The Passover Meal: 1. Introduction
A Catholic family can enter more deeply into the Passion of Christ by having a seder meal, similar to the Passover, or Last Supper that Jesus would have celebrated with his Apostles. With the knowledge that Christ has come and redeemed the world, we can incorporate a Christian attitude during the seder meal. Arleen Hynes discusses the preparation necessary for a seder meal, including housecleaning, guests, scheduling, appropriate decorations, music, and finally, the traditional foods.
Gathering around the table for food and conversation is a traditional and most pleasant form of fellowship and shared learning. This meal formula is designed to help individual families and friends as well as large ecumenical church-sponsored gatherings to do both in an atmosphere of spiritual understanding of the Passover and Holy Week.
The purpose of this meal celebration and the directed conversation at table before the meal is to draw relationships between the Passover and important New Testament truths. It is vital to our understanding of these relationships that we recognize that Jesus was a faithful Jew who observed Judaic laws — from the circumcision to the feast of the Unleavened Bread, his Last Supper. That, as the “Working Document on Jewish-Christian Relations” (1969) says, “it was within Judaism that Christianity was born and wherein it found essential elements of its faith and cult”. This is based on the Vatican II statement that the church “affirms that her salvation is mysteriously prefigured in the exodus of the chosen people from the land of bondage”.
No attempt has been made in this meal formula to reconstruct an authentic Passover ritual of either Christ’s time or of present day Judaism. But by using some of the basic Jewish prayers and an adaptation of the traditional questions of the Passover meal, Christians can become somewhat familiar with the tradition of the Jews. New Testament texts are used not only to build appreciation and understanding of the Christian beliefs but also of their relationship to Judaic roots.
The Passover meal carried on the learning tradition established by God through Moses when he commanded his people to commemorate his loving kindness towards them in the Exodus. “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ritual mean?’, you will tell them, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Passover in honour of Yahweh who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt, and struck Egypt but spared our houses” (Exodus 12, 27).
The Jews were directed by Moses to gather in family and neighborly clusters to eat and recall together, “And on that day you will explain to your son, ‘This is because of what Yahweh did for me when I came out of Egypt’ ” (Exodus 13, 8). The lesson of God’s freeing the Israelites from slavery was to be taught in the fullness of both intellectual knowledge and the warmth of the heart surrounded by loved ones, family and friends.
For centuries the Jewish families have been following a traditional formula for their family Seder services. The small book which gives the text for this order of service (Seder) is called Haggadah, which means “the telling” as prescribed in Exodus 13, 8. The Jewish Haggadah includes not only the order of the ancient ceremonial events, and the story of the exodus, but a running commentary of prayers, legends and exposition of the rites.
Modern historical research has raised many questions about the Last Supper. The only New Testament reference to any particulars of the Passover meal, aside from the fact that it was to be prepared by the disciples to share it with their teacher, Jesus, is in the mention of hymns being sung as they left the meal, “After psalms had been sung, they left for the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14, 26: Matt. 26, 30). It seems that this reference is to the singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) which closed the family service.
However, a brief recounting of the history of the Haggadah will offer insights into the Jewish history of the Passover festival itself.
It was not until about the thirteenth century that separate books appeared for the Seder service in the Jewish homes. It is thought that the custom arose because of the expense of larger books.
Each Haggadah is illustrated in various ways. The first ones, illustrated manuscripts, were, of course, beautiful and richly decorated. The early printed Haggadah booklets followed the custom of using colorful drawings and decorating the borders of the pages. Sometimes they contained pictures of the preparations for the festival in the kitchen and the home. Other common themes for design were the ten plagues of the Egyptians and incidents in biblical history. Copies of famous paintings of the day, such as Holbein’s, were also used in early printed versions. Over the centuries several hundred versions of the Haggadah have been printed. Today many versions continue to bring the commentaries up to date in referring to the massacre of Jews in Hitler’s time and the creation of the state of Israel. The different versions are sometimes known by the name of the person who illustrated them. The artist Ben Shahn’s lovely 1965 edition is a recent example.
In many Jewish homes each family member and guest has his own copy of the Haggadah to follow the Seder. It is hoped that where families and friends and ecumenical groups gather to celebrate their Jewish origins in the joyousness of the New Law they will also provide individual copies for those present in order to reinforce the learning by sight as well as the sound of the leader’s voice.
In ecumenical gatherings of family or church groups we can strive to achieve the warmth of the Jewish Seder and perhaps then a better understanding of the significance of Judaism to the roots of Christianity will be gained. However, the home or communal service would never supplant the official worship in our churches. It is designed to serve only as a preparation in understanding and fellowship for the liturgical church service, to augment the significance of the liturgy in our lives. For as the “Working Document on Jewish-Christian Relations” says, “We call to mind the strong link that binds the Christian liturgy to the Jewish liturgy, which continues to live in our own time. The fundamental conception of liturgy as expression of community life conceived as service of God and mankind is common to Jews and Christians. We grasp the importance for Jewish-Christian relations of an awareness of those common forms of prayer (texts, feasts, rites, etc.) in which the Bible holds an essential place.”
Both feasts, Passover for the Jews and Easter for Christians, recognize that all things come from God: light, bread, wine, freedom — all good things. The Jewish prayers are said in a spirit of thanksgiving and blessing, a recognition of the total dependence of each upon God. The Exodus celebrates the Chosen People’s freedom from oppression. Each Jew is to become aware of this personally at each Passover. For the Christian, the Paschal season celebrates man’s redemption from the effects of sin by Christ’s passion and resurrection, and God’s gift of grace, especially through Holy Communion. Both are rooted in history and in Scripture to show God’s fulfillment of his plan of salvation.
A footnote to the book of Exodus in a recent edition of the Bible makes some very specific comparisons. “The Jewish Passover hence becomes a rehearsal for the Christian Passover: the lamb of God, Christ, is sacrificed (the cross) and eaten (the Last Supper) within the framework of the Jewish Passover (the first Holy Week). Thus he brings salvation to the world: and the mystical re-enactment of this redemptive act becomes the central feature of the Christian liturgy, organized around the Mass which is at once sacrifice and sacrificial meal” (Jerusalem Bible, p. 91, footnote 12 a).
All Christians should rejoice over the recent steps that have been taken to bring about a better understanding of these relationships. In 1964 the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. adopted a “Resolution on Jewish-Christian Relations.” It said in part:
The spiritual heritage of Jews and Christians should draw us to each other in obedience to the one Father and in continuing dialogue; the historic schism in our relations carries with it the need for constant vigilance lest dialogue deteriorate into conflict . . . The General Board urges that the members of its constituent communions seek that true dialogue with the religious bodies of the Jewish community through which differences in faith can be explored within the mutual life of the one family of God — separated, but seeking from God the gift of renewed unity — knowing that in the meantime God can help us to find our God-given unity in the common service of human need.
In December of 1969 a “Working Document on Jewish-Christian Relations” was released by a committee composed of priest members of both the Vatican and the United States Catholic unity secretariats.
Cognizance is increasingly being gained in the Church of the actual place of the Jewish people in the history of salvation and of its permanent election. This fact points toward a theological renewal and toward a new Christian reflection on the Jewish people that it is important to pursue. On the other hand, it appears that still too often Christians do not know what Jews are . . . They do not see them as that people which in its history has encountered the living and true God, the one God who established with that people a covenant, of which circumcision is the sign, the God who accomplished in its favor a miraculous Exodus, which it relives each year in its Passover, both as a remembrance of its past and an expectation of the full realization of its promises . . . it is no less true that it was within Judaism that Christianity was born and wherein it found essential elements of its faith and cult. From the experience lived in the covenant with God emerged the Christian universe, which derived from that experience the very marrow of its concepts.The dignity of the human person requires the condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism (Vatican II Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions). In view of these relations of the Church and the Jewish people, it is easier to see how anti-Semitism is essentially opposed to the spirit of Christianity. Still more do these relations show forth the duty of better understanding and mutual esteem. . .
