Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 4, 2018.
Having taught high school Old and New Testament in the past and being a cradle Catholic, the newness of the Good News found in the Bible sometimes gets taken for granted. During the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday’s Mass, the Gospel reading actually penetrated my theological torpor and liturgical listlessness. Mark 5:21-43 details two healing stories in one gospel proclamation. The evangelist began with a synagogue official named Jarius pleading to Jesus to save his daughter near death.
Random or Intentional Detail in the Gospel of Mark?
On the way toward Jarius’ residence, Mark inserts a random tangent. He tells of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for a dozen years! Jesus heals this poor woman, and the passage concludes with Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead.
Reflecting on this passage the following questions invaded my mind:
Why does Mark insert a seemingly random story within a healing story? Could he not simply detail the healing of the hemorrhaging woman after completing the passage on the healing of Jarius’ daughter?
Does this Gospel reading contain the strangest sentence uttered by Jesus: Who has touched my clothes? Is he not omniscient and all-knowing as God?
Power flowing from Jesus…what a peculiar way to describe the healing incident?
These questions initially perplexed me, however, when I had time to think about the passage and re-read the evangelist’s words and interpret in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church I learned of the deeper more spiritual meaning hidden within Mark 5:21-43 and how it relates to my life today.
Christ Willing to Save All—Social Status does not matter
Sandwiched between the beginning and the end of the healing of Jarius’ daughter, Mark inserted Jesus’ encountered a woman suffering from a blood disorder. After careful review, I noticed the juxtaposition between the two individuals. Below is a chart that showing the differences in how Jarius’ daughter and the unnamed woman came to learn about Jesus.
Woman Suffering Hemorrhage
Father’s Intercedes Actively
Passive Request for Healing
John Paul II declared, “[O]nly in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ.” Certainly, Mark 5 demonstrates people who recognize the importance and power of Jesus.
Encountering the Power of God
According to the evangelist, “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’” Obsessed with superheroes, I recently received Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game from my wife for Father’s Day. Along with my passion for this geeky deck-building game, I have rented a slew of comic books from the library as well.
While my fandom seems random to the discussion of Mark’s Gospel, I need to provide a little backdrop to my thought process after hearing the priest read Mark 5:30. The first thought that popped into my head, “I did not know Rogue made an appearance. Sapping or draining of power is the hallmark of that X-Men character. Marvelously [no pun intended], merely grazing the cloak of Jesus healed the woman right away.
Joking aside, the healing power of Jesus is quite amazing. Previous consultation with doctors failed to ease the woman’s suffering. The passage that may be interrupted as a “power loss” of Jesus is not meant to infringe on his divine nature. On the contrary, Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels, never dispute the divinity of Christ, he was utilizing language that his audience would be able to understand.
Jesus—Hope in Face of Despair
Mark 5:21-43 also focuses on hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. After healing the woman with a hemorrhage, Jesus arrived too late—at least that was what the crowd thought! Urging Jarius to accept his daughter’s fate the onlookers declared, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Men of little faith and tenacity would have resigned themselves to start the grieving process. Yet Jesus urged the synagogue official to not be afraid.
According to Saint Pope John XXII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” From the onset of this Gospel reading Jarius actively sought the aid of Jesus and pleaded for the return of his daughter to life when all looked hopeless as she appeared to linger in the shadow of death. Below is a link to a story about Jesus providing miraculous healing to another young daughter—prematurely born!
Uniqueness of the Individual
A final thought that crossed my mind when reflecting on Mark 5:21-43 was that Jesus focuses on the present moment with grace, love, and resolve. Even on the way toward healing a prominent religious official’s child, Christ paused to listen to the needs of an ordinary, poor woman. Saint Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Do not worry about the past nor the future only concern about the need of God’s children in front of you.
This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 5:25-34. He noticed the presence of the sickly woman. And Christ stopped to show mercy the person in need at the present moment.
As a father of four young children, my focus is frequently divided between juggling the various needs and adventures of my kids growing up. What I learned to devote my attention and time to the present moment and act with love instead of worrying about the various needs and whether it will be adequate or not.
The genius of the Gospel message centers on the individual first. Siphoning sanctity cannot occur as love multiplies not divides when more and more individuals come into your life.
November 1st—the Celebration of the Feast of All Saints—among my favorite feasts in the Church’s liturgical calendar. Only the Feast of the Holy Trinity and the Most Precious Body and Blood eclipses All Saints Day in significance for me personally.
Who are the Saints?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped” (CCC 956).
