A special thanks to Bishop Michael Sheridan for his timely reminder that Sunday Mass is the spiritual cornerstone of our faith as Catholics (“Keeping holy the Sabbath,” Sept. 15 issue).
By poignantly juxtaposing the 49 Christians who willingly became martyrs under the brutal reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian with the apparently casual indifference many Catholics approach their Sunday obligation, the Bishop highlights a great paradox among many in our faith. To wit, the obvious lack of spiritual discipline that formerly led a vast majority of Catholics to attend Mass each and every Sunday.
Integral to that cultural sea change is the attendant secularizing of society which includes a summary denial of absolutes, not to mention the accepted denigration and persecution of Christians by the presumptively enlightened among us, with the goal of marginalizing those whose faith is the core of their earthly existence.
But I also think that many Catholics who have become habituated to attending Mass only at Christmas and Easter may, unwittingly or otherwise, have progressively diminished the astonishing reality that Christ is present in the Eucharist, and that it’s awaiting us each time we approach the altar to receive Him.
I have what might be considered an advantage because I was an altar boy in the early 60s and was required to learn the Latin Mass. In my spiritually callow youth it understandably felt like a burden, but I slowly internalized the incredible sanctity of the Mass, and how each facet was inextricably interconnected with all others. In particular, I understood that the opportunity to attend Mass was a deep privilege, one to this day I never take for granted.
As the Bishop insightfully intimated, heaven is full of martyrs who refused to deny their faith and made the ultimate sacrifice. In contrast, it’s unlikely that we will ever be confronted with that decision. Moreover, all Catholics can avail themselves of the holy Eucharist each Sunday, if only they recognize how it miraculously advances our proximity to God and aids us in times of trouble.
The challenge is how to convince those who have fallen away from regular Sunday attendance to seize this great gift, and give thanks for its manifold blessings.