We call to mind the strong link that binds the Christian liturgy to the Jewish liturgy, which continues to live in our own time. The fundamental conception of liturgy as expression of community life conceived as service of God and mankind is common to Jews and Christians. We grasp the importance for Jewish-Christian relations of an awareness of those common forms of prayer (texts, feasts, rites, etc.) in which the Bible holds an essential place. . .
The problem of Jewish-Christian relations is of concern to the Church as such by the very fact that it is in ‘searching into its own mystery’ that it comes upon the mystery of Israel. The problem hence retains all its importance even in those places where a Jewish community does not exist. Moreover, it includes an ecumenical aspect. Christian Churches, in search for the unity willed by the Lord will find this by a return to the sources and origins of their faith, grafted on the Jewish tradition, which is still living in our own day.
Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religionsin 1965 set forth the background for the recent renewal of these teachings. Msgr. John J. Oesterreicher’s translation of this document reads in part:
As this Sacred Synod probes the mystery of the Church, it remembers the spiritual bond that ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock.Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and election go back as far as the days of the patriarchs, of Moses and the prophets She affirms that all who believe in Christ — Abraham’s sons according to faith (cf. Gal. 3,7) are included in the call of this patriarch — she also affirms that her salvation is mysteriously prefigured in the exodus of the chosen people from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God, in that loving-kindness words cannot express, deigned to conclude the Ancient covenant . . . For the Church believes that by His cross Christ, who is our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making the two one in Himself (cf. Eph. 2, 14-16)….
Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is so rich, this Sacred Synod wishes to encourage and further their mutual knowledge of, and respect for, one another, a knowledge and respect born principally of biblical and theological studies, but also of fraternal dialogues.
In keeping with these statements this meal celebration is planned to extend as far as possible an appreciation of the Passover and the Christian understanding of the Last Supper and Easter.
An earlier version of this meal formula designed for Catholic use was published in Worship magazine, April 1957 and reprinted in Act, the Christian Family Movement bulletin the next year. Families throughout the country have used that version. The quotations used here from the Haggadah are taken from the special Haggadah issue of Christian Friends Bulletin, March 1954, Vol. II, No. 2 published by the Anti-Defamation League. The purpose of that Haggadah was an ecumenical desire to provide knowledge about the Passover celebration. The translations from the New Testament are from The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday and Co., Inc., Garden City, N.Y., 1966. Quotations from the Mishnah are from the first English edition 1933, Oxford University Press, Amen House, London, Translated by Herbert Danby, printed in 1964.
Other books referred to in the following “Celebration” are The Christian Friends Bulletin of March 1962, The Living Heritage of Passover and the Passover Haggadah, Prayer Book Press, Hartford, Conn., both designed for adult education use.
The basic materials for parents and leaders to reread before the celebration are the Scriptural references: the book of Exodus, especially Chapters 7 through 13 about the plagues of Egypt and the Passover. The Gospel accounts of the Last Supper are given in Matthew 26, 17-30: Mark 14, 12-26: Luke 22, 7-39 and John, chapters 13 through 17.
Activity Source: Passover Meal, The by Arleen Hynes, Paulist Press, 1972
This list is compiled from articles in the Original Catholic Encyclopedia and is provided for your benefit.
The list is sortable by name (alpha) and by chronology.
Order Name Years Notes
1 Peter, Apostle, Saint Reigned 33-67
2 Linus, Saint Reigned c.67-76
3 Anacletus, Saint Reigned 76-88 aka Cletus
4 Clement I, Saint Reigned 88-97
5 Evaristus, Saint Reigned c.98- c.106 Aristus in the Liberian Catalogue
6 Alexander I, Saint Reigned c.106-115
7 Sixtus I, Saint Reigned 115-125 XYSTUS in the oldest documents
8 Telesphorus, Saint Reigned 125-136
9 Hyginus, Saint Reigned c.136-140
10 Pius I, Saint Reigned c.140-c.154
11 Anicetus, Saint Reigned c.157-168
12 Soter, Saint Reigned c.166-c.174
13 Eleutherius, Saint Reigned c.175-189
14 Victor I, Saint Reigned 189-c.198
15 Zephyrinus, Saint Reigned 198-217
16 Callistus I Reigned 218-c.222
17 Urban I Reigned 222-230
18 Pontian, Saint Reigned 230-235
19 Anterus, Saint Reigned 235-236 aka Anteros
20 Fabian, Saint Reigned 236-250
21 Cornelius Reigned 251-253
22 Lucius I, Saint Reigned 253-254
23 Stephen I, Saint Reigned 254-257
24 Sixtus II, Saint Reigned 257-258 XYSTUS in the oldest documents
25 Dionysius, Saint Reigned 260-268
26 Felix I, Saint Reigned 269-274
27 Eutychianus, Saint Reigned 275-283
28 Caius, Saint Reigned 283-296
29 Marcellinus, Saint Reigned 296-304
30 Marcellus I, Saint Reigned 308-309
31 Eusebius, Saint Reigned 309 or 310
32 Miltiades, Saint Reigned 311-314
33 Sylvester I, Saint Reigned 314-335
34 Mark, Saint Reigned 336 aka Marcus
35 Julius I, Saint Reigned 337-352
36 Liberius Reigned 352-366
37 Damasus I, Saint Reigned 366-383
38 Siricius, Saint Reigned 384-399
39 Anastasius I, Saint Reigned 399-401
40 Innocent I Reigned 401-417
41 Zosimus, Saint Reigned 417-418
42 Boniface I, Saint Reigned 418-422
43 Celestine I, Saint Reigned 422-432
44 Sixtus III, Saint Reigned 432-440 XYSTUS in the oldest documents
45 Leo I, Saint Reigned 440-461
46 Hilarus, Saint Reigned 461-468
47 Simplicius, Saint Reigned 468-483
48 Felix III (II), Saint Reigned 483-492
49 Gelasius I, Saint Reigned 492-496
50 Anastasius II Reigned 496-498
51 Symmachus, Saint Reigned 498-514
52 Hormisdas, Saint Reigned 514-523
53 John I, Saint Reigned 523-c.526
54 Felix IV (III) Reigned 526-530
55 Boniface II Reigned 530-532
56 John II Reigned 533-535
57 Agapetus I, Saint Reigned 535-536
58 Silverius, Saint Reigned 536-537
59 Vigilius Reigned 537-555
60 Pelagius I Reigned 556-561
61 John III Reigned 561-574
62 Benedict I Reigned 575-579
63 Pelagius II Reigned 579-590
64 Gregory I Saint Reigned 590-604
65 Sabinianus Reigned 604-606
66 Boniface III Reigned 607
67 Boniface IV Reigned 608-615
68 Deusdedit, Saint Reigned 615-618
69 Boniface V Reigned 619-625
70 Honorius I Reigned 625-638
71 Severinus Reigned 640
72 John IV Reigned 640-642
73 Theodore I Reigned 642-649
74 Martin I, Saint Reigned 649-655
75 Eugene I Reigned 655-657
76 Vitalian, Saint Reigned 657-672
77 Adeodatus, Saint Reigned 672-676
78 Donus Reigned 676-678
79 Agatho, Saint Reigned 678-681
80 Leo II, Saint Reigned 682-683
81 Benedict II Reigned 684-685
82 John V Reigned 685-686
