When we gather for Mass we are given the opportunity to experience a profound mystery of faith. Some quiet reflection time is necessary to fully enter into the mystery. The following prayer serves as a suggestion for reflection before Mass:

"Lord, I come to this Mass to praise and thank you. On this holy ground and in this sacred space, I remember and celebrate your presence."

No matter how solemn or simple this Eucharistic liturgy will be, it is celebrated in response to your invitation, “Do this in memory of me.” Thank you, Jesus, for the privilege to worship you in this way. Thank you for planting in my heart the grace to desire your presence in those gathered here today, in your sacred Word, and in the bread and wine. I come in faith. Let it be as steady as the lit candles on the altar. May I be open to your gentle touch. May I be open to your sacred Word and listen to it as a personal challenge. I bring to you my special needs, fears, grudges, self-pity, and petty concerns. I ask your help and guidance, Lord, to become a better person. If my cares and worries interfere with my prayer at this Mass, accept them as my feeble gifts. Transform them by your grace.
As the bread and wine will be changed into your sacramental presence, so also change me. My whole being praises, honors, and glorifies you. I come into your presence with joy. Amen.
I’m Not fulfilled—It does nothing for me. Going to church is not about being entertained. For that you can go to a concert, a movie or a comedy club. Our Catholic Mass is about giving thanks and physically receiving Jesus Christ – the Eucharist.
We don’t have big bands and big production numbers. Really though, what could be bigger than the Sacrificial Gift our God has already given to us. So, can you be fulfilled at Mass? Yes, if you are focusing on the gift. Can it do anything for you? Yes, if you allow the gift of the Word and the Eucharist into your soul. Every time one receives the Eucharist, the healing, comforting, joyful, loving energy of Jesus is present.

So that means everything will be perfect if I just go to communion! Well, we are human and not really meant to live perfect lives, but we can live more simply if we trust in the guidance of our Lord and in the strength of his Precious Body and Blood.

Each and every time we receive the Eucharist, something shifts within us. It may turn our personal joy into something bigger, and united with Jesus. It may be a contentment that consumes us and slows down the worry. It may be a complete trust that gives us the strength to endure. It may be the communal experience that comforts loneliness. And sometimes it may be the acceptance that where we are in our life situation and what we’re experiencing is where we are meant to be. We share this gift of the Mass as family with those in attendance and the millions of Catholics around the word experiencing the same great source of energy, and sharing in His most precious gift is most comforting, inspiring, and uplifting.

Do you get all that just from showing up?! Not really. In our work we are expected to contribute effort; a good relationship requires loving and giving energy, success requires devotion and consistency. So why do we expect God to fulfill us just for walking in the doors on Sunday! Open your ears to the Word, open your soul to the Gift, spend time pondering His great act of mercy and with that effort – with that devotion and giving of yourself – you will begin to receive what is promised to all who believe.
We refer to our arrival in the church before the celebration as “the gathering rite.” Most of us think of it as the moment when we meet and greet our brothers and sisters in Christ early in the liturgy. But we can think of it as a rite that begins much earlier: Even as we arrive on the church grounds and get out of our cars in the parking lot, as we greet and talk with others about the weather or about which of our children caught the chickenpox—the gathering rite is in motion. Even earlier, roused from our sleep, we have begun to gather our wits and collect our thoughts and intentions. Hauled from our beds, we have migrated from all directions to form this gathering. For we are hungry to break the bread that is Christ’s body and share the cup of our salvation. The gathering rite is our invitation to hone our awareness of this migration we make on Sunday morning. It gives the chance to make a transition from the sacrament of daily life to the sacrament of our gathered community. We do not want to find ourselves in this migration out of habit or duty—but we want to reach that level of awareness that knows our deepest yearning for an experience of the holy in communion.
Here are some ideas to make the gathering rite a joyful, rich, and pleasant experience before you even arrive at the church: Get up an hour earlier and read over the scripture lessons for the day so that you can really hear them at the liturgy. Make special coffee or hot chocolate and bring it around to family members inviting them to this Sunday rising with plenty of time to shower and dress in their Sunday clothes. Allow that the family retains a Sunday silence—no idle chatter—just the peace of silence and a gathering of our inner selves. Play “Sunday music”—to set the tone: chant or some meditative and beautiful religious music from our long heritage. Retain the silence as you walk or drive to church. When you arrive, make a point of greeting and engaging the others you meet. Greet someone you know already and greet and make the acquaintance of someone whom you have never met before. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you.”

