Re–presenting Bishop Robert Barron’s Eucharist

By James Tomek, Ph.D

The Eucharist, being the theme of this liturgical year, inspired Bishop Joseph Kopacz to send priests, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers Bishop Robert Barron’s Eucharist, a study of the Mass, an elaboration on the aspects of meal, sacrifice and real presence of Christ.

Reading Bishop Barron’s book will help us be better Mass attenders. While Father Dennis Gill’s Ars Celebrandi details the structure of Mass; Bishop Barron concentrates more on three basic themes: the sacred meal, where “communion” takes place; sacrifice, that makes the communion possible; and the real presence of the host, that makes the meal possible.

After Bishop Barron’s comparison of Babette’s Feast and the Mass, this review will expound the themes of meal, sacrifice and real presence, hopefully to sit us better at the table with Christ – like the disciples at Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel.

Bishop Barron opens his thesis with a comparison of the Mass and Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast, a short story and a 1987 film about how a servant, saved by two sisters, rewards them and their puritanical diminishing congregation with a lavish meal.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron is shown in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Word on Fire)

The two sisters took in a starving Babette. Their father was the pastor of a small Lutheran community. When Babette, who was a chef at the “three star” Café Anglais in Paris, wins a lottery, she decides to use all the money to cook a fabulous haute cuisine dinner, with multiple courses, for the remaining community. The dinner, which slowly pleases their bodily senses, also increases their soul senses as they become better acquainted with each other.

Babette’s sacrificial meal inspires Robert Barron to compare her to Christ, as her real sacrificial chef presence transfigures the dinner into a sacred meal where all the guests’ lives are raised physically and spiritually.

Bishop Barron compares the meal to God’s creation (20) as God showed Adam and Eve how and where to eat (Genesis 2:15-17), with the meal being God’s plan for unity. (24) Citing many biblical references, like the Passover, Bishop Barron shows that the meal is also the place for teaching. Divine teaching takes place with Jesus. (27) The feeding of the five thousand stands for nourishing a hungry human race, famished for the right kind of food. (30)

Bishop Barron goes through the entire story of creation, the fall, the formation of Israel, the passover to freedom, Isaiah’s holy mountain to Jesus’s table fellowship and the Last Supper, pointing to the sacred meal’s goal of universal fellowship (eschatological banquet – the word we use for how we want things to end), which is made present to us at Mass.

The table for the meal is also the altar for the sacrifice. Covenants in the Old Testament were sealed with some forms of sacrifice. Jeremiah wanted the covenant to be written on our hearts, where we would know instinctively the right things to do (sacrifice means “holy doing”). Bishop Barron reminds us that at the Last Supper, Jesus invites his disciples to “ingest” his sacrifice – to imitate Jesus’s actions. (66-8)

In my studies of controversial issues of the Mass, the concept of “sacrifice” was more controversial than that of “real presence.” Does Jesus have to die again?

Bishop Barron reminds us that we really “re-present” Jesus’s sacrifice, with our intention to imitate it.

“I am suggesting that pain, consciously aligned to the sacrifice of Jesus can be spiritually transfiguring. Thus, the sufferer becomes not simply the person in pain, but Abraham giving away what he loves the most, Moses enduring the long discipline of the desert … or the crucified Messiah wondering why he has been forsaken by the Father.” (71)

The Liturgy is the re presentation of the sacrifice of the Lord. At Mass, we, if paying attention, not only witness the event of the Cross, we participate in it. (71-2) With the sacred and sacrificial meal, we are at a place where sins can be forgiven and friendship restored. (72)
In the chapter on real presence, Bishop Barron cites the great “Catholic” writer Flannery O’Connor’s response to the Eucharist as a symbol saying, that if it is a symbol, to hell with it. (73) O’Connor and Barron, in this chapter, are defining “symbol” in its arbitrary sense (for example, the bulldogs of Mississippi State point to their tenacity). There are other uses of symbols as expressions of meaningful experiences that Bishop Barron uses throughout the book, but, here, he is stressing the real presence of Jesus and wants to avoid the term “symbol.”
Bishop Barron explores chapter six of John’s gospel where Jesus says that he is the bread of life and tells his disciples that they must follow him by eating his flesh. (78-9) He contends that the Incarnation of God into the world requires the real presence of Christ. (81)

Is it the actual flesh and blood of Jesus that we consume at Mass? I was taught that it is the glorified real presence of Jesus.