83 Conon Reigned 686-687
84 Sergius I, Saint Reigned 687-701
85 John VI Reigned 701-705
86 John VII Reigned 705-707
87 Sisinnius Reigned 708
88 Constantine Reigned 708-715
89 Gregory II, Saint Reigned 715-731
90 Gregory III, Saint Reigned 731-741
91 Zachary, Saint Reigned 741-752
92 Stephen II Elected 752 died before his consecration; excluded from some lists
93 Stephen III (II) Reigned 752-757
94 Paul I Reigned 757-767
95 Stephen IV (III) Reigned 768-772
96 Adrian I Reigned 772-795
97 Leo III, Saint Reigned 795-816
98 Stephen V (IV) Reigned 816-817
99 Paschal I Reigned 817-824
100 Eugene II Reigned 824-827
101 Valentine Reigned 827
102 Gregory IV Reigned 827-844
103 Sergius II Reigned 844-847
104 Leo IV, Saint Reigned 847-855
105 Benedict III Reigned 855-858
106 Nicholas I, Saint Reigned 858-867
107 Adrian II Reigned 867-872
108 John VIII Reigned 872-882
109 Marinus I Reigned 882-884
110 Adrian III, Saint Reigned 884-885
111 Stephen VI (V) Reigned 885-891
112 Formosus Reigned 891-896
113 Boniface VI Reigned 896
114 Stephen VII (VI) Reigned 896-897
115 Romanus Reigned 897
116 Theodore II Reigned 897
117 John IX Reigned 898-900
118 Benedict IV Reigned 900-903
119 Leo V Reigned 903
120 Sergius III Reigned 904-911
121 Anastasius III Reigned 911-913
122 Lando Reigned 913-14
123 John X Reigned 914-928
124 Leo VI Reigned 928
125 Stephen VIII (VII) Reigned 929-931
126 John XI Reigned 931-936
127 Leo VII Reigned 936-939
128 Stephen IX (VIII) Reigned 939-942
129 Marinus II Reigned 942-946
130 Agapetus II Reigned 946-955
131 John XII Reigned 955-964
132 Leo VIII Reigned 964-965
133 Benedict V Reigned 964
134 John XIII Reigned 965-972
135 Benedict VI Reigned 973-974
136 Benedict VII Reigned 974-983
137 John XIV Reigned 983-984
138 John XV (XVI) Reigned 985-996
139 Gregory V Reigned 996-999
140 Sylvester II Reigned 999-1003
141 John XVII (XVIII) Reigned 1003
142 John XVIII (XIX) Reigned 1003-1009
143 Sergius IV Reigned 1009-1012
144 Benedict VIII Reigned 1012-1024
145 John XIX (XX) Reigned 1024-1032
146 Benedict IX Reigned 1032-1044
147 Sylvester III Reigned 1045
148 Benedict IX Reigned 1045
149 Gregory VI Reigned 1045-1046
150 Clement II Reigned 1046-1047
151 Benedict IX Reigned 1047-1048
152 Damasus II Reigned 1048
153 Leo IX, Saint Reigned 1049-1054
154 Victor II Reigned 1055-1057
155 Stephen X (IX) Reigned 1057-1058
156 Nicholas II Reigned 1058-1061
157 Alexander II Reigned 1061-1073
158 Gregory VII, Saint Reigned 1073-1085
159 Victor III, Blessed Reigned 1086-1087
160 Urban II, Blessed Reigned 1088-1099
161 Paschal II Reigned 1099-1118
162 Gelasius II Reigned 1118-1119
163 Callistus II Reigned 1119-1124
164 Honorius II Reigned 1124-1130
165 Innocent II Reigned 1130-1143
166 Celestine II Reigned 1143-1144
167 Lucius II Reigned 1144-1145
168 Eugene III Reigned 1145-1153
169 Anastasius IV Reigned 1153-1154
170 Adrian IV Reigned 1154-1159
171 Alexander III Reigned 1159-1181
172 Lucius III Reigned 1181-1185
173 Urban III Reigned 1185-1187
174 Gregory VIII Reigned 1187
175 Clement III Reigned 1187-1191
176 Celestine III Reigned 1191-1198
177 Innocent III Reigned 1198-1216
178 Honorius III Reigned 1216-1227
179 Gregory IX Reigned 1227-1241
180 Celestine IV Reigned 1241
181 Innocent IV Reigned 1243-1254
182 Alexander IV Reigned 1254-1261
183 Urban IV Reigned 1261-1264
184 Clement IV Reigned 1265-1268
185 Gregory X Reigned 1271-1276
186 Innocent V Reigned 1276
187 Adrian V Reigned July-August 1276
188 John XXI (XX) Reigned 1276-1277
189 Nicholas III Reigned 1277-1280
190 Martin IV Reigned 1281-1285
191 Honorius IV Reigned 1285-1287
192 Nicholas IV Reigned 1288-1292
193 Celestine V, Saint Reigned 1294
194 Boniface VIII Reigned 1294-1303
195 Benedict XI, Blessed Reigned 1303-1304
196 Clement V Reigned 1305-1314
197 John XXII Reigned 1316-1334
198 Benedict XII Reigned 1334-1342
199 Clement VI Reigned 1342-1352
200 Innocent VI Reigned 1352-1362
201 Urban V, Blessed Reigned 1362-1370
202 Gregory XI Reigned 1370-1378
203 Urban VI Reigned 1378-1389
204 Boniface IX Reigned 1389-1404
205 Innocent VII Reigned 1404-1406
206 Gregory XII Reigned 1406-1415
207 Martin V Reigned 1417-1431
208 Eugene IV Reigned 1431-1447
209 Nicholas V Reigned 1447-1455
210 Callistus III Reigned 1455-1458
211 Pius II Reigned 1458-1464
212 Paul II Reigned 1464-1471
213 Sixtus IV Reigned 1471-1484
214 Innocent VIII Reigned 1484-1492
215 Alexander VI Reigned 1492-1503
216 Pius III Reigned 1503
217 Julius II Reigned 1503-1513
218 Leo X Reigned 1513-1521
219 Adrian VI Reigned 1522-1523
220 Clement VII Reigned 1523-1534
221 Paul III Reigned 1534-1549
222 Julius III Reigned 1550-1555
223 Marcellus II Reigned 1555 (22 days)
224 Paul IV Reigned 1555-1559
225 Pius IV Reigned 1559-1565
226 Pius V, Saint Reigned 1566-1572
227 Gregory XIII Reigned 1572-1585
228 Sixtus V Reigned 1585-1590
229 Urban VII Reigned 1590
230 Gregory XIV Reigned 1590-1591
231 Innocent IX Reigned 1591
232 Clement VIII Reigned 1592-1605
233 Leo XI Reigned 1605
234 Paul V Reigned 1605-1621
235 Gregory XV Reigned 1621-1623
236 Urban VIII Reigned 1623-1644
237 Innocent X Reigned 1644-1655
238 Alexander VII Reigned 1655-1667
239 Clement IX Reigned 1667-1669
240 Clement X Reigned 1670-1676
241 Innocent XI Reigned 1676-1689
242 Alexander VIII Reigned 1689-1691
243 Innocent XII Reigned 1691-1700
244 Clement XI Reigned 1700-1721
245 Innocent XIII Reigned 1721-1724
246 Benedict XIII Reigned 1724-1730
247 Clement XII Reigned 1730-1740
248 Benedict XIV Reigned 1740-1758
249 Clement XIII Reigned 1758-1769
250 Clement XIV Reigned 1769-1774
251 Pius VI Reigned 1775-1799
252 Pius VII Reigned 1800-1823
253 Leo XII Reigned 1823-1829
254 Pius VIII Reigned 1829-1830
255 Gregory XVI Reigned 1831-1846
256 Pius IX Reigned 1846-1878
257 Leo XIII Reigned 1878-1903
258 Pius X Reigned 1903-1914
259 Benedict XV Reigned 1914-1922 Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
260 Pius XI Reigned 1922-1939 Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
261 Pius XII Reigned 1939-1958 Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
262 John XXIII, Blessed Reigned 1958-1963 Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
263 Paul VI Reigned 1963-1978 Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
264 John Paul I Reigned 1978 (33 days) Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
265 John Paul II Reigned 1978-2005 Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
266 Benedict XVI Reigned 2005-present Elected after the release of The 1914 Catholic Encylopedia
Prayer, the lifting of the mind and heart to God, plays an essential role in the life of a devout Catholic. Without a life of prayer, we risk losing the life of grace in our souls, grace that comes to us first in baptism and later chiefly through the other sacraments and through prayer itself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2565). Through prayer we enter into the presence of the Godhead dwelling in us. It is prayer which allows us to adore God, by acknowledging his almighty power; it is prayer that allows us to bring our thanks, our petitions, and our sorrow for sin before our Lord and God.
