Dear Friends in Christ,
If you are in the habit of leaving the church immediately after receiving Holy Communion at Mass, then I beg you to replace that habit with a new one: receive Holy Communion reverently and devoutly, and then return to your seat in the pew to give thanks to God for the miracle of being nourished unto everlasting life by the Body and Blood of Christ. Giving thanks for the gift of Holy Communion is a small but essential sign of the faith that we confessed last week on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. And there are other small signs that are equally important for us to preserve, protect, and defend our reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and to transmit it to others by our words and deeds.
Remote preparation for worthy participation in Mass begins at home and continues in the car on the trip to the church. What am I thinking and talking about? Am I aware of what I’m about to do? Is participating in the Holy Mass something I do willingly, reverently, and devoutly? Or is it something I do grudgingly, sullenly, and apathetically? Remote preparation also includes keeping the Eucharistic fast (no food for a least an hour before receiving Holy Communion), and it requires the most important preparation of all: examining my conscience and going to Confession whenever needed so that I do not eat and drink my own condemnation by making a sacrament into a sacrilege through an unworthy reception of Holy Communion.
Proximate preparation for participating in Mass begins when we arrive at the church. Am I aware that I approach the House of God? Do I leave behind in the car anything that could distract my attention from the glory of the Lord? Do I enter the sacred precincts of the temple with the proper dispositions? Do I use the holy water in the font at the door to remind me of my Baptism? Do I genuflect (or bow if the knee no longer easily bends) towards Christ present in the tabernacle? Do I prepare to hear the Word of God proclaimed by reading the Scripture lessons appointed for that Mass? Do I quiet my heart and mind and voice and approach the Throne of Grace in prayer so that I will be ready to approach the altar in the Communion procession?
Then comes the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the time for us to join in that privileged act of worship. Do I say or sing all of the parts of the liturgy that are proper for me? Do I offer genuine contrition for my sins in the Penitential Rite? Do I listen attentively to the reading of Holy Scripture? Do I lift up my heart to the Lord as the priest offers the preface to the Eucharist prayer? Do I sincerely join with my brothers and sisters when we pray to Our Father as the Savior taught us? And, finally, do I approach the altar to receive Holy Communion or a blessing with genuine faith in and love for the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, that is why I would never leave the church without first returning to my pew to give thanks for the medicine of immortality in the Bread that came down from Heaven.