March 31, 2021
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."(Mark 10:14) As parents and educators in teaching our children the Catholic faith, this scripture verse affirms our vocation.
In Christmas of 1994, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to children in the Year of the Family. He shared names of saints who were children: St. Agnes, St. Agatha, St. Tarcisius, St. Bernadette of Lourdes, the children of La Salette and Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta of Fatima. Pope John Paul II in his letter, speaks of the enormous power of prayer of children. Jesus awaits, encourages and welcomes their prayer.
One of the many duties for parents and teachers in teaching the Catholic faith to children / students includes the concept of Eucharistic Adoration. How will a preschool child, as well as those younger or older, comprehend the Mystery, let alone understand the Eucharist, as the source and summit of our faith?
The first challenge begins with helping children find silence. This silence supports them in their desire to grow and seek the joy of Jesus in their daily lives. For small children, Eucharistic Adoration begins with planning. It may include one decade of the Rosary, prayers, reciting of short scripture verses, silent adoration, prayer intentions, and Benediction if possible. It is a way to introduce children to contemplative prayer and a perfect opportunity for them to visit, pray, adore, thank, and understand Jesus’ presence.
Eucharistic Adoration prepares children to become familiar with Jesus in His real presence at Mass. Children begin to understand the mystery of our faith and the relationship of the gift of the Eucharist at Mass. These experiences help children to know Christ’s sacrifice of death on the cross - a true gift of love.
As you gather for family meals to eat and share your day with one another, remind your children that the church gathers as a family at Mass to receive spiritual nourishment. Only at Mass can we receive the body and blood of Christ and receive the strength to live our week as loving Christians.
Children need to know that Jesus is their Friend. They need to talk about this friendship, so they will understand that Christ is present in the Eucharist. His presence in the Eucharist allows Jesus to stay close to them and all of His friends. Children need to know the Eucharist unites the whole Christian family with Christ. Jesus comes to each of us every time we receive Him in the Eucharist. He stays with us this way because He loves us so much! Children deserve to experience the love of Christ. Please consider allowing your child / children to experience the love of Christ which happens at Eucharistic Adoration and Mass.
Marsha Stenzel, Superintendent of Catholic Schools
March 19, 2021
“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14).
While these words were part of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy promulgated almost 60 years ago, they are still worthy of our reflections in regard to our participation at Mass in this time of return after the restrictions of COVID-19.
We are all well aware that, as the pandemic progressed, the public celebration of the Mass was suppressed due to the fears that our liturgical gatherings could become a source of infection and serious illness. It was logical that a gathering which celebrates our new life in Christ should not be one where our earthly lives are put in danger. Due to this, participation in Mass for many became largely virtual, either on TV, radio, or by computer.
The reactions to these restrictions were varied. Many enjoyed the convenience of watching Mass on TV in the comfort of their homes. But at the same time, many felt the pain of the absence of true, full, sacramental participation in the Mass. While the audio prayers of the Mass could be heard and followed electronically, the actual prayers could not be experienced and prayed in person, nor could the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood be received.
Although the videos of Mass produced a bit of a liturgical atmosphere in our living rooms, an essential element of the Mass was sorely missing. What was absent was our full, conscious and actual participation in the Mass itself—a robust and active participation which finds its fullest expression in the reception of Holy Communion.
Months later, as scientists and medical professionals became more familiar with how the virus works, we discovered that attendance in person at Mass was not a serious threat to contracting COVID-19 if certain careful procedures were followed. In light of this, Masses became public again and we could again fully participate in Mass.
So now we return to a more normal experience of Sunday Mass. While the Masses on TV and online can be helpful at times when participation in person is not possible, these do not allow for our full participation in the Mass. This can only be achieved in person, where we are able to voice our prayers together with the gathered assembly, hear God’s word proclaimed in the midst of the Church, and be fed at the divine banquet table of the Lord.
The Second Vatican Council desired greatly the full participation of all the faithful at Mass. It is there that we take our rightful place and participate in “a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy which is celebrated... and with all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 8). What a privilege and grace it is to celebrate with the whole company of heaven, with the faithful departed, and with all our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ here on earth. May our participation truly be full, conscious and actual as we once again take this rightful place at the celebration of Mass.
Fr. Patrick Arens, DOW-R Director of Divine Worship
March 12, 2021
Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel describes how Jesus, moved with compassion for the crowd that followed after Him, worked a miracle in order to feed them. With only five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus feeds a crowd of over five thousand, so that even after everyone had eaten until they were satisfied, there were still twelve large wicker baskets of food left over. Besides showing forth His power as God, Jesus also demonstrates His humanity in this passage. He understood that human beings grow hungry and require nourishment, and He concerned Himself with meeting this most basic of human bodily needs.
Yet while the Evangelist invites us to dwell on this story, we are not meant merely to remain there. According to the Gospel account, the very next day Jesus goes on to admonish the crowds (and by extension, you and I as well): “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (Jn. 6:27) Jesus goes on to tell us more directly: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn. 6:51) In these passages, Jesus is explaining what we would come to know as the Eucharist.
The celebration of the Eucharist during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is what nourishes us with the Bread of Life. As Catholics we believe that in the Eucharist, Jesus becomes present to us not only in a spiritual sense, but in a literal and physical way as well. Truly, the Eucharist is one of the greatest treasures of our Catholic faith! So much so, that the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Or in other words, our entire identity as Catholic Christians flows out of our relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.
As the pandemic restrictions gradually lessen, many of us will find ourselves more comfortable with a return to many features of “normal life.” For example, depending on our own personal health and social circumstances, we may choose feed out bodies by going out to eat at restaurants, or to nourish our hearts by seeing family and friends more often. But in all this, let us never forget to attend to our deepest and most important need: our need for Jesus, the only “food” who can ultimately sustain and satisfy us.
Currently, because of the ongoing pandemic the general obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation remains suspended in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. At this unique time in history, all of us are free to discern, in conscience, whether it is prudent for us to keep the Sabbath holy by the specific means of attending Mass. However, in our discernment we need to be sure to give the Eucharist a special pride of place. If we discern that it is safe and reasonable to socialize in other public places, then let us prayerfully consider choosing to spend Sundays at Mass, close to Jesus our Eucharistic Lord.
Jenna Cooper, DOW-R Tribunal