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Continuing her series on the liturgy, AnneMarie Miller ponders three characteristics of the congregation at Mass.

The family that prays together stays together.

Venerable Patrick Peyton promoted this message throughout his lifetime, and when I hear these words, I often think of the Rosary. Fr. Peyton enthusiastically promoted the Rosary, and the documentary Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton was one of the reasons why our family began praying the daily Rosary.


Recently, this phrase has taken on an even deeper meaning for me. While it still reminds me of the importance of our family’s prayer, Fr. Peyton’s message guides me to the liturgy.

Each Sunday, my husband and I take our kids to Mass, where we gather with our parish family in prayer. “The family that prays together stays together” applies not just to my own family, but to the wider family of the Church as well. At Mass, we gather together in prayer. As a layperson, I’m “in the pews” with the rest of the congregation.

For a long time, I thought of the congregation as simply a group of people at Mass. There didn’t seem to be anything special or demanding about being in the congregation. In fact, while I knew that we are called to be active participants in the liturgy, being in the congregation sometimes felt passive.

At some point, though, I began to think more about the congregation—and how I can grow from my place in the pews.




In his book Meditations Before Mass, Romano Guardini dives to the heart of this topic. Stating that a congregation is not just a group of people gathered in a church, Guardini explains:

A congregation, then, exists when a number of people disciplined by faith and conscious of their membership in Christ gather to celebrate the sacred mysteries.


Three characteristics in this definition jump out at me, prompting me with further questions about how I can grow as a member of the congregation.  

Disciplined by faith:

Am I a disciple of Christ? Do I learn from Him and let my faith guide my actions every day of the week? Do I actively help my children do this as well?

Conscious of their membership in Christ:

Do I live as a baptized son or daughter of God? Do I recognize this dignity in myself and others at Mass? Do I recognize the unity of the Body of Christ and do I actively seek this unity with others in the congregation?

To celebrate the sacred mysteries:

Am I attending Mass to “check it off the list” or to participate in this sacred offering of Christ? Do I view the Mass as something that needs to entertain me, or as a mystery to contemplate?


Click to tweet:
Do I view the Mass as something that needs to entertain me, or as a mystery to contemplate? #CatholicMom


I’m discovering that being in the congregation is not a passive role after all. It calls me to grow in holiness and intentionally pursue deeper unity and prayer with others at Mass. I’ll continue to ponder this in future articles, but for now, let’s ask ourselves: What is one area where we can shift our mentality and grow as members of the congregation at Mass?



Copyright 2023 AnneMarie Miller
Images: copyright 2023 Holy Cross Family Ministries, all rights reserved.