Abbot Jeremy Driscoll is a Benedictine monk of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.  He teaches at Mount Angel Seminary and the Pontifical University of Sant’ Anselmo, Rome.  Following are notes on Father Jeremy Driscoll’s presentation “What Happens at Mass” at Saint Bernard’s on March 18, 2017 in Billings, Montana.  For complete information please refer to “What Happens At Mass” Revised Edition by Jeremy Driscoll, OSB.

I arrive at church to be a part of the Assembly.  The Assembly is many different people coming from many places to celebrate the Mass. Christ instituted the Mass as his gift of love.  I need to know and understand what the priest is saying in this grace-filled event.

 MYSTERY – The assembly is part of the mystery and is made into the mystery. As the assembly forms, each one comes to mass with hopes, sorrows, celebrations, worries and always to feel God’s love.

This information assists a person to take part in the Mass. Christ instituting the Mass is a gift.  I share in the sacrifice.  I have a part in the mass.  I do not merely watch.  The priest says the words at the altar are, for the most part spoken for the Assembly.  I will know my part in the Mass better by knowing and understanding what the priest is saying.

I watch and listen to the priest. The priest leads the story about Jesus. Jesus gives the gift of God’s love through the Mass. I need to pay attention to the priest as he tells the story.


The mystery evolves through the events during Mass.  Mystery in this sense does not mean what I do not know.  “As Saint Paul said a mystery is a concrete something that when I bump into it, I encounter the presence of Christ.  The Cross of Christ was not present before his death on the Cross.” The Lord of Glory is at mass even though I cannot see it or feel it but I experience the mystery.”  Saint Paul wrote about the Cross of Christ to the early Christians.  Ephesians 3:4-6  Do not forget about the 3 o’clock hour. 

There are two movements during mass. God toward the people then the people towards God.  The priest is the narrator representing Jesus.  The priest is also the Assembly’s spokesperson has priestly garments reserved for use at the altar.

MYSTERY – God is present through the entire mass and not only among the people after receiving communion.  The Holy Spirit is bringing the people of the Assembly closer to God.

MYSTERY – The Mass is the giving of a gift to God. The gift stands for myself, the giver.  In effect, I am are offering myself to God.  I am dedicating my life to Him.  I am placing my life in His hands and promising to do His will in the whole of my life.

This is our great privilege at Mass: to join with Christ in re-offering of His life to the Father; to have a part in the renewal of the action that accomplished the redemption of mankind; to join Christ on Calvary, not only by watching Him offer His life to the Father, but by joining Him in that offering.

The correct attitude with which to come to Mass is one of self-giving and of self-dedication to God. But this particular offering of ourselves to God is incomparably more significant than any other I might make, because this one is joined with the infinitely precious offering of Christ. This is the meaning of the Mass.

…“this chalice” – “this precious chalice” through the power of Holy Spirit is the same chalice Jesus held at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. This chalice transcends time during every mass is part of the mystery we celebrate.

Notes from March 18, 2017 presentation by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll “What Happens at Mass” with Bishop Michael William Warfel obtaining permission for notes to be published.  Abbot Jeremy Driscoll is a Benedictine monk of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.  He teaches at Mount Angel Seminary and the Pontifical University of Sant’ Anselmo, Rome.

Personal note: As a toddler, my Uncle Joe would hold me during family masses at my great grandparents’ house and explain to me what was happening and to keep me quiet.  There would be between 40 and 80 people in attendance.  The explanation did help me to keep my attention at masses at church.  What follows is my four-year old explanation to a five-year old non catholic:

Pay attention to what the priest does. What he does allows Christ to come to us and to be better people.

When the mass starts, we are being prepared for Christ coming to us so we need to pray and be quiet. That is why we said prayers before going to bed so I can pray at mass.

When we listen to the word of God, it is God talking to us so we need to be quiet so we can hear him.

The masses were in Latin. The priests talked funny in order that God would come.

We give money to God so the priest can come visit us and bring God.

Purifying the hands and chalice was cleaning everything so God would be arriving to what is like heaven with no sin.

The consecration of the wine and bread is the best as Christ comes to be in our presence and be better people to all those around us.

Waiting for big people to receive communion was a tough wait but worthwhile as little people would be left behind and not be held until big people came back from receiving Christ. Now Christ was in the big people all would need to be quiet so we could pray some more.

Archbishop Karol Woltja (now Saint John Paul II) presided with Father Joseph Glucek at the family mass on May 21 1966 when I gave the above explanation of the mass to a non-Catholic boy who was in attendance with his father. Uncle Joe’s explanation was more along the lines of St Faustina’s Mass Explanation as the family emigrated from the same area as Saint Faustina and Saint John Paul II only the Bohemia side.

