Keep reading for excerpts from Paul Turner on The Parts of the Mass from our parish e-newsletter. We will update this page each week with a new excerpt.

Want to sign up for our parish communications? Click here!

The Collect

The Collect is the prayer that concludes the Introductory Rites of the Mass. The priest addresses the people, “Let us pray,” signaling the purpose of the silence and the words that follow. Then he offers the prayer of the day, concluding with a formula to which everyone responds, “Amen.”

The silence is important. During this time everyone is to “become aware of being in God’s presence,” so that they “may call to mind their intentions.” Everyone prays “together with the Priest” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 54)—exercising the common priesthood of the baptized. If you have come to Mass with particular needs, this silence is the time to call them to mind.

As the priest offers the prayer, he is “collect-ing” the thoughts of the people, who themselves have been “collect-ed” together from their homes for this celebration at church. Although it is sometimes called the “Opening Prayer” of the Mass, it is more properly and traditionally called the Collect.

The words express the character of the celebration. This is especially clear on occasions such as a wedding, a saint’s day, and liturgical times such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. People attentive to the words of the Collect will discover that the priest may be articulating the purpose of the event.

At other times, the words are more generic. Many of these prayers were composed from the sixth to the eighth centuries. Some of them were written for particular liturgical days, and are still being used on or near those days over a thousand years later.

The Collect is addressed to God the Father, and it is offered through Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The priest extends his hands while he prays, using a gesture popular in Christian prayer since the earliest times.

Closing Hymn

Just after the deacon or priest tells us that Mass is over, the musicians often have another idea. We usually close Mass with a hymn. Actually, the Order of the Mass never mentions the Recessional Song. It is optional. By contrast, the Gathering Hymn and Communion Song are so necessary to the Mass that the liturgy provides recited texts for the undesirable circumstance when they are not sung. Their purpose is to draw the community together to begin common prayer or to symbolize the sacrament of our union. But the ritual shows complete disinterest about the closing hymn. If it’s omitted, it’s no big deal.

Mass need not end with a congregational hymn. A choir piece, an instrumental, or silence may close the celebration. The closing song is optional precisely because of the Dismissal. Leaving the church is an action with a purpose. The Dismissal sends the united community out, carrying the Gospel to the world. Just like the instruction to offer the Sign of Peace, the Dismissal invites the assembly to do something. No hymn needs to intervene. |“Go” does not simply announce that Mass is over; it commands that witness has begun.

However, most assemblies like the final hymn because it seems to round off the celebration. Before we end our time together, we sing one last song. It provides a more boffo finish than the terse “Thanks be to God” that responds to the Dismissal. Since we begin Mass with a song, a closing hymn places a psychological bookend on the other side of our prayer. Still, because its function is so different—part of our sending as opposed to our gathering—the closing hymn remains optional. With thanks to God upon our lips, we may direct our steps without delay to the work of the week.


What is it about kissing at Mass? The priest kisses the altar. Twice. The deacon or priest kisses the Gospel book. We kiss each other at the Sign of Peace. The newly married may show their love “in an appropriate way.” What’s going on?

The custom of Christians kissing goes clear back to the New Testament. Paul, by no stretch a romantic, urged Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16), and Peter suggested a kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14).

Kissing the altar first appeared in the fourth century. People used to kiss the threshold of the building they entered in respect. At Mass, the kiss switched to the altar, which symbolized Christ, the cornerstone of the Church. By the Middle Ages, most altars contained relics of martyrs so the kiss honored them as well. Today the priest greets the people with “The Lord be with you,” but he also greets the altar—the presence of Christ, and the holy place where Mass will follow.

Kissing the Gospel book carries a similar meaning. We recognize the presence of Christ in the book that speaks good news. The kiss of the altar at the end of the Mass is the farewell counterpart of the entrance kiss.

From the third century, a kiss of peace was given to new Christians after Baptism. Today, when the bishop offers peace to the newly confirmed, he imitates that baptismal ritual. A priest who confirms the newly baptized at Easter might offer the same greeting.

Strangely, the Order for Celebrating Matrimony doesn’t always invite the couple to kiss. If the wedding takes place at Mass, they’ll get a chance at the Sign of Peace along with the rest of the assembly. If there is no Mass, the rite never alludes to the kiss. But since the introduction encourages local adaptations, a little improvisation might help.

The kiss we know best is the Sign of Peace. When the Roman Rite was first formulated, it called for a real smack. Society must have been a lot “smoochier” than it is today. Still, some moderns restrain too much. When a married couple chooses a handshake instead of a kiss, it makes one wonder what sign they’re really giving. When at Mass, prepare to pucker.

The Begotten

The word begotten refers to the role the father has played in producing a child. Sometimes the words in the Mass refer to Jesus as the only-begotten Son of the Father. It sounds redundant—if you are a son, you have been begotten. But the issue here is to point out just who the Father is.

