Sunday Eucharist is centrally important

Yes, Sunday Eucharist is centrally important.
Since John Paul II said: “…among the many activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist”, how is it possible that our Church authorities do not take steps to ensure every parish can celebrate?
He said, “it is first of all the parents who must teach their children to participate in Sunday Mass,” but if the Church does not ensure Sunday Mass is available to all, parents will be frustrated in this.
He underlined the importance of “ensuring that parish assemblies are not without the necessary ministry of priestsbut the Church is not ensuring this.
No, it’s not a matter of further clericalising of the Church. Rather the opposite. We must have full provision for the necessary ministry of celebrating the Eucharist, without expanding a clerical group along the current model.
When the early Church found needs were not being met, they made a decision to appoint those whom they called deacons. The Church today must use its accumulated wisdom and imagination to address the urgent needs of today.
Our hierarchy must have the courage to bring proposals to Pope Francis; they must not wait another five or ten or twenty years. Could every parish in the country write to their bishop about it? What would be the reaction? Please – try to avoid cynicism!
Pádraig McCarthy
John Paul II: Dies Domini, 1998
Sunday Eucharist
(Part of what is given in the 2016 Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, pages 111-112.)

  1. Because of its special solemnity and the obligatory presence of the community, and because it is celebrated “on the day when Christ conquered death and gave us a share in his immortal life”, the Sunday Eucharist expresses with greater emphasis its inherent ecclesial dimension. It becomes the paradigm for other Eucharistic celebrations.Each community, gathering all its members for the “breaking of the bread”, becomes the place where the mystery of the Church is concretely made present. In celebrating the Eucharist, the community opens itself to communion with the universal Church, imploring the Father to “remember the Church throughout the world” and make her grow in the unity of all the faithful with the Pope and with the Pastors of the particular Churches, until love is brought to perfection.
  2. Therefore, the dies Domini is also the dies Ecclesiae. This is why on the pastoral level the community aspect of the Sunday celebration should be particularly stressed. As I have noted elsewhere, among the many activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist”.Mindful of this, the Second Vatican Council recalled that efforts must be made to ensure that there is “within the parish, a lively sense of community, in the first place through the community celebration of Sunday Mass”. Subsequent liturgical directives made the same point, asking that on Sundays and holy days the Eucharistic celebrations held normally in other churches and chapels be coordinated with the celebration in the parish church, in order “to foster the sense of the Church community, which is nourished and expressed in a particular way by the community celebration on Sunday, whether around the Bishop, especially in the Cathedral, or in the parish assembly, in which the pastor represents the Bishop”.
  3. The Sunday assembly is the privileged place of unity: it is the setting for the celebration of the sacramentum unitatiswhich profoundly marks the Church as a people gathered “by” and “in” the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For Christian families, the Sunday assembly is one of the most outstanding expressions of their identity and their “ministry” as “domestic churches”, when parents share with their children at the one Table of the word and of the Bread of Life. We do well to recall in this regard that it is first of all the parents who must teach their children to participate in Sunday Mass; they are assisted in this by catechists, who are to see to it that initiation into the Mass is made a part of the formation imparted to the children entrusted to their care, explaining the important reasons behind the obligatory nature of the precept. When circumstances suggest it, the celebration of Masses for Children, in keeping with the provisions of the liturgical norms, can also help in this regard.

At Sunday Masses in parishes, insofar as parishes are “Eucharistic communities”, it is normal to find different groups, movements, associations and even the smaller religious communities present in the parish. This allows everyone to experience in common what they share most deeply, beyond the particular spiritual paths which, by discernment of Church authority, legitimately distinguish them. This is why on Sunday, the day of gathering, small group Masses are not to be encouraged: it is not only a question of ensuring that parish assemblies are not without the necessary ministry of priests, but also of ensuring that the life and unity of the Church community are fully safeguarded and promoted.


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  1. Lucia Gayon says:

    Unfortunately in many parishes in Mexico, children are forced to go to Mass. The priest has to sign a card that shows that the children attended the Mass. This is required by the Catechism process. If the child does not show up the signed card, he is not allowed to go for the First Holy Comunion nor for Confirmation.
    Mass should not be used to control people. There is no 6th Church Commandment that indicates that people who go to Mass should push others to go.
    Jesus said: “Let children come to me”. He did not say: “Force children”.