From Czarzkowska, Ewa K.; Faustina, The Mystic & Her Message (For the English-language Edition Stockbridge:  Marian Press, 2014 page 43 Print).  e-edition

  • Pay attention to what the priest does.
  • When he processes into the church, Christ is going to pray in the Garden of Olives, and He is sweating bloody sweat.
  • When the priest open the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Lord Jesus is praying.
  • Now the priest kisses the altar: that’s when Judas kisses the Lord and delivers Him into the hands of the Jews.
  • The priest approaches the side of the altar – they are leading Jesus Christ to Annas.
  • When he intones ‘Kyrie eleison,” they are slapping Him and spitting in His face; they lead Him to Caiaphas, and next, to Pontius Pilate.
  • When the priest washes his hands, Pilate is washing his hands.
  • When the priest uncovers the chalice on the altar, Pilate is having Jesus disrobed; when the priest stands still, they are flogging Him.
  • The priest cover the chalice, and they are placing the crown of thorns on His head.
  • When he raises the Host – Christ is being raised on the cross.
  • When the priest breaks the Host and drops it into the chalice – Jesus dies.”

The parts discussed are a mass with the Bishop presiding such as a Chrism or Confirmation.

Vestment of sacrifice:

 AMICE – A SQUARE OR OBLONG piece of linen to which two long tapes are attached at the upper corners. The priest touches it to his head, places it over his shoulders, and ties it around his waist, as he prays: “Put on my head, O Lord, the helmet of salvation, to repel the assaults of the devil.”

The amice was originally a hood or a cowl, which was dropped over the shoulders when one was indoors. Today it symbolizes a “helmet of salvation,” to protect the celebrant from idle or sinful thoughts during Mass.

ALB – THE LONG WHITE LINEN dress worn over the cassock and gathered around the waist by the cincture.

 “Alb” means white; hence the prayer for vesting: “Make me white, O Lord, and cleanse my heart; that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb, I may deserve an eternal reward.”

Originally the ordinary undergarment worn by the Romans, today the alb is symbolic of the purity of soul which is fitting at the celebration of Mass.


CINCTURE – LONG CORD worn around the priest’s waist, used to keep the alb in place. While putting this on, the priest prays: “Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me.”

Necessary in Roman times to bind up the long, flowing alb so that the wearer could walk and work freely, the cincture was no longer generally worn by the fourth century, except by workers. Out of humility, Saint Benedict, in the sixth century, made this symbol of the worker a part of the monk’s habit.

The cincture symbolizes preparation for hard work in God’s service and the need to hold passions in check.

 MANIPLE: LONG SILK BAND worn looped over the left forearm of the priest. While putting it on, the priest prays: “May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow in order that may joyfully reap the reward of my labors.”

Originally required because of the intense heat of the southern counties, the maniple was a strip of linen, a handkerchief, used to wipe away both dust and perspiration. It suggests hard work and its reward, and therefore, the fruit of good works.


STOLE – The origin of the stole is obscure, but it seems to have developed from an ornamented border on a larger scarf or shawl.

Worn on the neck, the stole suggests a yoke, the yoke of the Lord, which is sweet and light.


CHAUSUBLE – THE LARGE OUTER garment worn by the priest at Mass. The decoration of the chasuble is not prescribed in the rubrics, but it is commonly ornamented with rich embroidery. While putting this vest on the priest prays: “O Lord, who has said: My yoke is easy, and My burden is light; make me so able to bear it, that I may obtain Thy favor. Amen.”

During the first centuries of the Christian era this was the heavy outer garment worn for traveling. It was a large piece of material with a central opening for the head and completely covered the wearer. Hence it was called a casula, a “little house.”

According to the form the bishop uses in investing the new priest with the chasuble, it signifies perfection and charity, because of its size and fullness.



WHITE – symbolizing light, innocence, joy, purity and glory, is worn on the feasts of our Lord (other than of His passion), the Blessed Virgin Feast, angels, saints who are not martyrs, All Saints (November 1) Feasts of the Apostles, and Nuptial Masses.

RED – symbolizing The Passion, blood, fire, God’s Love, and martyrdom, is worn on Feasts of the Lord’s passion, Blood, and Cross; the feasts of the martyrs, Palm Sunday, and Pentecost.

GREEN-symbolizing The Holy Ghost, life eternal and hope, is worn on Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost.

Violet -symbolizing penance, humility and melancholy is worn during Advent, Lent, on the vigils outside of the Easter season, and on Rogation days.

 Note: Violet, literally “amaranth red,” is the color of Bishops’, Archbishops’, and Patriarchs’ non-liturgical dress

 Vessels of Sacrifice

CHALICE – – the cup used at Mass to hold the wine which becomes the Precious Blood.

PURFICATOR – a linen cloth used by the priest to wipe his lips and fingers and cleanse the chalice and paten after Holy Communion.


PATEN – a plate of precious metal upon which the bread is offered in the Mass.

PALL – a stiffened piece of linen, about six inches square, used to cover the chalice during the Mass. Its purpose is to keep out dust and other impurities.

CHALICE VEIL – a veil of the same color and material as the priest’s vestments but since the Second Vatican Council “which can always be white in color”, used to cover the chalice.