While prayer is not a practice unique to Catholics, those prayers that are called “Catholic” are generally formulaic in nature. That is, the teaching Church sets before us how we ought to pray. Drawing from the words of Christ, the writings of Scripture and the saints, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she supplies us with prayers grounded in Christian tradition. Further, our informal, spontaneous prayers, both vocal and meditative, are informed by and shaped by those prayers taught by the Church, prayers that are the wellspring for the prayer life of all Catholics. Without the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church and through her saints, we would not know how to pray as we ought (CCC, 2650).
As the prayers themselves witness, the Church teaches us that we should pray not only directly to God, but also to those who are close to God, those who have the power to intercede upon our behalf. Indeed, we pray to the angels to help and watch over us; we pray to the saints in heaven to ask their intercession and assistance; we pray to the Blessed Mother to enlist her aid, to ask her to beg her Son to hear our prayers. Further, we pray not only on our own behalf, but also on the behalf of those souls in purgatory and of those brothers on earth who are in need. Prayer unites us to God; in doing so, we are united to the other members of the Mystical Body.This communal aspect of prayer is reflected not only in the nature of Catholic prayers, but also in the very words of the prayers themselves. In reading many of the basic formulaic prayers, it will become apparent that, for the Catholic, prayer is often meant to be prayed in the company of others. Christ himself encouraged us to pray together: “For wherever two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
Keeping in mind the aforementioned characteristics of Catholic prayer will enable you to appreciate and to understand the prayers listed below. While this list is certainly not an exhaustive one, it will illustrate the different kinds of Catholic prayers that help to form the treasury of prayers in the Church.
Written by Psychotherapist: Dr. Peter Kleponis (LifeSiteNews.com) —
“Pornography is a silent epidemic said Dr. Peter Kleponis, a Catholic psychotherapist who spoke on the dangers of pornography. Kleponis gave a richly informative talk that covered everything from the scope of the porn problem to the virtues men need to engage in healthy relationships and move past pornography.
“The damage to men from pornography use and masturbation is extensive,” said Kleponis, who specializes in marriage and family therapy, men’s issues, and pornography addiction recovery. “Among other wounds, it turns men in upon themselves, thereby damaging their self-giving as spouses and fathers … thus preventing them from fulfilling their role as protectors and leaders and physical and spiritual fathers; damages male confidence; and harms their ability to see and to respect the true beauty of women.”
Pornography use has become ubiquitous in recent years, he said. “Any statistics we have are probably gross under-estimates of it, because so much of it is unreported … It’s men late at night alone with their computers.
“The pornography industry earns over $97 billion every year, more than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, EBay, Yahoo, Apple, Netflix, and EarthLink make combined. Child pornography generates $3 billion of that revenue.”
Kleponis is the assistant director of Comprehensive Counseling Services. Based on his years of private counseling, he offered a number of ways for men to heal, emphasizing above all else that healing is in fact possible.
“The field of positive psychology that employs the use of forgiveness and other virtues has significant potential to help those with addictions not only with their recovery from compulsive behaviors, but also from associated disorders,” said Kleponis. “The ability of addicted persons to learn how to overcome selfishness, grow in confidence, address loneliness and anxiety, and resolve and control excessive anger is essential in their recovery and in protecting them from relapse.”
For Catholics, Kleponis recommends some of the classic remedies for sin, including making a good confession and receiving the Eucharist at least once a week; daily prayer and spiritual reading; daily Scripture study, especially in the form of lectio divina; monthly spiritual direction; annual retreats; being active in one’s parish; a strong relationship with Our Lady as a loving, affectionate spiritual mother, and a strong relationship with St. Joseph as an affectionate and protective father.
More information from Dr. Kleponis is available at www.maritalhealing.com.
Today I greet you in the name of Jesus. I thank all of you for the welcome you have given me. I want you to know how I have looked forward to this meeting with you, especially with those of you who are sick, disabled or infirm. I myself have had a share in suffering and I have known the physical weakness that comes with injury and sickness.
It is precisely because I have experienced suffering that I am able to affirm with ever greater conviction what Saint Paul says in the second reading: “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8,38-39).
Dear friends, there is no force or power that can block God’s love for you. Sickness and suffering seem to contradict all that is worthy, all that is desired by man. And yet no disease, no injury, no infirmity can ever deprive you of your dignity as children of God, as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
By his dying on the Cross, Christ shows us how to make sense of our suffering. In his passion we find the inspiration and strength to turn away from any temptation to resentment and grow through pain into new life.
Suffering is an invitation to be more like the Son in doing the Father’s will. It offers us an opportunity to imitate Christ who died to redeem mankind from sin. Thus the Father has disposed that suffering can enrich the individual and the whole Church.
We acknowledge that the Anointing of the Sick is for the benefit of the whole person. We find this point demonstrated in the liturgical texts of the sacramental celebration: “Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction.”
The anointing is therefore a source of strength for both the soul and the body. The prayer of the Church asks that sin and the remnants of sin be taken away (cf. DS 1969). It also implores a restoration of health, but always in order that bodily healing may bring greater union with God through the increase of grace.
In her teaching on this sacrament, the Church passes on the truth contained in our first reading from Saint James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5,14-15).
This sacrament should be approached in a spirit of great confidence, like the leper in the Gospel that has just been proclaimed. Even the desperateness of the man’s condition did not stop him from approaching Jesus with trust. We too must believe in Christ’s healing love and reaffirm that nothing will separate us from that love. Surely Jesus wishes to say: “I will; be clean” (Mt. 8,3); be healed; be strong; be saved.
My dear brothers and sisters, as you live the Passion of Christ you strengthen the Church by the witness of your faith. You proclaim by your patience, your endurance and your joy the mystery of Christ’s redeeming power. You will find the crucified Lord in the midst of your sickness and suffering.
As Veronica ministered to Christ on his way to Calvary, so Christians have accepted the care of those in pain and sorrow as privileged opportunities to minister to Christ himself. I commend and bless all those who work for the sick in hospitals, residential homes and centers of care for the dying.
I would like to say to you doctors, nurses, chaplains and all other hospital staff: Yours is a noble vocation. Remember it is Christ to whom you minister in the sufferings of your brothers and sisters.
I support with all my heart those who recognize and defend the law of God which governs human life. We must never forget that every person, from the moment of conception to the last breath, is a unique child of God and has a right to life. This right should be defended by the attentive care of the medical and nursing professions and by the protection of the law. Every human life is willed by our heavenly Father and is a part of his loving plan.
No Province or State has the right to contradict moral values which are rooted in the nature of man himself. These values are the precious heritage of civilization. If society begins to deny the worth of any individual or to subordinate the human person to pragmatic or utilitarian considerations, it begins to destroy the defenses that safeguard its own fundamental values.