To help us, Barron explains Aquinas’s interpretation of sacrament and real presence. All sacraments are designed to place the spiritual life within human beings. Just as we digest material food for our bodies, the Eucharist is ingested for our life of grace. Aquinas calls Jesus’s flesh “proper species,” which become the “sacramental species” that we consume at Mass. (91-3)

The Mass is the prolongation of the Incarnation. Jesus’s real presence is in all parts of the Mass. Bishop Barron includes the scripture readings at Mass too as he cites Origen’s thesis that the real presence of Jesus is also in the “Word” of God, which can stand both for Jesus and the Bible itself. (82)

Sacred meals end with a mission. Bishop Barron concludes his thesis referring to Jesus appearing to the disciples at Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel.
The two disciples meet the “glorified” Jesus, who explains to them the events of the crucifixion and resurrection. They invite Jesus to dinner and finally recognize him when he breaks the bread. Jesus then disappears.
Bishop Barron sums up the Mass by placing us back in time at Emmaus. (111) We come to Mass like the two disciples and beg for Jesus’s mercy. Jesus forgives us by opening up the scriptures for us. We need the meal to fully be conscious of who Jesus is, and we see him in the breaking of the bread. Jesus then disappears and we are sent to continue his mission. Thank you for the lesson, Bishop Barron.

(James Tomek is a retired language and literature professor at Delta State University who is currently a Lay Ecclesial Minister at Sacred Heart in Rosedale and also active in RCIA at Our Lady of Victories in Cleveland.)

Called by name

From Nov. 19-21, about 20 young men, open to the possibility of a call to the priesthood, gathered at Camp Abbey in Covington, Louisiana to learn more about discernment, at Quo Vadis II retreat. The event was a big success!

This series of retreats that we are offering as a diocese are opportunities for young men to build community with others who take their faith seriously. After having a diocese-only event this past summer at Our Lady of Hope in Chatawa, this latest event included youth and young adults as well as leadership from our diocese and the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Father Josh Johnson, Vocation Director for Baton Rouge, contacted me over the summer about the possibility of collaborating, and I was very excited to do so.

Father Nick Adam
Father Nick Adam

The weekend included talks on vocations, prayer, and discernment by yours truly, as well as Father Josh and some of the seminarians from each diocese. The participants also were able to have a Q&A session with all the seminarians of Jackson and Baton Rouge.

As usual, however, the most important time was spent having fun and praying as a community of believers and seekers. I thought that it really helped having another diocese participate as it increased the number of participants and also brought new ideas and talents to the forefront in planning and executing the weekend.

I was also grateful that Father Aaron Williams and several youth ministers from our diocese joined me in leading our young men through the weekend. We had a beautiful Sunday Mass for Christ the King along with a Eucharistic procession which kicked off the Year of the Eucharist in moving fashion. I left that weekend with some ideas about how to continue helping young people discern throughout the year. I know that those who participated would jump at the chance to build community and pray together on a more regular basis, and not just on retreat every few months, and so this Advent is an opportunity for me to prepare for more regular offerings in the New Year.

Even during a year of pandemic, we have been able to offer our young church discernment opportunities that have invigorated their faith and helped them understand the importance of following the Lord’s will for their life. I trust that eventually this will bear fruit in priestly vocations and vocations to religious life. As always please keep this intention in mind when you pray and thank you for your support of the Department of Vocations.

The notion of a vocation

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

I was raised in a generation that taught that God gave each of us a vocation to live out. In the religious ethos of that time, particularly in Roman Catholic spirituality, we believed that we were put on this earth with a divine plan for us, that God gave us each a special vocation to live out. Moreover, this was not something we were free to choose for ourselves; it was God-given. Our task was to discern that vocation and give ourselves over to it, even at the price of having to renounce our own dreams. We remained free to accept or not, but at a peril. To be unfaithful to your vocation meant a misguided life.

There’s an important truth in that notion, though it needs some critical nuances. First, in that spirituality, they thought of vocations in a very restrictive sense, essentially envisaging only four basic vocations: priesthood, religious life, marriage, and single life. Further, they tended to put too much gravity on the choice, namely, if you chose wrong or if you resisted your God-given vocation, it might endanger your eternal salvation. There were some unhealthy fears connected to the choice.

I saw that first-hand when I served as the provincial superior for our religious order for six years. One of my tasks was to apply to Rome for the laicization of priests leaving the priesthood. I saw how many of those leaving the priesthood had chosen that vocation under undue pressure and false fear. Their choice had not been a free one.

Padre Ron Rolheiser, OMI

That being said, the old notion of vocation is essentially still true and is too easily lost in a world and culture that generally puts personal freedom above all else. We need to learn again the importance of finding one’s vocation and giving oneself over to it.