In other words, the reason we honor the holy men and women in union in Heaven with God is because they draw of closer to unity with God. November 1st is not meant to be a Holy Oscars or a rolling out of a theological red carpet.
The Saints Point Us to God
Saints are witnesses to the faith and reflect the light Holy Trinity. I am reminded St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney when he said, “We are all like little mirrors, in which God contemplates Himself. How can you expect that God should recognize His likeness in an impure soul?” This likening of the human soul as a reflection, a mirror of God’s love can be found even earlier in Church tradition. St. Theophilus of Antioch [circa 2nd century A.D.] declared,
A person’s soul should be clean, like a mirror reflecting light. If there is rust on the mirror his face cannot be seen in it. In the same way, no one who has sin within him can see God.
Below I formed a list, a sort of personal litany of saints, and applicable holy writings that have helped me grow in holiness and polish my soul to better reflect the love of the Holy Trinity.
Along with the names of canonized saints who personally influenced me, I outlined several Christian writers who lived fairly recently or are currently alive and are not officially canonized. Nevertheless, the books from the suggested reading still helped me grow in my Catholic faith.
***Note: I added the book(s) that I have actually read that have impacted me and deepened my relationship with God through the saint. This is in no way an exhaustive list –it is merely a list of saints whose writings and/or witness influenced me positively***
November Nourishment for the Soul
Mary- The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Venerable Fulton Sheen
Athanansius: On the Incarnation; Life of St. Antony
Pope John Paul II: Fides Et Ratio; Redemptoris Misso; Veritatis Splendor
Maria Faustina: Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul
Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life
Louis de Montfort: True Devotion to Mary
Terersa of Avila: Interior Castle
John of the Cross: Dark Night of the Soul
Therese of Lisieux: The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul
Luke: Acts of the Apostle; Gospel According to Luke
Josemaria Escriva: The Way
Pope Pius XII: Humani Generis
James: The Letter of St. James
Pope Pius IX
Pope Leo XIII
Francis of Assisi
Ignatius of Loyala
Ambrose: De Incarnationis Dominicæ Sacramento [on the Incarnation and Sacraments]
Thomas Aquinas: The Summa Theologica
G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy
S. Lewis: Mere Christianity; Screwtape Letters; Space Trilogy
Bishop Robert Barron: Catholicism
Peter Kreeft, P.H.D.: Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ; Prayer for Beginners; Between Heaven and Hell
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings
Now these readings aren’t replacement for the Mass. Hopefully you find this list helpful in your spiritual journey!
In the modern world “reform” is a frequently used word. During the 2008 presidential election, a major issue was the reform of the United States healthcare system. Currently, violent revolutions occurring in Libya and Egypt cause people to call for political reform. The modern world frequently criticizes the Church. Many people believe that the Church should update its doctrine by permitting gay marriage and contraceptive use.
The Church is Incarnational
Though being a human institution, the Church has a Divine aspect, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all of its doctrines are immutable and Her truths are eternal. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “liturgy as the sacred action par excellence is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and it is likewise the font from which all her powers flow.” So the Church desires liturgical worship focused on God rid of excesses that deter from that goal.
Papal authority throughout the centuries advocated liturgical reform when abuses crept in. A prime example of this can be found in the 6th century with Pope Gregory the Great. He made several changes to the Roman Rite in response to heretical groups which caused some bishops to become scrupulous with prayer texts.
Another instance of immense liturgical reform occurred in the 16th century when the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, sought to elucidate the Catholic doctrine, in particular the sacraments and reaffirming the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. While successful in clarifying the Church’s teaching, the rigidities of Trent led to decay in liturgical participation among the laity.
Context for Liturgical Reform
Within the 20th century, the 2nd Vatican Council provided the renewal needed for the liturgy of the Roman rite. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium states, “The liturgy builds up those who are in the Church, making of them a holy temple of the Lord, a dwelling-place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Because of the importance of the liturgy, the Council required that reforms should be made and practical norms established. Yet, the reform decrees found in the conciliar document did not develop in isolation. Rather, liturgical reform was several years in the making. Starting as a pastoral movement, the Liturgical Movement of the twentieth century began in monastic centers and sought to return piety to the liturgy. It gained papal impetus through Pius XI’s Divini cultus in 1928 and Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei in 1948.
Since the liturgy’s development is organic, many of the renewal efforts of the Liturgical Movement pushed for a return to earlier Christian liturgical elements such as: an increased focus on the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice, better use of Scripture reading, greater emphasis on Gregorian chant and promotion of active participation among the laity. Ultimately, these concerns were addressed and declared by the Church in the 2nd Vatican Council.
