Mass' Concluding Rite Is Very Short
The Concluding Rite, which is very short, follows the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Communion Rite. In the Prayer after Communion, we thank God for the gift of His Son, whom we have received in Communion, and ask that we be faithful in serving Him in our daily lives. A blessing and dismissal conclude the rite. Just as we have celebrated the Eucharist in His memory, we are sent out to live in his memory – “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
Have you ever noticed how some Catholics leave after they receive Communion? Have you ever wondered how this “custom” started? Anyone over 68 years of age learned about the three principle parts of the Mass – Offertory, Consecration, and Priest’s Communion. Catholics had to be present at Mass before the Offertory (now called “Preparation of the Gifts”) and were to remain until the Priest’s Communion; otherwise, they would have committed a mortal sin. We can easily see how the habit of leaving Mass after the Priest’s Communion most likely developed.
Another possible reason for leaving Mass after Communion was that most Catholics rarely received Communion. Hence, they left after the Priest’s Communion. The Catholic Church, therefore, made a law that Catholics were to receive Communion at least once a year. Only during the pontificate of Pope Pius X (1903-1914) were Catholics encouraged to receive Communion more frequently. He also lowered the age of communion from 14 to the age of reason, about 7. (My grandmother, born in 1891, did not make her First Communion until she was 14, which would have been in 1905.)
Several years ago, I attended the Saturday evening Mass at my sister’s church in North Carolina, and one-fourth of the assembly suddenly disappeared after they received Communion. It looked like the rapture! The next morning we attended my brother-in-law’s Presbyterian Church, and not one person left before the minister arrived at the front door to say goodbye to his people. (And their service lasted about as long as the Catholic Mass on Saturday evening.)
About 30 years ago, some of our Catechumens wondered when they could join the group leaving after Communion since they were always dismissed after the homily. Our new members, as well as our children, notice what we adult Catholics do and how we participate in the Mass. Just as they emulate our good participation, they also sometimes take up our bad habits.
Sometimes people must leave after Communion to avoid being late for work. Hopefully, their lives are not so rushed 24/7, however, that they never take time to pray. Prayer after receiving Christ in Communion is a moment of intimacy with the Lord.
Unfortunately, when people leave before the final blessing, they miss a very important part of the Mass – the commissioning: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” We do not receive Communion only for ourselves. The Lord nourishes us to bring his love into the world. Like the Apostles were sent out to share the Good News, so the Church today is sent out to continue their work.
All the various parts of the Mass work together like a beautiful concert forming an act of worship both in words and in deeds. We petition the Lord for his mercy, listen to his Word to be lived, praise God for his great acts, are strengthened by the Lord in Communion, and then are sent forth to serve the Lord.