As in the lives of all of the saints, the center and heart of the life of St. Philip Neri was Jesus present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Neri, known for his joy, love for the youth, and fervor in prayer found his strength in Holy Mass.
The joyful saint observed something that disturbed him at the very end of Mass. He noticed a man would rush out of Mass before the final blessing. This greatly bothered Neri. After noticing this man scamper out of Mass, before it was concluded another time, the saint had a plan prepared for the following day.
Once again, the following day at the end of Fr. Philip’s Mass, the man scurried out the door before the final blessing. Well prepared this time, Father Philip followed the man into the street with two altar boys carrying candles, one on his right and the other on his left.
Turning around the man saw Father Philip and this noble procession following him into the streets of Rome. Inquiring why this was done, St. Philip Neri explained that they were making a Eucharistic Procession through the streets of Rome and that the man was carrying the Blessed Sacrament in the very depths of his heart.
Red with embarrassment and shame, the man captured the meaning of the unique Eucharistic procession and from that time on he would never rush out into the streets without making a proper thanksgiving for the gift he had received in his heart—the Most Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ the Son of the living God.
Unfortunately, this brief episode in the life of St. Philip Neri is all too common in the participation of many Catholics who attend the greatest prayer in the universe—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
How many people bolt out of Mass as if their pants were on fire, or as if their turkey were burning in the oven? The Document on the Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council Sacrosanctum Concilium states that the faithful should participate fully, actively, and consciously in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
A Simple Analogy: The Eucharist is both a Sacrifice and a Sacred Meal. If you were invited to be a guest at a family in which the meal were the focal point of the visit, would you gobble down the food and bolt out the door without even rendering thanks to the family who so courteously invited you after so much detailed preparation? Of course not! That would be the epitome of ingratitude and blunt rudeness!
Quite the contrary would happen with well-mannered and civilized individuals. Arriving early to converse and share with the hosts is good manners. Blessing the meal and sharing both food and friendship in a calm, courteous, friendly and amiable fashion is the least to be expected. Ending with a good desert and cappuccino, all the while conversing with family and friends, all are clear indications of hospitality and receiving hospitality graciously.
Analogously we apply the same example to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Eucharist Meal. The Host is Jesus Himself. He invites all to the meal with these words: “Come to me all of you who are weary and I will give you rest…” Jesus has prepared the most succulent and exquisite meal imaginable! There are two major portions: the Bread of His Word—the Liturgy of the Word, or the Bible Readings of the day. Then the Major Meal is brought to the Table—the Most Holy Eucharist, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
Therefore, after being nourished by the Bread of His Word and then being nourished by the “Bread of Life” in the most Holy Eucharist, present in the very depths of your heart, it is only logical that thanksgiving for such great gifts should be rendered to God Himself. Remember that the word Eucharist actually means from the Greek “Thanksgiving”!
A very easy way to render Jesus thanksgiving is through a very simple four-letter acronym: A.C.T.S. Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
Feel free to use one, two, three, or all of the distinct sentiments of the heart with the sole purpose of rendering thanks to Jesus for coming to visit your home, the depths of your heart, in Mass in the context of Holy Communion.
1. Adoration. Praise God for His greatness, His Majesty, His ineffable beauty, His overflowing goodness and His infinite love for you. You can even take one of the many Psalms and praise the Lord through the inspired Word of God. (For example Psalms 148, 149, and 150).
2. Contrition. Offer to the Lord Jesus heartfelt sorrow and compunction for all the sins of your past; beg the Lord through the power of His Body and Blood now beating and circulating in your veins and very heart to give you strength to fight against sin as a noble soldier that you were called to be in Confirmation!
3. Thanksgiving. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.” The nature of God is to give and to give. We will more quickly tire of receiving God’s gifts than God in giving His gifts to us! May your heart overflow in gratitude for the countless gifts God has bestowed on you, is even now bestowing upon you, and will pour down blessings upon you, up until your dying breath! Among the multitude of gifts, thank Him especially for the Eucharist, your belief in the Eucharist and reception of such a sublime gift. With that attitude of gratitude propose to prepare to receive Him better every day if possible and render to Him a more worthy and heart-felt thanksgiving!
4. Supplication. Saint Augustine asserts: “We are all beggars before God.” God rejoices in His sons and daughters humbly imploring Him for our daily bread for all that we need. Jesus Himself invites us with these words:“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt.7:7-8). As beggars we can pour out our hearts to the Beneficent Master asking for anything at all (aside from sin itself) and trust in God’s goodness! However, we should strive to beg for the graces and gifts that would redound to our sanctification and salvation as well as for the sanctification and salvation of the whole world! St. Ignatius reminds us in Principle and Foundation that we are created to praise God and to save our immortal soul!
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ longs to shower a deluge of blessings upon us especially in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. However, this is largely dependent upon cultivating highly refined church manners. Primarily this is manifested in rendering Jesus abundant and heart-felt thanksgiving at the end of Holy Mass. May Our Lady of the Eucharist help us with her powerful prayers to render praise and thanksgiving to our Eucharistic King: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”(Lk. 1:47)