Copyright © 2001 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1800 North Hermitage Avenue, Chicago IL 60622‑1101; 1‑800‑933‑1800; Text by Gertrud Mueller Nelson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Jesus offers much wise advice on how to pray. First, he calls us to conversion and reconciliation with our sisters and brothers before we pray. A pure heart enables us to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, and approach God with a loving spirit. Thus, we should pray with forgiving hearts: "And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too." (Mk 11:25)

Jesus also tells us to pray to the Father in secret and not heap up empty words the way hypocrites do. When we keep our prayers short, we display confidence in God's goodness and generosity. We should also pray with childlike simplicity and with faith in God. The Lord always hears our petitions, and will give us what is good for us. "If you then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk 11:13)

Jesus also teaches that we should persist in prayer, not giving up easily. Persistence is a sign of faith in Jesus' word.

Another point Jesus makes is to pray with others, assuring us that when we gather in his name he is with us. At the Last Supper, he instructed us to "break bread" in his name, something we do in our celebration of the Eucharist.

Jesus also teaches us to pray with humility, with attention to his presence and future coming, and with a sincere heart that is ready to do God's will in all. Further, Jesus tells us to pray in his name with the Spirit of truth he and the Father give to us to guide and lead us. Christian prayer in the Lord's name is a communion of love with the Father both through and in Christ the Lord.

When we pray to Jesus, he, the merciful one, hears our prayer and answers it. The famous Jesus Prayer is an excellent way to petition the Lord: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." Jesus teaches us the perfect prayer-the Lord's Prayer-in which he invites us to address God as our loving Father.
{Taken from This Is Our Faith—A catholic Catechism for Adults}
(From John Paul II’s encyclical, The Eucharist builds the Church) The Second Vatican Council teaches that the celebration of the Eucharist is the center of the process of the Church’s growth. The Church, as the Kingdom of God, already present in mystery, grows visibly in the world through the power of God. How does the Church grow? As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which Christ our Pasch is sacrificed is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out. At the same time, in the sacrament of the Eucharistic bread, the unity of the faithful, who form one body in Christ, is both expressed and brought about.

The Evangelists specify that it was the Twelve, the Apostles, who gathered with Jesus at the Last Supper. By offering them his body and his blood as food, Christ mysteriously involved them in the sacrifice, which would be completed later on Calvary.

The Apostles, by accepting in the Upper Room Jesus’ invitation “Take, eat, Drink of it, all of you” entered for the first time into sacramental communion with him. We can say not only that each of us receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us: “You are my friends.” Indeed, it is because of him that we have life: “he who eats me will live because of me.” Eucharistic communion brings about in a sublime way the “mutual abiding” of Christ and each of his followers: “abide in me, and I in you.” The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Are you really there? Take a look at yourself. You look like you’re there. But are you what you appear to be? A solid specimen of Joe or Joan Catholic? Look again. Are you standing still? No. You are moving at 10’s of 1000’s of miles per hour around Earth’s axis. You are moving even faster than that around the sun and faster yet around the galactic center. Your senses are fooling you. Are you solid? No. You’re virtually all space. The distances between the particles that compose each atom of your body are proportionate to interplanetary distances. Those particles that build up the matter of your body are moving at 186 thousand miles per second! You just look solid because what you’re made up of is moving so fast! If material reality can be so counterintuitive on the natural level, how much more so will it be when God intervenes? If the Second Person of the Trinity can be really present in a single ovum in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or in the Man Jesus, why cannot Jesus be really present in the Blessed Sacrament?