A brief liturgical history from the Reformation to the 20th century will help to put the Liturgical Movement into perspective. Protestant reformers rejected not only the abuses of the Church, but the medieval liturgy as well. Dustan Tucker viewed the Reformation as “essentially an anti-liturgical revolution”.
Council of Trent and the Liturgy
The Council of Trent responded by criticizing such departures from Tradition. Pope Paul V declared, in the papal bull Quo primum, a return to the rite of the Early Fathers. This included removing lengthy and unnecessary prayers, ornate elements, and superstitious piety from the Mass. Soon after Trent, the Church implemented this reform. From 1568-1570 the Tridentine Missal and Breviary took shape. Requirements to pray the office of the Blessed Virgin and of the dead were lifted. General rubrics at the beginning of the missal provided uniformity in worship.
For the next few centuries there was stability in liturgical reform. However, abuses in the liturgy still arose. For instance, the number of feast days increased from 182 to 300 between 1584 and 1903. Many started to take priority over Sunday. Several attempts at reform failed during the three centuries preceding the Liturgical Movement.
Influence of Prosper Gueranger
Liturgical study blossomed within monastic communities in France in the 19th century. The Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes, in France, housed one of the early promoters of the European liturgical movement, Prosper Gueranger. He advocated a return to Gregorian chant as the authorized liturgical music for the Church. By the 1870s, his fellow monks researched chant manuscripts and desired to purify the texts to their original content. Gueranger made liturgy the center of monastic life.
Despite his positive contributions, he never encouraged the essential liturgical principle full and active participation by the whole congregation. Despite this, reform in France soon found its way to Germany and later Belgium around the turn of the century.
Though Gueranger had an important part in the liturgical reform in Europe, many historians acknowledge the movement’s true founder as the Belgian Benedictine, Dom Lambert. Beauduin. A speech given by him at the Catholic Conference at Malines in 1909 marked the beginning of the Liturgical Movement.
Pius X and Spread of Liturgical Reform
Influenced by Pius X’s motu proprio, Beuduin called for complete and active participation of all Christians within the liturgy. He wanted to reach beyond the people of Belgium to all Catholics. To accomplish this, Beuduin wrote a missal for the laity. Later he organized his abbey to provide liturgical education and even published a journal, Les Questions liturgiques.
The Liturgical Movement soon spread beyond Germany, France, and Belgium. As the century continued, the liturgical reform came to the Netherlands in 1911 and Italy in 1914 and eventually throughout the rest of Europe.
The liturgical movement traveled across the Atlantic in 1926, under the efforts of Virgil Michel. As a student of Beuduin, he sought to promote liturgical piety in the United States. To endorse the movement, Michel founded the journal Orate Fratres and Liturgical Press at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. He once said, “Should not every devoted Catholic try to the utmost of his power to participate actively in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to follow the priest in mind and heart, to pray with him and act with him?”
Origin of 20th Century Liturgical Reform
While the liturgical movement originated and grew forth from the monastic centers in Europe, the Holy See was not detached from this development. At the beginning of the century, in 1903, Pius X held the liturgy in high esteem. In his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, the pope referred to the liturgy as “the Church’s most important and indispensible source.” Papal support continued with Pius XI’s apostolic constitution Divini cultus in 1928. Released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pius X’s motu proprio, this document advocated an increased need for reform in liturgical music. The pope declared,
For the Liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need. There is thus a close connection between dogma and the sacred Liturgy, and between Christian worship and the sanctification of the faithful.
Pius XI also states that task of the popes are to maintain the Liturgy like a custodian. In his 1924 bull Inter multiplices, he warned the Church of the dangers of modernism and upheld the notion of the liturgical growth as an organic development. Read in light of Divini cultus, the papal bull is not an ultramontane claim of papal power over the liturgy. Rather it is a warning to prevent liturgical reform from falling victim to antiquarianism.
Pius XII’s Mediator Dei
Papal impetus to the Liturgical Movement continued under Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei. Written in November 1947, this document solidified the relationship between the movement and the Holy See. The encyclical gave the Liturgical Movement official papal approval, yet at the same time warned against liturgical abuses. Mediator Dei became the first encyclical dedicated solely to the liturgy.
