November 4, 2018
It was March 25, and the Catholic Church was celebrating the feast of the “Annunciation,” which is the day in which the angel Gabriel appeared to Virgin Mary, informing her that she would soon give birth to the Son of God.1 Catalina Rivas, a devoted Catholic, was preparing herself to go to Mass that morning, as it was a significant day for her and her faith. Time had gotten in her way, and she was already running late, so she anxiously made her way to the Cathedral, where the Holy Mass would be taking place. Agitated and afflicted, she finally arrived at the church, and as soon as she came in, she noticed that the Archbishop and the priests were already going to the presbytery, and that everyone was already sitting down, ready to begin. It was only a matter of minutes before she heard it: the voice and the words that would change her life forever. As she entered the cathedral, a gentle, subtle, and harmonious sound captured Catalina’s attention, overwhelming her heart with love and gentleness. It was Virgin Mary: “Today is a day of learning for you; and I want you to pay close attention because all that you witness today, everything that you experience on this day; you will have to share with all humanity.”2 And so, she did. Her life was never the same again, and nor will be yours, once this testimony transforms your perception of what really is the miracle of miracles: the Holy Mass.3The Catholic church grounds itself with seven different sacraments as part of its faith. These are actions or rituals that were instituted by Jesus Christ, as symbols of grace that allow Catholics to participate in the Divine Life. Importantly, these sacraments are based on the mysteries of Christ’s life, and all of the church’s liturgy revolves around them. Nevertheless, there is one particular sacrament that is most prominent: the sacrament of the Eucharist, or as many know it, the Holy Mass.4 This religious celebration is the culmination and center of the Christian faith, as it allows believers to share and participate in Christ’s own death. Moreover, the Holy Mass enables Catholics to become participants of Heaven, from Earth, as an anticipation of eternal life.5 However, it is not uncommon for many Catholics to disregard the importance of this religious sacrament, and the reason for this lies in one’s inability to physically see the spiritual occurrences that take place during a Mass. Therefore, many believers limit themselves to attending Mass on Sundays, as it is dictated by the Church, unconsciously making themselves present in something they don’t really understand. They find it monotonous, and it’s simply part of their routine. This is precisely what Virgin Mary allowed Catalina to leave behind forever. Virgin Mary opened Catalina’s eyes, and allowed her to witness the Mass in its complete essence. From then on, the Holy Mass acquired a completely different meaning for her, as is the case for millions of Catholics around the world, who truly come to understand the marvels that happen during their most valuable sacrament.
A Catholic Mass always begins with an entrance chant; the entire community stands up and joins in a religious chanting, as the priest or priests come in through the principal door with the deacon and ministers, and make their way to the altar. This entrance symbolizes the gathering of the community, and fosters the unity of its people by introducing their thoughts and minds to the mystery of the liturgical season.6 Once the priest arrives at the altar, he bows in a sign of respect, and proceeds to kiss the altar.7 The altar itself is considered to be extremely sacred, given the connection that it has with Christ’s sacrifice. And so, when a priest bows to kiss the altar, he honors its special function and its significance during the liturgy.8 As Catalina witnessed this entrance, however, she noticed “a choir of very beautiful voices that was singing as if from far away. At times the music would draw closer and then move farther away, like the sound of the wind.”9 That’s when she realized there was a heavenly presence on Earth, for she knew that Heaven and its members were already taking part in the Mass, singing along with the community.
