In many dioceses throughout the United States, parishes are being consolidated or combined in groups of two, three and even four. A lack of priests make it hard to cover all the pastoral needs. In addition, dioceses struggle financially as tithing diminishes, while attendance to Mass keeps dropping. Closing churches and consolidating parishes might help manage the resources and make the pastoral work of priests more efficient, but this measure just won't help to increase the participation of the lay faithful and their attendance to Mass, let alone increase the number of priestly vocations. What's the root of the issue? A problem of faith.
In 2019, the Pew Research Center revealed something alarming: 7 out of 10 Catholics in the United Sates don’t believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist —To them, consecrated bread and wine are mere symbols of his presence. This lack of faith can be perceived, Sunday after Sunday, in so many churches that don’t fill up during the Eucharistic celebrations.
Every time we Break the Bread, God our Father sends out his Holy Spirit to transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Only for those who are certain in their mind, and convinced in their heart about this, attending mass is not an obligation, but a vital need. As Pope Francis warns in his recent apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi, on the liturgical formation of the people of God, “Christian faith is either an encounter with Him alive, or it does not exist” (Number 10).
For those of us who still believe, it is clear that we experience such an encounter with the living Christ in mass, which we attend with four purposes: to adore God (latreutic), to give him thanks (eucharistic), to ask for his forgiveness (impetratory), and to offer up our lives in sacrifice (propitiatory).
For those who have deserted mass and even for those who still attend, but thinking consecrated bread and wine are nothing more than just bread and wine, it is clear that their life lacks of that encounter with the living Christ, whom they are unable to sense.
What has led us to this lack of faith? Persistent liturgical abuses, shallow liturgies, homilies that talk about everything but the Gospel —which is the Living Word of the Living Logos— have contributed, without a doubt. Who can seriously believe Christ is truly present when Mass is celebrated that way? "(Liturgical) abuses contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament”. Thus, they also hinder the faithful from “re-living in a certain way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus: ‘and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him’” (Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, 6).
Another factor is the insufficient sacramental catechesis. Many catechists don't receive a thorough preparation, and many just volunteer for the year their child gets ready to receive their first communion, loosing continuity and dept. In addition, liturgical formation, both of the clergy and of the lay faithful is undeniably deficient. This poor formation leads to those liturgical abuses and shallow celebrations that make it difficult to believe that Chris is truly present. There is always a temptation of falling into a spiritual worldliness (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 93-97). This matter that has caused great concern to Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, who issued last year an apostolic letter devoted to the liturgical formation of the people of God, Desiderio Desideravi: “We are in need of a serious and dynamic liturgical formation” (Desiderio desideravi 31).
What do we do? Taking this situation to his heart, some bishops in the United States proclaimed in 2020 a diocesan Year of the Eucharist, in an effort to give focus to the Most Holy Sacrament. The COVID-19 pandemic came in between and made it hard to live such local jubilees when churches needed to be closed. But also, many priests didn't follow through in some of these dioceses, preventing parish communities from even knowing such jubilees were taking place.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken the Pew study to their hearts, launching the National Eucharistic Revival movement, to restore in our country the understanding and devotion of the great Eucharistic mystery. It spans along three phases: diocesan revival (which ends this month), continued by a parochial revival (through July 2024), followed by a year of Eucharistic mission (through Pentecost 2025).
On Corpus Christi 2023, the parochial revival phase begins. It's intended to foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening our liturgical life through faithful celebration of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and organic movements of the Holy Spirit. Its success depends on the commitment of bishops, priests, and the lay faithful. Eucharistic missionaries are needed for this initiative. You may learn more at www.eucharisticrevival.org
As we celebrate Corpus Christi, the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, let’s not lose our amazement for the beauty of the Eucharist, neither our hunger to be satisfied with the Bread of Heaven that has within it all sweetness.
Mauricio Perez is a Catholic journalist and author. He holds diplomas in Sacred Liturgy by the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at the Anselmianum in Rome, and the Pontifical University of Mexico.
Did you pay attention in Mass today? We celebrate Good Shepherd’s Sunday. Now, WHO IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD ACCORDING TO TODAY’S MASS? Without thinking, an immediate answer would be, “Jesus is the Good Shepherd”. Well, not exactly.
Actually, in today’s specific Mass, the one portrayed as the shepherd is God the Father, while Jesus is portrayed as “the gate”: “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.” (Jn 10:7). We must not overlook two things in this affirmation:
1. Jesus says "Amen, amen", "In all truth I tell you", which is a formula he always uses before making a solemn statement, so the fact that he is the gate, is utmost important.
