[This report was prepared on behalf of a group of Catholic parents to address issues locally that may also be going on elsewhere in the country. It is published here as a resource for parents who may find it useful.]
The Role of the Eucharist and the Mass in the Catholic School: Parental Concerns and Suggested Remedies
Our group of parents has concerns regarding the role of the Eucharist and Mass in Catholic education. These concerns apply to both Catholic schools and to CCD programs—in which some of our parents are teachers. We are concerned about the lack of attendance at Sunday Mass by the students and families participating in these programs, and are also concerned about inadequate teaching on the Eucharist and the Mass which is taking place within these programs. Our concerns are based on personal experiences over several years in multiple Catholic schools and within multiple CCD programs within the diocese. Our discussions with parents throughout the diocese also point to consistent patterns and concerns. This report assesses these concerns and then concludes with respectfully suggested remedies.
Multitudes Missing Mass: In the Catholic school, large multitudes of students and families simply do not attend Sunday Mass, or attend casually when attendance conveniently fits into their schedule. This situation presents difficulties not only for the catechesis of non-attending children, but also for the overall spiritual integrity of the CCD program or school. The students who are living outside the Sacraments are living lives void of Sacramental grace. This lack of grace makes it difficult for non-attending students to contribute positively to the spiritual environment of the school or program or to the spiritual development of their peers. Furthermore, since deliberately missing Mass on Sunday is a grave sin according to the First Precept of the Church, there ought to be concern for the souls of these children, as well as that of their families. Yet, most often (unless it is a First Communion or Confirmation year) no or little concern is expressed by authority figures in these programs and in the Catholic schools.
Conflict Created for Students: Students who have parents who fail in their responsibility to make Sunday Mass priority impact students whose parents are faithfully attempting to get them to Sunday Mass. As much as a Catholic school may be an extension of the Catholic home in terms of Catholic teaching and morality, exposure to overwhelming numbers of non-attending students presents a serious contradiction to Catholic teachings. By attending Catholic school, students are regularly exposed, through their peers, to a message that Mass is really not that important because so many of their peers do not attend Mass. This can be particularly damaging when students who do not attend Mass seem on the outside to be perfectly happy and successful (academically, athletically, socially etc.) They may seem even happier and more successful than the students who are attending Mass faithfully every Sunday. Thus, missing Mass on Sunday may be interpreted as desirable in the young mind of the Catholic school student.
As an example of the conflict this can generate, one faithfully practicing Catholic family has a son who attended a diocesan Catholic high school. The son was dating a girl from another Catholic high school. The mother asked her son: “Why don’t you invite her to Mass with us on Sunday?” The son’s response went something like this: “She doesn’t go to Mass, mom.” These types of situations are now common.
At an intellectual and educational level, this can also create problems. It is not uncommon for the high school senior religion class to “dumb-down” their instructions and discussions to accommodate the non-practicing students.
Why aren’t Families going to Sunday Mass? In some instances there may be legitimate reasons (e.g. medical, work-related etc.) why a family cannot attend Sunday Mass. But for the vast majority, the reasons are less legitimate and more disconcerting. This report identifies three major reasons and then provides suggested remedies. The report is divided into four parts, as follows:
I. Mass is not attended because families do not understand what the Mass is. Families do not understand that they can receive grace from heaven at Mass which will help themselves and their families. Families do not understand the value of uniting with the Catholic community in prayer.
II. Mass is not attended because families have not been or are not being instructed on Eucharistic truths.
III. Mass is not attended because families do not understand sin. They have not been taught that it is a grave sin not to attend Mass. Nor have they been instructed on other aspects of sin, and the need to receive our Lord worthily in order to receive Eucharistic grace.
IV. Conclusion and Suggested Remedies
These above points are discussed in detail below:
I. Catholic school and CCD families do not attend Mass because they do not understand what the Mass is, and they do not understand they can receive grace from heaven to help themselves and their families. Saints and Popes have had much to say about the Mass:
- Pope Paul VI said: “The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer!“
- St John Vianney said: “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.“
- St. Padre Pio said: “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.“
In general Catholic school students not attending Mass do not know what the saints have said about it, nor what our Catechism teaches. CCC 2179 reminds us that:
…you cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great the heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priest.
