Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 27, 2000
Heart and soul of Christian life
Eucharist should affect how we live, say Calgary conference speakers
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
The Eucharist expresses the heart and soul of Christian life and is a guide for living our lives, Cardinal Roger Mahony told the opening of Catholic Conference 2000 March 17 in Calgary.
"What we say and do at Eucharist reflects how we live. It's where we express how the world would be if God had God's way.
"Living the Eucharist and living it well demands that each Sunday Eucharist must be well-planned and well celebrated," he said, adding "we've got to be far more creative and imaginative than we have been in the past."
Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, addressed close to 1,400 delegates attending the provincial conference hosted by the Calgary Catholic School District.
He encouraged them to "come to a fuller appreciation of the Eucharist as the source and summit of Catholic life."
To see the Eucharist as a summit, he explained, we need to understand that the days leading up to Sunday Eucharist are just as important as what happens after the Mass.
"We need to look at what small ways we can find, especially in our families and homes, to prepare for the next Eucharist," he said.
Taking time to look at the Scripture readings for the next week, and explaining to children what will happen during times of liturgical change such as Lent, are simple ways to "lead up to the summit," Mahoney said.
In one of more than 50 concurrent sessions at the conference, Janina Diodati reflected further on guiding children in their response to the Eucharist.
Diodati, head of religious education for Calgary Catholic Schools, told parents they have a responsibility to deepen their own understanding of the Eucharist.
"There is no substitute for knowledge," she stressed, pointing out that short, well-written and theologically sound articles such as those in Catholic Update or Origins are valuable resources for parents.
Children can't enter fully into what they don't know, she added. Above all, parents have to acknowledge the importance and value of what they are passing on to their children, and to do it gently.
"We need to convey to children that more than food is shared around the altar, and more than the living gather around it."
Mahony also spoke of the importance of engaging children fully in Sunday Mass, and letting them help plan their own celebrations so they begin to understand the elements of the Eucharist.
We need to remember that the Eucharist is, among other things, a sacred meal of community, justice and charity, Mahony added.
"We partake of one bread and one cup, and in a very simple act of eating and drinking we are bonded and sustained together."
It's important not to overlook the significance of the physical environment, he reminded delegates.The physical space, the music "enhance the experience and how it is taken forward."
Music and song are a natural way of expressing praise, delegates learned at a keynote session by Bernadette Gasslein, editor of Celebrate! magazine, and Bishop Raymond Lahey of St. George's, Nfld.
"In every generation, poets and artists have striven to capture the sound of a world straining to praise its God," Lahey said. "The musician's greatest service is to help our voices join in that unending hymn of praise which is already resounding."
Praise is a faith stance, not a feeling, Gasslein explained. "We can gather to celebrate the Eucharist feeling grumpy - it doesn't mean we can't praise God. And being happy doesn't guarantee that we will praise God."
Each Eucharistic celebration reminds us that every person embodies the glory of God and we are all made in God's image, Gasslein added.
"In Communion, intimate bonds are made which cannot be broken. The sounds of Sunday don't die at the church door. They are the prelude to God's Sunday world.
"The Spirit moves us out to build God's Sunday world in our everyday world."
But we are not sent forth to go back to what we were doing before, Mahony cautioned.
"We take with us the power of Jesus Christ and bring that to the people we meet during the week.
"It's a constant ebb and flow of preparing, celebrating, and bringing back to the community. That is how the early Church understood Eucharist.
"It is what sustained them, and it must be what sustains us."