Cardinal: Mass Is "Essential" Experience of Faith

Laments That More Don't Attend Regularly

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QUEBEC CITY, JUNE 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Although Sunday Mass is the "essential" experience of faith, less than half of North American Catholics attend regularly, according to the archbishop of Philadelphia.

Cardinal Justin Rigali spoke Monday at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, which is being held through Sunday in Quebec.

Some 11,000 pilgrims, 50 cardinals and more than 100 bishops have gathered to reflect on the theme, "The Eucharist, the Gift of God for the Life of the World."

In his address the cardinal touched on various aspects of the devotion to the Eucharist in North American, beginning with Sunday Mass.

"The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is the essential experience of the faith and the source of our people’s identity as the Church," he said. "It is the central act of parish life in which the faithful offer adoration and thanksgiving to God for their salvation in Christ and seek the grace of the Holy Spirit to grow as faithful disciples."

"Despite this central focus on the Eucharist in parochial life," Cardinal Rigali added, "studies report that less than 50% of our people regularly attend Sunday Mass with any regularity."

He said that many Catholics only regularly attend at Christmas and Easter, and return occasionally for weddings, baptisms and funerals.

Cardinal Rigali affirmed: "The lives of these people reflect an indifference to God that permeates the culture. This situation certainly calls for increased efforts at catechesis to invite a return to the Eucharist of those who do not fully participate in it, and to help strengthen the fidelity of practicing Catholics."

Study

The cardinal said the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word within the Mass has "transformed the lives of many of the people in our parishes."

"This weekly encounter with Christ through the proclamation of the word and the homily has provided a school of spiritual formation and a source of teaching the faith of the Church," he said.

Cardinal Rigali also noted the existence of many Bible study groups, which help the faithful "to reach a deeper relationship with Christ when they come to the liturgy."

Adoration

Cardinal Rigali reported that the practice of Eucharistic adoration is growing. "This intimate union with the Eucharistic Lord in continuous prayer is a sign of increased reverence and devotion as well as a source of many graces and blessings, not least of which is the discernment of priestly and religious vocations by many of our young people."

The cardinal emphasized the need for proper catechesis on the relationship between Mass and Eucharistic adoration that "enables the faithful to understand that exposition is a continuation of the supreme adoration begun in the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice and a deepening of our union with God and one another."

Music

Regarding music in the liturgy, Cardinal Rigali noted the need to make sure that the "lyrics authentically express the truth contained in the texts of the rites and that the forms of music are respectful of the sacred mysteries celebrated."

"Music has successfully engaged the faithful in the action of the rite, leading to adoration, praise and thanksgiving," he said. "As such, it has had a formative role within the celebration of the Mass."

"Yet there is a need to reexamine the forms of music that are used and the lyrics that are sung."

Transformation

Cardinal Rigali then reflected on the transforming power of the Eucharist.

He said: "Many parishes who devoutly and faithfully celebrate the Eucharist and deeply reflect on the mystery they have experienced, are undergoing a profound moral transformation that empowers them as witnesses of justice and charity.

"Communion with God is leading so many communities to communion with others; as a result the face of God is more often recognized in others and the bonds of mutual love in Christ are strengthened.

"As a result parishes commit themselves to the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in service to the community. This is an exhilarating effect of Eucharistic piety."

The celebration of the Eucharist in North America, Cardinal Rigali concluded, "bears splendid witness to the mighty works that God is accomplishing in and for his people. In a world that God is always drawing closer to himself through the Blood of the Lamb, the celebration of the Eucharist in the midst of the Church is the great sign of her vitality and the assurance of her share in Christ’s victory."

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Cardinal Rigali's address: http://www.zenit.org/article-22936?l=english