In defining the Sacred Liturgy and affirming liturgical piety as the center of the Christian life, Pius XII’s encyclical is viewed as the Magna Carta that set up the general reform in Sacrosanctum concilium. The conciliar document’s theme of the presence of Christ in the liturgy is declared in Mediator Dei. “In obedience, therefore, to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the Sacred Liturgy, states Pius XII. This displays a striking similarity to a passage in Sacrosanctum concilium regarding the presence of Christ in the liturgy. According to the conciliar text, “The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ”.
Sacrifice of the Mass
Another major point given by Pius XII is the fact that the Liturgy should be seen as a sacrificial act. The salvific effects of Christ’s sacrifice are explained by the pope, “…it can be said that on Calvary Christ built a font of purification and salvation which He filled with the Blood He shed; but if men do not bathe in it and there wash away the stains of their iniquities, they can never be purified and saved.” By placing such stress on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, Pius hoped to prevent the faithful from error in viewing the liturgy exclusively as a memorial banquet.Sacrosanctum concilium reaffirmed the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice as well.
Practical Liturgical Reforms
Along with a deeper understanding in theology of the Mass, the Liturgical Movement also promoted pragmatic reform such as active participation for the laity. “The cooperation of the faithful is required so that sinners may be individually purified in the Blood of the Lamb,” stated Pius XII. Such cooperation could be facilitated by involving the laity. As previously mentioned, promotion of active participation started in the monasteries during the late 19th century. Publication of missals for the laity ensued at the turn of the century. This allowed them to follow along through prayer responses and singing along in the “dialogue Mass”.
A large majority within the Liturgical Movement agreed that the preferred understanding of the liturgy could not be reached until more vernacular was infused into the Mass. Many of the early pioneers of the movement such as Michel advocated for vernacular usage in the Mass. German bishops asked the Holy See, in 1949, to allow the epistle and gospel reading to be in the common language. By the 1950s more papal allowances permitted vernacular usage in the liturgy.Musicae sacrae disciplina, Pius XII’s encyclical on liturgical music granted hymns during Mass to be sung in the language of laity.
Issues with the Vernacular
Not all involved in the Liturgical Movement agreed on the amount of vernacular to be introduced into the liturgy. Many groups, like the English Liturgy Society in particular, welcomed the use of the vernacular and believed it should replace Latin in many rites including: baptism, anointing of the sick, and funerals.
An issue from usage of common language, raised by H.A. Reinhold, is faulty translations. He stated, “What I am personally afraid of …is a ‘commission’ of professors who know all about their fields but do not speak the language of the people…And that would be worse than what we have now, because it would falsify the spirit of our Roman Liturgy.”
Loss of meaning occurs when translating a biblical text into various languages. “The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth,” proclaimed Pius XII on the importance of keeping Latin in the liturgy.
Another aim of liturgical reform in the 20th century dealt with sacred music. The Liturgical Movement sought a restoration to an unadulterated Gregorian chant. In the previous century, a method for renewal in sacred music began in Abbey of Solesmes. Here monks researched liturgical music and undertook the reinstatement of Gregorian chant in the Mass. While support for this style of music lacked uniformity, the majority in the movement endorsed Gregorian chant. In his motu proprio, Pius X called it the “supreme model for sacred music.”
Participation in the Mass
Further promotion of this style occurred with Divini cultus by which Pius XI encouraged an end to “silent spectators” and urged an active participation among the laity. “In order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let them be made once more to sing the Gregorian chant, so far as it belongs to them to take part in it,” the pope stated. His predecessor’s encyclical Musicae sacrae disciplina reaffirmed Pius X’s motu proprio. At the same time, Pius XII’s document displayed openness to development in sacred music. Yet, music must not become profane for the sake of mere exhibition in the liturgy. Rather, sacred music is an integral part of liturgy and must be given a high honor.
Lay Involvement with the Liturgy
Besides the external elements of the liturgy, the Liturgical Movement encouraged inward participation of the laity during Mass. According to Romano Guardini, the chief goal of the liturgy is not concerned with individuals showing reverence towards God. He states,
The liturgy is the Church’s public and lawful act of worship. It is performed and conducted by the officials whom the Church herself has designated for the post— her priests. In the liturgy God is to be honored by the body of the faithful, and the latter is in its turn to derive sanctification from this act of worship. Here the Catholic conception of worship in common sharply differs from the predominately individualistic Protestant style of worship.
