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. These gifts were collected by the deacons during the liturgy. 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 this way the faithful participated in a concrete way in Christ’s self-offering in the sacrifice of the cross.
The General Instruction on the Roman Missal states that the Preparation of the Gifts at Mass is “the time to receive money or other gifts for the church or the poor brought by the faithful or collected at the Mass” (GIRM 49).
In most parishes a collection of money is taken up at this part of the Mass and the money brought forward with the gifts of bread and wine. Sometimes the offering seems to be gathered in an almost apologetic, hasty manner, rather than with the dignity appropriate for this action which is an integral part of the liturgy. Perhaps the presider could remind the assembly in a few brief words after the prayers of intercession that their sacrificial offering links them to the sacrifice of Christ and that the money will be used for the poor as well as for the mission of the Church. Occasionally the people should be informed about how the offering will be used.
Visitors to a Catholic Church are often surprised (and sometimes embarrassed!) when the collection plate comes around a second time at Mass. This custom, considered ‘normal’ by Catholics, is unknown in other churches. The practice of having two collections at Mass has come into being as 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 practice to have the second collection after communion. Though there may be practical reasons, no good liturgical purpose is served by inserting a collection at this point. To many people it appears as an after-thought, or even worse, as a post-communion distraction. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal suggests that the period after communion be spent in silent prayer (GIRM 56j). Silence is important to the rhythm of the whole celebration and is welcome in a busy and restless world.
As the majority of contributors to the second collection make use of planned giving envelopes, one solution to the problem is to have just one collection. Alternatively, two collections could be taken up simultaneously during the Preparation of the Gifts with the second ‘plate’ following a few rows behind the first.
Some parishes have solved both the question of when to schedule the second collection and the problem of keeping large amounts of cash secure over a weekend by arranging for parishioners to contribute to parish running costs via the direct debit system. Some have criticised this solution as taking away from people the symbolic, physical gesture of giving, but this can be overcome by having people place a small amount of money or a token in the collection basket.
The link between sharing eucharistic gifts and serving those in need is part of our tradition and a concrete expression of what the Mass signifies.


Elizabeth Harrington