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Amen

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There is a word that we use every time we pray, but holds an especially important place in the Mass. Amen. Now there are two ways to translate the word Amen, one is more a direct translation and the other is more indirect. The direct translation of Amen is “So be it” and the more indirect way is “I believe”. I am going to use both, because I want to look at two contexts in which we say this wonderful word.

The first and most common time we say Amen is after everyday prayers such as at meal prayers, Hail Mary, Our Father etc. A beautiful exercise to do is to very slowly and intentionally pray these prayers and then complete them by saying the translation of Amen: so be it. I think we will find the prayer takes on a new depth, because we are saying that we believe everything we just prayed.

But there is also another dynamic here, we often offer these prayers up for a particular intention. For the family member who has cancer, for world peace, for an increase of faith. And we lift up these prayers concluding with Amen, so be it, I believe. We are telling God, “Lord I ask you for this particular favor, I believe you hear me and will answer me, but also so be it to your will, not mine when and how you answer.” It is statement of trust, we entrust our intention to God knowing he will answer it in the best possible way.   

The second time we say Amen I want to talk about is in the Mass. Amen is used many times during Mass, but I want to focus on one particular moment. When we process up the aisle to the altar, a minister will raise the host before our eyes and say, “The Body of Christ.” To which we respond, Amen. So be it. I believe.

We should never forget the power of this word in this moment. At the words, “The Body of Christ” we are saying I believe that the host which looks like bread before my eyes is in reality the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for me. It is also an act of the will, so be it. It is a profound profession of faith.

Amen is a word of finality. Of saying what was just heard is true and real. It is true that God hears my prayers and it is real he will answer them. It is true that the bread is changed into Jesus and it is not a symbol, it is the real Jesus, the same one who laid in a manger and hung on the cross. Amen, I believe, so be it.

Note: While the translations are beautiful to know, it is more fitting to say Amen rather than “so be it” or “I believe” at the time for Communion because it encompasses everything and more that was stated above.

The Collect

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The formal name for the opening prayer we have at the beginning of every Mass is called the Collect, and it is introduced by the familiar words, Let us Pray.

Now this prayer comes at the end of what we would call the Introductory Rites, which is important because after this prayer we enter into the Liturgy of the Word so this prayer is really meant to mark a transition. A transition from gathering together to pray, to truly entering into the heart of the Mass.,

But there is something which gets lost in this transition which is unfortunate. We hear the words, Let us Pray so often that we have forgotten what we are invited to do at this moment. A priest jokes that the words, Let us Pray, has become translated to: “bring the priest the book.”

But this is not what these words are meant to say, and I am going to quote from the rubrics of the missal which tell us what these words mean.

“Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God’s presence and may formulate their petitions mentally.”       

In other words, when the priest says Let us Pray, we are invited to do two things: (1) acknowledge we are in God’s Presence and (2) tell him who we want to offer this Mass for, who we want to pray for.

The priest then prays the Collect, which collects all the prayers, all the people you and I are praying this Mass for, and offers them to God.

It is so easy to take a passive approach to Mass, just watching the priest, but at every single Mass at the words, Let us Pray, we are reminded that the Mass is all of our prayer. As a priest it is so beautiful, that as I pray the Collect, the collection of prayers you and I are bringing to this Mass, I end the Introductory Rites by bringing them to God. It is almost as if I am saying, “ok God, we are all here and this is who we praying for.” So that as we enter more deeply into the prayer of the Mass in the Liturgy of the Word, we are bringing with us the people we are holding close to our heart.

In this way we are not only praying for our own intentions, but also the intentions of each other, we are truly praying as one community. Beautiful.

It’s a wonderful thing to remember the next time we are at Mass. (1) that we can plan ahead and think of who needs our prayers before we begin Mass, (2) but also that when we hear the words, Let us Pray, we intentionally bring them to God, and we may find ourselves no longer just passive observers, but active pray-ers.

The Church Building

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Signs, Symbols, and Gestures of the Catholic Faith

As with everything we have been exploring, there is so much to share about the church building, so I am going to focus on two images every church we see should evoke in our mind.

The first image is that of home. A home is different than a house, and I always feel affirmed when I hear many of you call St. Dominic your home, for a house is just a building, a home is a place where we belong and also where someone is waiting for you.

At the moment of our baptism, every single church building becomes our home. No matter where we are in the entire world, we have a home to go to. A home where we find rest, safety, family, where we can truly be ourselves, and in each one of these homes someone is waiting for us, God.

The very notion that we have a place where God dwells is incredible. That is why the Jewish temple was so important, it was literally the only place where the presence of God dwelt, he was not confined there, but that was his home on earth. With Christ and now the Eucharist every Catholic Church becomes a home for God. We do not have to fly to Jerusalem to go home, we can drive here. Every time we see or enter a church we are reminded we are never homeless. And as with any home, it is always good to visit often.

The second image is that of a ship. Architecturally speaking many churches especially those in the Middle Ages often have ceilings which resembled a boat upside down-explain. The reason for this is to remind us that we are pilgrims, we are navigating the waters of the world to the harbor of heaven and the church is our ship. Flying the St. Dominic flag.

As pilgrims we must be careful of how much weight we are bringing aboard, for we do not want to sink it or slow her down. We need to do our part as any sailor to help this ship and her passengers make it safely to her journeys end. While admiring the beauty of the world as we sail, we do not want to stop too long at one place for the harbor of heaven awaits us. 

So every time we enter a church we should realize that we are coming home and also entering the boat journeying toward the heavenly harbor.

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