Admittedly, vocation needs to be defined more widely than choosing between priesthood, religious life, marriage, and single life. Instead, it needs to be defined as an obedience to the inner dictates of our soul, our gifts, our talents, and the non-negotiable mandate inside us to put ourselves in service to others and the world.

James Hollis, a Jungian therapist writing from a purely secular viewpoint, highlights precisely this point. “Our real desires and our destiny are not chosen for us by our ego, but by our nature and ‘the divinities.’ … Something within us knows what is right for us and its insistence on expression is what keeps us awake at night, nudges us from within during our busiest hours, or causes us to envy others. Vocation is a summons of the soul. … It’s as if we were sent to this land with a royal assignment, and if we have only dithered about and forgotten the task, then we have violated our reason for being here.” How true.

Columnist David Brooks, also speaking from a secular place, strongly agrees. A vocation, he writes, is an irrational factor wherein you hear an inner voice that is so strong that it becomes unthinkable to turn away and where you intuitively know that you don’t have a choice, but can only ask yourself, what is my responsibility here? As well, the summons to a vocation is a holy thing, something mystical, a call from the deep. Thus, discerning your vocation is not a matter of asking what you expect from life but rather what life expects from you.

What would Jesus say? As we know, Jesus was fond of teaching in parables and his parable of talents (Matthew 25 and Luke 19) is ultimately about living out one’s God-given vocation. In that parable, those who use their talents thrive and are given even more talents. Conversely, those who hide their talents are punished. In essence, the message is this: If we use our God-given talents, we will find meaning and blessing in our lives; on the other hand, if we don’t use our talents, those very gifts will snakebite us, poison our happiness, and generally embitter our spirits. Show me a man who is bitter and envious, and most times you will see a gifted man who, consciously or unconsciously, is frustrated because he has not used his talents or has used them in a manner that doesn’t serve others. Bitterness and envy are often the unhappy residue from being snake-bitten by our own unused or misused intelligence and gifts.

There’s a voice inside us issuing forth from the depths of our souls that speaks for our talents, our temperament, our unique circumstance in life, our moral and religious sensitivities, and even for our wounds. This voice is gentle, but firm and unrelenting, as it tells us that we are not free to do anything we want with our lives. We need to surrender them to something higher than ourselves.

And indeed, there’s a peril in not listening, though what’s at stake in not our eternal salvation, but our happiness and generativity on this side of eternity.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website

Stay with us, Lord

Kneading Faith
By Fran Lavelle
The Year of the Eucharist was inaugurated in our diocese on the Feast of Christ the King and will be celebrated through the 2022 liturgical year. Our theme, “Stay with us, Lord,” comes from Luke’s Gospel (24:13-49) referred to as the Emmaus story.

In it we hear about two disciples, on their way to Emmaus, talking about the recent events in Jerusalem. Jesus encountered the two on the road and talked with them as they continued their journey though they did not recognize him. As night approached, they urged Jesus to stay with them. While he was at table Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Central to the Emmaus story is the journey of the two disciples. Not just the physical journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, but the journey of faith and belief in the Risen Christ.

There is an old saying attributed to the Sioux Indians, “The longest journey is from your head to your heart.” This is true especially when it comes to matters of faith.

Our ability to believe in what we do not see and what we do not understand takes a lot of trust and faith. Believing in and understanding the Eucharist is one of those things that requires great faith and trust. If you have not considered your disposition at Mass when receiving Communion, I invite you to do so.

A favorite priest friend from Kentucky, would remind his congregants regularly that we need to check ourselves to make certain we are becoming more like that which we receive, that is Jesus. If our answer is no, we need to consider why not. If our answer is yes, we need to ask God for the grace to continue to be transformed by the Eucharist.

To find greater meaning in the devotional aspects of the Year of the Eucharist it is timely to focus on our personal understanding of the Eucharist. No matter how old you may be or how many years you have been a communicant, make this the year you take a deeper dive.

There are many great books written on the subject by many worthy theologians, from the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas to more modern studies like Alexander Schememann’s, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom or Bishop Barron’s most recent book simply titled, Eucharist. The point is to read something that will help you to continue to be transformed by the Eucharist.

Another idea is thinking about how we are present during the Mass. When I was working on my master’s degree, I took a course on the Eucharistic prayers. Prior to that course I had never read them independent of the Mass. We did a combination of exegesis and Lectio Divina of the text. In doing so I became aware of the text in a more comprehensive way and aware of what resonated most with me. It opened a whole new understanding and way of thinking about the Eucharist for me. I remember that year wanting to use my new insights on anyone who would listen. So instead of sighing when the priest began the first Eucharist prayer thinking – dang! this is the long one – I came to appreciate the hope-filled message that each prayer uniquely conveys.

