Monthly Archives: September 2017

7 Things to Know That Will Change Your Next Mass Experience by Matt Nelson

“Take, eat; this IS my body.” Mt 26:26

I believe that we live in an age where fallen-away Catholics don’t really know what they’ve left, non-Catholics don’t really know what they’re missing, and many Catholics don’t really know what they’ve got. They don’t really know the Mass.
The Mass is the climactic form of Christian worship and within it is contained the greatest miracle on earth. It is a mystery in the fullest sense, and yet, it is comprehensible. As Christians we possess faith, but do we possess understanding? Do we even seek it? I know personally that my understanding of the Mass and what happens during it is inexcusably deficient, mostly from neglect. But I (and you) can change this — and it begins here.
I want to help change your next Mass experience, by the grace of God. So I’ve compiled a list of 7 interesting facts about the Mass, each with a brief explanation. I hope you learn something new!

1. The Mark of the Christian
The Sign of the Cross that marks the beginning and end of the Holy Mass, and which signifies the sealing of the Word of God “in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts” at the reading of the Gospel, has its origin in the first centuries of Christianity.
Tertullian wrote in the mid-3rd century:
“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De corona, 30).
The sign of the cross, done by faith, has immense power. St. Benedict once did the sign of the cross over a poisoned drink meant to kill him, and as his hand moved reverently through the four directions of the cross, the glass shattered. What would have happened if he had been insincere, or worse, not blessed his food and drink at all with the sacred sign? God only knows.
Each sign of the cross is also a sign —a renewal even — of one’s personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. How many times have we gone through the “motion of the cross” instead of the “sign of the cross”?

2. “And With Your Spirit”
When the Christian people respond “and with your spirit” to the priest’s greeting (“The Lord be with you”) in the Holy Mass, it is not just a polite (and somewhat odd) response. It is a profession of faith in the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It recognizes the unique action of the Holy Spirit in the ordained priest, particularly in the Sacraments. Remember, for example, it is not the priest who changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — it is Jesus Christ. Thus, the priest receives the power to serve as a special instrument of the Holy Spirit at his ordination; that is, when he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the “laying on of hands” (see 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).
Here’s what the 4th century bishop, St. John Crysostom,wrote about these words and their meaning:
“If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.’
Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.’
By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.”

3. Kiss of the Priest
The priest kisses the altar in veneration, recognizing it as the sacred place where Christ’s once and for all sacrifice will be made present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus’s death is re-presented in the Holy Mass as a celebration of the New Covenant Passover, just as the Old Covenant Passover was made present each year it was celebrated (see Ex 12:27). St. Paul contrasts the Eucharistic sacrifice to the pagan sacrifice in 1 Cor 11. Jesus is therefore not re-sacrificed at each Mass but rather, His one sacrifice becomes present to us as He is eternally presenting Himself to God as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Heb 7:25; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Cor 11:26; Rev 5:6).
Around 70 A.D. Church leaders wrote this about the Eucharistic sacrifice (the Mass):
“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

4. What’s Inside the Altar?
Did you know that many Catholic altars have a relic placed inside?
Father Carlos Martins, CC, of Treasures of the Church describes relics in this way:
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes. First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh. Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 302, contains the following statement:
“The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.”

The bones of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (a disciple of John the beloved apostle) were venerated in the early Church, for example:
“We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp [A.D 156])
For more, I also discuss relics in this recent article.

5. Cross or Crucifix?
A cross with a figure of Christ crucified must be present on or near the altar. This is mandated by the Church. A bare cross or a cross with Jesus depicted in a non-crucified way (like the modern “resurrected” Christ portrayal which has become more common) does not meet this requirement. Like St. Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, we preach Christ crucified as an ultimate sign of God’s love for us and the salvation won for us through His crucifixion:
“we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23; see also 2:2)
The crucifix, properly understood, is not an image of a mere gory execution; rather, it is a sign of the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God (1 Cor 5:7).
The General Instruction for the Roman Missal states:
There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations (GIRM 308).

