The Mass is the greatest prayer of the Church.
It contains within itself not only the Lord's Prayer, taught to us by Jesus himself, but also all five of the types of prayer. The Mass is in its entirety a prayer of Thanksgiving. It contains many prayers of Petition for ourselves and Intercession for the Church and the world.
It expresses Contrition for our sins. And finally, it is a prayer of Love and Adoration for God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Since the Eucharist is such a prayer, its worthy and adequate celebration requires that the participants be truly prayerful people. This spirit of prayer is fostered and nourished by a regular, daily pattern of prayer and devotion in one’s life. A well-ordered prayer life, like the Church’s own celebrations of liturgy and devotion, flow from the Eucharist and lead us back to it.
Thus private prayer, praying with the Scriptures, the Rosary, meditation on the lives of the saints and the writings of spiritual authors, spontaneous prayers from the heart, or just spending time in quiet with the Lord, are great helps to Eucharistic devotion. They are never alternatives or substitutes for participation in the Eucharistic liturgy, but serve to increase our hunger and thirst for the One Who alone satisfies the human heart. In this way, too, the Eucharist is absolutely central to the life of the Church, the Body of Christ.
In particular, John Paul invited us movingly to contemplate the Eucharist through the eyes of “Mary, Woman of the Eucharist” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, ch. 6). Mary anticipates each believer’s “Amen” in receiving Communion by her “fiat” to the angel Gabriel – “Let it be done as you say” – in order to welcome the Incarnate Son of God into her person. She was the first “tabernacle” as she bore the Word made flesh in her womb. Her obedient faith allowed her to share in her Son’s mission by her compassion, even to the point of standing by the Cross, as we do sacramentally at every Mass. The Body of Christ we receive in the Eucharist is the same body, now glorified, that Mary held in her arms in Bethlehem at his birth, and again on Calvary after his death. John Paul wrote:
What must Mary have felt as she heard from the mouth of Peter, John, James and the other Apostles the words spoken at the Last Supper: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19)? The body given up for us and made present under sacramental signs was the same body which she had conceived in her womb! For Mary, receiving the Eucharist must have somehow meant welcoming once more into her womb that heart which had beat in unison with hers and reliving what she had experienced at the foot of the Cross.
One in Christ Leadership Gathering Next Weekend!
After the 10:00 a.m. Mass at St. Stephen next Sunday, October 23, the leadership of our One in Christ ACC – the joint ACC Council, along with members of each parish’s Pastoral Council – will gather in the parish hall there for a meal and rich planning conversations around our next stage of goals for our ACC, particularly in the area of Discipleship. If you have an interest in this planning, please join us – it is not limited to Council members but open to anyone with creative ideas or just curiosity about what we are discussing.
We have provided occasional updates to our goals and
progress in the bulletin (see last week’s bulletin for the most recent), though at a rather general level. The deliberations of the ACC Council and the individual parish
Pastoral Councils have aimed at better alignment for common goals while retaining the parish-specific business of each community. What we all have in common, though, regardless of place, size, or resources, is the mission Jesus gave his Church: “Go into the whole world and make disciples.”
That broad charge takes many different forms – in our liturgical and sacramental life, in our education efforts for every age, in our outreach and “in-reach” to those already in our parishes and those who are in the broader communities of which we are part. The focus of this event on October 23 will be to brainstorm parish-based strategies in two major areas.
First, we will consider learning skills to tell our individual stories of faith – who Jesus is to me, why I come to Mass, what the Church means to me. This testimony is not difficult when we speak from our hearts and find a listening ear. It is what the Apostles did at the very beginning, speaking of their lived experience of being with Jesus; and it is what we are still able to do today because the same Jesus is in our midst.
Second, we will discuss how we can engage our existing parish members and families in faith, going beyond simply being members to truly having a sense of belonging and commitment to carrying the mission of Jesus into our world today.
The event is open to all who want to learn more or share creative ideas. Hearing a range of voices will be especially helpful to members of our Councils. If you have questions, please contact Fr. Ron or me; Stef Rothstein, our ACC Council chair; or just call your parish office to be put in touch with a representative to the ACC Council from your parish. We hope to see you in St. Stephen.