Frequently Asked Questions - Mass
"... For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Q: Do Catholics have to attend Mass every weekend?
A: The Code of Canon Law instructs, "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass." Rather than thinking about Mass as an "obligation," Catholics should consider the Mass to be an "opportunity." It is an opportunity to come together as a Catholic community to worship God. We spend so much of our week beholden to the world and the trappings of our physical lives and Mass provides us the ability to solely focus on that which should be first in our lives without the pressures of the world. It is a chance to share ourselves wholly and completely with our Creator and to give Him thanks and praise and it is central to our lives as Christians.
Q: I'm Catholic, but my spouse is not. Can my spouse attend Mass with me?
A: Yes, your spouse is welcome to attend Mass with you. There will be parts of the Mass where your spouse will not be able to fully participate in the Mass if they are not Catholic (please see Why are members of other Christian faiths not supposed to take the Eucharist at Catholic masses?); but, there are several places where they will be able to fully participate. You may find it helpful to share the order (parts) of the Mass with your spouse so they can more easily follow along.
Q: What are the parts of the Mass?
A: The Mass is comprised of two main parts: The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Prior to the Liturgy of the Word is the entrance and welcome. These are followed by the Penitential Rite where the congregation reflects on their sinfulness in preparation for the celebration of the Mass.
In the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the Word of God. The First Reading comes from the Old Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, or the Book of Revelations. The Second Reading comes from the Epistles (the "letters" of the New Testament). Between the two readings is a recitation or singing of one of the Psalms in which a lector or cantor recites or sings a verse and the people respond with an antiphon from the Psalm (this is often called the Responsorial Psalm). Following the Second Reading, the priest reads a passage from the Gospel after which he offers a reflection on the readings and their application to our lives called the homily. Following the homily, the congregation recites the Creed (sometimes called the Profession of Faith). After the Creed, the congregation places its needs and the needs of the world before God in the General Intercessions (also called the Prayers of the Faithful).
In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest receives the offertory gifts of bread and wine and says a blessing over them. The congregation then prays that God will accept the sacrifice. The priest then recites a short prayer, the Preface, which is followed by the congregation singing the Holy, Holy (or the Sanctus). At this point, the congregation kneels in preparation for the transubstantiation (the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ). The priest prays the prayer of thanksgiving called the Eucharistic Prayer. The Eucharistic Prayer consists of The Consecration (when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ), the Prayer for the Church, the Prayer for the Pope, bishop, and the Faithful, the Prayer for the Faithfully Departed, the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles, and the Saints, and is concluded by the Doxology of Praise to which the congregation responds with the Great Amen. The congregation then recites the Lord's Prayer and offers each other a sign of peace. As the priest breaks the Body of Christ, the congregation recites the Lamb of God. The priest then invites the congregation to again acknowledge their unworthiness, but also the divine healing power of God to forgive our unworthiness. The members of the congregation who wish to (and are able to) receive Communion come forward to receive the Eucharist.
The Mass is concluded by the concluding rites and the final hymn.
Q: I recently had a Mass offered for a deceased friend of mine, but didnít hear their name mentioned at the Mass. Was the Mass really said for that intention?
A: The practice of offering a Mass for the faithful departed is connected to the long-standing tradition of praying for the dead. When someone requests a Mass intention, they are reserving the priestís intention for a particular Mass. A Mass intention does not mean that everyone must pray for that same intention, only the priest. Because this is the private intention of the priest, we do not have a universal practice of saying the name publicly. In faith, we trust that the priest says the intention which is requested.