Many of us undoubtedly arrive early to pray our Rosaries and even take part in other great devotions. All of this is most worthy and certainly worthy of recognition.
My concern is not that we are doing too much to prepare for Mass. Truly, how could we actually prepare enough to receive the Body and Blood of our Savior? I am concerned that these same people who truly understand the importance of the Holy Sacrifice are neglecting to practice proper devotion after Holy Mass.
Thus, it is with these thoughts in mind that I present to you my post on 3 Things that You Must Do After Every Mass:
1.OFFER AN ACT OF THANKSGIVING
As the priest prays before consuming the Sacred Blood of our Lord, "Quid retríbuam Dómino pro ómnibus, quæ retríbuit mihi? Cálicem salutáris accípiam, et nomen Dómini invocábo. Laudans invocábo Dóminum, et ab inimícis meis salvus ero." In so doing, he prays, "What return shall I make to the Lord for all he hath given unto me? I will take the Chalice of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies."
Thus it is the priest who after consuming the Sacred Host renders in this moment of thanksgiving a humble prayer asking only for a further increase of grace. In this instance, we see the revelation that our Lord Jesus Christ is our gift. Truly no prayer is more appropriate at this time of thanksgiving than asking for a further increase of grace. And who better to ask than He who is the fullness of grace.
Also recall that the priest prays silently after the Ite Missa Est (or in Septuagesima through Passiontide the Benedicámus Dómino) the following: "May the homage of my service be pleasing to thee, O holy Trinity; and grant that the sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered in the sight of thy majesty, may be acceptable to thee: and through thy mercy win forgiveness for me and for all those for whom I have offered it. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
With these heartfelt sentiments we should similarly appropriate our Thanksgiving after Mass. From what I have seen, Traditional Catholics have remarkable attention during Mass. This is true with very few exceptions. In one rare instance of departure from the norm, a traditional priest told the story of how a man from his congregation would customarily leave directly after receiving our Lord in Holy Communion. That is to say, he left while Communion was still being distributed - before even the Ablutions and the Post Communion.
So, one day, this priest instructed one of his altar servers to follow the man outside to his car while holding a candle the next time he left prematurely. And, sure enough, the next time it occurred, the altar boy followed the man right to his car. Undoubtedly more than a little upset, the man asked the priest why this had happened. The priest replied to the man that he was a tabernacle and the presence of Christ truly was still present with him in those minutes immediately after receiving.
Needless to say, the man discontinued his practice of immediately leaving. Now I am by no means claiming that Traditional Catholics typically are guilty of such. However, with most High Masses lasting longer than 1.5 hours and with children fidgeting by the end of the Mass, there does seem to be a lack of attention for those important minutes after the Holy Mass has ended.
Even for those of us who understand the value of a proper thanksgiving, we must make the conscious effort to make our Thanksgivings worthy. So if your children are fidgeting, instruct discipline in them so that they remain seated and in prayers of Thanksgiving as well. Also, do not fear in making your Thanksgiving prayers while kneeling at the Communion rail or even a side altar. Since our minds frequently wander, having our eyes fixed on a statue of the Good Shepherd, Sacred Heart, or our Lady will help keep our minds and words fixed appropriately on true sentiments of thanksgiving.
There are many prayers which you could say after the Holy Sacrifice. While you certainly do not need to pray a pre-composed prayer, I do recommend the beautiful prayers after Mass mentioned in the Angelus Press Missal. These are the ones that I use. (See page 84 - 86 and 89 - 90).
And finally, recall the example of the saints. It is said of St. Aloysius Gonzaga that he used to receive Communion once a week and that he was accustomed to spend three days in preparation before it and three days in thanksgiving after it. How did he manage to do this? Was he all the time prostrated before the Altar or reading a spiritual book? Not at all; he went wherever obedience called him, quietly performing his duties and keeping his heart lifted up to God. He offered up all his actions to Jesus Christ by way of thanksgiving, and he made now and then some short acts of faith, hope and charity, some acts of self-oblation or admiration or supplication. By this means, the angelic youth was enabled to walk continually with God; one Communion was the preparation for another; thus, he constantly advanced in purity of heart and in love for Jesus Christ.
Truly we have been given grace upon grace.
2. Learn from the Sermon
Traditional Catholics especially are graced with many truly awe inspiring and theologically deep sermons. If you are unaware, many great sermons are available for download and listening from Audio Sancto, and Alabama Catholic Resources has other good sermons. Bishop Robert Vasa also has a set of talks available for purchase.
While listening to sermons from these websites online, I have found myself taking notes and making plans to amend my life to be further in line with the sermon's message. But, how often do any of us take careful notes during or immediately after Mass to record not only the central message of the sermon but also the parts that truly sounded in accord with the desires of our heart?
Although I have never been a fan of bringing pencil and paper to Mass, I do strongly encourage you to pay careful attention to the sermon and then record it immediately after Mass on paper. Studies have shown that taking notes impresses the subject of the note further in our minds - after all, if it did not, what use would notes be for students?
We Traditional Catholics have been especially blessed with theological sound and inspiring sermons. Let us not neglect this gift. Take notes and learn from the sermon.
3. Live the Catholic Faith
Ite Missa Est! Behold, you are sent forth in the world! The word missa comes from mittere, to send. Thus, in this solemn dismissal of the faithful, the Mass eventually took its name. As the Sacrifice of the Mass is finished, we are sent into the world to our own sacrifice and to prove ourselves sons of God and brothers of the Redeemer. We are sent to our post on Calvary, to continue the work of Redemption as we "fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ" (1 Col 1:24b).
May we never neglect to offer daily acts of offering and thanksgiving while living daily lives in the state of grace and in Almighty God's service.