Hey, Father! What Does a priest feel during Mass?

What Does a priest feel during Mass?

– Anonymous in Jerseyville

Humility is what priests surely feel most when presiding at Mass – their sense of unworthiness to fill this role in The Lamb’s Supper. We who often preach about God’s unfathomable mercy rely on this mercy ourselves as we stand at His holy altar. We there echo His consecration words: “This is my Body…  This is my Blood…” Nothing captures what a privilege this is, so yes, humility is key.

Humility is also involved as a priest homiletically sheds light on Sacred Scripture and preaches on unspeakably beloved figures such as our Blessed Mother. The insights shared can lift hearts to heaven and potentially carry eternal ramifications for some souls in the pews.  hat a responsibility! What a gift!

“Say each Mass like it is your first Mass, and your last Mass.” This advice came from my first rector in seminary, Monsignor Ross Shecterle, who repeatedly emphasized focus, and not getting distracted.

Yet distractions happen. Babies move from sweet cooing and gentle laugher, to outright screaming. Cell phones go off. A pillar-light over the ambo flickers. An organist forgets a musical cue. A server rings the consecration bell too early, or too late. End-of-Mass announcements prematurely pop into the head.  In other words, among a presider-priest’s thoughts is the need to stay focused! This is often, also, where gratitude enters, for God’s patience, and for His guiding Spirit, and for the wealth of supportive prayer coming the priest’s way.

Gratitude, then, like humility, is central to what a presider feels. We know Eucharist means “thanksgiving,” which carries a strong component of joy. A priest celebrating Mass should always convey gratitude and joy! Indeed, his bearing and manner contribute considerably to the celebration and are noticed by his flock.

I know this in part after decades of Mass participation from the pews before entering seminary with a second-career vocation. I had witnessed hundreds of priests celebrate Mass and noticed how some conveyed joy and appreciated reverence more than others. These observations even now sometime enter my thoughts as I prepare for, and preside at, liturgy.

Finally, as goes what a priest feels during Mass, he stays aware of his “in persona Christi” role. Although a humble and distracted sinner, the priest is called to represent – or at least to strive to represent – Jesus.  The priest can succeed in the striving, but never adequately in the representation – hence, more humility. Always humility! 

Father David Beagles is pastor of St. Elizabeth in Robinson and Our Lady of Lourdes in Oblong