Eucharist: Sacrificial Event

We are used to thinking of our Liturgy as a communal meal. But it is not just any meal. It is the meal by which we participate in the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. This is the redemptive sacrifice promised in Gen.3:15 and prefigured in the ritual sacrifices of the Old Testament, especially in the Passover sacrifice of the unblemished lamb, but also in the Thank-Offering (“Eucharist”) sacrifices in which unleavened wheat cakes imbued with oil were offered with wine and eaten in fellowship with God.

It is the awesome vocation of the priest who celebrates Mass to call down the Holy Spirit (whose symbol is oil) to act upon our “Thank Offerings” of bread and wine, “that they may become for us the body and blood” of Jesus Christ. He acts uniquely in the Name and Person of Christ when he says the words of consecration: “This is My body…This is My blood…” By these words God makes present in one particular time and space the eternal sacrifice and glorious presence of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist anchors Christ and his saving action in our world. We participate fully in this sacrifice when we eat of it and are nourished by it. (1Cor.10:16) Eucharist is a verb.

Eucharist: Real Presence

Now to make present Christ’s action is to make present Christ himself. Eucharist is also a noun. Our material “Thank Offering” of bread and wine is overtaken, down to the roots of its very substance, by the Presence of Jesus. It becomes the body and blood of the Lord. It is not just his “spiritual” presence as opposed to his “bodily” presence. It is his real presence: body, blood, soul and divinity. (Jn.6:54-56) The bread has become Sacrament, a whole new reality embracing both event and presence, verb and noun.

Christ comes among us under the appearance of bread so that we will eat and be nourished by him. But here any analogy to Wonder Bread fails. This Bread nourishes us even when we are not consuming it. It is not natural, but supernatural Bread. It is not the dead body, but the glorified body of Christ. (Jn.6:63).
As early as 120 AD hermitages reserved the Sacrament, and by the early 4th century it was reserved for adoration in convents and monasteries. How does this Bread feed us apart from the Liturgy where, as sacrificial meal, it is our participation in the sacrifice of Christ? It looks like bread, but remember: your senses can fool you. The Sacrament’s bread-like appearance is more like a “membrane” between two dimensions: heaven and earth, between our pre-resurrection bodies and Christ’s glorified body.

Christ is present in the world in many ways for many reasons, but He is pre-eminently present in the Eucharist which anchors him among us. Adoring him in the Sacrament anchors us in him, as he nourishes our mind and will in spiritual communion. We begin to be transformed into his image as we “gaze with unveiled face upon the glory of the Lord.” (2Cor.3:18). Come, let us adore him!
One of the Pharisees tested Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:35-37)

The commandments that Jesus quoted (to love God and love our neighbor) were part of the Old Testament. In Old Testament times (and in the time of Jesus), belonging to a group meant everything. People didn’t have the networks that we’re used to today or the support that we depend on today. You belonged to a tribe or a particular town, and it meant everything. These people were your extended family. They were the ones who looked after you . . . and the ones you looked after.

That’s what the word “love” meant most of all: Accepting your connection to a certain, wider group of people. To love was to recognize and maintain the ties that bound you together, and say, “I will help you, care about you, protect you.” That’s what Jesus meant when he said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It puts “love of neighbor” within reach. I can’t conjure up affection for everyone in the world. But what I can do is recognize and accept the connection I have with them. And it’s in reach. I can do it today.
“Be quiet, you’re in church now!” Many of us grew up being reminded regularly that the appropriate behavior for us during Mass was to be silent. Church and the library had that in common. Then, with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, active participation became the norm. Usually active participation is understood as joining in the singing and saying the responses along with everyone else. Rarely do we expand the definition of participation to include communal silence.

