Questions about Preparing Gifts and Remembering Francis - 25th October 2015

Questions about Preparing Gifts and Remembering Francis
Q. I was always taught that the Preparation of the Gifts was a “low” point in the Mass but a talk I heard recently put great emphasis on this part of the Mass and made me wonder if the thinking has now changed. What are your thoughts on this please?

A. The title “Preparation of the Gifts” clearly describes the purpose of the rite, which is simply to prepare the altar, the gifts and the assembly for the offering of the whole Church that takes place during the Eucharistic Prayer.

The primary elements of the Preparation of the Gifts are the bringing forward of the gifts, placing them on the altar and the prayer said over them.  The procession with the gifts by members of the assembly is a powerful expression of the assembly’s participation in the eucharistic action. Other elements such as an accompanying song and the prayers of preparation are secondary.

One vessel with sufficient altar bread for the assembly, one large container of wine, and a basket with the collection are all that need be presented.  Having one vessel for each element symbolises the unity of the one bread and one cup.  Including offerings for the poor and the Church is of ancient origin and deep significance.

As the preparation of the gifts is a low-key moment between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, it is not a time when singing by the assembly in song has high priority.  A choir piece or instrumental music could effectively accompany the procession and keep this part of the Mass in perspective. Any music “continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar” (GIRM # 74). A better option might be to have silence and invite the assembly to use this quiet time to prepare their hearts and minds as the altar and gifts are made ready.

Q. In the liturgical calendar the feast day of St Francis on 4th October wasn't mentioned. Is he not a real Saint by Catholic Church definition? Others that are little known get a feast day. I am puzzled.

A. Rest assured that St Francis is still a saint and that his feast is celebrated on 4th October as it was last year and will be again next year and so on.

The issue this year was that 4th October fell on a Sunday and only feasts of the Lord take precedence over Sundays because Sunday is the first and most important day for Christians.

Saints days that are ranked as Solemnities, of which there are only a few, are transferred to a nearby day if they fall on a Sunday. St Francis is not one of those.

Before the reforms the Second Vatican Council nearly every Sunday was replaced with a Saints day. As a result, the yearly pattern of the liturgical seasons was overshadowed and the readings each week were from different books of the bible with no continuity as we have now.

The Second Vatican Council called for a reform of this calendar “lest the feast of saints should take precedence over the feasts which commemorate the very mysteries of salvation”. (SC # 111)

Elizabeth Harrington