BURSE – a cloth envelope, covered with the same material as the Mass vestments, in which the corporal is carried to the altar. The burse is a stiff pocket about twelve inches square in which the folded corporal is carried to and from the altar. Part of a set of vestments, it is made of matching material.  It is placed upon the chalice at the beginning and end of Mass and on the altar at Benediction.  The leather case containing the pyx, in which the Holy Eucharist is brought to the sick, is called a burse.  It is also the name for an endowment or foundation fund especially for scholarships for candidates for the priesthood.


CORPORAL – a square piece of linen upon which the chalice and host rest during the Mass. A small cross of red thread in the center of the front fold shows where the hose will lie. When not in use, the corporal may be kept in a burse. The corporal is also used under the monstrance at Benediction or under the Blessed Sacrament at any time.

CIBORIUM – the vessel, which may be shaped like the chalice but with a cover, in which the consecrated hosts are reserved in the tabernacle.

A covered container used to hold the consecrated small Hosts. It is similar to a chalice but covered and larger, used for small Communion hosts of the faithful.  It is made of various precious metals, and the interior is commonly gold or gold-plated.  Also synonymous with baldachino as the dome-shaped permanent canopy over a high altar, supported by columns and shaped like an inverted cup.


ALTAR OF SACRIFICE – THE ALTAR, CONSECRATED BY A BISHOP, is a symbol of Christ Himself. In kissing the altar and in incensing it, the priest is showing reverence for Christ. The altar is, moreover, commemorative of the table on which, at the Last Supper, Christ offered the first Mass. Some altars have relics of saints, including those of at least one martyr, are always enclosed within the altar stone.


CRUCIFIX – a crucifix to remind us that the Mass is the same Sacrifice as that of the Cross as a new Calvary.

CANDLES – a symbol of Christ, the Light of the World. Just as the burning candle is consumed and dies out, so Christ sacrificed Himself and died on the Cross. A further symbolism has, from the earliest ages, been seen in the beeswax candle. Convinced of the virginity of bees, the early Christians regarded beeswax as typifying the flesh of Jesus, which was born of the Virgin Mother. The wick through the wax was looked upon as a symbol of the soul of Christ, the flame being the divinity dominating both the soul and body.

TABERNACLE – the cabinet or safe in which the Blessed Sacrament is kept. It is, therefore, Christ’s home among us. The word tabernacle, which means tent, calls to mind the words of Saint John, “and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), a passage in which the Greek literally means “and He fixed His tent among us.” Thus, Christ dwells among us in a way that reminds us of, while remaining far superior to, the earthly presence of God in the Tabernacle of the Old Law: “I have not dwelt in a house from the day that I brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt even to this day, but have moved about in a tabernacle and a tent” (2 Kings 7 :6).

ALTAR STEPS – the customary means of giving the altar the prominence it deserves as the principal part of a Catholic church and the height required for visibility.

ANTEPENDIUM – the decorative cloth which hangs in front of and may cover the entire face of the altar or lectern. That the altar cloths and antependium are actually dealt with as if they were the garments of Christ is brought out in one of the ceremonies of Holy Thursday. During the recitation of a psalm in which there is a verse foretelling the dividing of Christ’s garments among the soldiery, the antependium and altar cloths are stripped off the altar.

As a general rule, the antependium should be of the same color as that of the feast or of the office of the day. In this way Christ is represented as girded with precious robes that identify Him with the saint whose feast is being celebrated. Thus, when the antependium is red, Christ’s Passion and Death are recalled in the blood of the martyr; when the antependium is white, His stainlessness is recalled and glorified in the virginity of the saint.

Items inside a Catholic Church

Holy Water Font – is a container for holy water placed at the doors to a church. People use the water to bless themselves as they enter and leave the church.

Sanctuary Lamp – is a light, normally a burning candle, contained within red glass that is placed before the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is kept.

Ambo – is the podium or lectern from which the readings are proclaimed. It takes its name from a word meaning “elevated,” and is based on the raised platforms from which rabbis read.

Paschal Candle – is a large wax candle that is blessed on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil. Representing the light of Christ, it is lit for baptisms and funerals.

Pews – is a seat for worshippers in a church; the kneeler is in front of the pew and can be put down for kneeling.

Stations of the Cross – are a series of pictures, painting or engravings on the wall of a church depicting the passion of Christ (the events leading to his death). The faithful use them as aids in prayer.

Confessional – is a room or private area where the sacrament of reconciliation occurs.

Statue – is a likeness of Jesus, a member of the Holy Family, a saint or an angel that helps people recall the example of the person depicted. The faithful do not worship statues, they serve only as a reminder and source of inspiration.

Baptismal Font – is the basin and/or pool containing blessed water in which new members of the Church are baptized. The water in the font may be moving, representing the “living water” by which people are reborn into the faith.

Censer, or Thurible – is the metal container in which incense is burned.  The fragrant smoke that rises symbolizes our prayer rising to God.

Presider’s Chair is the chair for the priest during the Mass.

Ambry – is the box in which the holy oils are kept.