Public silence is frequently very awkward. We assume someone forgot their cue or made an embarrassing mistake. Yet we also know the heart-gripping impact when a grandstand full of people observes a moment of silence. The liturgy invites us to pray without words several times during Sunday Mass. Before the opening prayer, after the readings and the homily, perhaps during the intercessions and again after communion, we are given the opportunity to call to mind God’s presence in our midst, to offer our personal petitions and express our thanks for God’s continuing blessings. Such silence is not a passive “shutting down” but rather an attentive awareness of our intimate connection with the Lord and with one another. Such awareness requires ample time to develop—ample time not only at a particular liturgy, but Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Only then will the inevitable coughing, kneeler banging, and fussing babies mark the beginning of our silence and not the end of it!

In another, more profound sense, we are always silent at liturgy—even when we speak. We sing psalms and speak prayers that are not our own but rather the words of our ancestors in faith and the words of the church. Our individualistic American culture finds such behavior suspicious or even threatening: “I am my own person!” But it is precisely in that surrender to the power of ritual and the life of the larger community that we discover our true voice.

Copyright © 1997 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1800 North Hermitage Avenue, Chicago IL 60622-1101; 1-800-933-1800. Text by Kathy Luty.
What does the Sacrament of Marriage reveal to us about God? In the Scriptures the relationship between God and God's people is often described in terms of a marriage. The early Christians, reflecting on Christ's love for us, also used this image. Christ and the Church embrace in mutual love and self-giving, even as do husband and wife. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

In each of the sacraments a window opens and we can glimpse the mystery of God and God's plan for the salvation of the world. In Christian marriage we see that God was not content to be alone, but embarked on a whole new life project. Out of love God created us and all that is. God is faithful no matter what. Whether we are faithful or faithless, God is faithful; whether we wander away in sin or remain in the embrace of love, God is always there and is ever ready to embrace us.

This sacramental sign, which the husband and wife give to each other, they also give to the entire community of witnesses. We all have made commitments to God and God has made commitments to us. There are times when we wonder if God will be faithful. We have never seen God, but we can see the fidelity of Christian husbands and wives. Their love for each other is a sacramental sign and witness of God's love for me. Our human lives are interconnected, like a fabric, woven together by many commitments. The fidelity of their commitment strengthens our own commitments.
Pope Paul VI - The Essential Mission of the Church On December 8, 1975, Pope Paul VI published his Apostolic Exhortation: On Evangelization in the Modern World (Evangelii Nuntiandi). It was inspired by the Synod of Bishops of 1974 and is considered to be the “watershed” document for contemporary Catholic evangelization. It gives to Catholics a renewed focus on evangelization. As a result of that document, Catholic interest in evangelization has been renewed and the energy the Church seeks to devote to this work has been expanded. Pope Paul VI teaches that evangelization is the Church’s essential mission.

We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelization is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection. (On Evangelization in the Modern World, #14).

Certainly, the Church has always cultivated a keen missionary vision before this date and time. Its history might arguably be defined as the chronicle of a great and sacred mission-on-the-march. But Pope Paul’s message did something startling: it gave a new understanding to Catholic evangelization. The mandate applies and permeates all aspects of Church life and not only missionary efforts in faraway places.

In this Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Paul VI describes what evangelization is. He writes: “For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all strata of humanity, and through its influence, transforming humanity from within and making it new.” (#18) He further teaches that the object of Catholic evangelization is conversion to Jesus Christ in and through the Church. We believe that conversion is the change in our lives that comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit and happens in many ways. Some experience a gradual growth over many years. Others undergo conversion as they take part in the RCIA or through the formation received through the ordinary relationships of family and friends. Still, others have experienced conversion in renewals, ecumenical encounters, retreats, parish missions, or other spiritual movements that have blessed Church life today.

