going to bed. Yet, when we attend Mass, pray the rosary together as a group in church or participate in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, our prayer is very much a public form of worship.

The reason I bring this distinction up is to make a simple point. A public act of worship should not become confused with any individual private devotion. They should be two distinct entities. What I write here is not meant as a criticism but rather more of an instruction concerning the nature of certain forms of public worship—especially the Mass. 

Some people have occasionally asked me why I do not regularly pray certain devotional prayers during Mass (perhaps after Holy Communion). My answer is simply that they are not officially part of the Roman Catholic Mass. I know that I do not have the authority to take it upon myself to try to add to or improve upon the Mass. The Mass is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ and its celebration should be in accord with the General Instructions of the Roman Missal. As a priest, I should be faithful in celebrating Mass according to the official guidelines set out for us in the Roman Missal. (However, when I do lead people in additional prayers, a special blessing or an act of consecration, it is almost inevitably after Mass has finished, at the end of the homily or at the time of announcements.)

Does this mean that various devotional prayers should not be said? Of course not. There is a time and place for them but not necessarily in the Mass itself. Prayers can preferably be said before or after Mass, or at another time altogether. However, it must be kept in mind that by doing so we should never think that the Mass is somehow imperfect or incomplete in and of itself withoutadding something extra or additional to it. I state it again very clearly: the Mass is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We can do no better than that.

Far too often I have been asked to offer Masses that included various blessings, installations of ministries or officers, recognition of various achievements, etc. Sometimes the emphasis on the extra, added elements seemed to overshadow the importance of the Mass itself. This should really be avoided as much as possible.

Hopefully, this will help people to understand why I do what I do. I just try to be faithful to the intentions of the Church and attempt to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in its purity and simplicity as it is intended.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


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