MYRTLE BEACH — “Look out, Myrtle Beach. Here we come!” Franciscan Father Chuck Faso presented a rousing three-day mission at St. Andrew called “Our Father … Praise, Petition, Program for Life” on Nov. 17-19.
He spoke to parishioners at the weekend Masses on Nov. 15-16 and urged those coming to the mission to read Matthew, verses 5-7. These three verses are perhaps more widely recognized as the Sermon on the Mount. It is in verse 6 that the Our Father prayer first ap-pears; this prayer was the topic Nov. 17.
Father Faso’s second day centered around forgiveness.
“When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is us,” he said.
The last day of his mission, Father Faso explained the intricacies of the Mass. He entered in his brown Franciscan habit, covered by an alb, and carried a stole and chasuble over an arm.
He said of the stole, “When you see a priest with a stole, he is going to work.”
He then told the assembly that Jesus wore an apron to serve his disciples at the last supper; the apron Jesus wore was the origin of the priest’s chasuble.
Father Faso gave a brief history of the Mass. He told how early Christians gathered to pray in small groups, primarily for reasons of safety. In the 300s, Rome became Christianized, and Christians began worshipping in basilicas, which were public buildings.
By the year A.D. 600, Christian worship had evolved to a structured liturgy that Catholics today would recognize as Mass.
The Council of Trent was called in the 1560s as a response to the Reformation and a need for unity in the Roman church. All priests were not saying Mass the same way. The Tridentine Mass, which older Roman Catholics grew up with, was a product of the Council of Trent. The Eastern Catholic churches were not affected by this council.
The Roman Catholic Mass remained essentially unchanged until 1969. Among the most visible changes after Vatican II were turning the altar around so the priest faced the con-gregation, and replacing Latin with the spoken language of the parish population.
The emphasis today is on “we,” meaning the congregation and the priest celebrate the liturgy together. Father Faso noted that there are only two “I” expressions in the entire Roman Mass: “I confess …” and “Lord, I am not worthy ….”
Father Faso divided the Mass into four actions. The first action comprises the gathering rites, which connect everybody in the assembly. He spoke of the Mass as a prayer to God the Father, “us with Jesus … giving glory to God.” Each individual gathering rite concludes with a prayer, “Let us pray …” In the “also with you” greeting, we bless each other.
The second action of the Mass is listening. We listen with our minds, our hearts, our memory, and our imaginations. We stand for the Gospel reading because Jesus is speaking to us. When we say “Glory to you, O Lord,” we are talking directly to Jesus.
Father Faso asked the congregation to think about something they probably never thought about before: “What does the preacher see when he looks out on his congregation?”
He says he personally sees the whole spectrum of humanity: male and female, young, old and in between, rich and poor, married, single and divorced, straight and gay, all levels of education and the entire social hierarchy. The preacher’s challenge is to say something meaningful to all.
The priest’s job is to facilitate, to break open the Scriptures at Mass. The congregation’s job is to listen. Listening is an active activity, something we have to choose to do. Father Faso urged everybody to read the readings ahead of time because “If you get engaged with the word, the homily has begun.”
Then, he asked the congregation to “please show some type of expression” when listening to the priest’s homily. “We’re God’s chosen people, not his frozen people!”
The third action of the Mass is response and prayer. The congregation first responds with prayers and thanks to God and then shares their treasures.
The priest washing his hands, which is clearly hygienic in origin, is now more symbolic of getting ready to do something. Father Faso compared this to a mother reminding her children to wash their hands before eating.
When the congregation says “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands …,” they are asking the priest to lead the congregation in prayer.
There are more than 110 prefaces to the eucharistic prayer. The preface is a two-way dialogue between the priest and the congregation in which the congregation gives thanks to God and the priest says why we’re thankful.
The Catholic Church in the United States now has 13 eucharistic prayers, all of which are numbered. Today’s Missal includes the text for Eucharistic Prayers 1-4. Eucharistic Prayer 2 dates back to the year A.D. 215 and is the only one that addresses God as “Lord.” The other three address God as “Father.”
When the priest puts his hands out before the consecration, it is an ancient blessing that calls down the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Father Faso explained that the priest puts his hands out before him to call down the Holy Spirit in all seven sacraments.
The breaking of the bread recognizes the presence of God. Father Faso said that when we take the body and blood of Christ, “we become what we eat.” Saying “Amen” is a commitment as members of the body of Christ to let Christ take over our lives.
The last action of the Mass, the Concluding Rite, sends us forth “to be good news, the light in the darkness.” Father Faso dismissed the congregation with the following blessing:
May the Lord be above you to inspire you, beneath you to support you.
May the Lord go ahead of you to guide you and be behind you to protect you.
May the Lord be alongside of you to accompany you today and always!
Parishioner Ann Brophy’s comment summarized what many others said about the mission: “It was very refreshing and uplifting, emotional.”