In Mediator Dei, the pope encouraged Christian participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. Such involvement takes place in laity’s offering of the bread and wine and of alms to the priest. Upon their behalf the priest offers the sacrifice. Through the liturgy and their sacrificial offerings the Christian becomes more attentive to the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Second Vatican Council
The activities of the Liturgical Movement culminated in the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council. Here the nature of the Church became better clarified. The Constitution, Sacrosanctum concilium, expanded upon the advocated reforms by the previous council. The conciliar document’s stress on the presence of Christ in the liturgy also harked back to Pius XII’s Mediator Dei.
Regarding Holy Scripture, in the 1950s, the movement sought for greater emphasis placed on the Word in the liturgy. Pius XII granted limited sanctions by having the epistle and gospel read in the vernacular, but only after said in Latin first. This allowed for greater attentiveness in Mass. Sacrosanctum concilium continued such reform in permitting use of the common language in places like the readings and some prayers. But the document still maintained to keep the Latin language as the norm in the liturgy.
Mystical Body of Christ in the Liturgy
Another theme found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was the Nature of the Church as the Mystical Body. About twenty years prior to the council, the encyclical Mystici corporis christi examined the Pauline concept of the Church being the body of Christ. This provided great insight on the nature of the Church.
Like the monks from Solemes and the popes, especially Pius X, the Council held sacred music with high esteem. Sacrosanctum concilium decreed, “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride and place in liturgical services.” Furthermore, the document declares that the liturgy’s development must be organic. “Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority,” asserts Sacrosanctum concilium.
It is God who “wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Through liturgical worship humans are sanctified and receive Christ in the Eucharist. Yet, because of the human aspect of the Church, abuses have entered into the liturgy. Because of this, reform is constantly needed. In the twentieth century, this renewal came in the form of the Liturgical Movement.
Established first in monastic hubs in Europe, the movement eventually gained papal momentum from the encyclicals Divini cultus and Mediator Dei. They promoted a return to early Christian liturgical practices and encouraged more usage of Scripture, Gregorian chant, and active participation of the laity during the Mass.
Cabie, Robert, and Aime Georges Martimort. “The Celebration of the Eucharist in the West from the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at prayer: an introduction to the liturgy. New ed. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1988. 173-185.
Chupungco, Anscar J. Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Introduction to the Liturgy. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997.
Flannery, Austin. Vatican Council II: the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. New revised ed. Dublin; Northport, NY: Dominican Publications; Costello, 1996.
Guardini, Romano. The Spirit of the Liturgy. New York, N.Y: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998.
Jounel, P. “From the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at Prayer Volume 1: Principles of the Liturgy. New ed. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1987. 63-84.
Pius XII. Mediator Dei: On the Sacred Liturgy. Encyclical Letter. Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1947.
Reid, Alcuin. The Organic Development of the Liturgy: the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005.
Smith, Fidelis . “”Musicae Sacrae Discplina”: Pius XII’s Encyclical on Sacred Music .” The Musical Quarterly 43, no. 4 (1957): 461-479.
The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist: the Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium on the Roman Catholic Liturgy organised by the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques. Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997.
 Ernest B. Koenker, “Objectives and Achievements of the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic Church since World War II,” Church History 20, 2 (1951), 15.
 Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), 2.
 Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy: the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council 2nd Ed.( San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005), 39.
The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist: the Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium on the Roman Catholic Liturgy organised by the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques. (Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997), 123.
 RobertCabié and Aimé Georges Martimort, “The Celebration of the Eucharist in the West from the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at prayer: an introduction to the liturgy, New ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1988), 183
The death of Kobe Bryant ushered in the new year. It shocked the world. Suddenly the coronarovirus circled the globed. Lockdowns and quarantines ensued. Our lives have been upended. You may have joked about this year being the beginning of an apocalypse— honestly, it feels Pandora’s box of evil was opened and there is no end in sight.
Recreational outlets for stress such as sporting events, music concerts, and festivals have either been cancelled for postponed indefinitely. Local libraries, zoo, and museums closed. How the heck are you supposed to live? I contracted COVID19 in April and those were among the most miserable weeks for my family. And if that wasn’t bad enough the Church suspended public Masses.
I understand why the bishops temporarily removed the Sunday obligation. Viewing the Mass via the Internet was a gift. It was a grace to hear my diocese’s newly ordained bishop preach (my family ordinarily don’t attend the Cathedral for Mass so we wouldn’t have heard Bishop DeGrood otherwise).
In May several dioceses across the United States started allowing public liturgies with safety precautions. I was recently graced with the ability to receive the Blessed Sacrament for the first time in months. It felt like a homecoming.
