A Year with the Saints – 11 August


The Mass is certainly a function the most excellent, the most holy, the most acceptable to God and useful to us, that can be imagined. And so, while it is going on, the Angels assist in crowds, with bare feet, with earnest eyes, with downcast brows, with great silence, with incredible amazement and veneration. With what purity, attention, devotion, and reverence, then, ought the priest to celebrate it? He should approach the sacred altar as Jesus Christ, assist there as an Angel, minister there as a Saint, offer there the prayers of the people as a high-priest, interpose there for reconciliation between God and men as a mediator, and pray for himself as a simple human being. – Saint Lawrence Justinian

Saint Cajetan prefaced the Mass always with a sorrowful confession and a long preparation, which often lasted eight hours, which he spent wholly in acts of love and contrition, by way of preparation and thanksgiving. The face of Saint Ignatius used to glow while he was celebrating, and his heart became so inflamed that in many cases he could not stand after Mass, and was obliged to be carried to his room, to the wonder of all. Saint Conrad was so enkindled that the fingers with which he touched the body of the Lord remained bright and glowing, so that in the darkness of night they served him for a lamp. The venerable Father John Leonardi was, one morning, seen to come from the sacristy with his head surrounded by rays. A lady who saw him turned to the bystanders and said, “Now, surely, I can say that I have seen a Saint!” Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis Xavier and many others were often rapt in ecstasies at Mass.

Saint Vincent de Paul pronounced the words of the Mass in a gentle voice, not very low nor very high, and in a manner at once unconstrained and devout. He recited them neither very slowly nor very rapidly, but as was suitable to the sanctity of the action, so that his Mass did not ordinarily exceed half an hour in length. But the interior spirit which accompanied his words and actions was singular, on account of its unusual tenderness. He said the Confiteor, In spiritu humilitatis, Nobis quoque peccatoribus, Domine, non sum dignus and similar prayers with great contrition and humility. His devotion rose especially while reading the Holy Gospel. When he came to any word spoken by Christ, he uttered it in a more tender and more loving voice; and when he met with the words Amen dico vobis, he gave marked attention to what followed. In fine, he did everything with such modesty, gravity and tenderness, as moved all present to devotion; and so, persons who did not know him were often heard to exclaim: “Ah! here is a priest who says Mass well! He must surely be a Saint!”

After his own Mass he would serve another, from devotion, and he did this regularly, though overwhelmed with business, up to the age of 75 years, when he could no longer walk without a cane or kneel except with great effort.

But the glorious Saint Philip Neri was conspicuous among all for this virtue. While others need long preparation in order to be recollected and say Mass devoutly, he, on the contrary, needed first to amuse himself a little, so that often before going to celebrate he would have a book of stories read to him. In the act of celebrating, he was often noticed to heave deep sighs, and to melt into tears; sometimes he would pause, because he was unable to proceed; sometimes he would shiver and tremble, so as to shake the predella, and again, fall into such abstraction that it was necessary to pull his vestments to rouse him. When he reached the Offertory, the joy of his heart was so great while he was young, that his hand would rise of itself, and he could not pour the wine into the chalice unless he rested his arm firmly on the altar. In elevating the Most Holy Sacrament, he would remain with his arms stretched upward, unable for a time to lower them; and at other times he would rise a span and more from the ground. In taking the Body of the Lord, he enjoyed such sweetness that he seemed like a person who is tasting some delicious beverage; and in taking the Blood, he pressed the chalice between his lips so that he not only rubbed off the gold, but wore away the silver, upon which he left the marks of his teeth. For this reason, he was not willing that anyone should stand where his face could be seen – not even the server, whom he told to keep at a distance, and not bring him the purificator until he should receive a sign. If he was to give Holy Communion, his fervor increased to such a degree that thrills were seen to run through his whole body, to the great wonder of those present; and when he took the Ciborium in his hand, he trembled so much that the Sacred Particles were shaken above the edge; his face, meanwhile, seemed all on fire, and an abundance of tears flowed from his eyes. In saying Mass, he uttered the words with so much devotion that he often made those weep who listened to him. When he had finished he withdrew immediately to his room, but with such abstraction that he often passed close to persons without perceiving them, and his face was so pale that he seemed rather dead than alive. His Mass, when said in public, was rather short than long, that he might not weary the people, so that those who were in haste were glad to see him come out of the sacristy; but when it was in his private oratory, it lasted not less than four hours.

MLA Citation