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Many Catholics are accustomed to attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, however, the Church celebrates the Mass daily. When you join the Saint John's monastic community for daily Mass, you will notice some differences from Sunday Mass that reflect the liturgical ministry of the Church, as well as the Benedictine liturgical tradition.
Differences from Sunday Mass
As part of their daily schedule, the monastic community gathers for daily Mass. This takes place in the late morning on Saturdays and Sundays, and late in the afternoon during the week. Daily Mass is much simpler in its makeup, more contemplative or reflective. There is usually only one reading besides the Gospel, with the psalm response and acclamations chanted unaccompanied, and often with no hymnody.
Unique Features of Daily Mass at Saint John’s Abbey
Guests who come to join the monastic community for daily Mass may find some noticeable differences in what they experience within their parishes:
Deliberate Spoken Pace
The first thing many folks notice is the pace at which the prayers are recited, something that holds true in the recitation and chanting of the psalms at the Divine Office or the Communal Daily Prayer. The pace is slower and deliberate, to let the Word of God sink in. Also, there are more extended periods of silence between readings and at certain times of the Mass, such as after the Homily and following Communion. This gives participants the needed time to reflect on the Word proclaimed and the action just celebrated.
Standing and Kneeling
If you go to many of the beautiful churches in Europe and the Holy Land even today, you will rarely see pews. The teaching of the early Church Fathers was that the true posture of the Christian was standing, for we are not only created in the image of the Divine, but more importantly, have been redeemed by the Risen Christ, and so we stand proudly in prayer as part of his Mystical Body. As one early author wrote, "We are Easter Christians and Alleluia is our song!"
Eucharistic Bread and Wafers
At the Last Supper, which was probably a Jewish Seder, Jesus used unleavened bread, and so it became the practice to do the same. At some point in time, because consecrated bread was being kept in tabernacles more for adoration than for reserving for taking to the sick and dying, wafers, (often called hosts), came into being. And many a convent of religious women had as one of their major apostolates the baking of wafers for the Eucharist in parishes and religious houses throughout the world. At Saint John's, the same bakers who produce the famous Saint John's bread, bake unleavened bread for daily Mass following an approved recipe. Care is taken by the Eucharistic Ministers to distribute Communion so as not to drop any crumbs or pieces of bread. All remnants, along with any remaining consecrated wine, are taken to the sacristy and are consumed afterward with the greatest reverence for the Eucharistic species.
There is a small Eucharistic Chapel in the main body of the Abbey Church with a tabernacle containing consecrated hosts which can be taken to the sick or dying. It also provides a place for private Eucharistic prayer, apart from the larger Abbey Church.