Home is Where the Sacred Heart is
Saint Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. ” This year was a journey in the wilderness (I mean that literally and figuratively). Lent ended on April 11th however my spiritual dryness and suffering continued well into the Easter Season. Streaming the Mass on TV felt like viewing an oasis far off in a desert. Some weeks it appeared real and other times as a mirage.
The tangibility of going to Mass physically reminds me of the Incarnation— God becoming man. Without that direct connection of hearing and seeing the priest in person it remained a great Cross to bear.
Saint Pope Pius X said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.” This life is not our true home. It is a pilgrimage toward our destination.
Home is about love. The truest form of love is found in the heart of Jesus.
Community of Love
Another term for the Blessed Sacrament is Holy Communion. I love this name for the Eucharist. Under the section What is this Sacrament Called? the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1331, (It is called) “Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.” Love can only happen in the presence of another.
Jesus told his Apostles in Matthew 18:20, “For wheretwoorthree gather in my name, there am I with them.” This is the reality of the Church. People united together with each other through the power of God’s love.
Returning to Mass reminded me of this communion with God AND man. The priest stands in Personi Christ (the Person of Christ). While only a validly ordained priest, Eucharistic prayer, wheat bread, and grape wine are officially needed for the Sacrament to occur, it is a fuller sign of God’s love when the laity are present. Hearing the faithful sing the various hymns helped me to greater enter into the mystery of the Mass.
An Invisible (But Still Real Communion)
The community of the laity are a visible sign of communion. Yet, there is an invisible assembly present in the Mass— the angelic hosts and communion of saints. I felt closer to the holy ones during the Eucharist than when I was watching it in my own home on the television. Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:29 hit home last Sunday, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” This world is not our true home. A world beyond the senses exist.
According to the Catechism, “The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints (CCC 1352). St. Augustine echoes this truth, “The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” Understanding this reality helped deepen my appreciate for the Mass. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Ask God to Give You Strength
This year continues to send us new and unimaginable trials. Our hearts ache for love. The inability to receive the Eucharist made those challenges exponentially tougher. Some of you may still be in “exile” and wondering how long you have to wander aimlessly in the desert of 2020. God never totally abandons us even though it feels like it sometimes. Read the Bible daily or the writings of saints for comfort. Praying the Rosary or chaplet of Divine Mercy help ward off distress. I offer my sufferings to God in hopes that you may receive spiritual consolation to soothe you during your trials!
Do you want to receive more insightful and informative content about the sacraments?
Become an email subscriber (enter your email address in the Subscribe to Blog Via Email box and hit the Subscribe button. It’s that easy! Soon you will be receiving cool Catholic content in your inbox.
Thank you for reading and hope you have a blessed day!
Our car’s digital clock reads 9:27 A.M. I am thinking to myself, “Great, maybe we will be able to make it on time to Mass this week…finally!” [we only live 2 minutes away from our parish.]. After we pulling into a parking spot and turn off the ignition, my wife and I rush to get our three children into the church before the entrance hymn starts.
Thankfully, we made it in time. I thought myself, “Please let us be able to make it through at least the first part of the Mass without me having to take any one out!”
Let the Battle Begin
My prayer was almost answered. Two minutes into the first reading, my 18 month old son, started to lose focus and wanted to escape the premises. The granola bar and sippy cup of water were not enough to appease him long enough for me to finish the reading. Perspiration glinted on my temples and forehead from having to hold a squirming and twisting toddler.
I gave up the battle. I left my oldest son in the pew by himself for a couple minutes until my wife came back—she had to take our daughter out for a bathroom break five minutes into the liturgy!
“What is the point, I thought. Should I even continue trying to bring the kids along? Sometime people stare at us as if we have an extraterrestrial being dancing behind them in the pew? My kids are insane!” I lamented to myself. Mass ended fairly decent, considering the crazy start, but I felt inspired to write about my inner struggles about balancing family life with my Catholic obligation for Sunday worship. Here are three reasons why I cannot stop bringing my children to Mass despite the enormous “inconvenience” or “stress” it seems to bring.
Because I Experience Truth
Someone once asked my wife, “Why did you convert to Catholicism?” Her reply is probably the shortest apologetic statement in history, “Because it’s true!” The conviction and strength of faith of that level is something I have yet to achieve. I oftentimes feel myself providing caveats and further clarifications for why I am Catholic or why I continue to follow the faith.
At the end of the day, I continue to go to weekly Mass on Sundays because the Apostles—the first friends and followers of Christ—started that tradition 2,000 years ago. Jesus informed the Twelve to celebrate the “breaking of the bread” weekly.
