As a priest with a different assignment, campus ministry, life is a little unusual. This week, most priests are working their tails off with final preparations for Christmas. I am pastor of a ghost town. With semester break 90% of my parishioners are gone. So it raises a question? What does a priest do if he schedules a Mass and no one shows up?
Does a priest ever pray Mass alone?
Yes, a priest sometimes prays Mass alone. I have Masses where no one shows up and I still pray them. Why? Because the Mass is the greatest prayer of the Christian faith. There is no greater prayer that could ever be offered than the very prayer of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, as he offers himself to the Father on Calvary. At every Mass there is a real and unbloody participation in that offering. So the prayers of the Mass have great effect on the world, whether or not there are people in the pews.
In fact, you should be mindful as a Catholic- or Christian- of the Masses being offered somewhere at anytime throughout the world. When temptation or trial comes, first, invoke the Holy Spirit who lives within your baptized and confirmed soul, and then call upon the fruits of the Mass being offered by the hands of priests. Especially in the light of the tragedy in Newtown we should all be happy about every Mass being said anywhere. More joining of heaven to earth, please.
No, a priest NEVER prays Mass alone.
I may have a Mass to which no one shows up. Brookings becomes a ghost town when the students leave. I go from having so many cars pass by that I don't even notice them to having so few cars go by that I know them by sight. Its like living in Manhattan to living in the middle of no where. But even when the pews are empty I never pray Mass alone.
The angels and saints, the whole company of heaven attends and is attentive to every Mass offered. In fact, the Mass is heavenly worship being offered here on the ground. Listen to this portion of the Preface Prayer: "And so with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory..." Notice that the prayer mentions 5 of the 9 choirs of angels. Notice how it says WITH them.
Next time you're at Mass, pay attention for the angelic choirs joining you as you re-present to God the great sacrifice of Jesus.
Next time you're NOT at Mass, call upon the fruits of the Masses being offered throughout the world to sustain you in your trials, temptations, and tragedies.