Because we are priests it is easy for us to forget that for us no less than for our people attendance at Mass is a great opportunity of receiving grace. Yet often the priest will make his thanksgiving in the sacristy while Holy Mass is being celebrated in the Church . . . It seems strange that a priest will leave the church on completion of his thanksgiving, irrespective of the fact that before him another priest is offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. . . .
In many town parishes there is a mass at nine or ten o’clock in the morning for the benefit of those who through age or domestic duties are unable to attend an early Mass. We might ask how often we avail ourselves of the opportunity of being present at this Mass when it is not our turn to celebrate it ? . . . If our devotion to the Mass as such is deep, our appreciation of our own Mass will in turn grow deeper. At least we should be consistent. The ideal of frequent attendance at Mass which we put before our people we should first of all have practised ourselves.’
That passage is taken from ‘The People’s Priest’ by (at that time) Fr John Heenan – although by the time it actually appeared he was Bishop Heenan of Leeds : and I put it before my clerical readers as a spur to thought.
I have seen a priest serve another priest’s Mass : and this not out of necessity, but simply out of devotion – and I am sure that it was a telling example to all the faithful who were present : because there is little more telling than someone who practices what he preaches.
(The photo, by the way, is of a Mass at the Shrine of S. John Marie Vianney, the S. Curé d’Ars, who is, of course, the Patron of this ‘Year of the Priest’.)