The Collection, What’s the rush?

The Collection

In the early years of Christianity, the faithful brought bread and wine with them to church to be used in the celebration of the Eucharist. What wasn't used at the Mass was given to the poor and needy.  Later, people started bringing other gifts of food or money which were offered for the work of the Church.

In most parishes a collection of money is taken up during the Preparation of Gifts and the money brought forward with the gifts of bread and wine. This action is an integral part of the liturgy because our offering links us to the sacrifice of the cross and the money will be used in the mission of the Church.

Visitors to a Catholic Church are often surprised (and sometimes embarrassed!) when the collection plate comes around a second time at Mass. Having two collections is a way of separating donations for the support of the clergy from contributions to the cost of the parish services and operations.

It is common for the second collection to happen after Communion but it is important that it does not interrupt what is meant to be a time of silent prayer. An alternative is to have just one collection using envelopes to separate donations, or to have two collections during the Preparation of Gifts with the second following a few rows behind the first.

The link between sharing eucharistic gifts and serving those in need is a concrete expression of what the Mass signifies.

What’s the rush?

Non-Catholics attending a Catholic Mass find it very disconcerting to see people leaving the church before the service is over, often immediately after receiving Communion. It is something that rarely happens in other Churches. Perhaps the practice is a hangover from pre-Vatican II days when one’s Mass obligation was met as long as one was present for the Offertory, the Consecration and the Priest’s Communion.

Let’s be honest – if getting up and leaving a dinner party before it is over is bad manners, then walking out before Mass has ended is too. Those who regularly leave early shirk any responsibility as members of the parish community for the jobs that always need to be done when Mass is over, like tidying the worship space and assisting the less mobile.

Besides being socially unacceptable, the practice of not staying for all of the Mass is inappropriate for other reasons. The Concluding Rites of the Mass are not just a way to end the celebration or to say farewell to those who have gathered. They also remind us that we are expected to do our part in carrying on Christ’s mission of proclaiming the Good News and serving others. The announcements after Communion offer the assembly opportunities for living out their Christian commitment during the coming week.

Of course, emergencies arise and exceptions happen, but when it becomes habitual behaviour, some reflection on full participation in the Mass might be called for.


Elizabeth Harrington