I need to persist in taking my children to Mass because Jesus is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” and we receive the gift of the Eucharist! Truth is not always easy, but without truth I am nothing. Humans long for truth and the truest explanation for the wonders and strangeness of reality I find in the Catholic Church.
Eucharist is Source and Summit
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1324, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.” Because of the peak of the Catholic faith is found in the Mass, I am willing to deal with face the difficulties of bringing young children to church. The path toward Truth is not always easy to follow but it is always worth it in the end.
Peace Be with You
A Catholic priest once described the liturgy as a theological GPS that orients us back to the correct path when we fall away. This image always stuck with me. I seem to wander from the path of holiness frequently. My patience wears thin, I struggle with charity of speech, and I act rashly at times. Frankly, I think weekly attendance of Mass is far, far too infrequent for me! If it were not for my familial obligations as a husband and father along with my work duties to my employer, I would go to weekday Mass as well.
Peace is the gift we receive at Mass from the Holy Spirit. The first words that Jesus said to his Apostles in the Upper Room relate to the gift of peace too. In John 20:19 and 21 Jesus says, “’Peace be with you.’… ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” Utilizing my favorite reference book—my trusty Thesaurus—the two synonyms for the word peace that stand out most to me are restfulness and calmness.
From my previous posts, you will know that I am not necessarily a calm person. I struggle with anxiety and RESTLESSNESS. Growing up with ADHD and being a father to hyperactive children, I crave peace. I long for rest.
The Mass provides me that chance. Not every moment, because I do have to protect my somersaulting son from danger! Still, I found moments in the liturgy where I acquire genuine peace and calmness of heart. The best place on Earth where I have discovered true peace is within the sacrament of the Eucharist during Mass.
My Primary Role as Dad
My main role as a father is getting my children to Heaven. I am called to be a saint maker—growth in sanctity occurs in this life. According to the Catholic Church,
The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society (CCC 2207).
How may I expect my children to love God if I did not establish a habit to visit the Divine Presence and rest in His grace? How do I lead my family on the path of true freedom if I do not experience freedom myself?
The answers are incredibly simple—visit God and visit frequently! My father was [and still is] an amazing example of holiness. He is patient, slow to anger, and consistent in his faith. Looking by at how he accomplished the tremendous feat of raising my siblings and I, I realized that the biggest constant is his life [besides my mom] was the Eucharist. God fed my own biological father through this sacrament.
The Holy Spirit increased my father’s inherent gift of patience to a profound and loving level—I need to follow that example.
My youngest child still has not called me “daddy” nor even uttered the word! Somedays I struggle to cope with this developmental delay. I noticed that my 18 month old will immediately fold his hands in prayer when I begin the Prayer Before Meals blessing. Seeing those little fingers crossed together humbled me. This small act has made me prouder than anything else.
Life is not about how smart, or beautiful, or successful you are. Life is about love and truth. The Holy Spirit sent me a reminder through the person of my toddler.
Do not be overwhelmed when it comes to raising your children in the faith. Even if you are a single person without children and struggle with motivation to go to Sunday Mass, I encourage you to still go.
The joy and peace I experience at the end of the Eucharistic celebration is worth it. I wish that every Sunday Mass felt as good as the above picture looks—but that is not always the case in the reality of life.
I need to continue to trust that my apparent feelings of failure and seeming ineptitude of corralling my children at Mass are distinct from the truth we experience every Sunday—that Jesus graces us with the ability to partake of His body, blood, soul, and divinity! No amount of Sunday Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans will change this truth!
To the Curious, Doubting, Lukewarm, or Unbelieving Catholic Laity,
When we attend Mass, we are entering a holy place in which a miracle takes place. Not only are we present when the basic elements of bread and wine are transubstantiated to the body and blood of Christ, but those at Mass are transported in a mystical way to a heavenly banquet. Though the reception of communion happens a few prayers after the Canon is complete, it is vital from a theological and catechetical perspective. With Christ present with his church, the Bridegroom has come for His bride.
After commingling of the body and blood the Priest tells those present to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is the praise of the angels and those in Heaven as seen in Revelation 19. In Revelation 19:9 and Angel told St. John. “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (NRSV).
At this point in Mass the priest is passing on this wedding announcement from Heaven. Like a groom at a wedding, our Lord calls to us and wants to have an intimate relationship with his bride. He does this by giving himself, his own body and blood, as a way to show his eternal commitment to us. Like a bride we process down towards our groom to be united with him.
In the Eucharist we are united with Christ not only spiritually, but physically. Being united with the flesh of Christ is the most personal thing we will be able to experience (Augustine 469).