  2. Padraig McCarthy says:

    For openers:
    If the early church could innovate and select people to serve as deacons, what’s stopping the church today?
    How to tackle it, to make sure we don’t have a Eucharistic Famine?
    1. Get the diocese, along with the Conference of Bishops, to put a firm proposal to Pope Francis for the ordination of married men to the priesthood.
    2. Enable those who have left the active ministry and who would be willing, to return to service.
    3. Begin immediately to form a course of preparation for ordination to the priesthood for those who would be willing to serve, perhaps on a part-time non-stipendiary basis, to serve in every diocese. But make sure they are not seen as “Yellow-pack” priests!
    4. With lay people already leading services in many parishes, people are beginning to get used to such developments.
    5. Then there’s the one which we’re not even meant to think about …
    6. We would need to disentangle the clerical world and not tie priesthood with clerical power.
    7. Further develop the practice of pastoral care in parishes, not just by priests and pastoral workers, but by members of the community for one another as a normal dimension of parish community.
    8. Accept that there will be problems / challenges / opportunities.
    9. Etc.

  3. Brian Eyre says:

    One of the arguments against allowing priests who have already married to return to public ministry is that the Church won’t be able to support them, their wife and children financially. This is not true.
    I am a catholic married priest. I have a secular job from which I earn enough to live on. Ever since getting married, 33 years ago, I have continued to do pastoral work, I do a lot of pastoral work in the different communities. The only thing I am not allowed to do is to celebrate a public Mass for these communities and groups. Here in Brazil there are communities that can only have Mass every 2 – 3 months as the celibate priest just cannot get around all the communities in his parish.
    I know other married priests who like me have a job and are doing pastoral work. If tomorrow we were called back to full public ministry we would not cost the church a penny.
    I work shoulder to shoulder with the parish priest but I could do more so as to avoid a Eucharistic famine.
    Of course not all married priests would be willing or interested in returning to public ministry but there are those who would so that the Eucharist which “is vital for community forming”(John Paul II) is made available.

  4. Nobody to my knowledge has done a study on whether attendance at Sunday Mass is “community forming”. It would be good if it were, however I fear that people who make such statements often have a limited idea of community. I fear this is the Catholic Church’s Achilles Heel.

  5. Soline Humbert says:

    “5. Then there’s the one which we’re not even meant to think about” … Here is a hint…
    Did the Woman Say?
    Did the woman say,
    When she held him for the first time in the dark of a stable,
    After the pain and the bleeding and the crying,
    ‘This is my body, this is my blood’?
    Did the woman say,
    When she held him for the last time in the dark rain on a hilltop,
    After the pain and the bleeding and the dying,
    ‘This is my body, this is my blood’?
    Well that she said it to him then,
    For dry old men,
    brocaded robes belying barrenness
    Ordain that she not say it for him now.
    Frances Croake Frank

  6. Mary Vallely says:

    Thank you for posting this poem, Soline. I read it yesterday on the WAC Facebook page and was almost moved to tears by it. It was actually so impactful, so emotive that I didn’t share it at the time. Needed a little space to get my emotions into that state of tranquillity again. I don’t have a vocation to priesthood but can only imagine the pain borne by those women who do. Keep the heart and spirits up. Rath Dé ort/oraibh.

  7. Soline Humbert says:

    Thank you Mary,much appreciated. I believe that the women’s pain is also God’s pain..Haut les coeurs!

  8. Teresa Mee says:

    John No.5 above says,’Nobody to my knowledge has done a study on whether attendance at Sunday Mass is “community forming”.
    I have done some study but from a mountain of personal experience I have to say that the Mass as celebrated in Ireland is far from being a community experience for me.

  9. Thank you Teresa Mae. I have just come back from Florence, and on the Sunday I went looking for the church where I would find a real joyful, worshipping community. I found it, well worth the search. It was the Chiesa de San Carlos, in the city centre. I have found such also in other Italian cities, Sorrento, Verona. A Vatican congregation is too big, too many tourists, to be considered a community. Maybe elsewhere in Rome there is real community.
    In Ireland the church has piggy-backed on the real community-forming organisations, such as the GAA. In the church itself, community has been bleached out, communion without community, Sunday Mass a depressing experience. Folk who give up on Sunday Mass are not necessarily rejecting Christian community. They are quite likely to be despairing of finding it in the Catholic church in Ireland.

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