Once one realises that Holy Mass has infinite worth, he is not surprised at the saints’ eagerness and care to attend it every day, and even more often when they could.
One day St Pio of Pietrelcina said to a penitent, “If men were to understand the value of the Holy Mass, for every Mass such crowds would come to church that police would be needed to keep order.”
Perhaps we, too, belong to that great number of Christians who have not understood the value of Holy Mass, and for this reason we lack the zeal and fervor that encouraged and inspired the saints to attend Mass every day.
Ringing Church bells signalling the start of Mass, calling the faithful to worship
The Hidden Bell
St Augustine has left us this praise of his mother, St Monica “She did not let a day pass without being present at the Divine Sacrifice before Your altar, O Lord.” St Francis of Assisi usually attended two Masses each day, and when he was sick he asked a friar who was a priest to celebrate Mass for him in his cell so that he would not be without Holy Mass. Every morning after celebrating Holy Mass, St Thomas Aquinas served another Mass in thanksgiving.
The shepherd boy, St Paschal Baylon, could not go to Church to attend all the Masses he would have liked because he had to take the sheep to pasture. But every time he heard the church bells give the signal for Mass, he knelt on the grass among the sheep before the wooden cross he had made, and in this way he would, from afar, follow the priest as he offered the Divine Sacrifice. What an affectionate Saint, a true seraph of love for the Eucharist! On his deathbed he heard the bell for Holy Mass and had the strength to whisper to his brethren, “I am happy to unite to the Sacrifice of Jesus the sacrifice of my poor life.” And he died at the moment of the Consecration of the Mass
Altar boy ringing the Sanctus bells at Mass as the priest prays to the Holy Spirit
to change the gifts of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
When St John Berchmanns was still a young boy, he would leave his house every day to go to Church at the first break of dawn. Once his grandmother asked him why he would always leave so early. The holy youth responded, “To win blessings from God I serve three Masses before going to school.”
St Peter Julian Eymard, even while very young, found delight in serving Holy Mass. At that time his town had this custom: the boy who would serve Mass would be the one who, in the early morning, would pass through the town ringing a small bell for a quarter of an hour to alert the faithful. How many times little Peter Julian hid the small bell the evening before to make sure of being the one to serve Mass the next morning!
A mother of eight, St Margaret, Queen of Scotland, went to Mass every day and brought her children with her. With motherly cares she taught them to treasure a little missal which she chose to adorn with precious stones.
“Bad management of time”
Let us manage our affairs so well that we will not lack time for Holy Mass. Let us not say that we are too busy with chores, for which Jesus could remind us, “Martha, Martha, thou art troubled with many things, but only one thing alone is necessary” (Lk 10:41-42).
When one really wants to, one finds time to attend Mass without failing in one’s duties. St Joseph Cottolengo recommended daily Mass for everybody: for teachers, nurses, labourers, doctors, parents. To those who objected that they did not have the time, he replied firmly: “Bad management! Bad economy of time!” And he knew this generally was the truth. If we but appreciated the infinite value of the Holy Mass, we would be very desirous of assisting and would try in every way to find the necessary time.
When St Charles of Sezze went about Rome begging alms for his community, he would take time out to make visits to a Church to attend additional Masses. It was at the moment of the elevation of the Host during one of these Masses that he received the dart of love into his heart.
Every morning, St Francis of Paola went to church, and he remained there to attend all the Masses which were celebrated. St Aloysius Gonzaga, St Alphonsus Rodriguez and St Gerard Majella used to serve as many Masses as they could. (They did this with such devotion and edification that they attracted many of the faithful into church).
The Holy Cure of Ars was not mistaken when he said, “The Mass is the devotion of the saints.”
Altar Servers and wardens in procession before the Eucharistic Celebration
The same must be said of the love that holy priests have for celebrating Mass. It was for them a terrible suffering to be unable to celebrate Mass. It was for them a terrible suffering to be unable to celebrate Mass. “When you hear that I cannot celebrate Mass any more, count me as dead,” St Francis Xavier Bianchi said to a brother religious.
St John of the Cross made it clear that the greatest suffering he had during his ordeal of imprisonment was that of not being able to celebrate Mass nor receive Holy Communion for nine continuous months.
Obstacles and difficulties did not count for the saints when it was a question of not losing so excellent a good. For example, one day in the streets of Naples, St Alphonsus de Liguoro suffered violent pains in the abdomen. The religious who accompanied him urged him to stop and take a sedative. But the Saint had not yet celebrated Mass and his prompt response was, “My dear brother, I would walk ten miles in this condition in order not to miss saying Holy Mass.” And his sufferings would not move him to break the Eucharistic fast which at that time was obligatory from midnight. He waited until the pain subsided a little, and then continued his walk to church and Mass.
The Capuchin, St Lawrence of Brindisi, was once in a town of heretics. Since this town had no Catholic Church, he journeyed forty miles on foot to reach a chapel cared for by Catholics, in which he was able to celebrate Holy Mass. Not without reason he often said, “The Mass is my Heaven on earth.”
St Francis de Sales one time was staying in a Protestant town. To celebrate Holy Mass he had to go every morning before dawn to a Catholic parish church, which was on the other side of a broad stream. During the autumn rains the steam rose more than usual and washed away the little bridge on which the Saint had been crossing. This did not discourage him. In the place where the bridge had been, he threw a large beam on which he was able to cross over. In winter, however, because of the ice and snow, there was serious danger of his slipping and falling into the water. The Saint then devised a procedure whereby he put himself astride the beam and maneuvered across on all fours, so that he might not miss his celebration of Holy Mass.
We will never succeed in sufficiently pondering that Mystery beyond description, the Holy mass, which reproduces on our altars the Sacrifice of Calvary. Nor can we ever have too much devotion for this supreme marvel of divine love.
“Holy Mass,” wrote St Bonaventure “is an achievement of God wherein He places before our will all the love He has borne us. It is, in a certain way, a combination of all the benefits bestowed upon us.” Therefore St John Bosco earnestly exhorts us: “Take great care to go to Holy Mass, even on weekdays; and for such a cause be willing to put up with some inconvenience. Thereby you will obtain every kind of blessing from the Lord.”
Top photo: Cardinal Parolin looking heavenwards during the Offertory Prayer
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr Stefano Manelli’s book Jesus: Our Eucharistic Love. Visit the Academy of the Immaculate website: academyoftheimmaculate.com