I have a dear priest friend who lives as a hermit in a community. He has done so for almost a quarter of a century after many years working in ministry in the inner city.
When he gives retreats to priests, he encourages what he calls the “all day Mass”.
He recommends doing this from time to time so we might, as priests, enter more deeply into the reality we are ordained to celebrate.
Today I was moved to do so – not all day long but over several hours.
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How exactly do I begin?
Usually, distracted by many things, trying to get things set-up, yet yearning for quiet and stillness to be fully aware that the space where I am celebrating is filling up with the entire heavenly court, all the Angels and Saints and that the Holy Souls are aware Mass is about to be celebrated, and as a result for some of them their time will have come and they shall be ushered into heaven.
I seek to become still that I might be, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, enabled to pray-participate, and, as priest in persona Christi, being one with Him, might be both the one offered and the oblation, to the praise and glory of the Father, for the sheer joy of adoration-worship, intercession and thanksgiving.
So – today at least in my little urban poustinia I make ready as best I can with your help O Holy Mother of the Eucharist to be still that I might celebrate with faith, reverence and devotion.
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Sitting with the first stage of preparatory prayers this morning my heart is particularly aware of the Holy Souls and of all our suffering brothers and sisters in Jordan and those around the world who live in the shadow and cruelty of terrorism.
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I do try before each Mass, but frequently fail because of any number of excuses, Lord have mercy, to carefully pray the traditional preparation and vesting prayers of which the following most touch my heart:
Prayer to Mary
Mother of Mercy and Love, Blessed Virgin Mary, I am a poor and unworthy sinner, and I turn to you in confidence and love. You stood by your Son as He hung dying on the Cross. Stand also by me, a poor sinner, and by all the Priests who are offering Holy Mass today, here and throughout the entire Church. Help us to offer a perfect and acceptable sacrifice in the sight of the Holy and undivided Trinity, our Most High God. Amen.
Statement of Intention
My purpose is to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to make present the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Rite of the Holy Roman Church and to the praise of our All-Powerful God, and all His assembly in the glory of Heaven, for my good and the good of all His Pilgrim Church on earth and for all who have asked me to pray for them, in general and in particular. Amen.
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Simply it is important to be at one with Holy Mother the Church, at one with the Heavenly Liturgy, at one with each and every priests and each and every Mass celebrated across the earth, 24/7 in great Cathedrals, at famous shrines, in ordinary parishes, in places of persecution, in the underground Church in China and elsewhere, in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, monasteries, convents, seminaries, hermitages, for in Him we are indeed little members of the One Body of the Lord.
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This struck me from the responsorial psalm: “Give life to my soul that I might praise You.”
Took my heart to one of my favourite admonitions of St. Theophane the Recluse, which I utter daily as an invocation. St. Theophane teaches: “ The principle thing is to stand before God with the intellect and the heart and to go on standing before God unceasingly, day and night, until the end of life.”
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From the Holy Gospel the word which sings in my heart is Jesus telling us: “ The Kingdom of Heaven is among you.”
How true – within the reality of baptismal life, Eucharistic life – within the newness of everything since His Holy Resurrection – ah Lord, but to have the eyes to see, the heart to understand, the will to live the Gospel to the full!
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Meditating further after the Holy Gospel I recall a dear friend, a pioneer of social justice and the lay apostolate with the Servant of God Catherine Doherty. As a layman born after the First World War he knew the immense poverty in its aftermath, especially in the Dirty Thirties, the moral confusion, loss of faith among the people.
He knew war and after the Second World War embrace poverty and loved and served the poor for over 50 years until is recent death.
This is a great example of the living out of Baptism – his and the lives of all the laity who are faithful to their vocation, whatever conditions of life they are in.
We celebrate one of the truly greats of the ordained priesthood in the history of the Church today: Pope St. Leo the Great and my heart is struck by his word:
“And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer Him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?”
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It is time! Time for the Prayer of the Faithful.
Time to step into the central mystery and glory of our faith!
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Once the incredible has occurred and He is with us once again, True, Real Presence, and even more has lavished Himself upon us and within us in Holy Communion, strengthened for the continuous pilgrimage I treasure as a thanksgiving this prayer of St. Padre Pio:
Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You.
Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without meaning and hope.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You ever more, and to be always in Your company.
Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be always faithful to You.
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I wish it to be a place of consolation for You, a dwelling of Your love.
Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late; the days are coming to a close and life is passing. Death, judgement and eternity are drawing near. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way, and for that I need You. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need you, my Jesus, in this night of exile!
Stay with me, Jesus, because in the darkness of this life, with all its dangers, I need You.
Help me to recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of the Bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the power which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.
Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death I want to be one with You, and if not by Communion, at least by Your grace and love.
Stay with me, Jesus. I do not ask for divine consolations because I do not deserve them, but I only ask for the gift of Your Presence. Oh yes! I ask this of You!
Stay with me, Lord, for I seek You alone, Your love, Your grace, Your will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and I ask for no other reward but to love You more and more, with a strong and active love.
Grant that I may love You with all my heart while on earth, so that I can continue to love You perfectly throughout all eternity, dear Jesus. Amen!