The Year of the Eucharist will take on many different forms of observation. There will be the outward devotions like Eucharistic processions, exposition and adoration, and a diocesan Eucharistic Congress. All of these are exceptionally good expressions of faith and love. But we can also take on small and personal acts that draw us closer to Jesus in the Eucharist.

For example, being aware of how we treat people in the parking lot after Mass. When I lived in Northern Virginia, I was always astounded that we needed the local police to help navigate traffic after Mass. I mean if we ever had the incentive to be kind to one another on the mean streets of Alexandria, Virginia it should have been minutes after several hundred people just received Jesus!

It is fitting that we say, “Stay with us, Lord.” Stay with us beyond the dismissal rite. Stay with us in our cars, at the restaurant during brunch, and as we enter the new week be it at school, work or home. Stay with us, Lord when we are on social media, at sporting events and in the ordinary places we find ourselves each day. Stay with us, Lord and together we can become more like you. Let the Eucharist be the mirror we hold up to see ourselves growing to be more like Jesus.

(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Happy New Year!

By Ruth Powers

Happy New Year! No, I’m not a month early: the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the new liturgical year for the church and begins a new cycle of feasts and readings for the year. Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” It is a time observed by several Christian denominations to anticipate the coming of Christ in three different ways. First, it prepares us to celebrate the physical coming of Christ into the world at Bethlehem. Second, it prepares us to receive Christ into our hearts as believers. Finally, it reminds us to be alert and prepare for the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time when he will return in power and glory.

Many people observe Advent with such practices as keeping an Advent calendar, lighting an Advent wreath or praying an Advent devotional; but most Christians are unaware of how the practice of observing the season of Advent developed. There was no season of Advent until a definitive date for the celebration of the Nativity was set for Dec. 25, generally thought to be by Pope Julius I around 350 A.D. to correspond to and replace the pagan midwinter feast of Saturnalia. Earlier church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria placed the month of Jesus’ birth as April or May. The Dec. 25 date gradually spread throughout the Roman Empire and was brought to Northern Europe and the British Isles by Christian missionaries. In these areas, it often replaced other midwinter feasts such as Yule.

Once the date of Christmas was established, the first mention we see of a period of preparation for the feast was at the Council of Saragossa in 380. A four-week period was mentioned, but this was apparently localized to Spain. The practice of observing a period of preparation for the Nativity spread and remained highly variable for a very long time. It also varied from place to place. In many places, especially France and Germany, the preparation took the form of a forty-day period called St. Martin’s Lent, which began on the feast of St. Martin of Tours (Nov. 11) and concluded on Dec. 24. In other places, it began on Dec. 1. In the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great wrote an office for clergy which was to be said on the five Sundays leading up to Christmas, so he is credited by some as the originator of Advent. In addition, in some places only the clergy and monastics observed Advent, while in other places the laity observed it as well.

Practices for observing Advent were also highly variable. The first practice appears to be the preaching of special sermons in the weeks preceding the feast day. Some of these are still in existence, including ones attributed to St. Ambrose and St. Augustine in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. A little later, in the late fifth century, we begin to see mention of fasting as preparation for Christmas, with Advent becoming like a second Lent. Most of the practices many of us now associate with Advent, such as the Advent wreath or Advent calendars, did not develop until the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries.

Even though the liturgical season of Advent was formalized in the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent, the laity’s observing of the season fell in and out of practice for several centuries. St. Charles Borromeo worked to revive the observance of Advent in his diocese of Milan in the late sixteenth century. Pope Benedict XIV in the mid-eighteenth century led a revival in the observance of Advent for the whole church. Finally, the reforms of Vatican II led to our current emphasis on the 3-fold preparation we see in our liturgy now.

So once again, Happy New Year! And let us remember to carve out time in the secular hustle and bustle of the season to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus at the celebration of his birth and when he returns again.

(Ruth Powers is the Program Coordinator for St. Mary Basilica Parish in Natchez.)

Historia del Adviento

Por Ruth Powers

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! No, no llego un mes antes: el primer domingo de Adviento marca el comienzo del nuevo año litúrgico para la Iglesia y comienza un nuevo ciclo de fiestas y lecturas para el año.

Adviento proviene del latín adventus, que significa “venida” o “llegada”. Es un tiempo observado por varias denominaciones cristianas para anticipar la venida de Cristo de tres maneras diferentes. Primero, nos prepara para celebrar la venida física de Cristo al mundo en Belén. En segundo lugar, nos prepara para recibir a Cristo en nuestro corazón como creyentes. Finalmente, nos recuerda que debemos estar alerta y prepararnos para la Segunda Venida de Cristo al final de los tiempos, cuando regresará en poder y gloria.