Today I make an urgent plea to this nation. Do not neglect your sick and elderly. Do not turn away from the handicapped and the dying. Do not push them to the margins of society. For if you do, you will fail to understand that they represent an important truth. The sick, the elderly, the handicapped and the dying teach us that weakness is a creative part of human living, and that suffering can be embraced with no loss of dignity. Without the presence of these people in your midst you might be tempted to think of health, strength and power as the only important values to be pursued in life. But the wisdom of Christ and the power of Christ are to be seen in the weakness of those who share his sufferings.
Let us keep the sick and the handicapped at the center of our lives. Let us treasure them and recognize with gratitude the debt we owe them. We begin by imagining that we are giving to them; we end by realizing that they have enriched us.
May God bless and comfort all who suffer.
And may Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and healer of the sick,
make his light shine through human weakness as a beacon for us and for all mankind. Amen.
The Anointing of the Sick is the Sacrament given to seriously ill Christians, and the special graces received unite the sick person to the passion of Christ. The Sacrament consists of the anointing of the forehand and hands of the person with blessed oil, with the minister saying, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.”
Origen of Egypt in his Homilies on Leviticus described Anointing for healing the sick and forgiveness of sins in the third century. St. Thomas Aquinas stated that Extreme Unction, as the Anointing of the Sick was once called, is “a spiritual remedy, since it avails for the remission of sins, and therefore is a sacrament” (James 5:15). The ecclesial effect of this sacrament is incorporation into the healing Body of Christ, with a spiritual healing of the soul, and at times healing of the body. The sacramental grace helps us to accept sickness as a purifying cross sent by God, and the grace even to accept death if that is God’s will.
Jesus healed the blind and the sick, as well as commissioned his Apostles to do so, such as the following sources.
“So they (the Twelve Apostles) went off and preached repentance.
They drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
Gospel of Mark 6:12-13
“Is any among you sick?
Let him call for the presbyters of the Church,
and let them pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
and the prayer of faith will save the sick man,
and the Lord will raise him up;
and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
My dear brothers, candidates for the priesthood: for you Christ today renews his prayer to the Father: “Consecrate them in truth, your word is truth” (Jn. 17,17). This consecration makes you even more a “new creation.” It sets you apart from the world, so that you may be completely dedicated to God. It gives you a mission to act as Christ’s ambassadors in reconciling the world to God. It was for this purpose that Jesus came from the Father and was born of the Virgin Mary. And it is this same mission which Christ entrusted to his disciples: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth” (Jn. 17,18).
At this important moment of your lives I say to you young men: Realize how deeply Jesus desires you to be consecrated as he himself is consecrated. Realize how closely the bond of priesthood joins you to Christ. Be worthy of the privilege you are going to receive of bringing God’s gifts of love to his people and offering to God the people’s prayerful response.
You must be men of God, his close friends. You must develop daily patterns of prayer, and penance must be a regular part of your life.
Prayer and penance will help you to appreciate more deeply that the strength of your ministry is found in the Lord and not in human resources.
You must try to deepen every day your friendship with Christ. You must also learn to share the hopes and joys, the sorrows and frustrations of the people entrusted to your care. Bring to them Christ’s saving message of reconciliation. Visit your parishioners in their homes. This has been a strength of the Church in England. It is a pastoral practice that should not be neglected. Teach your people boldly about the faithful love of God. And do not forget all those with special needs, particularly those who are in prison, and their families. In the gospel Christ identifies himself with prisoners when he says, “I was in prison, and you visited me.” And remember that he did not specify whether they were innocent or guilty. Because you represent Christ, no one can be excluded from your pastoral love. I ask you, together with your brother priests, to take my greetings to all the prisons in Britain, especially the large one in Manchester. Christ Jesus went to offer peace of conscience and the forgiveness of all sins. Through Jesus Christ offer hope. Through you, in your heart, Jesus Christ wants to love those for whom he died. You must show that you believe in that faithful love by the fidelity with which you live your own life. You must proclaim the Gospel with your life.
When you celebrate the sacraments at the decisive moments of their lives, help them to trust in Christ’s promised mercy and compassion. When you offer the redeeming Sacrifice of the Eucharist, help them to understand the need for transforming this great love into works of charity.
My brothers be aware of the effect on others of the witness of your lives.
Your ordination is a source of consolation for those who have already given many years of priestly service, large numbers of whom are present today. The Lord is grateful for their labor and today he blesses them with the assurance that he will continue to provide for the future of the Church.
May all these priests be renewed in the joyful enthusiasm of their early call, and may they continue to give generously of themselves in Christ’s priestly work of reconciling the world to the Father.
I know of the many priests who could not be here because of old age or infirmity. To them also I send the expression of my love in Christ Jesus.
Their prayers, their wisdom, their suffering are rich treasures for the Church, from which will come forth abundant blessings.
And what of your contemporaries? Undoubtedly your acceptance of Christ’s mission is a clear witness for those who are not yet sure what the Lord wants of them. You show them that being ordained for God’s service is a noble vocation that demands faith, courage and self-sacrifice. I am sure that such qualities are to be found among the young people of Great Britain. To them I say: Be certain that Christ’s call to the priesthood or religious life is addressed to some of you. Be certain that if you listen to his call and follow him in the priesthood or religious life, you will find great joy and happiness. Be generous, take courage and remember his promise: “My yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt. 11,30).
Finally, I wish to greet the parents and families of those about to be ordained. I say in the name of the Church, in the company of my fellow Bishops, thank you for your generosity. It was you who brought these men into the world. It was you who first gave them the faith and the values that have helped to lead them to God’s altar today. The Church, too, must be a family, bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity, supporting each other and sharing with each other the individual gifts given by God. Every priest relies on the faith and talents of his parish community. If he is wise he will not only know the joy of dispensing God’s grace, but also of receiving it abundantly through his parishioners as well. The partnership between priests and people is built upon prayer, collaboration and mutual respect and love. That has always been the tradition of these islands. May it never be lost.
Through this ordination the Lord really and truly continues the work of his “new creation.” And he continues to send forth his message over all the earth and to speak personally to those who will be ordained:
“‘Go now to those to whom I send you
and say whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to protect you’
—it is the Lord who speaks!” Amen.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders began with the Last Supper, when Christ Jesus commissioned his Apostles to continue the Eucharistic celebration. He also commissioned his Apostles following the Resurrection to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). Thomas Aquinas makes the point that only Christ is the true priest, the others serving as his ministers (Hebrews 8:4). St. Ignatius, Bishop of Syria around 100 AD, in his Letter to the Magnesians (6), established the hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon for the early Churches, the pattern which still exists today. Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and priests and deacons are his assistants in rendering service. Men are ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as the sacrament confers upon – in persona Christi.
Holy Orders is the sacrament of Apostolic ministry. As in the Pastoral Epistles, the rite consists of the Bishop’s laying on of hands on the head of the priest-candidate with the consecrating prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the gifts of the ministry. There are three dimensions to ministry, that of Bishop, Priesthood, and the Diaconate. See Matthew 16:18-19, John 21:15-17, Romans 10:14-15, 2 Timothy 1:6, and Titus 1:5 as well as the following:
“Do this in memory of me.”
Gospel of Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:25
“Now be solicitous for yourselves and for the whole flock in which
the Holy Spirit has appointed you as bishops to pasture the Church of God,
which He purchased with his own blood.”
Acts of the Apostles 20:28
Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
First Letter of Paul to Timothy 4:14
“Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 2:4-5
In a marriage a man and a woman pledge themselves to one another in an unbreakable alliance of total mutual self-giving. A total union of love.
Love that is not a passing emotion or temporary infatuation, but a responsible and free decision to bind oneself completely, “in good times and in bad,” to one’s partner. It is the gift of oneself to the other.
It is a love to be proclaimed before the eyes of the whole world. It is unconditional. To be capable of such love calls for careful preparation from early childhood to wedding day. It requires the constant support of Church and society throughout its development.