Christianity has survived many heresies throughout its history. One of them pertained to the Father of Jesus. This heresy, known as adoptionism, believed that Jesus was born of two human parents, the same way every human being is born. But because he was so unusual in his faith and abilities, God adopted him to become his own Son. This is not what mainstream Christianity believes. We believe that the Father of Jesus is divine, not human. We also believe that no one else has God as a Father in exactly the same way. Consequently, we speak of Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God.

We have used the word in the Nicene Creed for quite a few years, but the revised English translation of the Mass has added it to the Gloria as well. It has always been in there in Latin, but the first translators perhaps thought that the word was unnecessary. However, it is a critical part of the history of Christianity, and it has always appeared in the text of the Gloria, a hymn that is over a thousand years old. It reappears now in the Gloria, and in some other prayers throughout the Missal. Although begotten is a word we do not often use, it pertains to a belief upon which we stand: God is the Father of Jesus, and he is the only Son of God.

Great Amen

“Amen” means “So be it.” It means “I believe.” It means “The truth has been spoken.” And it’s a little like clicking the “Send” button after you’ve written an email. It gives your prayer the wings it uses to fly toward God in heaven.

We conclude many prayers at Mass with an Amen. The Glory to God, the Collect, the Creed, the Prayer over the Offerings, the Doxology after the Lord’s Prayer, and the Prayer after Communion all end with the word “Amen.” When you receive the Body and Blood of the Lord at Communion, you answer “Amen.”

But amid all these Amens, one is traditionally called “great,” the one that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer.

The Great Amen is great because of what it says Amen to. Throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, we have been praying in thanksgiving for the wonder-
ful things God does for us, and we have been praying in petition for the living and the dead. Most importantly, we have been praying that the Holy Spirit would change the bread and wine on the altar into the Body and Blood of Christ. This prayer, the most powerful prayer in human history, concludes with an Amen that can only be called “great.”

Because of the significance of this Amen, it is one of the acclamations that we are encouraged to sing at Mass (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 40). Usually, the priest will sing the preceding words, which refer to Christ: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

To those words, all we can say and all we must say is “Amen.”


The weekly collection humbly expresses the community’s faith. The silent routine accompanies the spirit of selflessness that unites believers. Whether your gift is large or small, the collection expresses what we have in common, a desire to share.

In the Mass, the collection occurs at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Its placement is significant. It is not an admission fee to get into the building. It is part of the heart of the Mass. Every Mass celebrates the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. That sacrifice unfolds before our eyes as the gifts we bring, the bread and wine, are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and offered to God. This sacrificial action begins when we carry bread and wine to the altar during the Preparation of the Gifts. With them, we bring our gifts for the poor. This procession moves through the community because these gifts come from us and represent us.

They represent our offering to God and our communion with God. Just as the Body and Blood of Christ bring heavenly nourishment to our community, so the collection brings material aid.

That material aid is no small matter. Your church depends on your gift. Parishes receive money like beggars, not like clerks. People give not to receive a product; they give to make a gift. The charity that underlies the collection results from faith. We believe that what we have comes from God, and we know it was given for the enjoyment of all. A habit of giving comes from a heart that has learned the satisfactions of generosity. A habit of giving offers us peace that we are doing our part to make the world a better, more generous place. The Scriptures recommend a tithe—giving ten percent of what we earn to charities. By giving from what we receive, we share God’s love with the world.

And With Your Spirit

Several times during the Mass, the priest or deacon greets the people with “The Lord be with you” or a similar phrase. In English, congregations have responded, “And also with you,” but a closer translation of the Latin is, “And with your spirit.” (Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo.) Most congregations speaking other languages have always answered with the equivalent of “And with your spirit.”

The response is based on a phrase from the New Testament. St. Paul concludes four epistles with the desire that the grace of Jesus Christ will be with the spirit of the letters’ recipients: Galatians 6:18, Philippians 4:23, 2 Timothy 4:22, and Philemon 25. Paul prays that Christ will inhabit their innermost being—their spirit.

At Mass, the words “The Lord be with you” express a wish, but the wish is already happening. The Lord is present with those who gather in his name. When the people respond, they say essentially the same thing. They wish that the Lord will be with the spirit—the innermost being—of the priest or deacon. Indeed, the Lord is present because of the sacredness of the minister and of the liturgical action underway.

In the Catholic liturgy, the greeting “The Lord be with you” is made only by a priest or deacon. Therefore, the response to the spirit of the minister may carry another meaning; it may also refer to the Holy Spirit who came upon the minister in his ordination. But at a simpler level, squarely on the basis of scriptural evidence, the response carries a message equivalent to the greeting. Both the minister and the people are wishing that the Lord will be with the other, and the Lord is present to them because of the purpose of their gathering.

Bulletin Inserts for the Liturgical Life of the Parish: The Mass © 2020
Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications. All rights reserved. Written by Paul Turner.