Mucha gente observa el Adviento con prácticas tales como llevar un calendario de Adviento, encender velas de Adviento o rezar un devocional; pero la mayoría de los cristianos desconocen cómo se desarrolló la práctica de observar el tiempo de Adviento.

 No hubo temporada de Adviento hasta que se fijó el 25 de diciembre como fecha definitiva para la celebración de la Natividad, que generalmente se cree que fue creada por el Papa Julio I, alrededor del 350 D.C. para corresponder y reemplazar la fiesta pagana de las Saturnales, de mediados de invierno. Los primeros padres de la iglesia, como Clemente de Alejandría, colocaron el mes del nacimiento de Jesús como abril o mayo. La fecha del 25 de diciembre se extendió gradualmente por todo el Imperio Romano y fue llevada al norte de Europa y las Islas Británicas por misioneros cristianos. En estas áreas, a menudo reemplazó a otras fiestas de invierno como Yule.

Una vez que se estableció la fecha de Navidad, la primera mención que vemos de un período de preparación para la fiesta fue en el Concilio de Zaragoza, España en 380, donde se mencionó un período de cuatro semanas. La práctica de observar un período de preparación para la Natividad se extendió y siguió siendo muy variable durante mucho tiempo. También varió de un lugar a otro. En muchos lugares, especialmente en Francia y Alemania, la preparación tomó la forma de un período de cuarenta días, llamado Cuaresma de San Martín, que comenzó el 11 de noviembre en la fiesta de San Martín de Tours y concluyó el 24 de diciembre. En otros lugares, comenzó el 1 de diciembre. En el siglo VI, San Gregorio Magno escribió un decreto para el clero que debía decirse los cinco domingos previos a la Navidad, por lo que algunos lo acreditan como el creador del Adviento.  Además, en algunos lugares solo el clero y los monjes observaban el Adviento, mientras que en otros lugares los laicos también lo observaban.

Las prácticas para observar el Adviento también fueron muy variables. La primera práctica parece ser la predicación de sermones especiales en las semanas anteriores al día de la fiesta. Algunos de estos todavía existen, incluidos los atribuidos a San Ambrosio y San Agustín a finales del siglo IV y principios del siglo V. Un poco más tarde, a finales del siglo V, comenzamos a ver la mención del ayuno como preparación para la Navidad y el Adviento se convierte en una segunda Cuaresma. La mayoría de las prácticas que muchos de nosotros asociamos ahora con el Adviento, como la corona de Adviento o los calendarios de Adviento, no se desarrollaron hasta los siglos XVII o XVIII.

A pesar de que el tiempo litúrgico de Adviento se formalizó en las reformas litúrgicas del Concilio de Trento, la observancia del tiempo por parte de los laicos estuvo dentro y fuera de la práctica durante varios siglos. San Carlos Borromeo trabajó para revivir la observancia del Adviento en su diócesis de Milán a fines del siglo XVI. El Papa Benedicto XIV a mediados del siglo XVIII dirigió un avivamiento en la observancia del Adviento para toda la iglesia. Finalmente, las reformas del Vaticano II llevaron a nuestro énfasis actual en la preparación triple que vemos ahora en nuestra liturgia.

Así que una vez más, ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Y recordemos hacer tiempo en el ajetreo y el bullicio secular de la temporada para preparar nuestros corazones para recibir a Jesús en la celebración de su nacimiento y cuando regrese.

Quédate con nosotros, Señor

Por Fran Lavelle

El Año de la Eucaristía se inauguró en nuestra diócesis en la Fiesta de Cristo Rey y se celebrará hasta el año litúrgico 2022.

 Nuestro tema, “Quédate con nosotros, Señor”, proviene del evangelio de Lucas (Lc 24: 13-49) al que se hace referencia como la historia de Emaús. En él escuchamos acerca de dos discípulos, de camino a Emaús, hablando de los recientes acontecimientos en Jerusalén. Jesús se encontró con los dos en el camino y habló con ellos mientras continuaban su viaje, aunque no lo reconocieron. Al acercarse la noche, instaron a Jesús a que se quedara con ellos. Mientras estaba a la mesa, Jesús tomó pan, lo bendijo, lo partió y se lo dio. Con eso se les abrieron los ojos y reconocieron a Jesús.

“El viaje más largo es de la cabeza al corazón”

Un elemento central de la historia de Emaús es el viaje de los dos discípulos. No solo el viaje físico de Jerusalén a Emaús, sino el viaje de fe y creencia en Cristo resucitado. Hay un viejo dicho atribuido a los indios Sioux: “El viaje más largo es de la cabeza al corazón”. Esto es cierto especialmente cuando se trata de asuntos de fe. Nuestra capacidad de creer en lo que no vemos y lo que no entendemos requiere mucha confianza y fe. Creer y comprender la Eucaristía es una de esas cosas que requiere una gran fe y confianza.

