Within the Catholic Mass ceremony, the offertory is the period in which the church gathers the donations from the parishioners. Many believers pay a tithe, or percentage of their income, to help the church meet expenses. Though money serves an essential function, gifts to the church assume many forms. As with much of the Mass, the offertory is replete with symbolism and pageantry. Ultimately, the offertory is a time to make a pleasing sacrifice to God. Priests and deacons are always looking for ways to get people more actively involved in the Mass. The offertory is a moment when leaders can employ innovative ideas to enhance the churchgoing environment.
Family Gift Bearers
In churches that take a collection with parishioners seated, gift bearers carry the accumulated offering to the altar. Usually there is a collection plate or basket passed to the people in the pews by a gift bearer or usher standing in the aisle. One idea to increase the participation of members is to have whole families perform these duties. In some parishes, families need only to sign the assignment log prior to the church service. Parents may want to use this moment to inform the older children of the significance of the offertory to the Mass.
Food for the Poor
Many churches hold food drives to assist the needy. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explicitly mentions gathering goods for the poor. Parishioners can place canned and dry foodstuffs at the front of the church during Mass. The instructions advise that such items be stored away from the Eucharistic table, because after the offertory, the Holy Communion requires the priest have full access to this area.
Including children in the offertory can be another means of instructing them of the significance of the ceremony. Catholic schools can institute many of these ideas into the curriculum. There could be a classroom project of creating offertory envelopes for the child or parents to place a financial gift. Children may also enjoy making get well cards for sick church members. The children can then place the cards at the altar during Mass.
Rather than passing a collection or basket, churches can form a procession to the altar to present gifts. The presenting of gifts at the altar by each individual churchgoer was once a tradition. In fact, Catholics initially brought the bread and wine consumed in the Communion from home. Though the Catholic hierarchy has dispensed with these traditions, parishes may still allow individuals to line up and personally place their offerings before the altar. Doing so increases the level of participation in the Mass, making the services less of a passive activity.
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