Students are not being taught the History of the Mass, what the early Church practiced and believed, nor are they being effectively taught about transubstantiation. Most students do not understand how the Mass was foretold in the Old Testament by Abraham (e.g. “God Himself will provide the lamb” in Gen 22:8), and Moses (how the blood of the sacrificed spotless male lamb kept the Israelites alive). Twelve centuries later John the Baptist called out: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” In general students are not being taught these connections and do not understand what was done at the last supper when Christ said “Do this in memory of me.” With few exceptions, there is little or no understanding being provided to students of how the book of Revelation relates to the Mass.
II. Catholic School and CCD Families have not been or are Not Being Instructed on Eucharistic Truths. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1324) emphasizes that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” If the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our lives, then why is it playing such a miniscule role in Catholic education? The saints have said the following about receiving Holy Communion:
- St. John Bosco warned: “The longer you stay away from Communion, the more your soul will become weak, and in the end you will become dangerously indifferent.”
- St Cyril of Alexandria explained: “As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.”
- St. Maximilian Kolbe said: “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
Yet, it seems that, in general often students don’t understand Who is in the Eucharist. For example, one Catholic high school student attended a Catholic school Mass. During the Consecration, as the Host was elevated, one boy sitting next to this student whispered these words to her about the sacred Host: “That’s not real. They just want us to think that it’s real.”
Parents Uninformed about Eucharist: And parents are oft-times equally uninformed. Some adults may sit and text or drink coffee in church and during Mass. In general, the importance of the Eucharist is inadequately reinforced by schools to either parents or students. There is little knowledge that the Eucharist is what makes us one with Christ and thus one with one another. There is little knowledge that the Eucharist is the source of grace—that God dispenses gifts and mercy through the Eucharist when worthily received. Sometimes it seems neither parents nor students have been given a clue.
Nor is it necessarily clear that teachers and administrators in the Catholic school and CCD programs understand basic truths about the Eucharist. For example, it is not uncommon for a student to walk into church and plop him or herself down in the pew as if at a movie theatre without genuflecting—and seemingly oblivious that Christ is in the Tabernacle residing there. A parent or Catholic school educator may do the same thing. Yet, Phil 2:10 states that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” If every knee should bow at the name of Jesus, then shouldn’t every knee be genuflecting when in His presence?
Sacred Silence Ignored: Another example of lack of catechetical formation with respect to the Eucharist can be seen when students gather in the Church building. As students are yapping, a Catholic educator may be heard yelling loudly across the church to another educator. The modern Catholic Church building is oft-times treated not as a place of prayer, not as a holy place especially set apart to worship and adore our Lord in the Eucharist, but as a meeting hall or gathering place to chat. Sacred silence is routinely ignored and rarely honored, understood, taught or reinforced. All around, there is much casual conversation and irreverent behavior in church on the part of educators, students, parents and sometimes even members of the clergy.
Teachers Not Permitted to Teach Truth: To further complicate matters, some teachers are actually told that they cannot instruct students on the necessity of Mass on Sunday. More than one diocesan teacher has been dismissed from her teaching position for teaching the truth about the First Precept of the Catholic Church. CCC 2042 explains this precept: “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.”
For example, a diocesan CCD director sent a letter to all CCD teachers of the parish which stated: “The diocese called today to remind us that we are not allowed by canon law to tell a child that he/she must go to mass or to confession. We can offer, but we cannot force him/her to go. It seems that a parent made a complaint.” Clearly, the students were not being “forced” by the teacher(s) but reminded frequently that they must attend Mass on Sunday.
Rather than use this parental complaint as an opportunity to teach the family in question the truths of the faith, the educators changed the instruction of truth to suit the family, as if teaching was about “pleasing” others, keeping people happy and being “nice,” rather than instructing and rooting in doctrinal Catholic Truth. In some instances the young students are so hungry for Truth—they are asking for the Truth, and Truth is being denied to them.
As parents, we are mandated to attend all sorts of practices and meetings. For example, meetings may be required if we want our child to participate in a sport or go on a particular trip. And most parents will willingly oblige with whatever duty is mandated. Isn’t it sad that there is no similar expected or mandated duty applied when it comes to the very salvation of the child’s soul?
Absence of Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction: It can be difficult to teach about the Eucharist because there is an absence of Adoration and Benediction in Catholic education.
Rarely, if ever, will the Catholic school students or CCD students be brought to church to adore our Lord in the Eucharist, nor are they taught Benediction prayers. Although it may be true that some schools may have an Adoration chapel, where some children may experience Adoration—exposing all students to Eucharistic Adoration, especially on a regular basis, is not an integral part of the modern Catholic education curriculum. Thus Catholic students can, and multitudes have, gone through 12 years of Catholic education having never once gone to Eucharistic Adoration, and having never been taught or recited Benediction prayers.