The priest said the opening words of the Mass. He proceeded to do the signal of the cross, and after a few instances, the moment came for the act of penitence to take place. This is a prayer moment during which believers acknowledge their sinfulness with humility, and, regretting them, implore God’s mercy, so as to be able to participate worthily of the sacred mysteries.10 It was at this point that Virgin Mary intervened again, and gently pronounced the followingwords to Catalina, who was absorbed in admiration:
From the bottom of your heart ask the Lord’s forgiveness for all your faults, for having offended Him. In this way you will be able to participate worthily in this privilege that is, to attend Holy Mass.11
Catalina had gotten a confession just the night before, and so she was overwhelmed by Mary’s petition. She thought that she was in a state of grace, and that she therefore did not need to cleanse her heart any more. Nevertheless, Mary interrupted her thought and explained that on her way to Mass, many of her actions had somehow demonstrated anger and selfishness and that she still needed God’s mercy because of this. She explained how she had “answered in a hurry and not in the best way” to the lady who helped at her house, and that she had also expressed herself in an “unfitting manner” to a bus driver before arriving.12 Mary went on explaining that she had also arrived late to Mass, and that, instead, she should have taken her time before Mass, to “say a prayer and ask the Lord to send His Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit may grant you a spirit of peace and cleanse you of the spirit of the world, your worries, your problems and your distractions in order that you may be able to live this so sacred a moment.”13 Catalina was destroyed. Mary made her understand that she was about to witness the greatest miracle, and “the moment when the Most High God gives His greatest gift” and she simply didn’t appreciate it. She therefore sunk herself into prayer, and asked for forgiveness.14
A few minutes later, it was time for the Gloria to take place. This is a very ancient and venerable chant, with which the community glorifies God, recognizing his sanctity, and their own need of Him.15 As Catalina got ready to sing, Mary once again intervened and said to her: “Glorify and bless the Most Holy Trinity with all your love, in your acknowledgement of being the Trinity’s creature.” Catalina sang with all of her devotion, and the chant suddenly became an extraordinary spiritual experience:
How different was that Gloria! Suddenly I saw myself in a far off place full of light, before the Majestic Presence of the Throne of God. With how much love I went on thanking Him… And Jesus was in front of me, with that face full of tenderness and Mercy…the God of beautiful Love…. He, Who at that moment, was filling my entire being with joy.16
After the Gloria, it was time for the liturgy of the word to begin. A Catholic Mass can broadly be divided into two sections: the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the eucharist. This first part, the “liturgy of the word,” encompasses the reading of four different passages, all taken from the Holy Bible. These readings include “the writings of the prophets,” that is, from the prophets of the Old Testament, typically read during the first reading and the psalm, and then “the memoirs of the Apostles,” that is, their letters and the Gospels, that are generally read in the second reading and the Gospel itself.17 As this first section of the Mass was about to begin, Mary explained to Catalina:
I want you to be attentive to the readings and to the entire homily of the priest… If you are attentive, something of all that you have heard will remain in you…sometimes it may be two verses; other times the reading of the entire Gospel or perhaps only one word.18
After the readings have concluded, it is time for the offertory. This part of the Mass marks the beginning of the liturgy of the Eucharist, which includes the Preparation and Offering of the Gifts, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Communion.19 This second section is based on the actions of Jesus himself during the last supper, where he took hold of bread and wine, gave thanks for them to God, broke them, and gave them to his disciples. As a matter of fact, it was at this very moment during the last supper that the sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted, as Jesus pronounced: “Take, eat, and drink: this is my Body; this is the cup of my Blood. Do this in memory of me.”20 Hence, this section of the Mass begins with the offertory, which is when the bread and the wine, which will become Christ’s Body and Blood, are brought to the altar and handed to the priest as an offering. Commonly, believers remain seated while the priest receives the species and prepares the Altar for the coming rituals; nevertheless, what most Catholics know is that this time is meant for deep prayer. During this time, everyone present in the Mass makes an offering to God, so that they may be received by Him, together with the offerings of bread and wine.21 Catalina came to understand this once Mary whispered to her:
Pray like this: (and I followed) Lord, I offer all that I am, all that I have, all that I can. I put everything into Your Hands. Build up Lord, with the little that I am. Transform me, God Almighty, through the merits of Your Son. I ask for my family, for my benefactors, for each member of our Apostolate, for all the people who persecute us, for those who commend themselves to my poor prayers… Teach me to lay my heart down on the ground before them, so that their walk may be less hard… This is how the saints prayed; this is how I want all of you to pray.22
It was perhaps because of its beauty, or maybe because of its intense humility, but Catalina was totally captivated by this prayer. And so, once again, she obeyed. Suddenly, she was able to witness something no other person in that church could notice: some “characters” that she had not perceived at any other moment, began to stand up, and it was as though from the side of each person present in the cathedral, another person emerged. The cathedral then became full of “young beautiful beings.”23 She describes that they “were dressed in very white robes and started to move into the central isle, on their way to the Altar… Their countenance was very beautiful, they had almost feminine faces; however, the structure of their body, their hands, their height were masculine. Their naked feet did not touch the floor, but rather they went as if gliding. That procession was very beautiful.”24 Mary then explained that those were the Guardian Angels of the persons who were there, and that they were carrying their individual offerings and petitions, to then take them before the altar of the Lord.25
Nevertheless, Catalina noticed that they were not all the same. Some of them were holding something like a “golden bowl” with something inside that shone “a great deal with a golden white light.”26 Mary took over and explained that those were the Guardian Angels of the people who offered numerous intentions, and were conscious of the significance of the celebration. Behind those Angels came others with nothing between their hands, and Mary said that those Angels, unlike the first, were the Guardian Angels of people who never offer anything, and who have “No interest in living every liturgical moment of the Mass”; their angels therefore have nothing to carry towards God. Finally, but not less importantly, came another group of Angels, with their hands held together in prayer, but who seemed “rather sad” and “with their eyes downcast.”27 Regarding them, this time Mary said:
These are the Guardian Angels of the people who are here, yet they are not here. That is to say, they are the people who have seen themselves forced to come, who have come here out of obligation but without any desire to participate in the Holy Mass. Their Angels go forth in sadness because they have nothing to carry to the Altar, except for their own prayers.28
Once the angels arrived to the Altar, they disappeared from Catalina’s sight. It was then time for the Preface to begin. The preface is a prayer of thanksgiving and worship to God, in which the entire community becomes united in a powerful chant called the “Sanctus,” giving thanks to the Father, for the Son and through the Holy Spirit.29 As usual, therefore, the entire assembly began to sing: “Holy, Holy Holy…,” but all of a sudden, Catalina describes, everything behind the priest disappeared, and something admirable happened:
Behind the left side of the Archbishop appeared thousands of Angels in a diagonal line: small Angels, large Angels, Angels with immense wings, Angels with small wings, Angels with no wings. Like the previous Angels, all were dressed in tunics like the white albs of the priests and altar boys.30
During the chant, Catalina could hear an impressively beautiful music, and it was as though many choirs were all harmonizing in numerous voices, all singing in unison with the people at the Cathedral, as they chanted: “Holy, Holy, Holy…” Mary said:
These are all the Saints and the Blessed in Heaven, and among them are also the souls of your relatives and family members who already enjoy the Presence of God.31
As a matter of fact, there are three different states of the Catholic Church: the Triumphant Church, which includes all of those who are already enjoying Eternal Life in Heaven, the Purgative Church, which includes all of those who are in the purgatory, and the Militant Church, which is made up of all of the people on Earth.32 What Catalina witnessed was the unification of all three states of the church, all becoming present in a single point: the Altar. That is why, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when the preface arrives, the people present in the cathedral join the Saints and the Angels to glorify God.33
Moments later, it was time for the most significant and marvelous miracle to take place: the Consecration. At this point in the Mass, Catholics witness the event that holds the essence of their faith: the transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ himself.34 According to Catholic teaching, under these species, “Christ, alive and glorious, makes himself truly present in a real and substantial manner, with His Body, His Blood, His Soul, and His Divinity.”35 Nothing of this, however, is perceivable to one’s sight. This wasn’t the case for Catalina, who, on that day, witnessed everything, from the beginning, to its astonishing end.
