Posts Tagged ‘Corpus Christi’

Sunday Mass: the Most Significant Event in the Life of a Parish

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Yesterday’s beautiful feast of Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ) allows us to renew our commitment to making Sunday Mass the priority of our Catholic life, of every parish family.

One of the valuable lessons we’re learning from Making All Things New, our strategic pastoral planning initiative, is that people want a reverent, uplifting, joyful, welcoming, meaningful Sunday Mass.  They crave good lectors, inspirational (not overdone) music and singing, and a solid, succinct (i.e., short) sermon.  They want to participate – – ushers, offertory procession, lectors, choir, servers, trained Extraordinary Eucharistic ministers (where called for and allowed by liturgical law), and some fellowship afterwards.  They love seeing and greeting their priests and deacons.  Our people tell us they appreciate sensitivity to ethnic needs (Masses available in languages needed by parishioners).  They also tell us they don’t like “long” Masses (over an hour) cluttered by extraneous stuff (too much added verbiage from priests, deacons, lectors, and in the announcements, or too many “gimmicks”).

Although the outcome of our planning is far from over, it’s already clear that, if a parish is alive and stable, we know it makes Sunday Mass, as described above, the priority.

Over the next weeks, many of our priests will be “on the move,” to new assignments.  Most of them know from experience that they have to make Sunday Mass the priority in their new parish, as they did in their old one.

Studies are showing us that parishes with a reverent, quality, participative Sunday Mass, with a solid (short) sermon, report large numbers, good stewardship, (high collections!), many new members and converts for the RCIA, effective programs of service and community outreach, vocations, keeping the youth involved, and engendering parish loyalty.  Not bad!

Savvy pastors – – I’m trying to be one, like most of my priests and deacons – – know that the parish is the front line of the Church.  And the most significant event in the life of any parish is Sunday Mass.

Let’s do it!

Meditations on Corpus Christi from Ireland

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

I am sorry that I will not be in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral this Sunday to celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – also known as Corpus Christi.  (The solemnity is actually today, June 7 – the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  In the United States, we have moved the observance of the solemnity to the following Sunday, this year June 10.)  I’ve got a good excuse, though, for my absence.  You see, I am leading a group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of New York to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress that is being held this week in Dublin, Ireland.

About fifty of us from the archdiocese are here to join with hundreds of thousands of Catholics from all over the world in for prayer, adoration, study, and celebration of the Eucharist.

While in Ireland, we will visit other sites as well, like the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Armagh, the Primatial See of Ireland.  But the real purpose of our visit is to participate in the Eucharistic Congress and to be with the family of faith in our communal savoring of the Eucharist.

A Eucharistic Congress occurs every four years, and provides a wonderful occasion for the Church to ponder and deepen her belief in the mystery of our faith we call the Eucharistic. The last one was held in Quebec City, Canada in 2008., and the Holy Father has appointed Cardinal Marc Oullete, former Archbishop of Quebec and the current Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops as Papal Legate – that is, his official personal envoy – to this Eucharistic Congress. 

So, hundreds of bishops, thousands of priests, deacons, sisters, brothers, and seminarians, and tens of thousands of faithful women, men, and children from all over the Church universal, are gathering in Dublin for what promises to be a very spiritually uplifting occasion.

Our faith, of course, is internal.  “The kingdom of God is within you,” as Jesus Himself taught.  The essence of our faith is an interior, sincere acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior, and of all the truths He and His Church have revealed.  The soul is the arena of faith.

Yet, our faith is also external, because our internal acceptance of Christ has profound exterior effects.  An interior adhesion to Christ results in a conversion of heart which has significant social, communal effects.

Thus, as we internally profess our faith in the Eucharist, we are moved to manifest that externally.  Think about it:

– we genuflect as we enter Church as a sign that we adore Jesus really and truly present in the tabernac

– we say out loud, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” before approaching the altar, publicly indicating our sorrow for sin and desire to be cleansed, a desire that would result in sacramental confession when we are conscious of mortal sin;

– we bow before we receive our Lord at Holy Communion;

 – we say Amen, meaning, yes, when the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minster proclaims “The Body of Christ,” “The Blood of Christ”;

– we dress modestly, appropriately, for the Eucharist, giving a public sign that this is an event more sublime than playing tennis or lounging at the pool;

– on occasion, we publicly express our interior faith in the Eucharist through processions, Eucharistic exposition, and forty hour devotions;

– and, every four years, the Church universal sponsors a Eucharistic Congress as a corporate, ecclesial act of faith on behalf of the entire Church.

 We see so many signs of a revived appreciation for the Eucharist in the Church:

 – enhanced participation in the liturgy;

 – more opportunity for our sick and homebound to receive Holy Communion because of the generous apostolate of our Extraordinary ministers;

 – the growing popularity of Eucharistic adoration (in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, we have Eucharistic adoration about 5 ½ hours every day – about 10 hours on First Friday);

 – an increased awareness of the social demands inherent in the celebration of the Eucharist, acknowledging that the Eucharist has implications “beyond the walls” of our Church buildings;

 – a heightened sensitivity to the necessity of a worthy reception of Holy Communion; and that our partaking of the Eucharist indicates a communion not only with our Lord but with His Church.  Thus, we would not dare violate integrity by receiving the Eucharist if we are conscious of being separated from the unity of the Church by sin or dissent from clear Church teaching.

It was at the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, 1976, that we first sang “You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat.

You are very much on my mind and in my prayers at the Eucharistic Congress as I praise God for the gift and mystery of the Blessed Eucharist!

A blessed Feast of Corpus Christi!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

We just celebrated Trinity Sunday, confessing our faith in the one, true God, who reveals Himself as three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The second Person of this Most Blessed Trinity, God the Son, became man in Jesus Christ.

And Jesus Christ remains really and truly with us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

So, this Sunday, we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Jesus Christ is truly with us at every Mass; we receive Him — body, blood, soul, and divinity — each time we worthily approach Holy Communion; and He remains really present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, reserved in our tabernacles, adored in Eucharistic exposition.

Last week, we bishops met for our annual Spring Meeting, this year in Seattle.  We had a lot of business:  liturgical matters, revision of the Charter to Protect Youth, approval of a defense of fragile human life against physician-assisted suicide, a decision to issue a document to help our priests, deacons, and ourselves preach better . . . plus a lot more.

But the most productive session came on Friday morning.  As usual, we began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  But then we gathered as the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the monstrance on the altar.  There we prayed:  morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours; silence; an excellent conference by a brother bishop; silence; opportunity for confession; and closing Benediction.

It was, in my mind, the most productive part of our meeting.  Nearly two hundred bishops, on their knees, in silent prayer, before Jesus, really and truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

As I tip-toed out of the room to stand in line for confession, I heard two of the young hotel workers chatting.

“It’s sure quiet in there,” whispered one of them.  “What are they doing?”

“It’s weird,” replied the other.  “They’re not doing nothing.  They’re all just kneeling there quietly looking at this flat piece of bread in this fancy gold holder.”

He almost got it right . . . except that we believe, with all our heart and soul, that it’s not a “flat piece of bread,” but the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, really and truly present in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

A blessed Feast of Corpus Christi!