From the Pastor...
Celebrating the Mass in Word and Sign
Last Sunday, as Fr. Joe Bruce, SJ, joined us for the 11am Mass at Saint Theresa Church, I and many with us were truly moved. Fr. Joe is a deaf priest who works with the deaf and hard of hearing community in our diocese. His celebration of the Mass was nothing short of inspiring. He was truly animated, confident and gifted in using both voice and sign language to bring the Mass to us all.
What really moved me, however, was not only what Fr. Joe was doing, nor even what Dan Cleary, the gentleman who signed the readings, songs and common prayers was involved with, but rather how their presence focused the attention of us all. I found myself being much deliberate in my phrasing of common prayers, and making the effort to truly enunciate each syllable. The readings and announcements were done with just a touch more deliberation too, slowing things down a bit to allow for the signers to move along with the readings. Words that are so common to us all were not rushed or rattled through, but spoken clearly and much more slowly than I have heard in a long time.
I was struck half-way through Mass with the overwhelming sense that so much of what we do is taken for granted. What a privilege it is to fully participate in the Mass each time we gather, and how devastating it would be for me, and I daresay many of you, if for some reason we could not continue. For those deaf brothers and sisters who joined in this celebration, it was perhaps the first time that they could celebrate with us fully at Saint Theresa Church. What would it be like if I could not be as much a part of the Mass as I can today? What would I do if I could not hear the richness of the music or the depth of our voiced prayer? How would my life be changed if I was not able to understand the Word of God as it was being proclaimed?
There was a rich lesson in the celebration of this Mass last weekend, that I hope to take with me, as I hope every lector, cantor, musician, deacon, priest, or respondent to the spoken word will take. The ministry entrusted to us is that we bring the Word of God alive for each other, and we are not doing this well if some among us are not able to understand what we do. I believe we have work to do to make our efforts more deliberate and meaningful. I believe we all need to take the time necessary to slow down and proclaim clearly the pure gifts of words entrusted to us, in speech and in song. I believe that we all, minister and congregation, need to work more diligently on giving real meaning to all we do at Mass.
Too much can become too familiar, and in this familiarity the full impact of our praise and worship of God is not felt. Too much is at stake for us to fall into complacency and to convey our faith without real meaning. Last Sunday I was privileged to both hear and see Mass come alive at the hands of us who truly love what we do. Surely not for the first time, and prayerfully not for the last.