6. Sit, Stand, Kneel and Bow
A genuflection before the Jesus in the tabernacle is not meant to be a purely physical action. It requires a simultaneous “bow of the heart.”
The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless (Inaestimabile Donum 26).
Some people may wonder what’s up with Catholics and all the bowing, standing, sitting, kneeling that they do in the Mass. It’s a good and honest question. Catholics assume these gestures because of who and what they are encountering in the Mass — the King of Kings and His Word. In the case of veneration with the body, the body leads the heart.
Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters:
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls” (Letter IV).
Our postures matter, especially in the Mass — the climax of Christian Worship. As King David writes in this beautiful Psalm:
“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God…” (Psalm 95)

7. The Fraction Rite
After the consecration (when the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus) but before Communion, the priest breaks off a piece of his “big” host and adds it to the precious blood (which still maintains the physical properties of wine). This breaking and commingling of the broken piece of the Body with the Blood is rich in significance:
First, it is not a separating of Christ, as though a “part” of Christ is here and a “part” of Christ is there. In each molecule of the consecrated host, the resurrected Christ is totally and perfectly present in His infinite divine substance.
Second, this “breaking”, called the “Fraction Rite”, follows Christ’s breaking of bread at the Last Supper and is rich in biblical significance (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor 10:16).
Third, the commingling of the broken fraction with the blood in the chalice symbolizes the reunification of Christ’s body and blood in his glorious resurrection.
Now here’s an interesting tidbit to end off this post:
Originally, this Fraction rite and commingling had another important significance. At each Mass, the priest would break off a piece of the host (as he does now) but then, that consecrated fraction would be sent to another celebration of the Eucharist at another location. There, the fraction sent from the parish “down the road” would be commingled with the blood of Christ. The fraction of the host from that Mass would then be sent off to another Mass, and so on. This ritual created a great sense of unity among the faithful in the Mass, and signified the continuity of the eucharistic sacrifice in the Church (Mal 1:11; 1 Cor 10:17). This practice was known as fermentum, but has fallen out of practice in modern times.
If you would like to read more about the specifics of the Mass I highly recommend Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin to get you started.
See you in the Eucharist!

Visit Matt Nelson at Reasonable Catholic

OUR LADY OF SORROWS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I took this picture in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  It is right next to the place of Jesus crucifixion.  It shows Mary’s heart pierced with a sword.

On the day after we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, we turn to Mary and her Sorrows. The two are inseparable. The cross, the instrument of our salvation is exalted on one day. On the next day we see the sorrows of a mother’s love for her son. Our own lives here in this world are filled with so many times of exaltation and so many times of sorrow. We experience many joys, many triumphs, many difficulties and many sorrows. It is just what human living is all about. It does help us to know that our God, in the form of Jesus, knows through personal experience what rejection, difficulties, pain and even death is. It also helps us to know that we have a mother who can really understand our times of sorrow, because she too has experienced them.

One of the most precious gifts that God has given us is the gift of His mother (John 19:26). Just as she has experienced sorrow in seeing Jesus rejected and tortured and killed, she also experiences sorrow when she sees the difficulties and sorrows that we experience. As a loving mother, she is there with us to help us in our difficulties and sorrows. When we celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows, we celebrate with our mother a love that encompasses all things, especially the difficulties of our lives. She, and her Son, are always there to comfort us and assist us. Her love for us as her children is poured out in all of the good that we experience and in all of the bad. Jesus blessed us so much in sharing His mother with us.

Traditionally there are seven sorrows, or dolors, that are attributed to Mary. These are all based on various scripture accounts. I would like to list out these seven sorrows and give a brief reflection on each one. I would suggest that you read the scripture and then the reflection questions and then pray asking Mary for help and guidance and peace.

1 – The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus (Luke 2:34): How often do we receive news that seems to indicate some kind of impending difficulty that we just don’t quite understand? Don’t we usually fret and worry about it? How often do we carry it with us for years just waiting for something bad to happen? Mary must have experienced that with the words of Simeon.

2 – The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family (Matthew 2:13): How many people in the world have to leave the comfort of their homes heading to some unknown place? The number of refugees in the world due to war and famine and natural disasters is unbelievable. Mary knew what it was like to leave home to escape a tyrants rage. How often do you feel like you just are not at home?

3 – The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:43): When Jesus was missing for three days, how difficult that must have been for Mary? Many people have lost their children due to runaways, drug and alcohol addiction and psychological disorders and often just to a lack of communication.. The pain and sorrow a parent feels due to this is crushing. Ask Mary to help. She understands.

4 – The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:26): Have you ever seen your child in pain? This could be medical, emotional or depressive pain. Have you seen your child mistreated, or bullied or just picked upon? This causes so much sorrow to a parent. Mary knows all about this. Turn to her.

5 – The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross (John 19:25): Have you had to watch your child slowly die. Unfortunately many parents have. Sometimes it isn’t even physical death. Sometimes it is depression or even a lack of ambition. Mary feels your pain and can help you with it. Turn to her.

6 – The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57): So many parents have held their child in their arms when they died. Sometimes this is from a still born birth, or sickness or accident. How many parents have had their child die in a foreign war and wished that they could have held them for one last time? The pain is excruciating. Mary understands.