Eucharistic Adoration only for a Select Few: In an attempt to address this concern, one parent went to the diocese asking for Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction for the Catholic school students at a particular school. The diocese responded by stating that this school already had Adoration and Benediction. Yet the parent knew of not one child who had been to Adoration or Benediction in the school. The parent went back to the school and asked: “Why did you tell the Diocese that the school had Adoration and Benediction?” The school’s response was something like this: “Well, we have had Adoration for this small group, and we had Benediction for that small group.” The school may claim to have implemented Adoration and Benediction—but this does not mean that this is a regular component of the curriculum or that the majority of students are being exposed to it. Action needs to be taken to ensure that Adoration and Benediction are an integral part of Catholic education, and an essential part of the curriculum for all students.
Pope Benedict Exhorts Children toward Eucharistic Adoration: Pope Benedict has exhorted us to bring the children before Our Lord in the Tabernacle:
It is only Jesus Who can fan the ‘flame of faith’ in the hearts of the children of the world! When we gather the children of the world before Jesus who is truly present in all the Tabernacles of the world, our faith tells us, that in His great Love and mercy He will certainly ‘fan the flame of faith’ in the hearts of our children thus reaching into the heart of every Family, through their littlest members, the children. (Address to pastors in Bressanone, Italy, Aug 22, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI)
Church Document on Eucharist Explains Adoration is of Inestimable Value: Ecclesia de Eucharistia (25) states: The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. If it is of “inestimable value” for the life of the Church, is it not also of “inestimable value” for the life of Catholic education? Ecclesia de Eucharistia further states that:
It is the responsibility of pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic Adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species. (47)
This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints. Particularly outstanding in this regard was Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote: ‘Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by… praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very well-spring of grace. A Christian community desirous of contemplating the face of Christ… cannot fail also to develop this aspect of Eucharistic worship, which prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the body and blood of the Lord. (Ecclesia de Eucharista 25)
III. Catholic School and CCD Families do not attend Mass because they do not Understand Sin. Multitudes have not been taught that it is a grave sin not to attend Mass. Nor have they been instructed on other aspects of sin, such as the need to prepare our souls so that we might receive our Lord worthily in the Eucharist and thus receive Eucharistic grace.
No Concept of Need to Receive Our Lord Worthily: An important part of attending Mass and receiving Our Lord worthily in the Eucharist is a proper examination of conscience. It is only through this examination and a good confession that we can receive Eucharistic grace. In our lives, we find that, like the apostles on the road to Emmaus, the grace of the Eucharist received worthily can open our eyes so that we too can recognize Christ. “When he was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him….” (Luke 24:30-31) The need to receive our Lord worthily is insufficiently emphasized in both CCD programs and in the Catholic school.
Failure to Nurture Spirit of Repentance: There is no evidence that students are being effectively nurtured or guided in regard to sin—this includes the sin of missing Sunday Mass as well as other sins including sins of impurity. Catholic school students who miss Mass on Sunday often seem oblivious that this is a grave sin. Large numbers of Catholic high school students are regularly discussing their promiscuous behavior with other students and seem to have no apparent inkling that their souls could be in peril. It is not uncommon for this chatting about promiscuous behavior to begin by 7th grade. Sometimes there is hurtful gossip; with students seemingly oblivious that gossip is wrong. In some Catholic schools, cheating is rampant as well as profanity.
Retreats are “Self-help-Centered” rather than Eucharistic in Nature: Catholic high school students are sometimes taken on retreats. There they are encouraged to share personal information. But teenagers can be immature and fickle and sometimes information revealed during these retreats is being spread in a hurtful way. These retreats often take on a secular “self-help” format and fail to teach students to turn to our Lord in the Eucharist or in Adoration. Instead students are encouraged to turn to each other to share personal information with each other. Many students haven’t the maturity to handle this extremely personal information and seem to have no idea they are hurting each other by gossiping about what others have revealed. The retreats are often student-led and sometimes the students leading the retreats themselves don’t attend Sunday Mass.