The love of husband and wife in God‘s plan leads beyond itself and new life is generated, a family is born. The family is a community of love and life, a home in which children are guided to maturity.
Marriage is a holy sacrament. Those baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus are married in his name also. Their love is a sharing in the love of God. He is its source. The marriages of Christian couples, today renewed and blessed, are images on earth of the wonder of God, the loving, life-giving communion of Three Persons in one God, and of God’s covenant in Christ, with the Church. Christian marriage is a sacrament of salvation. It is the pathway to holiness for all members of a family.
With all my heart, therefore, I urge that your homes be centers of prayer; homes where families are at ease in the presence of God; homes to which others are invited to share hospitality, prayer and the praise of God: “With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3,16-17).
In your country, there are many marriages between Catholics and other baptized Christians. Sometimes these couples experience special difficulties. To these families I say: You live in your marriage the hopes and difficulties of the path to Christian unity. Express that hope in prayer together, in the unity of love. Together invite the Holy Spirit of love into your hearts and into your homes. He will help you to grow in trust and understanding.
Brothers and sisters, “May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts….Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you” (Col. 3,15-16).
Recently I wrote an Apostolic Exhortation to the whole Catholic Church regarding the role of the Christian Family in the modern world. In that Exhortation I underlined the positive aspects of family life today, which include: a more lively awareness of personal freedom and greater attention to the quality of interpersonal relationships in marriage, greater attention to promoting the dignity of women, to responsible procreation, to the education of children. But at the same time I could not fail to draw attention to the negative phenomena: a corruption of the idea and experience of freedom, with consequent self-centeredness in human relations; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship between parents and children; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the spread of a contraceptive and anti-life mentality. Besides these destructive forces, there are social and economic conditions which affect millions of human beings, undermining the strength and stability of marriage and family life. In addition there is the cultural onslaught against the family by those who attack married life as “irrelevant” and “outdated.” All of this is a serious challenge to society and to the Church. As I wrote then: “History is not simply a fixed progression towards what is better, but rather an event of freedom, and even a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict” (Familiaris Consortio, n. 6). Married couples, I speak to you of the hopes and ideals that sustain the Christian vision of marriage and family life. You will find the strength to be faithful to your marriage vows in your love for your children. Let this love be the rock that stands firm in the face of every storm and temptation. What better blessing could the Pope wish for your families than what Saint Paul wished for the Christians of Colossae: “Be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes … put on love” (Col. 3,12-14).
Being a parent today brings worries and difficulties, as well as joys and satisfactions. Your children are your treasure. They love you very much, even if they sometimes find it hard to express that love. They look for independence and are reluctant to conform. Sometimes they wish to reject past traditions and even reject their faith.
In the family bridges are meant to be built, not broken; and new expressions of wisdom and truth can be fashioned from the meeting of experience and enquiry. Yours is a true and proper ministry in the Church. Open the doors of your home and of your heart to all the generations of your family. We cannot overlook the fact that some marriages fail. But still it is our duty to proclaim the true plan of God for all married love and to insist on fidelity to that plan, as we go towards the fullness of life in the Kingdom of heaven. Let us not forget that God’s love for his people, Christ’s love for the Church, is everlasting and can never be broken. And the covenant between a man and a women joined in Christian marriage is as indissoluble and irrevocable as this love (cf. AAS 71 , p. 1224). This truth is a great consolation for the world, and because some marriages fail, there is an ever greater need for the Church and all her members to proclaim it faithfully.
Christ himself, the living source of grace and mercy, is close to all those whose marriage has known trial, pain, or anguish. Throughout the ages countless married people have drawn from the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection the strength to bear Christian witness—at times very difficult—to the indissolubility of Christian marriage.
And all the efforts of the Christian people to bear faithful witness to God’s law, despite human weakness, have not been in vain. These efforts are the human response made, through grace, to a God who has first loved us and who has given himself for us.
As I explained in my Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, the Church is vitally concerned for the pastoral care of the family in all difficult cases. We must reach out with love—the love of Christ—to those who know the pain of failure in marriage; to those who know the loneliness of bringing up a family on their own; to those whose family life is dominated by tragedy or by illness of mind or body. I praise all those who help people wounded by the breakdown of their marriage, by showing them Christ’s compassion and counselling them according to Christ’s truth.
To the public authorities, and to all men and women of good will, I say: treasure your families. Protect their rights. Support the family by your laws and administration. Allow the voice of the family to be heard in the making of your policies. The future of your society, the future of humanity, passes by the way of the family.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, who are now about to renew the promises of your wedding day: may your words express once more the truth that is in your heart and may they generate faithful love within your families. Make sure that your families are real communities of love.
Allow that love to reach out to other people, near and far. Reach out especially to the lonely and burdened people of your neighborhood, to the poor and to all those on the margin of society. In this way you will build up your society in peace, for peace requires trust, and trust is the child of love, and love comes to birth in the cradle of the family.
The union of a man and a woman is natural. The natural language of the human body is such that the man gives to the woman and the woman receives the man. The love and friendship between a man and a woman grow into a desire for marriage. The sacrament of marriage gives the couple the grace to grow into a union of heart and soul, to continue life, and to provide stability for themselves and their children. Children are the fruit and bond of a marriage.
The bond of marriage between a man and a woman lasts all the days of their lives, and the form of the rite consists of the mutual exchange of vows by a couple, both of whom have been baptized. The minister serves as a witness to the couple in the West, but serves as the actual minister of the rite in the East. The matter follows later through consummation of the marriage act.
Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God, and concludes with a vision of the “wedding-feast of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7, 9). The bond of marriage is compared to God’s undying love for Israel in the Old Testament, and Christ’s love for his Church in the New Testament of the Bible.
Jesus stresses the significance of the marriage bond in his Ministry (Matthew 19:6, 8). The importance of marriage is substantiated by the presence of Christ at the wedding feast of Cana, where he began his public ministry at the request of his mother Mary by performing his first miracle (John 2). It is the Apostle Paul who calls matrimony a great sacrament or mystery, and who identifies the marriage of man and woman with the unity of Christ and his Church. The theologian Tertullian, the first Latin Father of the Church at the beginning of the third century AD, wrote on the Sacrament of Matrimony.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
“(Jesus) said in reply: “Have you not read that He who made man from the beginning
made them male and female?”
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church.”
St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:25
“This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself,
and the wife should respect her husband.”
St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:32-33
At the first Pentecost, Jesus said to his disciples: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (Jn. 20,23). These words of our Savior remind us of the fundamental gift of our redemption: the gift of having our sins forgiven and of being reconciled with God. Remission of sin is a completely free and undeserved gift, a newness of life which we could never earn. God grants it to us out of his mercy. As Saint Paul wrote: “It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5,18).
There is no sin that cannot be forgiven, if we approach the throne of mercy with humble and contrite hearts. No evil is more powerful than the infinite mercy of God. In becoming man, Jesus entered completely into our human experience, even to the point of suffering the final and most cruel effect of the power of sin—death on a cross. He really became one like us in all things but sin. But evil with all its power did not win. By dying, Christ destroyed our death; by rising, he restored our life; by his wounds we are healed and our sins are forgiven. For this reason, when the Lord appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection, he showed them his hands and his side. He wanted them to see that the victory had been won; to see that he, the risen Christ, had transformed the marks of sin and death into symbols of hope and life.
By the victory of his Cross, Jesus Christ won for us the forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation with God. And it is these gifts that Christ offers us when he gives the Holy Spirit to the Church, for he said to the Apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven” (Jn. 20,23). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church continues Christ’s work of reconciling the world to himself.
In every age the Church remains the community of those who have received the reconciliation that was willed by God the Father and achieved through the sacrifice of his beloved Son.