2. This is one of the 7 times in Jn when Jesus speaks of himself using God's name: I AM, once more, stressing the importance of him being a gate to the sheep.
The Responsorial Psalm in this Mass is Psalm 23, which reminds us of God the Father as the shepherd who gives us repose in verdant pastures.
The Prayer after Communion, following the same motif, makes the point of the Father being the shepherd once more: “Look upon your flock, kind Shepherd, and be pleased to settle in eternal pastures the sheep you have redeemed by the Precious Blood of your Son.”
It will be later, in Jn 10:11, when Jesus will speak of himself as “the beautiful shepherd” (ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός in Greek), but not today.
The fact that Jesus is the gate for the sheep is represented in properly designed churches through their main door. The main door of a Church is a symbol of Christ the gate, so doors shall be designed in a way that reminds us of Jesus as we enter and exit the sacred space.
1. Holy Thursday of the Lord's Supper: A EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION, OUTSIDE OR AROUND THE CHURCH AND EVEN AROUND THE BLOCK IS MADE TO TAKE THE CIBORIUM TO ITS PLACE OF REPOSE, AND SETTING THE PLACE OF REPOSE SUMPTUOUSLY. An outside procession of this kind belongs to Corpus Christi, but not today. The ciborium is to be taken, inside the church and through it's shortest route, to the place of repose which *must* be sober and simple and not majestic.
Rubric 37 in the Roman Missal prescribes that: /The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by torches and incense, is carried *through the church* to a place of repose./
Number 49 of the Norms for the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts emphasize: /For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation; that sobriety appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined, to the avoidance or suppression of all abuses./
2. Good Friday: GENUFLECTING AT THE EMPTY TABERNACLE. It is empty, for the Lord is dead. There is no one to adore. The tabernacle doors are left wide open so we can see and sense his absence.
3. Good Friday: EXITING THE CHURCH AFTER THE LITURGY OF THE LORD'S PASSION WITHOUT GENUFLECTING AT THE HOLY CROSS.
Rubric 32 of the Roman Missal indicates: /All, after genuflecting to the Cross, depart in silence./
4. Holy Saturday: In bulletins, flyers, posters, and parish websites, ANNOUNCING THE EASTER VIGIL IN THE HOLY NIGHT AS THE LAST ACTIVITY OF HOLY SATURDAY. The Easter Vigil is celebrated after dark on our calendar Saturday, but liturgically, as all Sundays, it is Sunday already, so the Easter Vigil belongs to Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord. The Norms Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of Easter Feasts stress that:
/95. In announcements concerning the Easter Vigil care should be taken not to present it as the concluding period of Holy Saturday, but rather it should be stressed that the Easter Vigil is celebrated "during Easter night", and that it is one single act of worship./
5. Easter Vigil in the Holy Night: BEGINNING THE VIGIL SO EARLY THAT THERE IS STILL NATURAL LIGHT OUTDOORS. The Norms for the Preparation and Celebration of Easter Feasts strictly remark that:
/78. "The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday". (Roman Missal 82) This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept in in many places in violation of this ruling./
6. Easter Vigil in the Holy Night: LEAVING THE LIGHTS OFF THROUGH THE LITURGY OF THE WORD AND TURNING THEM ON AT THE GLORIA. The sacramental sense of the rite of the Lucernarium is to express how the Risen Lord (whose symbol is the Paschal Candle) sheds his light gradually, from the Pascal Candle at the fire pit (the first time the deacon sings "Lumen Christi"), to the local church (the second time the deacon sings "Lumen Christi" at a higher tone and the faithful share the flame taken from the Paschal Candle), through the entire world, when the deacon places the Pascal Candle at the solemn candlestand next to the ambo, and sings "Lumen Christi" at an even higher note". Because at this third moment the Risen Lord is shedding his life upon the entire world, all lights in the church are turned on. Even the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) is sung with all the lights of the church on and all the faithful hold their lit candles. Only the altar candles are not lit, and they will at the Gloria.
The Roman Missal makes this very clear:
/17. Then the Deacon places the paschal candle on a large candle stand... And lights are lit throughout the church, except for the altar candles./
All these errors and abuses can be very easily corrected and avoided if everyone responsible for the preparation and celebration of these liturgies take the diligence to read carefully what the norms prescribe, and to study and understand the liturgical theology behind each of these norms and the sacramental meaning of each of the rites of these liturgies.
(The aforementioned norms are rubrics of the Roman Missal and norms from the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts issued by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Holy See).
Mauricio I. Pérez, Liturgist
13Marco Sanz, Valentin Diaz and 11 others