IV. Conclusions and Suggested Remedies: Parents are the first and primary educators of the faith to their children. But the Catholic school should be an extension of what the parents in good Catholic homes have taught. The Catholic school and CCD programs should build upon and further develop, not undermine, contradict and tear down, the faithful parents’ teaching on the Eucharist and the Mass. When students from good Catholic homes attend a Catholic school, they should not be on unsteady ground and in ongoing conflict with their belief about Who is in the Host—as if they were aliens in some alien land.
Because the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Catholic life, so too must it become the “source and summit” of Catholic education. Catholic education needs to become Eucharistic in nature. Its goal (which should be clearly written into the belief statement/philosophy/mission of the school or CCD program) must be to bring students, teachers, administrators and families closer to our Eucharist Lord, and to regular attendance at Sunday Mass. This might be accomplished through modern means of communication. There are many methods for communication for example through parish and school web-sites, DVDs (EWTN, Apostolate for Family Consecration), CDs, parish and school bulletins (each week addressing a different topic about the Eucharist), e-mail, YouTube videos, signs in the vestibules of Churches, brochures, guest speakers, Catholic television, Catholic radio etc.
The following are suggested remedies for the concerns cited in this report:
- Catechize Parents, Students and Catholic Educators: Many parents, students and educators themselves need to be catechized in particular with regard to Eucharistic truths. Many of us need to be taught or reminded that missing Sunday Mass is a grave sin as stated in our Canon law. This needs to be explained to parents in advance of enrollment in the Catholic school or in a Catholic CCD program. Parents need to be told in advance that this Truth will be taught to their child. It may be necessary to sit down with some parents, and a written contract might be helpful.
- Address Conflict with Parents: When there is a conflict between the parent and the school or CCD program over Sunday Mass attendance, this should be used as an opportunity to educate the parents not as a reason to placate parents to keep them happy. On a broader level, each parish might institute some type of adult formation on the Eucharist, the Mass, Adoration etc. It might be helpful to have brochures and information on the faith ready in advance to address this issue.
- Teach a Disciplined Faith: Our diocesan Catholic education programs (both CCD and Catholic school) are fluffy. But the authentic Catholic faith is a non-fluffy and a disciplined faith which requires of us certain things in particular attendance at Sunday Mass. This is required because it is good for us. Like a good mother, Holy Mother church guides us in what is good by instilling in us a sense of what is basic to living a good Christian life. CCC 2181 states: “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.
- Address Phenomena of Seeing Mass as Legal Requirement: Sometimes we parents see Mass as some “legal” requirement. What we miss is that we meet Christ in the Eucharist at Mass. The minimum requirement of Sunday Mass imposed by the Church is designed to keep us growing holiness and living a life that honors God. Sunday Mass helps root out sin in our lives. Eucharistic grace helps us to continue to grow in virtue. Many parents, teachers and students need to have this clearly explained and the benefits of Mass needs to be explained.
- Communicate a Firm Message: The following firm message must go to educators and parents alike, and it must be stated clearly: “We are Catholic. We attend Mass on Sunday and there receive Jesus Christ and His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Sunday Mass attendance is the First Precept of our Church. We examine our consciences prior to receiving our Lord and we go to confession. Deliberately missing Mass on Sunday is a grave sin. These truths will be taught to children in Catholic education programs. Attendance at Sunday Mass is imperative to living an authentic Catholic life. We take it seriously.”
- Help with Sunday Mass Transportation: If parents have genuine difficulties in getting their children to Sunday Mass, then perhaps the school or CCD program can make some effort to facilitate transportation to Mass as is done with sporting events for their athletes. Perhaps a family “buddy” system, or car pool system could be established where families who regularly attend Sunday Mass can volunteer to provide transportation for those families who do not or cannot. Perhaps the school could use the school bus to transport students, who would otherwise be unable to attend, to and from Sunday Mass. Perhaps CCD teachers or religion teachers could help with Sunday Mass transportation.
- Teach what the Church Teaches: It would be helpful to simply teach and live what Holy Mother Church teaches and asks of us in the following areas:
- Adoration and Benediction before our Eucharistic Lord
- Sin, Confession and how to examine one’s conscience
- Sacred silence
- Honoring Liturgical Norms
1. Teach about and Practice Adoration and Benediction before our Eucharistic Lord: Adoration and Benediction prayers can become a required part of Catholic education for all students not just a select few. This as well as more regular Mass attendance needs to be written into the curriculum. Adoration can be systematically integrated into Catholic school life. Every school can have an adoration chapel for students to go before and after school, during religion classes and during lunch breaks.
