Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,
I was born in April 1951 in the city of Pontiac. The eldest of ten children, our family went en masse to Sunday Mass at our local parish, Our Lady of the Lakes. As you can imagine, we had to arrive pretty early to get a pew that could accommodate us all. Not least because in the 1950’s it is estimated that nearly 8 in every 10 Catholics in the United States attended Sunday Mass. Now that figure is estimated to be about 4 in every 10. The big drop occurred during the 1970’s.
That’s a lot of Catholics who are not at Sunday Mass and, thus, distant from Our Lord truly present in the Holy Eucharist. That has to be a source of great sorrow and, indeed, heartache for those of us whose loved ones no longer practice their Catholic faith. So, what can we do? That’s the theme of this week’s Disciples Together on the Way
This week I challenge you to offer the grace from your attendance at Holy Mass for a person who is away from the Mass. This is one of the groups that I highlighted in my 2012 pastoral letter, Go Announce the Gospel of the Lord.
Over the intervening decade, we have all put considerable effort into inviting “the lost sheep” back to Holy Mass, especially Sunday Mass, and to the Holy Eucharist. As a Diocese we have also focused on this group more recently in our work on the upcoming Synod and have attempted to engage in conversation with some of our neighbors or family who do not attend Mass or have lapsed from the practice of the Faith.
This is a group which can be tricky to talk with. Many people are reticent to talk about why they left, or maybe they don’t think anyone cares that they did. Either way, we don’t often find ourselves in situations where people are open to discussing it. That is why prayer should be our first step in this effort. Trust in God to provide the mercy for their soul and the help that a person needs to turn back to him in the Holy Eucharist.
While it is impossible to lay out the value of any particular intercession we offer for other people, here is a point of catechesis. It is always fitting to offer your attendance at Holy Mass for this; in essence, you are offering to the Father the Holy Eucharist for someone’s return to the Holy Eucharist. This symmetry is most apt.
Whether we pray the Holy Rosary, or the Liturgy of the Hours, or commemorate a saint’s feast day, we are always pointing back to the work of redemption that Christ accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection, which is celebrated and re-presented in each Mass. The full paschal mystery, therefore, is ever present in heaven. In the Eucharistic liturgy, we, here on earth, reconnect with that perpetual heavenly event. We can help make that connection for our friends’ sake.
So, ask the Heavenly Father to give you a name of someone to lift up in prayer, perhaps a family member who has been away from the Holy Eucharist or someone else in that situation. Then the next time you attend Holy Mass, either one day this week or next Sunday, offer your participation in the Mass for that person. It might provide the grace needed to move him or her toward coming back to Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
May God bless you in your endeavors in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing