WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. Huy Nguyen says we are called to be a messenger of good tidings.
Growing up in Vietnam, Father Huy Nguyen, was one of 13 children, 10 of whom were girls. He always looked forward to Mass because he could socialize afterwards with other boys. He felt so good being at church that he was in no hurry to return home.
This is not always the case in many parishes. Serving Mass at the cathedral in Calgary, he found that the back pews were usually empty when Mass began. But the seats filled by the time the homily began.
After Communion, the seats would be empty again. People exited from the church into the parking lot, not bothering to wait for the dismissal.
"What is lacking in our understanding of the Eucharist and the dismissal? We take so lightly the command that is given to us at the end of Mass," said Nguyen, formator at St. Joseph Seminary. "How can we still keep silent despite being commanded to make the Eucharist a reality in our daily living, and glorify God in our lives?"
He spoke April 18 at Newman Theological College on Glorify the Lord With Your Life, the fourth in a monthly series of six catechetical sessions on the Mass.
Priests of the archdiocese lead the evening sessions, presented by the offices of liturgy and catechesis. Close to 30 people attended, with others viewing his presentation via a live webcast.
"Pope John Paul II was very clear in reminding the Church, the whole Church, of the connection between the Mass and mission," said Nguyen.
Nguyen said the Eucharistic celebration does not stop at the church door. Rather, Catholics are to evangelize and bear witness in their daily lives. The prayer after Communion, the concluding rites, the final blessing and dismissal need to be better valued and appreciated so that all who have shared in the Eucharist may come to a deeper sense of responsibility.
The dismissal begins long before the concluding rite, said Nguyen. The glory that one is called to give to God is expressed throughout the celebration, from beginning to end.
"The whole Eucharist is one invitation, and each part of Mass is really an invitation for us to receive and also to share and participate in the real mystery of God's salvation," said Nguyen.
Blessed by what they receive in the Eucharist, people should feel indebted to share that Good News. Their whole life should be a spiritual sacrifice dedicated to God.
"All of us, at the end of Mass, should feel compelled to appreciate God's presence in everyday events in order to put this great gift that we have just received into action through the way we live and in relation to others," said Nguyen.
Sometimes the priest will articulate the dismissal by saying, "Go forth - the Mass is ended!" It is not an order to leave the church. It is a command to go forth and proclaim what one has just heard and witnessed.
"For many of us, perhaps we are too used to the word 'Mass' as signifying what has just transpired within the walls of the church. What we need to remember now is that if we truly accept the commission, 'Go forth - the Mass is ended!' the Mass is never-ending, and it is always beginning anew," said Nguyen.
A second dismissal is when the priest says, "Go forth and announce the Gospel of the Lord."
Again, this is more than an instruction to leave, but is a call to be a messenger of good tidings. Encountering Christ through the Eucharist, one should be eager to proclaim this encounter to the world.
A third dismissal is, "Go in peace. Glorify the Lord by your life."
"This is a commandment to all of us, in such a way that every moment of our lives needs to be an opportunity to give God the glory that is his. This is an exultation that extends to all of us," said Nguyen.
The next catechesis session, Source and Summit, is May 16 at 7 p.m. with Father Stefano Penna.