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A priest prepares to distribute Communion during Mass in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 29, 2023 (CNS/Lola Gomez)

Catholics need to know what their words and gestures at Mass signify and evoke, a liturgical expert says. Source: OSV News.

“What does it mean to be standing or kneeling? To have my hands joined or extended?” are questions Catholics should be able to answer, Fr Ricardo Reyes Castillo, an official in the Vatican Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told CNS.

“If we don’t know these things or we only know parts of them outside of their whole context,” it is a sign of not understanding and being fully engaged in the liturgy, he said. 

Fr Reyes said he believes that since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has been so focused on ensuring the forms and texts used at Mass are correct that it has not devoted enough energy to communicating the meaning of the Mass to the faithful.

The council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) “spoke about the importance of reworking the texts of rituals, which was an immense task, but this work had to proceed together with liturgical formation,” he said.

“The work on the texts of was so large that formation got left aside,” Fr Reyes said. “The problem is that today when we find ourselves with even very rich texts, we don’t truly know their significance.”

Fr Reyes said that many gestures performed during Mass have a deep spiritual meaning that is often lost on people. As an example, he cited how every Mass begins and ends with the celebrating priest kissing the altar, which conveys how the Mass is the act of entering into a loving relationship with God.

When even adults lack a full understanding of the Mass, he said, it should not be surprising that many young people today do not want to attend Mass “because they do not understand the meaning of what they are doing”.

“As Christians today we need more than ever to find the true meaning behind what we do,” he said.


Minding Mass: Catholics need better liturgical formation (By Justin McLellan, OSV News)