The Old Testament book of Song of Songs has very vivid imagery between a man and wife symbolizes the love that Christ has for His church. One passage that is particularly relevant to the Wedding Supper of the lamb is Song of Songs 1:2 which states, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (NRSV)! This is exactly what St. Ambrose says happens during the reception of the Eucharist (Ambrose 354).
The second person of the blessed Trinity has forgiven us of our sin and unites himself with us with his very body. The Wedding Supper of the Lamb is a taste of the heavenly worship that we will experience in eternity and unites us with the church suffering and church triumphant in heavenly praise.
Next time you are at Mass take that extra moment to thank Christ for the very gift of himself. Take the time to realize that we are worshiping the King of the universe alongside those who have gone before us in the faith.
There is much more happening at Mass than meets the eye. It is a place where a true miracle happens, ordinary bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Let us not merely go through the notions, but truly understand what is happening.
Do you want to transform the church? It begins with understanding what is happening at Mass and who we are receiving in the Holy Eucharist. I leave you with the following quote from St. Ambrose for further meditation:
Perhaps you will say “I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the body of Christ?”
And this is the point that remains for us to prove. What evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.
God bless you all!
Your brother in Christ,
About our guest blogger:
William is aconvert to the Catholic faith. Before entering the churchhewas ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary. William liveswith his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults. Check out hiswebsite/blog atwilliamhemsworth.comfor more great and informativeCatholic content!
Augustine of Hippo. “Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John.” St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies. Ed. Philip Schaff. Trans. H. Browne and Joseph H. Myers. Vol. 7. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series.
Ambrose of Milan. “Two Books Concerning Repentance.” St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth. Vol. 10. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series.
On June 23 we celebrated Corpus Christi Sunday, and what a great day it was. Though we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist everyday at Mass, there is a tendency to get complacent. This seems to be our human nature, because if we do something enough we tend to go through the motions.
On this day the church asks us to take a step back and take a moment to remember what an awesome gift the Eucharist is. In honor of this, I also want to take a step back to look at what scripture and the early church tells us about the blessed sacrament.
Though some terms for the Eucharist developed over time, the belief of what the Eucharist is has been around since New Testament times. Jesus gave a speech that we call the Bread of Life Discourse in which he says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood that we have no life within us (John 6:53). The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us the words of institution that we hear so often (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-39).
In Summary of these Jesus tells us to eat the bread and says “This is my body”. Then he took the cup of wine and “This is the cup of my blood that was given for you”. Notice how our Lord says “this is” and not that it is merely a symbolic action?
The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one that held true in the doctrine of the early church. The big heresy going around in the first couple centuries of the church was Gnosticism. The Gnostics believes that all matter was evil, and as such Jesus himself didn’t actually die on the cross. Since all matter was deemed evil by the Gnostics, the Eucharist was something that was unfathomable? After all, if matter were evil, then there was no way that the bread and wine can transform into the body and blood of Christ.
The early church fathers understood the gnostic line of thinking and used the Eucharist as a way to refute them. In approximately 107 A.D. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes in his letter to the Smyrneans, “They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again”.
Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D., states that the bread and wine changes to the body and blood of Christ upon the prayer of the priest. In his great work titled Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus writes “the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist.”
There are many other such quotes like this span for several centuries. One such quote comes from St. John Chrystostom who died in 407 A.D. Describing the Eucharist the great saint states, “How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.”
These quotes go on and on, and through them we see that the teaching of the church from the beginning is that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. At this point you are probably wondering why I am quoting all these great saints. Friends, my heart hurts. For every one person that enters the Catholic church, there are six people who leave. Why would they leave such a great gift such as the Eucharist? When I ask those that leave, their answers range from the sexual abuse scandal to a disagreement with a priest. However, a majority that I have spoken to leave because they do not believe what the church teaches about the Eucharist. Some didn’t even know the church’s teaching.
Perhaps we have taken this great sacrament for granted and our actions no longer show the reverence it deserves. Perhaps some have just been poorly catechized. Maybe it is both. I urge you my friends to take a moment to reflect on the greatness that is the Eucharist. The very gift of himself that our Lord gives us to nourish and strengthen us. May we never take it for granted and show it the reverence it deserves.
About our guest blogger:
William is aconvert to the Catholic faith. Before entering the churchhewas ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary. William liveswith his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults. Check out hiswebsite/blog atwilliamhemsworth.comfor more great and informativeCatholic content!