Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
What do you do during those two moments when the priest at Mass during the Eucharistic prayer stops, brings his hands together in a gesture of private prayer, and slightly bows his head in silence?
During our Sunday Masses, when I read Eucharistic Prayer I, known as the “Roman Canon”,… after only a couple paragraphs into the prayer, I say, “Remember, Lord, your servants….” Then, I fold my hands, and allow a few moments of silence. If the Mass intention for the day includes somebody who is still alive, I read the name of that person silently from the intention card sitting on the altar, right near the altar crucifix. If the Mass intention includes nobody still living, I usually think about all the people who are spiritually or physically sick in my parish. And, I will think of all those people whom the Lord knows are being called to a religious vocation.
The whole point is that at this first silent pause, only a couple paragraphs into Eucharistic Prayer I on Sundays, we are experiencing what is known as the “Remembrance of the Living”. It is the moment to remember specific, living people whom we want to bring in a special way spiritually into this Mass. That is why I remember anybody in the formal intention who is still alive. (We indicate the person is still alive by using the words “for the intentions of….” in the bulletin listing.) For everybody in the pews, this is a perfect time for you to remember all of those people you know who are suffering in some way, or have some specific needs, such as the need to find a new job, or the need to have their children return to church, or somebody’s conversion, etc., etc. You can offer all those living people who are especially on your heart at that Mass, at that moment.
Then, there is another special moment after the consecration of the bread and wine, when these elements become the Body and Blood of Christ. Several paragraphs after the Words of Consecration, the priest says: “Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace….” At this moment, the priest closes his hands again, and pauses for a moment of silent prayer. If the intention for that Mass includes somebody already deceased – which is the norm, although the Mass intention can be for somebody still living – then I look at the intention card placed on every altar near the altar crucifix; and I say silently the name of those deceased persons for whom the Mass is offered.
This second moment of silent pause, several paragraphs after the words of consecration of each of the elements, is known as the “Remembrance of the Dead”. For everybody in the pews, this is a perfect moment to remember those people in your life who have already passed on to the next life, and whom you have promised to remember in prayer for the rest of your life. When the priest is pausing to remember the Mass intention for somebody deceased, and reading it silently from the card, you in the pews can be remembering anybody and everybody whom you know has gone before you, and whom the Holy Spirit has put on your heart to remember in prayer, to help them on their journey to heaven.
As you remember during Mass loved ones who have already died, do not worry about the fact that none of us knows exactly whether a loved one has already reached heaven (having gone through the gracious process of purgatory which allows us to enjoy perfectly the amazing and blissful presence of the all-loving, all-mighty God). God himself is not bound by our limits of time. So, even if you are praying for somebody whom God knows has already achieved heaven by his grace and purification, God can apply your current prayer in the past to help somebody who has already arrived. I know that concept boggles the mind. In other words, God can apply graces “proleptically” on account of your prayers. Put simply, God can apply your prayers in advance, because he is working from “outside of time”. So, don’t worry about your remembrances at Masses somehow being wasted, because perhaps the person for whom you are praying is already experiencing the Beatific Vision of God’s presence in heaven. Don’t let yourself be bothered with such divine detail! God can manage all of that!
In each of the other Eucharistic Prayers (II, III and IV) there is also a “Remembrance of the Dead” and a “Remembrance of the Living”. But in those prayers these moments are not accentuated by a pause of the priest, with hands closed and a moment of silence. If you listen to the words, you will hear both remembrances, however. At every Mass, the Eucharistic prayer always includes prayer for the living and dead. Even if the priest does not stop for these special moments, you can bring both living and deceased loved ones on your heart in prayer.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,