 Si no ha considerado su deseo al recibir la Comunión en la Misa, le invito a que lo haga. Un sacerdote de Kentucky, amigo favorito, les recordaría a sus feligreses con regularidad que debemos chequearnos para asegurarnos que nos estamos volviendo un poco en lo que recibimos, que es Jesús. Si nuestra respuesta es no, debemos considerar por qué no. Si nuestra respuesta es sí, debemos pedirle a Dios la gracia de seguir siendo transformados por la Eucaristía.

Para encontrar un mayor significado en los aspectos devocionales del Año de la Eucaristía, es oportuno centrarnos en nuestra comprensión personal de la Eucaristía. No importa cuántos años tengas o cuántos años hayas comulgado, haz que éste sea el año en el que te sumerjas más profundamente. Hay muchos, grandes libros, escritos sobre el tema por muchos teólogos dignos, desde la Summa Theologiae de Santo Tomás de Aquino hasta estudios más modernos como La Eucaristía: Sacramento del Reino de Alexander Schememann o el libro más reciente del Obispo Barron simplemente titulado Eucaristía. El punto es leer algo que te ayude a seguir siendo transformado por la Eucaristía.

Otra idea es pensar en cómo estamos presentes durante la Misa. Cuando estaba trabajando en mi maestría, tomé un curso sobre las oraciones eucarísticas. Antes de ese curso, nunca los había leído independientemente de la Misa. Hicimos una combinación de exégesis y Lectio Divina del texto. Al hacerlo, me di cuenta del texto de una manera más completa y que más me resonó. Me abrió una comprensión y una forma de pensar completamente nuevas sobre la Eucaristía. Entonces, en lugar de suspirar cuando el sacerdote comenzó la primera plegaria eucarística pensando que era larga, llegué a apreciar el mensaje lleno de esperanza que cada oración transmite de manera única.

El Año de la Eucaristía

En este año habrá devociones externas como procesiones eucarísticas, exposición y adoración y un Congreso Eucarístico diocesano. Todas estas, expresiones excepcionalmente buenas de fe y amor.

Pero también podemos realizar pequeños actos personales que nos acerquen a Jesús en la Eucaristía. Por ejemplo, ser consciente de cómo tratamos a las personas en el estacionamiento después de la Misa.

 Cuando vivía en el norte de Virginia, siempre me asombraba que necesitáramos que la policía local nos ayudara a navegar el tráfico después de la Misa. Quiero decir, ¡ya teníamos el incentivo para ser amables los unos con los otros!, minutos después que varios cientos de personas acabaran de recibir a Jesús!

Es apropiado que digamos: ¡Quédate con nosotros, Señor! Quédate con nosotros más allá del rito de la despedida. Quédate con nosotros en nuestros autos, en el restaurante cuando comemos y cuando empecemos la nueva semana, ya sea en la escuela, el trabajo o en casa. ¡Quédate con nosotros, Señor! cuando estemos en las redes sociales, en eventos deportivos y en los lugares comunes en los que nos encontramos cada día. ¡Quédate con nosotros, Señor! y juntos podemos llegar a ser como tú. Dejemos que la Eucaristía sea el espejo que sostenemos para vernos crecer y ser un poco más como Jesús.

Forgotten traditions in sacred liturgy

By Father Aaron Williams
This past month, the priests, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers of our Diocese met for a workshop on the ars celebrandi, or the “art of celebrating” the sacred liturgy. During discussions with some of the attendants, I thought about certain small practices in the church’s liturgy which in most places have fallen away, but still exist as legitimate parts of the rite and, in some cases are technically still required, even though they are not done in most places.

The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in providing commentary to a televised Mass, once remarked that the church’s liturgical vision never totally sacrifices practices that once held a place of honor. So, in that spirit, I thought I would share three of these practices, their history, and why they remain part of our tradition still today.

I remember when I was growing up, I’d see old photos of Mass and notice this tent-looking apparatus sitting in the center of the altar. It was only when I made it to seminary that I learned that traditionally the chalice was veiled during the Mass, to be unveiled at the offertory. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states, “It is a praiseworthy practice for the chalice to be covered with a veil, which may be either of the color of the day or white.” (118.c) ‘Praiseworthy,’ of course, does not mean required but it does mean that the church considers this practice a good thing and encourages parishes to consider doing it.