Request that the Bishop Consider Leading High Schools in Benediction and Adoration: As an example, one school, outside our diocese, successfully helped students grow closer to Our Eucharistic Lord through Adoration by having the Bishop visit the Catholic high schools to lead them in Adoration and Benediction prayers. In this way, he set the tone for the schools. To prepare for the Bishop’s visit, students were slowly introduced to Adoration gradually over a period of several months, with increasingly extended periods of Adoration.
Expect Slow Adjustment to Adoration: Students and teachers need to slowly adjust to the silence of adoration. The schools are so busy with sports, academics and other activities that it can be difficult to slow down and just “be” with God in the Eucharist. The schools can start slowly with 5-15 minutes of adoration and gradually build up to 20 minutes or perhaps a half hour. A slow start should not lead to discouragement. With our faith in Christ we can trust that over time God Himself will touch hearts with His Eucharistic love. Similarly, all students in CCD programs need to be brought before our Eucharistic Lord, and exposed to Adoration and Benediction on a regular basis.
Students need to be taught how to speak to the Lord in silence at Adoration, and how to listen to the Lord through Scripture in Adoration. For the most part, this essential spiritual life skill is ignored as key to Catholic education.
Schedule Friday Rotation of Adoration for Religion Classes in Catholic schools: Another school outside our diocese has Eucharistic Adoration every Friday for its students. This is just a normal part of what they do as part of their Religion class. Every Friday a different class comes before the Eucharist for a period of time each hour, on a rotation basis.
Teach about Miracles of the Eucharist: In an age where it is no longer popular to believe in miracles, Catholic students could also be taught about the miracles of the Eucharist. These miracles are described well in a book entitled “Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomena in the Lives of the Saints,” published by Tan and authored by Joan Carrol Cruz.
Create Opportunities for Prayer before our Eucharistic Lord: Since we serve God and not money, and since God has the answers to all of our problems including our financial ones, schools could ask for prayers before our Eucharistic Lord at least twice as often as they ask for money or fund-raising.
- Parents could be encouraged to pray before the Eucharist with their children.
- Parents could be encouraged to start a parents’ Adoration/Benediction group to intercede in prayer for the school, teachers, administrators etc.
- Students could be encouraged to form Eucharistic prayer teams. The school could identify Eucharistic intercessors (e.g. grandparents, neighbors, relatives and friends etc.) who could commit to intercede for the students and the school before our Eucharistic Lord at a particular time, or perhaps one hour per week. Educators could begin to intercede in prayer before the Eucharist for students and the school.
- Retreats could change from a “self-help” focus to a Eucharistic focus.
- Many students are struggling with serious problems (e.g. parental divorce, alcohol abuse, drugs, promiscuity etc.) The school should do more than advise counseling for these students—it should encourage them to bring their problems before Our Lord in the Eucharist. He is the Divine Physician. The relentless turning to secular solutions without simultaneously guiding students to turn toward God in the Eucharist is more often than not, failing our children.
- Schools could begin to encourage not only Sunday Mass but begin to extol the value of daily Mass, and begin to integrate daily Mass into their schedule on a more regular basis and more than just a few token times a year.
- Receive Communion kneeling, as is done in Rome with the Holy Father.
2. Teach about Sin, Confession and how to examine one’s Conscience and Prepare for Mass: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:27) Students need to be properly prepared for Mass. Because the culture has so steeped students in sin, schools need to institute a rigorous and regular examination of conscience and regular (at least monthly) confession to counteract and to effectively battle what the culture is doing to youth. This could be done as part of religion class. Professional speakers are needed (perhaps through DVD) to explain purity to students.
Our society is so steeped in sin that it is unclear that teachers in the Catholic school are equipped to impart this message of purity. As an example, during “sex education” one diocesan Catholic school teacher said: “This is what the church teaches, but you guys, you just be safe.” This was followed up by the nurse coming into the classroom and confidently stating “oh, you all are probably so much more experienced than I was at your age.” In at least some instances, co-ed confirmation retreats are being used for purposes of sex education, without parental consent or advance notice, in a way that is inappropriate and shocking some students and in a way that is counter to church teaching.