What is important in the Catholic understanding of conversion is that it begins with acceptance of Jesus Christ in Baptism but then continues to deepen throughout life. It is ongoing. The goal of Catholic evangelization is to invite a person to believe in Jesus Christ; to enfold the believer in the sacramental, communal life of the Church; and then to enable, inspire, and support a lifetime of full discipleship. In On Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope Paul VI challenged every Catholic and minister to rethink his or her own vocation. The goal of Catholic evangelization is to invite a person to believe in Jesus Christ; to enfold the believer in the sacramental, communal life of the Church; and then to enable, inspire, and support a lifetime of full discipleship.
The Assumption, along with the Immaculate Conception, are two Marian dogmas that have been infallibly defined by the church. The Assumption proclaims the reality that Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven. This was God's special gift to her in response to her total giving of self to God's plan and will.

The church believes that Mary was immaculately conceived, that is, conceived without original sin. This led the church to believe that she did not suffer one of the key consequences of original sin, death and corruption. The Orthodox Church celebrates the Dormition of Mary, the belief that Mary did not die but rather fell asleep and was thus assumed into heaven.

What significance does this feast have for our lives as Christians today? This feast is above all an assurance and hope of our continued life with God. Modeling ourselves on Jesus and living the Christian life molded by Jesus' values, is certainly the sure path to God. As a result, God will not leave us orphaned or alone to suffer the emptiness of death. Rather we believe that death is merely a transformation of our present state into an even more glorious and eternal relationship with God.

This is the hope and assurance that Mary's Assumption celebrates. It is a celebration of our assumption as well. She is one of us, providing a model of what God has in store for all who love and give of themselves to God.

©: 2006 Liturgical Publications Inc, New Berlin, WI 53151
Karol Józef Wojtyła, known as John Paul II since his October, 1978 election to the papacy, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 or so kilometers from Cracow, on May 18, 1920. He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932, and his father, a non-commissioned army officer, died in 1941.

He made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at 18. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Cracow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.

The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work hard in a quarry (1940-1944), and then in the Solvay chemical factory, to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

Aware of his call to priesthood in 1942 he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Cracow run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, Archbishop of Cracow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyła was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre," also clandestine.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Cracow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University until his priestly ordination in Cracow on November 1, 1946.

Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the topic of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross. At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland.

In 1948 he returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Cracow as well as chaplain for the university students until 1951, when he again took up his studies in philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on “evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler” at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Cracow and on the Theological Faculty of Lublin.

On July 4, 1958, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Cracow by Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in the Cathedral of Wawel in Cracow by Archbishop Baziak. On January 13, 1964, he was nominated Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal June 26, 1967. Besides taking part in Vatican Council II with an important contribution to the elaboration of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes, Cardinal Wojtyła participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

Since the start of his Pontificate on October 16, 1978, Pope John Paul II has completed 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy and 146 within Italy . As Bishop of Rome he has visited 317 of the 333 parishes.

His principal documents include 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, and 45 apostolic letters. The Pope has also published five books: "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (October 1994); "Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination" (November 1996); "Roman Triptych - Meditations," a book of poems (March 2003); "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way" (May 2004); and "Memory and Identity” (spring publication, 2005).

John Paul II has presided at some 147 beatification ceremonies (1,338 Blessed proclaimed) and 51 ceremonies of canonization (482 Saints) during his pontificate. He has held 9 consistories in which he created 231 (+1 in pectore) cardinals. He has also convened six plenary meetings of the College of Cardinals. From 1978 to today the Holy Father has presided at 15 Synods of Bishops: six ordinary (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994, 2001), one extraordinary (1985), and eight special (1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998[2] and 1999).

No other Pope has encountered nearly as many individuals as John Paul II: to date, more than 17,600,000 pilgrims have participated in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays (more than 1,160). This figure is without counting all other special audiences and religious ceremonies held [more than 8 million pilgrims during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 alone] and the millions of faithful met during pastoral visits in Italy and throughout the world. It must also be remembered the many government personalities encountered during 38 official visits and in the 738 audiences and meetings held with Heads of State , and even the 246 audiences and meetings with Prime Ministers.