Rorate Caeli

A 1933 Sermon on the Missal: "Having perfectly worshiped God in this life, the faithful will be prepared to take part in the heavenly praises."


Fr. Joseph Kreuter OSB
Orate Fratres
October 7, 1933

We may divide the faithful who flock to our churches each Sunday morning into three general classes. To the first group belong those who attend holy Mass merely as a duty, because the command of the Church binds them thereto under pain of mortal sin. These usually have their own way of occupying themselves during the time of the Sacrifice—a way perhaps not altogether beyond reproach before the all-seeing Majesty of God. But these frequently lose sight of their duty to attend holy Mass devoutly.

The second class comprises the larger number of worshipers. For them holy Mass is a means to keep holy the Sunday; they therefore employ their time more profitably than the others, either by reciting special prayers from their prayerbooks or by saying the rosary. They incidentally stop in their private devotions at the principal parts of the Mass and pay brief attention to the priest at the altar. We may assume that they fulfill the obligation of hearing holy Mass on Sundays.

To the third class belong those of the faithful—all too few, alas!—who take an actual part in the holy Sacrifice, who are aware that it is their own Sacrifice, and that they have the inestimable privilege of offering it up to the heavenly Father in union with Christ and the entire Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. They actually give to God the Sacrifice of adoration, by which He is worthily honored, because it is Christ Himself who therein adores the Father in and through them; they offer to God the pleasing Sacrifice of thanksgiving, for Christ thanks the Father in and with them; they offer to God the acceptable Sacrifice of expiation, because Christ in person pleads for forgiveness of their sins in and through them; they finally render to God the powerful Sacrifice of petition, for Christ prays in and with them and, as the beloved Son of the Father, is ever heard.

No doubt, you all are eager to learn how you can belong to this third class of true worshipers of God our heavenly Father.

This present Holy Year of Jubilee, the nineteenth centenary of the institution of holy Mass, ought to make you still more desirous of learning how to offer the holy Sacrifice of the New Law in the best possible manner. How are you to proceed to acquire this knowledge? Follow the priest at the altar as closely as possible, and you will soon enter into the same spirit with which the Church offers her Sacrifice to the Lord. It is then that you will begin to consider holy Mass your own Sacrifice and delight in taking an active part in it.

I said, follow the priest at the altar as closely as possible. This can best be done by devoutly reciting the same prayers and reading the same lessons from the Scriptures as the priest does and by joining yourselves in spirit to the priest whilst he is offering your and his Sacrifice.

Many well informed Catholics throughout the world already have adopted the Missal in the vernacular as their most cherished prayerbook for the holy Sacrifice. If it is true that the Missal is the book needed by the priest for the prescribed readings and prayers during holy Mass, it is likewise true that the faithful will use it with greatest profit in order to share fully in the Sacrifice.

Is it not a prolific source of devotion, of spiritual joy and consolation, to know that you are privileged to call holy Mass your own Sacrifice, to share in it with Christ and His ordained priest? Happy those who say those ancient and divinely inspired words together with the priest, for they thus become intimately united with the generations of Christians who have preceded them. For centuries the faithful have prayed those words.

What emotions, what joys, what sentiments of praise, adoration, thanksgiving and expiation have found their expression in these prayers of the Missal! What torrents of grace and blessings, temporal and spiritual, have they drawn down from on High upon the faithful worshipers! If you acquaint yourselves with the Missal of the Church, you will notice that it contains the most beautiful and inspiring texts from the sacred books of the Old and the New Testament, full of doctrine and instruction for you. By learning to use the Missal intelligently, you will acquire a great store of knowledge concerning your holy religion, you will learn the art of praying, of living with Christ. The Missal will teach you all that a Christian should know about our divine Savior and His wonderful work of Redemption, which is re-enacted at the various holy seasons and feasts of the Church's year. The Missal will give you a clearer understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of which Christ is the Head, and of the immense value of the holy Sacrifice. In short, if well used, the Missal will aid powerfully in forming Christ in you and making of you more perfect Catholic men and women.

It should, then, be your ambition to possess a Missal, and, following the example of the many faithful of our day, to learn to use it to advantage. By doing this, you will soon appreciate it as a golden book, to treasure it as the best book of prayer and to consider it your life-long friend. Let no one say that following holy Mass by means of the Missal is a hindrance to a proper preparation for holy Communion. On the contrary, it is the very best preparation for the reception of our divine Savior; for the closer the union with Christ during the Mass, the more abundant the graces and blessings which the Lord will bring with Him when He enters into the heart of the devout Christian at holy Communion.

Once you have learned to use the Missal and to unite yourselves with Christ and His priest, you will regret that you have delayed so long in joining the third group of faithful worshipers, and you will become apostles of the Mass and the Missal, eager to instruct others in this wholesome practice. There are today not a few mothers and fathers of families who cherish the Missal and take pride in training their children to follow their example. They have come to realize that by leading their children to love and pray the Mass, they have at their disposal a potent means of making of them better sons and daughters, better Christians.

There is still another advantage in the use of the Missal at the holy Sacrifice. Whereas many Catholic are satisfied with a Low Mass on Sundays and feast-days of obligation, because they lack a thorough knowledge of the greatness and value of the holy Sacrifice, those who have developed a love for the Mass and the Missal and learned to follow the sacrificing priest intelligently and profitably, will gladly attend holy Mass as often as their time and work permit, even daily, and especially during the holy seasons of the Church's year such as Advent and Lent. They will find much joy, spiritual consolation and light in the holiest of all divine services. Yes, even in times of sickness, when they are unable to appear in person before the altar of God and offer to the heavenly Father the Sacrifice of His beloved Son and their own Sacrifice, they will resort to the Missal at home and associate themselves in spirit to the priests and the devout members of Christ throughout the world who daily offer to God the great Sacrifice of adoration, thanksgiving, expiation and petition.

Having thus perfectly worshiped God in this life, they will be prepared to take part in the heavenly praises in union with Christ and His angels and saints.

A zealous priest in Canada, who is eager to have his parishioners attend daily holy Mass, recently handed to each member of his congregation a card on which was written the following resolution: "As a child of God and member of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, His Church, I shall try to assist at holy Mass daily, if possible. My motive for doing so shall be to pay, as fully as I am able, my debts to the bank of divine justice. ( 1 ) My debt of adoration: I am bound to render to God a most acceptable worship. (2) My debt of thanksgiving: I am bound to thank God for so many benefits received. (3) My debt of satisfaction: it is my duty to make amends for the many sins committed against God. (4) My debt of petition: I must ask Him, the Source of all graces, to aid me in every need of soul and body. The treasure of the Mass is the rich mine for paying God our debts."

A beautiful resolution indeed! He who is imbued with a true love of the holy Mass and has learned to cherish and use the Missal intelligently will realize fully how, through active participation in the holy Sacrifice, he is able to pay God his debts of adoration, thanksgiving and satisfaction, and to petition Him for all his needs, spiritual and corporal.