The Church is also by her nature always reconciling, handing on to others the gift that she herself has received, the gift of having been forgiven and made one with God. She does this in many ways, but especially through the sacraments, and in particular through Penance. In this consoling sacrament she leads each of the faithful individually to Christ, and through the Church’s ministry, Christ himself gives forgiveness, strength and mercy. Through this highly personal sacrament, Christ continues to meet the men and women of our time. He restores wholeness where there was division, he communicates light where darkness reigned, and he gives a hope and joy which the world could never give. Through this sacrament the Church proclaims to the world the infinite riches of God’s mercy, that mercy which has broken down barriers which divided us from God and from one another.
On this day of Pentecost, as the Church proclaims the reconciling action of Christ Jesus, and the power of his Holy Spirit, I appeal to all the faithful of Britain—and to all the other members of the Church who may hear my voice or read my words: Dearly beloved, let us give greater emphasis to the Sacrament of Penance in our own lives. Let us strive to safeguard what I described in my first Encyclical as Christ’s “right to meet each one of us in that key moment in the soul’s life constituted by the moment of conversion and forgiveness” (Redemptor Hominis, n. 20).
And in particular I ask you, my brother priests, to realize how closely and how effectively you can collaborate with the Savior in the divine work of reconciliation.
For lack of time, certain worthy activities may have to be abandoned or postponed, but not the confessional. Always give priority to your specifically priestly role in representing the Good Shepherd in the Sacrament of Penance. And as you witness and praise the marvelous action of the Holy Spirit in human hearts, you will feel yourselves called to further conversion and to deeper love of Christ and his flock.
As Christians today strive to be sources of reconciliation in the world, they feel the need, perhaps more urgently than ever before, to be fully reconciled among themselves. For the sin of disunity among Christians, which has been with us for centuries, weighs heavily upon the Church.
The seriousness of this sin was clearly shown at the Second Vatican Council, which stated: “Without doubt, this discord openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 1).
Restoration of unity among Christians is one of the main concerns of the Church in the last part of the twentieth century. And this task is for all of us. No one can claim exemption from this responsibility. Indeed everyone can make some contribution, however small it may seem, and all are called to that interior conversion which is the essential condition for ecumenism. As the Second Vatican Council taught: “This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and can rightly be called ‘spiritual ecumenism'” (ibid., n. 8).
The Holy Spirit, who is the source of all unity, provides the Body of Christ with a “variety of gifts” (1 Cor. 12,3), so that it may be built up and strengthened. As the Holy Spirit granted the Apostles the gift of tongues, so that all gathered in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost might hear and understand the one Gospel of Christ, should we not expect the same Holy Spirit to grant us the gifts we need in order to continue the work of salvation, and to be reunited as one body in Christ? In this we trust and for this we pray, confident in the power which the Spirit gave to the Church at Pentecost.
“Send forth your Spirit … and renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 104,30).
These words of the psalmist are our heartfelt prayer today, as we ask Almighty God to renew the face of the earth through the life-giving power of the Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, renew our hearts and minds with the gifts of light and truth. Renew our homes and families with the gifts of unity and joy. Renew our cities and our countries with true justice and lasting peace. Renew your Church on earth with the gifts of penance and reconciliation, with unity in faith and love.
Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth!
Jesus Christ gave his Apostles the power to forgive sins. The Sacrament is also known as the Sacrament of Conversion, Forgiveness, Penance, or Reconciliation.
During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius (249-251), many Christians left the Church rather than suffer martyrdom. The martyr St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, allowed apostates the Sacrament of Confession, as recorded in his Letter De Lapsis (The Lapsed) in 251.
The sacrament involves three steps: the penitent’s contrition or sorrow for his sins, the actual confession to a priest and absolution, and then penance or restitution for your sins. The experience leads one to an interior conversion of the heart. Jesus describes the process of conversion and penance in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24).
The penitent confesses his sins to the priest in the confessional, and the priest then gives absolution to the repentant soul, making the Sign of the Cross, and saying the words ” I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It is Christ Jesus through the priest who forgives your sins. As the penitent must make restitution or satisfaction for his sins, the priest gives a penance to the forgiven one, usually prayer, fasting, or almsgiving (1 Peter 4:8).
Confession gives one a wonderful sense of freedom and peace from the burden of sin. Sorrow, affliction, and a desire for conversion follow the remorse of sin in those with a contrite heart. Some believe we can confess our sins privately to God. But man is a social being. The humbling experience of unburdening your soul to someone, of exposing your weak nature, and then being accepted for who you are and what you have done by having your sins forgiven brings one an incredible sense of relief! The experience brings a sense of gratitude to our generous Lord for his love, compassion and mercy.
As one is to be in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion, the child makes his first Confession before his first Communion, generally at the age of reason.
Here are three Scriptural references on Penance (See also Matthew 16:18-19, Luke 24:46-47, Acts 2:38):
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
Child, your sins are forgiven…”
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth,” –
he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
Gospel of Mark 2:1-10
“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father who sent me, even so I send you.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.
If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Gospel of John 20:21-23
“And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 5:18
The readings of the Mass today invite us to reflect on the mystery of the Eucharist. This great mystery was foreshadowed in Old Testament times when God provided the Israelites with manna in the wilderness.
In the first reading, we hear the words Moses spoke to the people: “Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness … he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Dt. 8,2-3). God taught the people that he alone was their Lord. He alone was the one who would lead them out of slavery. He alone was the one who would care for them amid the hardships and sorrows they would encounter on the way to the promised land. When they were hungry and thirsty, he gave them manna from heaven and water from the rock.
What was foreshadowed in Old Testament times has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He gave his followers food for the journey of faith when he entrusted to the Church the gift of the Eucharist. Jesus himself is the new spiritual food, for the Eucharist is his body and blood made present under the appearances of bread and wine. He himself says in the Gospel: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6,35)
In Wales, the Eucharist has held a place of prominence in the Church from the earliest times. This is shown by the Christian symbols of the Eucharist which have been discovered in the archaeological excavations at the Roman fort of Caerleon. Happily this great heritage has continued from the early beginnings down to the present time. This fact should not surprise us, since the Eucharist holds such a central place in Christian life and since the mystery of the Eucharist is so closely linked to the mystery of the Church. For every generation in the Church, the food which nourishes the people of God is the Eucharist, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What a beautiful prayer is recorded in today’s Gospel. After Jesus speaks to the people about the true bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world, they cry out: “Give us that bread always” (Jn. 6,34).
This prayer expresses a deep hunger on the part of the people, one which goes beyond the hunger for food. It is a hunger which arises from the depths of the soul and from the desire for love and fulfillment. It is a longing for wholeness and salvation and a yearning for fullness of life—it is a hunger for union with God. Christ is God’s answer to this prayer, God’s response to the deepest hunger of the human heart. All the anguished cries of mankind to God since the fall of Adam and Eve find fulfillment in the Son of God become man. Jesus still says: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6,35). May this same prayer—”Give us that bread always”—often be our prayer too. From our First Communion until the day we die, may we have a deep yearning for Christ, the true bread which gives life to the world.
I would like to speak to these little ones who are about to receive Holy Communion for the first time. Dear children: Jesus is coming to you in a new way today, in a special way. He wants to live in you. He wants to speak to you in your heart. He wants to be with you all through your day.
Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist so that you will live for ever. Holy Communion is not ordinary food. It is the bread of eternal life. It is something more precious than gold or silver. It is worth more than anything you can imagine. For this sacred bread is the body and blood of Jesus. And Jesus promises that if you eat his flesh and drink his blood, you will have life in you and you will live for ever.
You come to the altar today with faith and prayer. Promise me that you will try to stay close to Jesus always, and never turn your back on him.
