Learning about the Mass

Dear Friends,

For the next few months the Church in the United States and all across the English speaking world will be getting prepared to welcome the changes of the Mass that will take into effect the First Sunday of Advent, November 26-27, 2011.  The texts for the Mass (the acclamations, responses and prayers) found in the Roman Missal are composed in Latin and must be translated for the various languages.  The revisions include a more accurate English translation that will take into effect.   These are the most significant changes to the Mass since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the new Missal was introduced in 1970.  Parishes across the country are taking this opportunity to re-catechize Catholics about the Mass.   Often many Catholics say “I didn’t know that about the Mass” or “it hasn’t been something taught in years”.   I would like to take advantage of using these bulletin letters from now until Advent to spend some time focusing on not just the upcoming changes, which you and I will be going over together, but also time learning once again about the Mass.   Let us begin by addressing a few important reminders.

A part of our preparation for attending Mass is the need to remember the Eucharist fast.   It has so often been neglected as part of our obligation as communicants.  Catholics are obliged to fast from all food and drinks (with the exception of water) for one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion.  This also includes breath mints or chewing gum.   If we forget and eat or drink something, then we are to excuse ourselves from receiving communion at that Mass.    This requirement is found in Church Law that states: “One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.” (Canon 919). 

Being lax in this requirement had been lamented by Pope John Paul II who commented even to the point that many Catholics receive communion while in the state of serious sin.   Here we find yet another important requirement to be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion.   Catholics are bound under the pain of committing sacrilege to not present themselves for Holy Communion if they are consciously aware of being in the state of mortal sin.   This also includes those Catholics couples who are living together outside the state of Holy Matrimony (marriage in the Church).    Catholics who are living in the state of mortal sin should first seek to make a good confession or if in the state of an invalid marriage seek reconciliation with the Church first in order to make valid their civilly married state. 

Receiving communion in the state of grace also means that we must take Communion if we have missed Sunday Mass or Holy Days of Obligation without serious cause (such as illness or caring for a sick relative).   If we have missed our Sunday obligation, to “Keep holy the Sabbath Day” then we must make use of the Sacrament of Confession before receiving communion again.   Being away from Holy Communion is a privation of the enormously generous fountain of God’s Divine Life in us (or grace) which we so desperately need.   If you find that for some reason you are unable to receive Holy Communion, we pray that soon you will moved to reconcile yourself to God so that once again you too can benefit from God’s redeeming love.  This is a great opportunity for us to rediscover and rekindle in us “Eucharistic amazement” as Pope John Paul II called it, rediscovering the heart of the Catholic faith, the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.   


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