7 – The Burial of Jesus (John 19:40): Probably the worst thing that a parent can do is to bury their child. To see their child enter the grave and to know that you won’t be able to hug them and laugh with them or talk to them is so painful. Mary knows how this feels. She can bring help when we turn to her.

It is important for us to realize that Mary faced all of these difficulties because of her faith and because she trusted that God could work through all things. Our Lady of Sorrows is also Our Lady of Hope. We too are called to face our difficulties with faith that God works out all things. Even in the midst of our sorrows, we are called to be filled with hope.

From the Our Lady of Hope Novena:
But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life’s darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Savior, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.
Mary, our Hope, have pity on us.
Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.

The Birth of Mary and the Protoevangelium of James by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If we asked most Catholics who Mary’s parents were they would probably answer Anna and Joachim. But if we look in the Holy Bible there is no mention of Mary’s birth or the name of her parents. So how do we know their names? The simple answer is through tradition. As Catholics, we believe that God reveals His truths to us through the Holy Bible AND through tradition. Tradition was sacred to the Jews (we all know that great song from Fiddler on the Roof) and is also sacred to us. St. Paul tells us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
On September 8th we celebrate the birthday of Mary. This is exactly nine months after we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. This feast was celebrated no later than the 6th century. An eastern Saint, St. Romanos, a deacon who composed numerous liturgical songs, wrote a hymn celebrating the birthday of Mary. The hymn was quite popular and used in liturgies to celebrate the birthday of Mary which helped lead us to the feast day. The Eastern Churches first celebrated it and then within a century the Roman Church celebrated it. St. Romanos relied heavily upon the apocryphal writing, The Protoevangelium of St. James, in composing the lyrics to his hymn on the Nativity of Mary.
As an apocryphal writing, we must realize that the Church decided that this book was not inspired as scripture and it was not placed in the canon of the bible. However, this writing has been seen as a good source of tradition from the earliest times of the Church. Most scholars believe that it was composed around 145 AD. Because of this, and the language structure, we know that St. James did not write it. However it came from an area where St. James had followers and there may be some things passed on from him in the writing. In view of all of this, and with a certain amount of caution, I would like to share some of the points covered in the Protoevangelium concerning Mary and her birth and upbringing.
The Protoevangelium does repeat many items found in the scriptures concerning Mary and the birth of Jesus. But it adds details prior to that not mentioned in the sacred scriptures. It tells us that her parents were named Joachim and Anna and that Joachim and Anna were unable to conceive for many years and that both of them became depressed at not being able to have children. It tells us that Joachim became so depressed that he went out to the desert to live in solitude in a tent where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights pleading with God. At the same time, Anna grieved not having Joachim with her and not being able to become pregnant. She prayed that God would bless her as He had blessed Sarah with Isaac. The Protoevangelium tells us that an angel appeared to Anna and told her that God had heard her prayer and that “you shall conceive and bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world”.
About the same time, an angel appeared to Joachim and told him that God had heard his prayers. He was told to go to Anna and that Anna would conceive a child. Nine months later Anna gave birth to a little girl and they name her Mary. The Protoevangelium tells us that at the birth Anna said, “My soul has been magnified this day.” The writings go on to say that Mary walked at six months old. When she was one year old, Joachim held a great birthday feast for Mary and invited the priests, scribes and elders and all the people of Israel. The priests blessed Mary saying, “O God of our fathers, bless this child and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations”.
The Protoevangelium tells us that at the age of three Joachim and Anna took Mary to the temple to be raised there hoping that her heart would be captivated by the Temple. When they gave her to the priest he kissed her and blessed her saying, “The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.” The priest put her down on the third step and the grace of God came upon her and Mary danced with joy and the people loved her.
The Protoevangelium goes on to tell us that Mary stayed in the temple until she was 12 years old. At that time the chief priest received a visit from an angel while in the Holy of Holies telling him to assemble the widowers of the people and that God would give a sign as to which widower He chose for Mary. When all of the widowers assembled the High Priest again prayed to God for a sign to show which widower would receive Mary as his wife. When a dove appeared and landed on Joseph’s head, the high priest declared him to be the one who was chosen. At first Joseph declined saying that he had children and was an old man and it wasn’t good for him to take such a young girl. The chief priest reminded Joseph that it was God’s will and Joseph said to Mary, “Behold I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you”.
As interesting as all this is, we must remember that the Church refused to recognize the Protoevangelium as sacred scripture. We cannot be sure of any truth found here, but as I said earlier, this is a very early writing that passes on at least some of the tradition handed down about our beloved mother, Mary. It might help us imagine a little better the life of the most significant woman who ever walked the earth (and rule in Heaven). Hail Mary full of grace…….
As Saint Augustine said, “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER MARY….WE LOVE YOU