Father Aaron Williams

We in the church have a tradition of veiling important things. Tabernacles are traditionally veiled, the altar is veiled in cloth, the priest is veiled in vestments. The veiling of the chalice for the first half of the Mass reminds us that this chalice is sacred — consecrated both by a special blessing and by the frequent contact of the Most Precious Blood. Veiling a chalice subconsciously reminds us that this is no mere cup, and it helps us remember to treat sacred things in a reverent and careful manner.

When I unveil the chalice at the offertory, I like to remind myself of the veil of the temple being torn in two. Christ, in this sacrifice on Calvary, opened the way for all of us to participate in true worship; and now, in the Holy Mass, He is once again opening the way for us to participate in His sacrifice.

Regarding the cleaning of the vessels after communion, the General Instruction states, “The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water, which is then drunk by whoever does the purification.” (279)

When I was first ordained, I did what most priests do and just purified the chalice with water. But, when I started celebrating for school Masses and was responsible of purifying several chalices, (if I may say so reverently), I was a little nervous about the fact that schools are usually filled with a hundred variants of the common cold, and all those viruses are now inside a single chalice which I am about to drink.

Then, I remembered I could purify the chalice with wine as well. Wine is a natural disinfectant, and it makes sense why the practice of purifying the chalice with wine arose in the middle ages particularly in response to disease. Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been making sure to purify both the chalice and the ciborium with wine.

To purify in this manner, the priest simply pours wine in the chalice first, then follows it with water. The proportion is up to the priest, but should probably be such that the purificator is not totally soiled.

Finally, and this may surprise people, the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II in 2004 gives the following direction: “The communion-paten for the communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling.” (93) Most people who remember the communion paten probably associate it with kneeling at the railing as a child before the liturgy was reformed, but technically speaking, this practice is still required in the modern liturgy. These handy patens are usually equipped with a long handle so that the altar sever may hold it out beneath the hands or mouth of the communicant.

It is the devout teaching of the church that every single particle of the Sacred Host is the total Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. And, for that reason the church is very careful to protect these small particles from any danger of being lost, stepped on, or sucked up into a vacuum cleaner. I started using communion patens at Mass a few months ago and was surprised that even when holding the paten beneath hands during Communion, I nearly always found particles collected on the paten after communion.

One added benefit of the communion paten is that is gives the servers something else to do. Most servers are bored at Mass today because we don’t let them do all things that servers should be doing such as carrying candles and trying not to burn the sacristy down while lighting the incense. Kids who serve as Mass like to be useful, and this is a very reverent way for them to assist during Communion while also teaching them about the holiness of the Sacred Host.

(Father Aaron Williams is parochial vicar at St. Patrick and St. Joseph Meridian.)

A time of renewed welcome

Living Well
By Maureen Pratt (Catholic News Service)

An unexpected visit from a friend who lives quite a distance away became a blessing in many respects. Of course, it was delightful to see someone in person after a long span of being apart, even with masks and social distancing.
The visit also prompted me to pick up the pace (and items that needed to be returned to shelves, etc.) of tidying up more “lived in” spaces.

Yet another aspect of the visit has had spiritually profound effects. A renewed sense of eager anticipation energized my activity as the time for the visit drew near.

Much like the hallway that suddenly became brighter when I replaced an old bulb, the thought of extending hospitality overshone the long months of pandemic isolation and drew me into a more profound realization for this holiday season and, especially, Advent:

Maureen Pratt writes for the Catholic News Service column “Living Well.” (CNS)

How we prepare to welcome has a deep impact on what happens when we welcome.

For example, I realized early into preparations for my friend’s visit that I could not do everything in one day. Instead, I made up a schedule, breaking up the tasks into smaller periods of time. I actually think I accomplished more this way, and I certainly wasn’t as tired.

Advent devotions can be approached in much the same way: Instead of thinking of long readings or prayer time, smaller segments can build one on the other, to bring us forward throughout the season.

Observing my surroundings through my guest’s eyes was a good way to notice details that needed attention and put my preparations in the context of wanting to do the best for a good friend. I found the semi-hidden plant leaves that needed pruning, the catalogue I’d meant to discard – some of the “littler” things.

During our soul-searching in Advent, if we try to see ourselves as God sees us – as created in God’s likeness and image, as being so precious to God that we are known by name – we might be able to identify and improve on details of our faith, for example, finding more quiet or better focus, without being so critical or judgmental that we lose sight of God’s love.

The preparations for my friend’s visit made me realize that welcome is work, but need not be toilsome, if we look beyond the “pain.” The bending and stretching and balancing (as in, changing the lightbulb) benefited me as much as it would reflect my care for my friend and was pleasant, good exercise – another unexpected blessing!

