The Mass as Prayer

“Private prayer and public prayer are … two sides of the same coin.”

Schneider, “The Mass is Prayer,” pg. 13

To a Catechism Class

Dear children, today we are going to learn about prayer. Prayer is a conversation we have with God. How can we speak to God? 

God is a great king. He is the king of kings, and “his kingdom is ruling over all!” (Ps 103:19). When we go to speak to a king, we don’t just use any words or come to him however we want. We carefully choose our words and gestures to show that we respect him very much. We wear our best clothes. We kneel down. We bow our heads. We do all this not because we are afraid of him, but because we love him and we recognize how great he is. We want to give him the very best we can. 

God does not expect us to come up with beautiful words and gestures all on our own in order to speak with him. In fact, he teaches us how to worship him in the Holy Mass, the most perfect prayer of all. In the Mass, we use the very words and gestures which God Himself revealed in order to worship him with all the dignity, attention and devotion he deserves.

But you know, God is not only our king. He is also our father, and he wants us to speak with him the way we would speak with our own fathers and mothers, who love us very much. Since we know our parents we love us, we can be honest with them, can’t we? We can come to them just as we are and tell them whatever is on our minds. 

When we pray on our own at home, in our rooms, and so on, we speak to God as his little children. Yes, I speak to him this way, too! We come to him just as simply and honestly as we would to our parents or our best friend. We pour out our hearts to him. And in the Mass, we do the same, just not out loud. We do it quietly in the secret room of our own hearts. 

Our private, familiar prayer to our father and the public, formal prayer we offer to our king come together in the Mass: “they are two sides of the same coin” (pg. 15). All the very solemn words and gestures of the Mass are not just for show. What we do with our bodies and say with our lips has to match the quiet, inner prayer of our hearts. There is a saying: “If the heart does not pray, the lips move in vain.” 

When we sing the Kyrie, we quietly confess the things we’ve done wrong and ask him to forgive us. When we sing the Sanctus, we gaze at his majesty and tell him how much we adore him. When the priest lifts up the bread and wine, we thank God for all his gifts and offer everything back to him. And so, little by little, at every Mass, Jesus teaches us how to pray “so that our mind is in harmony with our voices” (RB 19:7). The Mass becomes a school of prayer. 

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