Meaning of term: "assist at Mass"

I have been reading some of the older Catholic books.

I’ve always thought (because I live in this day and age!) that the term “assist at Mass” means to be involved in helping somehow, e.g., ushering, playing an instrument, cantoring, lectoring, getting the gifts ready, cleaning up afterwards, etc.

The books I read talk about special grace and blessings for those who “assist at Mass.”

But the more I read of these books, it sounds like “assist at Mass” actually refers to attending the Mass and joining in the prayer of the Mass throughout.

Could someone please clear this up for me and explain exactly what the term “assist at Mass” means?

Thanks so much!

You are right!

To assist at Mass, you enter into the prayer of the Mass, uniting your prayer with that of the priest. True “active participation” is spiritual.

“Assist at mass” means prayerful attendance at mass. A bit of an old-school phrase.

“Hearing mass” is another old school term, as participation in the Latin mass was not vocal, but instead exclusively prayerful. The faithful at the Latin mass remained quiet and heard the mass, while the priest talked and the altar servers responded for them.

Those who assist at Mass are all those present besides the celebrant(s).

The idea of assisting at Mass always brings to mind an old adage (or perhaps quote? I forget the source).

“Don’t pray AT Mass–Pray THE Mass”

Different notions of what “active participation” really means is one of the core issues that define a Catholic as a “Traditionalist”. Many parishes have liturgy committees that really work to get the congregation to participate through singing, strong responses, and inducing a feeling of community. While these things are wonderful and necessary, they are by themselves entirely insufficient and only scratching the surface of the idea of “assisting at Mass”.

To REALLY say that you’ve assisted at Mass, sure you need to be able to say that you’ve sung the hymns and said the responses, but you also have to be able to say that you’ve MEANT every thought and word by uniting yourself (you’re WHOLE self, not just the part that sits in the pew and expels air over vocal cords in order to produce a joyful racket). This can be done a great number of ways, the simplest (and by far the most common I should think) is to contemplate the meaning of Mass and the representation of Calgary as it is played out before your eyes. Even the simple realization that it is JESUS in the priest’s hands at the Elevation(s) is a form of assisting at Mass.

I guess that the Catholic ideal of worship being a quiet and contemplative spiritual event really comes from Matthew 6:5 - “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” To me, this verse screams the notion that active prayer is private and internal, and as Catholics, we take that private and internal prayer into our Liturgies which by virtue of the nature of the Mass leaves us with an invitation to unite ourselves with the priest and God through a contemplatively prayerful attitude during the Mass.

I think I could say much more on “assisting at Mass,” but I’ve already said more than what I originally set out to.


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