Review: The Saints Who Pray with Us in the Mass
A review by Alexandra Reis
In our modern world, with all of its distractions, it can often be difficult to remember the significance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the impact that it has in our own lives. Going to Mass on Sundays begins feeling trivial and unimportant, and we forget that at the altar Our Blessed Lord Himself has descended from His heavenly throne to renew the offering of His life for us. We struggle to excite our minds at times, but the Church knows very well of all our weaknesses and has provided tools for us to use to help us focus. God Himself is always very aware of our human flaws, and burns with the desire to help us reach perfection and grow in love for Him.
The main tool the Church has given us is the Missal. This book which has been passed down for centuries holds all that we need so that we may understand all the words of the priest, and the prayers that are being offered up for the Church and for our well-being. If the Missal is properly used, we will enter into the mystery of the Mass, and open our souls to receive all the graces God has prepared for us. These graces will help us perfect our daily duty, and bring us closer to a friendship with God, Our Lady, and the angels and saints.
How essential this friendship is in our spiritual lives! Not only does God Himself watch over us and protect us like the loving Father that He is, but Our Blessed Mother tenderly drapes her mantle around us, the angels crowd around us praying that we are inspired to keep our eyes on heaven, and the saints who not only pray for us, but have even lived the same lives as us and sympathize when they see us carrying the same crosses they carried. There is much to be said about Our Lord, Our Lady, and the angels, but in this particular article, the importance of the saints will be the topic. The saints have a very significant place in the Mass, since they were the ones who persevered through countless persecutions and tribulations, and were able to preserve the Faith and pass it down to us. Let us then turn our eyes to our heavenly friends at Mass, and pray for the grace to see the magnificence and blessedness of this Holy Sacrifice.
The Saints who Pray with Us in the Mass, written by Most Rev. Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, Archbishop of Laodicea, is an essential book that reminds us of all the saints that are commemorated at the Mass, and the virtuous lives that they lived in order to get to heaven and merit the graces that we need to reach Paradise as well. In the Preface we are told,
As the author’s Foreword indicates, this booklet was originally intended for the benefit of priests, who as sacrificial mediators recall and invoke members of Church Triumphant and the Angelic Choirs as they offer Mass. Certainly, though, the contents of this work would also be of interest to the laity, who from the pew often follow and pray the texts read by the priest at the altar during the Holy Sacrifice.
It is true that it is the priest’s vocation is to be informed of all the aspects of the Mass, but it is also our duty as Catholics to be informed and take advantage of all the fruits the Church offers to us. The saints in particular see the hardships that we face, and desire to help us in every way that they can. When Archbishop Cicognani speaks of the this heavenly assistance, he exclaims,
There ought to be a sense of gratitude and joy in the heart of the priest who finds himself with the Saints; the Church gives their companionship to him with his priestly ordination, together with the right to meet with them every morning. Their names become familiar, and it is fitting therefore that we should know their personalities and their actions: It is fitting to know their lives and martyrdom; otherwise it is not possible to have an affectionate and perfect remembrance of them.
Therefore it is essential to get to know the saints and their lives, in order to be inspired and find strength for our own lives and journeys towards Paradise. These saints may seem far away from us, but they wait with eager eyes to help us and pour the graces we need into our heart. They understand the trails we are presently going through, and desire us to pray for the grace to know them better, so that they can inspire us and help us along the narrow path to eternal happiness.
After Archbishop Cicognani speaks of the importance of the Mass and how much the saints assist us, he presents a small paragraph dedicated to the lives of each saint commemorated at Mass. For example, he reminds us of the story of Abraham,
ABRAHAM: He is the exemplar of the “chosen ones” and “the father of the believers”; Abraham remained faithful to his vocation or divine calling, and because of this fidelity he is a model for priests. The sacrifice of Abraham the patriarch foretells the sacrifice of the Divine Victim in which all nations will be blessed. “By faith, Abraham, when he was put to the test, offered Isaac, …his only-begotten son, reasoning that God has power to raise him up even from the dead” (Heb. 11:17-19).
We often forget the saints of the Old Testament, who went through many tests and trials in order to preserve the Faith and wait faithfully for the coming of the Messiah. If we are ever feeling weak or unable to travel down the narrow path, these great people of history will be there to strengthen us. God never created us to be alone and try to find His holy will with no guidance, but gave us many gifts to help along the way. It is then very important to learn all about the saints and use what they have learned to help us grow in holiness. Another example of a saint commemorated in the Mass is St. Lawrence. Archbishop Cincognani continues,
LAWRENCE, the great deacon of Rome, a martyr under Valerian, is venerated throughout the world. While watching Sixtus II go to his martyrdom, Lawrence was moved to desire the same fate, and he cried out to Sixtus: "Whither goest thou, Father, without thy deacon? Where art thou hastening, holy priest, without thy deacon? Never wert thou accustomed to offer the Holy Sacrifice without thy minister." Sixtus consoled Lawrence with these words: "I am not forsaking thee, my son; greater combats await thee. Cease to weep; after three days thou wilt follow me." And so it was. During these three days Lawrence distributed the treasures of the Church to the poor—the same treasures which his persecutors desired.
If there is ever a time when we are not inspired at Mass, and our mind begins to drift, thinking of the martyrs is always a sure way to focus. If we truly consider what they have done for us, and the indescribable suffering that they offered up, our daily anxieties seem as nothing, and the big picture of life dawns on us. St. Lawrence has many quotes to help us, one being,
Christ humbled himself: you have something, Christian, to latch on to. Christ became obedient.—Why do you behave proudly? After running the course of these humiliations and laying death low, Christ ascended into heaven—let us follow Him there. Let us listen to the Apostle telling us, "If you have risen with Christ, savour the things that are above and is, seated at God’s right hand".
The saints always bring us back to the reality of why we are here, and encourage us to have peace of soul since we are on a journey to eternal bliss.
Therefore, The Saints who Pray with Us in the Mass is a fantastic book that will teach us about the many saints honoured at Mass, and help expand our minds when we attend the Holy Sacrifice. Being a Catholic is so much more than what the world thinks we are. We the Church Militant, united to the Church Triumphant (those in heaven), and the Church suffering (those in Purgatory) so that we may fulfill the will of our heavenly Father and share in His eternal happiness. St. Leonard of Port Maurice once said,
O you deluded people, what are you doing? Why do you not hasten to the churches to hear as many Masses as you can? Why do you not imitate the angels, who, when a Holy Mass is celebrated, come down in myriads from Paradise and take their stations about our altars in adoration to intercede for us?
Let us then hasten to the altar, by the sides of the angels and saints, and ask Our Blessed Lord through the intercession of Our Lady to make us holy and help us always follow the will of God.