It must be noted that to this point, Catalina had only been able to listen to Mary’s voice, but she had not made herself visibly present, until that very moment: “Then I saw Her. She was there, exactly to the right of His Excellency, the Archbishop… a step behind the celebrant. She was suspended a little off the floor, kneeling on some very fine fabrics, transparent but luminous at the same time, like crystalline waters. The Holy Virgin, Her hands joined together, was looking attentively and respectfully at the celebrant. And She was speaking to me from there, but silently, directly to my heart, without looking at me.”36 Incredibly confused, Catalina kept on staring in awe; she simply could not understand why She, the Mother of God, would be kneeling behind a priest. Mother Mary noticed her amusement and explained with so much humility:
This is how it should be… Notwithstanding how much My Son loves Me, He has not given Me the dignity that He gives a priest, of being able to bring My Son in My hands daily, as the priestly hands do. Because of this I feel such profound respect for a priest and for the whole miracle that God carries out through a priest, that I am compelled to kneel here.”37
Catalina was overwhelmed by the dignity and the grace that a priest could hold. Never before had she been able to understand how holy and special they remain before God’s eyes. Mary also explained that although many people go around the world visiting the sites of her apparitions, she is never present for longer than she is at the Holy Mass: “You will always find Me at the foot of the Altar where the Eucharist is celebrated. At the foot of the Tabernacle, I remain with the angels because I am always with Him.”38 Suddenly, in front of the altar, some grey shadows with human form began to raise their hands upwards, calling Catalina’s attention. Mary then told her that those were the souls that remain in purgatory, waiting for one’s prayers. It was the Purgative Church, present during the Mass. She explained that they could no longer pray for themselves, and that they therefore needed people’s prayers, such that they can one day reach Heaven, and enjoy Eternal Life with God.39
Seconds later, the celebrant pronounced the words of consecration. This moment is considered to be the most sacred and solemn of the entire Mass, because from then on, what is present at the Altar are the actual Body and Blood of Christ. The priest then raises the Host and the Chalice, such that the entire church can adore and contemplate the Lord. Participants, however, are limited to seeing the bread and wine, but by faith, they believe in the mere presence of Christ within them.40 Nevertheless, Catalina went beyond this. When the priest began to say the consecration words for the bread, she noticed that he suddenly began to grow, and to get completely filled with light. It was a “supernatural light between white and gold” and it particularly grew very intensely in his face, such that she could no longer see his features. When he proceeded to raise the Host, Catalina noticed something extraordinary:
There were some marks on the back of his hands, from which emanated a great deal of light. It was Jesus!… It was He Who was wrapping His Body around the celebrant, as if He were lovingly surrounding the hands of His Excellency. At that moment the Host began to grow and became enormous, and upon it was the marvelous Face of Jesus, looking toward His people.41
Immediately, Catalina bent her head down, as a sign of respect and admiration, but Mary lovingly asked her to raise her gaze again, and contemplate Him. She asked her to cross her gaze with His and to “repeat the Fatima prayer,” which reads: Lord, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love You.”42 She then asked her to tell Jesus just how much she loved Him, and to continue to render homage to Him. Catalina followed her instructions:
I told it to Him. It seemed that I was the only one that He was looking at from the enormous Host. But I learned that this was how He gazed at each person, with love to the fullest.43
Once the priest had finished consecrating the Bread, he pronounced the words of consecration for the Wine, and then raised the Chalice, in the same way as he did with the bread. This time, however, Catalina saw that some lightning began to flash in the sky and in the background, and she noticed that she was no longer in a church, for there was no ceiling, no walls, and everything remained dark, except for the brightly illuminated Altar. Suddenly, she could see Jesus himself! She remarks that He was suspended in the air, being crucified; she could only see from His head, to the lower part of His chest, but she noticed that the Cross was being held by some “strong large hands.”44 Seconds later, from within the brilliant light, an illuminated and small dove came forth, and after swiftly flying around the entire cathedral, it came back to rest on the shoulder of the priest, who somehow continued to be Jesus, for Catalina could recognize His long hair and His luminous wounds. Above Him, however, was Jesus crucified, and His head had now fallen upon His shoulder.45 This time, Catalina could contemplate even more deeply the sacred and bruised body of Jesus, as well as His torturous suffering:
I was able to contemplate His face, His bruised arms and torn flesh. He had a wound on the right side of His chest and Blood was gushing out toward the left; and what looked like water, but very brilliant, [gushed out] toward the right. They were more like jets of light coming forth towards the faithful, and moving to the right and to the left. I was amazed at the amount of Blood that was flowing into the Chalice. I thought it would overflow and stain the whole Altar, but not a single drop was spilled! At that moment the Virgin Mary said: “This is the miracle of miracles. I have repeated this to you. Time and space do not exist for the Lord, and at the moment of the Consecration all the assembly is taken to the foot of Calvary at the instant of the crucifixion of Jesus.”46
A few moments later into the Mass, it was time to pray the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer, commonly known as Our Father, was instituted by Christ Himself, as he was teaching his Disciples how to pray.47 It hence serves as a reminder of the familial relationship that one has with God, as one’s Father, as well as “an act of supplication for our daily bread.”48 Once the prayer was about to begin, for the first time during the entire Mass, Catalina could hear the gentle voice of the Lord. He asked her to pray the Our Father with the “deepest profundity” that she could, and to think about the person who had hurt her the most during her life, such that she could embrace them, and say to them: “In the Name of Jesus, I forgive you and wish you peace. In the Name of Jesus, I ask for your forgiveness and wish you my peace.”49 He explained that if that person was worthy of receiving that peace, it would stay within them, and otherwise, the peace would return to her. The Lord said this, so as to prepare Catalina for the next part of the Mass: The Rite of Peace. During this time, the church asks for peace and unity within it, and participants “express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament.”50 Thus, Jesus explained that he did not want Catalina to receive nor to offer peace to others, without being capable of forgiving and feeling peace in her own heart before. At this point, Catalina was overloaded with a pungent sense of guilt in her heart. She realized just how much she had hurt the Lord and her own self by holding rancor against other people, so she forgave as Jesus told her to.
Once the priest gave the indication that the participants could grant each other the sign of peace, Catalina noticed that among some of the people who were embracing each other, a “very intense light placed itself between them.”51 She immediately knew it was Jesus, and so she instantaneously “threw herself to embrace the person next to her.”52 At that very moment, she could feel, for the first time, the embrace of the Lord Himself, because, in some way, it was He who was granting her His peace.53
After the Rite of Peace comes Communion. This is when the faithful receive the actual Body and Blood as their spiritual food.54 Importantly, communion may be received by all Catholics who are not in mortal sin, and who have not ingested any kind of food for at least one hour.55 The first person to receive the communion is the priest, and once he has done so, the rest of the community can proceed to receive Him as well. Catalina had been observing attentively, and as the priest received the communion, Mary whispered to her again and said:
This is the moment to pray for the celebrant and the priests who accompany him. Repeat along with Me: “Lord, bless them, sanctify them, help them, purify them, love them, take care of them and sustain them with Your Love… Remember all the priests in the world. Pray for all the consecrated souls.”56
Mary had just made her realize how badly priests needed the prayers of the community. She understood that many times believers are incapable of remembering that priests, too, are human, and they are unable to comprehend “the solitude” that many times can surround them.57
Finally, it was time for the Holy Communion. People in the Cathedral were getting ready, and Catalina was ready to join them, until she was interrupted by Jesus, who asked her to wait for a moment, because there was something that she needed to observe. Almost involuntarily, Catalina raised her eyes towards the person who was about to receive the Communion; it was a lady from her religious community, who had gotten a confession right before the Mass that day. The purity with which she received the Body of Christ translated to a marvelous display:
When the priest placed the Sacred Host on her tongue, something like a flash of light, that very golden-white light (that I had seen before) went right through this person’s back first, and then continued to envelop her back, her shoulders and her head. The Lord said: “This is how I am pleased to embrace a soul who comes with a clean heart to receive Me!” The tone of Jesus’ voice was that of a happy person.58
It was perhaps because she had noticed Jesus’ happiness, or maybe because of the majestic spectacle that she had just observed, but Catalina could not help feeling sorry for all the times in which she had received the Holy Communion unworthily. She felt sorry for all of those times in which believers make excuses to avoid a confession…and they end up missing out on the opportunity to live in this majesty.59 With this in mind, Catalina got ready to receive the communion herself. This time, however, she noticed it tasted different. She describes that it was a “mixture of Blood and incense” that inundated her entirely. At that moment, she felt inundated with so much love, that she could not help but fall into tears. She was absorbed in love.60
After believers have received Communion, they are invited to kneel or seat contemplatively, while they adore Jesus and His presence within them. It is a time of personal interior prayer, whereby believers are brought closer to God, and are made aware of His presence.61 As Catalina got back to her seat and began to kneel down, however, Jesus asked her to listen carefully. Suddenly, Catalina was able to hear the internal prayers of one of the ladies that was seated in front of her. She had just received Communion, and was praying. Her prayer was loaded with petitions for her family, her kids, and their financial situation.62 Jesus turned to Catalina, and sadly explained that almost every prayer He receives follows the same pattern. There was something about His voice that indicated that he was simply devastated, as he explained:
Not once did she tell Me that she loved Me. Not once did she give thanks for My gift to her of bringing My Divinity down to her poor humanity to elevate her toward Me… For love I await each one of you, and for love I remain with you… But you do not realize that I need your love. Remember that I am the Beggar of Love in this sublime hour for the soul.63
Catalina was astonished. The God who she admired, the God who is deemed as Love itself, was begging for HER love.
After all of these events, the only remaining rituals are the concluding acts. These include parochial announcements, the priest’s greeting and blessing, the dismissal of the faithful by the priest, and the Kissing of the Altar, followed by a profound bow.64 As Catalina’s Mass approached its end, and the priest elevated his hands to impart a blessing on all the believers, Virgin Mary made herself present again and explained that she had to be attentive, because most of the time, believers make “any old sign instead of the sign of the cross,” and that they did not value the true treasure that was that blessing. She said that one must no forget that that particular blessing could be the last one received from the hands of the priest, and that it should therefore be treated with due respect.65
Before Catalina left that day, Jesus said to her: “Do not run out as soon as Mass is over; stay a moment in My company. Enjoy it and let Me enjoy yours.”66 She therefore stayed, and enjoyed His company for a few more minutes. She asked Him, whether or not His Body would stay for a long time within her, and to this, He lovingly responded: “For as long as you want to have Me with you. If you speak to Me all day long, offering Me some words as you go about your chores, I will listen to you. I am always with all of you.”67
There is no doubt that the Holy Mass is heavily composed of spiritual greatness that goes far beyond one’s comprehension, Nevertheless, it only takes a little bit of faith to be able to witness, with the eyes of one’s soul, what truly happens during this incredible event. Either visibly or invisibly, this will long remain as the miracle of miracles.
The Holy Mass
I am an international student coming all the way from El Salvador in Central America. I am a double major in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Digital Marketing, and I truly believe in the importance of encouraging leadership, innovation, and creativity among others. My passions include playing guitar, exercising, and spending time in church. As an international student, I hope to become living proof of the capacity and potential that exists within every Salvadorian and Latin American woman.Author Portfolio Page
Practicing the Catholic faith and growing up Catholic there are so many moments in mass and about the faith in general that we miss, don’t understand or simply just do it because it is a part of the mass. Growing up Catholic, I never understood what it meant to follow Christ and how to be fully invested in the celebration of Christ on Sunday but rather just go with the motions. This article opens up the eyes of those people, Catholic or not, to the spectrum of why we practice the faith the way we do. I truly enjoyed this article.