By Dr. Judy Bullock
Pope Francis has brought an infusion of life and energy to the church with his papacy. In one of his first major publications, Evangelii Gaudium, our Holy Father describes his vision of what the mission of the church should encompass. Expanding the concept of a “new evangelization” he encourages the Christian faithful to embrace this mission joyfully and to take the church to the streets. This is precisely what the “dismissal” at Mass is expressing.
Our leave taking from Mass, although a very brief, simple rite, carries with it a depth of meaning about our Catholic identity. The concluding portion of the Mass includes the announcements, possibly a prayer over the people during certain seasons and on special feasts, the blessing and then the dismissal.
The placement of brief announcements, if needed, prior to the blessing and dismissal is especially appropriate since most of these announcements are based on the service aspects of parish life. Made prior to departure these reminders and solicitations place the parish ministry in the forefront for the week ahead, such as, food collection for the needy, workers for a Habitat for Humanity project, persons to join the March for Life, to name just a few.
Dismissal of Communion Ministers to the Sick
Prior to the final blessing/dismissal of all the people, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion may be called forward and given a pyx containing sacred Hosts consecrated at the Mass just celebrated, so that they may take holy Communion to the sick and homebound.
This public blessing and dismissal contributes to an awareness of this ministry and helps to keep the sick and homebound in the minds and hearts of the parish.
This is one more way to express this missionary spirit and mission of the church.
Dismissal of the People
After the Final Blessing, in the very last dialogue of the Mass, the priest or deacon announces the words of dismissal. One of the most ancient dialogues of the Mass in its earliest form, “ite missa est,” first referred to “mission.” After the fourth century, “missa” became the collective name for the entire liturgy or “Mass.”
The first translations of this text in English were “Go, you are dismissed,” subsequently, “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” These variations offer some insight into the original intent of the dismissal rite of Mass.
As you have noticed in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, the missal we use now, there are four new options for this final dialogue: “Go forth, the Mass is ended”; “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”; “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” and “Go in peace.”
Each of these texts includes this element of mission. Each one begins with the command to “Go.” This is not polite language. It is not about vacating the premises but a call to action, in word and in deed. We are being sent.
Pope Francis has called us to break down barriers and to care for the weakest members of our society. He has challenged our complacency in the face of the evil all around us. We are charged to take what we have been given and to go out into the world and make a difference. This is what the dismissal at Mass is all about.
Dr. Judy Bullock is the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Worship.