As you grow older, go on learning about Jesus by listening to his word and by talking to him in prayer. If you stay close to him, you will always be happy.
Dear parents of these children: your love for Christ has made this day possible. For you are your children’s first teachers in the ways of faith. By what you say and do, you show them the truths of our faith and the values of the Gospel. This is indeed not only a sacred duty, but a grace, a great privilege. Many other members of the Church share in this task, but the main responsibility for your children’s religious formation rests upon your shoulders. So try to make your homes genuinely Christian.
Help your children to grow and mature as Jesus did at Nazareth, “in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and men” (Lk. 2,52). Allow no one to take advantage of their lack of experience and knowledge. As you share with them in their personal pilgrimage to God, may you always be united in prayer and worship and in humble love of God and his people.
Dear teachers in our Catholic schools: you too deserve an honored place in our celebration today. Together with the parents, you help to prepare the children for the worthy reception of the sacraments and for a more active role in the Christian community. You bring them to a reverence and knowledge of God’s word and you explain to them the doctrine of the Church. And thus you introduce to them gradually into the riches of the mystery of salvation.
You are heirs of a great tradition, and the People of God is in your debt. As you carry out your important mission in that special community of faith which is the Catholic school, may you have a deep love for the Church. May your love for the Church radiate through all your various activities and be reflected in the way you faithfully hand on the sacred deposit of the faith.
Beloved brother priests: this is a day of joy for you also, for these little ones are members of the parishes in which you have the privilege to serve. Together with their families and teachers, you introduce the children to the wider Christian community and help them to grow to the fullness of maturity in Christ. To them and to the whole parish, you seek to give a shepherd’s care. May you be the best of shepherds and model your lives on our Lord and Redeemer.
I know that Bishops are anxious to develop practical programs of adult education in the faith. I urge you to be in the vanguard of those efforts, which are so important for the vitality of the Church.
I also encourage you to make the worthy celebration of the Eucharist the first priority of your pastoral ministry. Recall the words of the Second Vatican Council. “The other sacraments, as well as every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are linked with the holy Eucharist and are directed towards it. For the most blessed Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth, that is, Christ himself, our Passover and living bread” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 5). No other work you do is of greater importance for the Church or of greater service to your people. For the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the source and summit of all Christian life. Ensure that the Mass is celebrated with deep reverence and prayerfulness, and make every effort to foster the active participation of the laity. Bear witness to the Church’s faith in the Real Presence of Christ by your own daily visit of Eucharistic adoration (cf. ibid., n. 18). And through the liturgical renewal that was willed by the Council, may all your parishes become communities alive with faith and charity.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, every time we gather for the Eucharist, we take part in the great mystery of faith. We receive the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. This is the cause of our joy and the source of our hope. May this great mystery be for you and the whole Church be the center of your life and the way to eternal salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Eucharistia means thanksgiving, and the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” St. Justin Martyr described the Eucharistic Liturgy in 155 AD in his First Apology. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated in the liturgy of the Mass. The Mass is the Eucharist or principal sacramental celebration of the Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished. The word “Mass” comes from the Latin missa, as it refers to the mission or sending forth of the faithful following the celebration, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.
The essential signs of the sacrament are wheat bread anf wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked during the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper: “This is my body…This is the cup of my blood…” (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Jesus died on the cross in sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 9:25-28). But Jesus is present for all time, as He is the eternal Son of God. What He did once in history also then exists for all eternity. What happened in time goes beyond time. In the heart of Jesus He is always giving Himself to the Father for us, as He did on the Cross. When we celebrate the Mass, the sacrifice of the cross, that happened once in history but is present for all eternity, that same reality is made present in the mystery.
The bread and wine through Transubstantiation become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and we receive the Real Presence of Jesus when we receive Holy Communion. Our soul is nourished, helping us to become like Christ. The Eucharist is the heart and source of community within the Church. Receiving Holy Communion with others during the Mass brings unity of the Church, the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 10:16-17).
Then He took the bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
“This is my body, which will be given for you;
do this in memory of me.”
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
which will be shed for you.”
Gospel of Luke 22:19-20
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven;
if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever;
and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Gospel of John 6:51
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,
“This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in My blood;
do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 11:23-26
I would now like to speak especially to the young people who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Today’s Gospel has special meaning for you, for it says that “Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you,” and showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” After saying this he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20,20-22).
Christ‘s gift of the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out upon you in a particular way. You will hear the words of the Church spoken over you, calling upon the Holy Spirit to confirm your faith, to seal you in his love, to strengthen you for his service. You will then take your place among fellow-Christians throughout the world, full citizens now of the People of God. You will witness to the truth of the Gospel in the name of Jesus Christ. You will live your lives in such a way as to make holy all human life. Together with all the confirmed, you will become living stones in the cathedral of peace. Indeed you will be called by God to be instruments of his peace.
Today you must understand that you are not alone. We are one body, one people, one Church of Christ. The sponsor who stands at your side represents for you the whole community. Together, with a great crowd of witnesses drawn from all peoples and every age, you represent Christ. You are young people who have received a mission from Christ, for he says to you today: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”
“Jesus breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained”
On the first Pentecost our Savior gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins when he poured into their hearts the gift of the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit comes to you today in the Sacrament of Confirmation, to involve you more completely in the Church’s fight against sin and in her mission of fostering holiness. He comes to dwell more fully in your hearts and to strengthen you for the struggle with evil. My dear young people, the world of today needs you, for it needs men and women who are filled with the Holy Spirit. It needs your courage and hopefulness, your faith and your perseverance. The world of tomorrow will be built by you.
Today you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so that you may work with deep faith and with abiding charity, so that you may help to bring to the world the fruits of reconciliation and peace. Strengthened by the Holy Spirit and his manifold gifts, commit yourselves wholeheartedly to the Church’s struggle against sin. Strive to be unselfish; try not to be obsessed with material things. Be active members of the People of God; be reconciled with each other and devoted to the work of justice, which will bring peace on earth.
“How many are your works, O Lord!”
These words of the responsorial psalm evoke gratitude from our hearts and a hymn of praise from our lips. Indeed how many are the works of the Lord, how great are the effects of the Holy Spirit’s action in Confirmation! When this sacrament is conferred, the words of the psalm are fulfilled among us: “You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth” (v. 30).
On the first day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and upon Mary and filled them with his power. Today we remember that moment and we open ourselves again to the gift of that same Holy Spirit. In that Spirit we are baptized. In that Spirit we are confirmed. In that Spirit we are called to share in the mission of Christ. In that Spirit we shall indeed become the People of Pentecost, the apostles of our time. “Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” Amen.
Confirmation (or Chrismation) is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit whom Christ Jesus sent (John 7:37-39, 16:7). Jesus instructed his Apostles that they “will receive the power of the Holy Spirit” and called upon the Apostles to be his “witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). At the Pentecost, the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), and began to spread the Word of God. The Acts of the Apostles is often called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote of the Mysteries of Baptism, Eucharist, and Chrism in the mid-fourth century AD.
The rite of Confirmation is anointing the forehead with chrism, together with the laying on of the hands and the words, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The recipient receives the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3). On occasion one may receive one or more of the charismatic gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
The ecclesial effect and sacramental grace of the sacrament give the recipient the strength and character to witness for Jesus Christ. The East continues the tradition of the early Christian Church by administering the sacrament with Baptism. Confirmation in the West is administered by the Bishop to children from age 7 to 18, but generally to adolescents, for example, to a graduating class of grade school children. Key Scriptural sources for Confirmation are the following (See also Acts 1:4-5, 2:1-4, 2:38, 10:44-48):
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away,
for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you.
Gospel of John 16:7
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God,
they sent to them Peter and John,
who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit;
for it had not yet fallen on any of them,
but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17