A few weeks ago I spent time visiting family and friends back in New York. My family and I decided one Saturday to do some sightseeing in Hyde Park, NY, which is always something I had wanted to do. After taking in the sights, we ended our day with dinner at The Culinary Institute of America. The institute runs several restaurants where students work in both the kitchen and dining room as they prepare for life as a professional chef or maître d’. One of the joys of dining there is that there are large windows that allow guests in the dining room to see into the kitchen and watch the students at work. I was absolutely amazed at watching the chefs-to-be delicately and expertly prepare our meals. It was easy to see in their faces the amount of concentration and care that went on in preparing our meals.
The next day was the Solemnity of Corpus Christi which provided a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the previous day’s experience in the light of how we prepare for and participate in the Eucharistic Banquet. The Sunday Mass lies at the heart of every parish and much of our time and energy goes into preparing for the Eucharistic Liturgy. Whether it is preparing a homily or music, or training lectors or Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, there is much to prepare to ensure that the celebration of the Mass is a positive and spiritually enriching experience for the faithful. Like all things done repetitively, preparing for Sunday Mass can become routine and mundane. It is easy for us to grow slack and inattentive in our preparation for Mass, both for us who are responsible for preparing it and for the faithful who participate.
The chefs-in-training were a reminder to me of the importance of preparation in our experience of a meal. Even though things may feel routine or monotonous, our preparation is so essential to our experience of the Mass. For those of us who are in ministry, it is essential for others’ experience of the Mass as well. While our work might not be as tedious as piping icing, shaping a quenelle, or de-boning fish, the investment we make in our preparation for Mass always pays off in our ability to grow closer to the Lord through the Eucharist.
Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., is associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, Ind. He is originally from Flushing, N.Y., and is a graduate of Holy Cross High School. He entered seminary while a student at the University of Notre Dame. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2013.