So, too, each act of faith between now and Christmas can build our relationships with God and one another, sharing the “reason for the season” in a world where it is sometimes lost.

By the day of the visit, I’d made good progress on many things, but some things remained to be done. Those plants needed more than pruning, some could have used new pots. Another light went out just as the one I’d replaced was installed. The tea I’d have liked to have offered wasn’t available at the store.

I started to play “should have …”

I should have started sooner, I should have anticipated, I should have …

Then, I remembered Luke’s Gospel passage (10:38-42) about Jesus’ visit with Mary and Martha. We hear about Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening, and Martha still distracted (10:40), working away beyond the time of Jesus’ arrival. What a contrast! And how helpful for all who work hard to prepare.

There will undoubtedly always be things left to be done. Yet, once the guest of honor arrives, as with Christmas, it’s time to put aside the work and enjoy!

(Maureen Pratt writes for the Catholic News Service. Her website is

Immigration – Then and now

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

In the summer of 1854, U.S. President Franklin Pierce sent Isaac Stevens to be governor of Washington Territory, a tract of land controlled by the federal government. Governor Stevens called for a meeting of Native chiefs to discuss the tension between the U.S. government and the Natives. One of the tribes, the Yakima, was stubbornly rebelling, led by their chief, Kamiakin. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (the religious order to which I belong) were working with the Yakima nations. Their chief, Kamaikin, turned to one of our Oblate priests, Charles Pandosy, for advice, asking him how many Europeans there were and when they would stop coming. Sadly, the advice that Pandosy gave him was of no consolation to the chief.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

In a letter to our Oblate founder in France, Saint Eugene de Mazenod, Pandosy summed up his conversation with the Yakima chief. He told Kamiakin: “It is as I feared. The whites will take your country as they have taken other countries from the Indians. I came from the land of the white man far to the east where the people are thicker than the grass on the hills. Where there are only a few here now, others will come with each year until your country will be overrun with them. … It has been so with other tribes; it will be so with you. You may fight and delay for a time this invasion, but you cannot avert it. I have lived many summers with you and baptized a great number of your people into the faith. I have learned to love you. I cannot advise you or help you. I wish I could.” (Quote from Kay Cronin, Cross in the Wilderness, Mission Press, Toronto, c1960, p. 35.)

One hundred and seventy years later the situation is the same, only the players are different. In 1854, Europeans were coming to America for a myriad of reasons. Some were fleeing poverty, others persecution, others saw no future for themselves in their homeland, others were searching for religious freedom, and others were immigrating because they saw huge possibilities here in terms of career and fortune. But, this was the problem. There were people already living here and these indigenous peoples resisted and resented the newcomers, perceiving their coming as a threat, an unfairness and a seizure of their country. Even before they fully realized how many people would land on their shores, the indigenous nations had already intuited what this would mean, the end to their way of life.

Does any of this sound strangely familiar? I recall a comment I read on the sports pages several years ago which spoke volumes. A baseball player in New York City to play the Yankees shared how, going to the stadium on the subway, he was taken aback by what he saw and heard: There were people of different colors, speaking different languages, and I asked myself, who let all these people into our country? That could have been Chief Kamaikin of the Yakima nation, a hundred and seventy years ago.

Today our borders everywhere are crowded with people trying to enter our Western countries and they are fleeing their homelands for the same reasons as did the original Europeans who came to America. Most of them are fleeing persecution or a hopeless future for themselves in their own countries, even as others are seeking a better career and fortune for themselves. And, like the indigenous peoples, we who now live here have the same concerns that Chief Kamaikin had a hundred and seventy years ago: When will this stop? How many of those people are there? What will this mean for our way of life, for our ethnicity, our language, our culture, our religion?

Whatever our personal feelings about this, the answer to those questions cannot be much different from the answer Father Pandosy gave Chief Kamaikin all those years ago. It’s not going to stop – because it can’t. Why not?

Globalization is inevitable because the earth is round, not endless. Sooner or later, we have no other option but to meet each other, accept each other, and find a way to share space and life with each other. Because the Earth is round, its space and resources are limited, not endless. Moreover, there are millions of people who are unable to live where they are presently living. They will do what they have to for themselves and their families. What’s happening cannot be stopped. In the words of Father Pandosy, we may try to fight and delay this invasion for a time, but we cannot avert it.

Today, we, former immigrants ourselves, are beginning (at least a little) to understand what the indigenous peoples must have felt when we showed up, uninvited, on their shores. It’s our turn now to know what it feels like when a country we consider as ours is progressively filling up with people who are different from us in ethnicity, language, culture, religion and way of life.

What goes around comes around.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website