At Mass, Catholics have work to do

Members of St. Raphael Church sang the opening song during the 4 p.m. Mass Feb. 16. Singing during Mass is one of five responsibilities of the assembly highlighted in a series of educational videos produced by the Archdiocese of Louisville. (Record Photos by Marnie McAllister)

Karen Shadle, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Worship, is convinced that participation — boosted by a little formation — can cure the boredom some people feel at Mass. 

“Mass can be boring if you don’t see a purpose,” she said during a recent interview. “I want us to have liturgies that make people want to go out and do great things. It should be the highlight of your week and the launching pad.”

Howard Bartsch, his daughter Mary and his wife of 25 years Pat, at left, smiled as they prepared to sing the closing song.

In order to make that happen, she said, the faithful are called to full, conscious and active participation. That’s how the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” describes the expectation of the congregation during Mass.

A new series of short videos produced by the Archdiocese of Louisville explains the role of the assembly in detail. “The Work of the People: The Catholic Mass” highlights five areas — collective prayer, singing, silence, the presentation of the gifts and Communion.

These are things “most Catholics can do in their sleep. They are things we do without thinking,” Shadle noted.

But understanding the purpose, she said, can alleviate the boredom.

The public can view the three- to four-minute videos online at

They were filmed over the last year-and-a-half at three parishes and the Christian Leadership Institute, a summer retreat for teens. The parishes shown in the videos are Immaculate Heart of Mary, Annunciation in Shelbyville, Ky., and St. Peter the Apostle.

While the videos are available online, DVDs and accompanying resources — including study guides — are being sent to each of the archdiocese’s 110 parishes. They may be used for inter-generational gatherings, religious formation, group discussion and in other ways at parishes.

“They’re bite-size, so you can easily share them” on social media, said Shadle. “And these are our people and our parishes, so you might see someone you know.”

Scenes in the videos show parishioners during the opening prayer, singing hymns, presenting gifts, praying silently and receiving Communion. Each of these actions is a specific role for the gathered people, said Shadle.

Following are some highlights from materials provided by the Office of Worship.

“Collecting Our Prayers”

“The Opening Prayer, also called the Collect, is a time for collecting the prayers of the gathered assembly. The priest says, ‘Let us pray.’ This is an invitation for all of us, together with the priest, to call to mind our prayer intentions in a moment of silence.

“We offer all of our prayers together as one body in one act of worship and praise. After the silence, the priest extends his hands and prays the Collect prayer from the Roman Missal. This brief prayer is an ancient tradition of the Church.”

“Singing as Prayer”

“Our full, conscious, and active participation in the singing helps us grow in our relationship with God and one another. Singing together as an assembly accomplishes three things.

“First, it adds beauty to our liturgy. Our Catholic musical tradition is rich and diverse, and liturgical texts take on new life when set to music.

“Second, singing reminds us of our unity — we make one joyful noise together. Singing at the liturgy is not for entertainment or comparison with others. Our individual vocal talents vary, but the sound of a unified assembly is greater than the sum of its parts.

“Third, singing adds solemnity to our worship. A beautifully sung text reveals Christ to us in a special way.”

“Bringing Our Gifts”

“The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the presentation of the gifts of bread and wine, brought forward in a procession by representative members of the community. But the bread and wine are not the only “gifts” presented.

“The Church teaches that we also offer our very selves — our talents, our shortcomings, our unique personalities that make up the community of faith. The priest … asks the Holy Spirit for transformation — transformation of the bread and wine into the true body and blood of Christ, and transformation of all of us into the Body of Christ for the world.”


“Full, conscious, and active participation in the Mass is about interior as well as exterior involvement. The instructions for Mass call for silence at several places. But silence is not merely empty space. It requires being fully present and making space for God.”

“In the silence, we participate by reflecting or by calling something to mind. For example, in the silence designated in the Penitential Act, we think of our failings. After each reading from sacred scripture, a period of silence allows us to reflect on what we’ve heard. After Communion, we silently offer praise and thanks to God.


“We are the Body of Christ. For Catholics, this is a central statement of our faith. Coming together as a community to receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist affirms our belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ, both in the consecrated bread and wine and in each of us who receives it.

“During the Eucharistic prayer, the priest asks the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ. By receiving this sacrament, we too are transformed into the Body of Christ. We are not only united to Christ, but also to one another in our shared belief. This part of the Mass is the time of utmost unity. That is why we stand together in the communion procession, sing together, and each receive what was consecrated on the one altar.”

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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