During the Concluding Rites, announcements may be made (if necessary) after the Prayer after Communion. The celebrant then blesses the people assembled. Sometimes, the blessing is very simple. On special days, the blessing may be more extensive. In every case, the blessing is always trinitarian: “May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It is in the triune God and in the Sign of the Cross that we find our blessing. After the blessing, the deacon dismisses the people. In fact, the dismissal gives the liturgy its more common English name. The word “Mass” comes from the Latin word, “Missa.” At one time, the people were dismissed with the words “Ite, missa est” (literally meaning “Go, she—meaning you, the Church—has been sent”). The word “Missa” is related to the word “missio,” the root of the English word “mission.” The liturgy does not simply come to an end. Those assembled are sent forth to bring the fruits of the Eucharist to the world.


Gregorian Chant

by Fr. Larry Rice

 Part of the richness of Catholic Christianity is the diversity of styles of worship available in Catholic parishes. And nowhere is that diversity more apparent than in our music. After all, music isn’t merely a nice addition to worship, it’s an essential element. And for all our diversity, nothing “sounds” more Catholic than Gregorian chant.

Gregorian chant is a style of unaccompanied vocal music that was the standard music in Catholic worship for centuries. Named for the first Pope Gregory, who is also a saint and Doctor of the Church, Gregorian chant was compiled and arranged in the sixth century. Although widespread use of Gregorian chant really took place 200 years after Gregory I’spontificate, it was attached to his name to encourage its acceptance.

The roots of Gregorian chant go back even further—to ancient Jerusalem. Also called plainchant, it is monophonic, with all voices singing the same part. It’s notated with a unique manner, with mostly square notes on a four-line staff. Unlike most of later western music, chant has no specific rhythmic structure and instead takes its timing and flow from the text being sung. Used for centuries in monasteries and cathedrals, it is rarely used in the ordinary worship in most Catholic parishes. When it is used at Masses in parishes, it’s often sung by the choir, rather than the congregation. Still, Gregorian chant was designed for prayer, and its gentle flowing sound tends to stir feelings of peace and contemplation.

In the 1990’s, an album of Gregorian chant recorded by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos at their monastery in Burgos, Spain, became an international best seller. That recording reintroduced chant to secular audiences, and it remains popular with those seeking a tranquil refuge from the kind of music that fills so much of our days.


by Fr. Larry Rice, CSP

If you asked most Americans who established the first reli­gious settlement in the New World, most of them would prob­ably tell you about the Puritan pilgrims settling at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. But the truth is the first permanent religious institution in the New World was Catholic, estab­lished 55 years before the Puritans came to New England and much further south.

On September 8, 1565, a small band of Spaniards cele­brated Mass on the shores of North Florida in preparation for starting a settlement there. They named their new home St. Augustine in honor of the saint on whose feast day they first sighted land. This new settlement was established 40 years before the British Jamestown Colony and a full 210 years before the American Revolution. St. Augustine became the first parish church in what would become the United States and was a base for the Franciscan missionaries that moved north and west through the unexplored territories of new world. St. Augustine was also the home of the first Catholic schools and hospitals in the New World.

 It was not until March 11, 1870, that the area of Florida east of the Apalachicola River was designated as the Diocese of Saint Augustine. Four hundred and fifty years after that first Mass, Florida has been divided into six additional dioceses and is the home to more than 2 million Catholics. Today, the Diocese of Saint Augustine embraces 17 counties spanning the northeast section of Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It covers 11,032 square miles and serves more than 172,000 registered Catholics. Those first Spanish settlers could not have imagined that their little church would evolve into the Cathedral of a large modern diocese. But they knew that their faith would sustain them in their new home. That faith is still alive, and has been serving Florida’s people continuously for 450 years.

Fr. Rice is Vocations Director for the Paulist Fathers.