3. Teach and Practice Sacred Silence: The need for and purpose of sacred silence in the Church building and before our Eucharistic Lord must be explained and taught. Holy Mother church has such respect for silence that she refers to the silence that happens during Mass and in Church as “sacred” silence. “Sacred” means to be set apart for a holy purpose. Silence becomes sacred during Mass because silence at Mass is particularly set apart for God and worship. Sacred silence during Mass and in Church is a gift which must be appreciated, guarded, and nurtured.
Silence commended by GIRM: Silence is commended by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) not only during Mass, but before Mass begins. And this pre-Mass silence is commended not only within the church but in all the areas adjacent to it (including the sacristy and the vesting room). (GIRM 45)
Conduct a “Holy Hush” Campaign. Post Sacred Silence Signs in Vestibule of Churches: It would help for churches to post signs in the vestibule area as a reminder that sacred silence is to be honored before our Eucharistic Lord, and for priests to explain this to the people. When parents will be attending a school or CCD function in the Church, this can be used as an opportunity to remind us ahead of time of the teachings of the Church on sacred silence. Regular reminders can be posted in Church bulletins and on school web-sites. People could stand outside the church with “sacred silence” signs, and give out brochures that explain the reasons for sacred silence. The reasons for sacred silence can be explained in homilies. We need to be taught what the saints said of silence. We need to be reminded that we should be trying to pray to God in Church. If we have something to say in church, we need to be reminded of the necessity of carrying the conversation on outside the church building itself.
4. Teach Students about the Blessed Catholics and Saints who had Real Experiences with the Eucharist. Three good examples cited below will help students understand the Eucharist. They are Blessed Frassati, St. Faustina and St. Margaret Mary Alocoque:
- Blessed Frassati said: …I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharistic Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight against passions and against all adversities, because Jesus Christ has promised to those who feed themselves with the most Holy Eucharist, eternal life and the necessary graces to obtain it.
And when you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire, then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God who has called you to be part of his flock and you will enjoy that peace which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted. Because true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.
- St. Faustina: St. Faustina’s Diary can be part of religion class and Adoration. The (often-Eucharistic) messages contained there are messages from heaven and for our times—for our youth. The typical Catholic high school student has had this information denied to him.
- St. Margaret Mary Alocoque: Christ Himself asked St. Margaret Mary to establish a devotion to His Sacred Heart. Both Catholic school students and CCD students are generally ignorant of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. The Devotion includes Christ’s request for attendance at First Friday Mass. In prayer, we are to offer the Mass up for the intentions of the Sacred Heart. There are 12 promises from Our Lord for honoring this devotion. Many Catholic schools ignore this Devotion and have no First Friday Mass. In the schools where there is First Friday Mass it seems the students are not being taught why they attend First Friday Mass. They are oblivious as to why they do what they do. Students need this information and need to be taught the story of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque.
5. Honor Liturgical Norms: Finally, but not of least importance, the desire to return to Mass will be influenced by what people find when they do attend Mass. Will they find and thus connect to a Mass that is rich in depth, history and meaning—a Mass that effectively reveals our Catholic heritage and spiritually elevates us to heaven; will they find a Mass that offers something more than what the world can give? Or will they find a Mass that is flippant and flighty and designed to temporarily entertain or attract attention for the short term but in the end leaves us empty?
The desire to return to Mass can be greatly influenced by the way it is carried out and the reverence with which it is celebrated. Cardinal Francis Arinze, former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has addressed the “Role of Liturgical Norms in the Eucharistic Celebration.” According to Cardinal Arinze: “Liturgical celebrations well carried out not only nourish the faith of practicing Catholics, but can also awaken the slumbering faith of the negligent, and attract people to the Church“ (Adoremus Bulletin Vol. XIV No.3 May 2008, p.3-4 (AB).
When we follow the norms of the Mass, the Mass draws us away from earthly things and up towards the things of heaven. A Catholic Mass prayed in accord with liturgical norms is a majestic sight to behold and thus by its nature is a light for others. And we don’t have to add anything of our own making. Cardinal Arinze has reminded us that the “celebrating community does not have to re-invent the sacred rites in every age” (AB)
It would also be of great help if the clergy could familiarize themselves with Redemptionis Sacramentum (On Certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist) and also if the homilies could begin at last to instruct from the depth of Truths found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Especially helpful would be instruction on sin, the Eucharist and the value of confession.
This report presents only some suggestions. There are likely many more ideas and remedies. These ideas and remedies need to be explored and actively implemented in Catholic education so that the Eucharist might become the “source and summit” of Catholic education, and from there the “source and summit” of our Catholic lives.