Since the moment I came into the Catholic Church as an adult, there is one word that is used in the Catholic Faith that hasn’t set well with me. That word is “obligation.” I understand the intent of the word and agree with the statement “We have an obligation to attend Mass.” What bothers me is the way the word is misunderstood and how it impacts full participation in the life of the Church.
Today, many, if not most people, are overly committed; they just try to get through the day. We have our to-do lists, and it gives us a great sense of accomplishment to check items off throughout the day. But the race to fit everything in can rob us of the opportunity to fully enjoy these activities. We are conditioned to run the race of checking items off of that to-do list, so much so that the morning alarm acts like a starting pistol beckoning us to hit the ground running at full speed and not look back until the daily race is complete.
“Many families look at the practice of their Faith as equal to all other activities rather than making it a priority.”
When we try to incorporate Faith into our busy schedule, it often becomes another box to check. Many families look at the practice of their Faith as equal to all other activities rather than making it a priority. As this mindset roots itself deeper into our culture, we can find ourselves asking, “What’s the minimum I have to do to get by?” Then, when it comes to practicing our Faith, we ask, “What is the Church asking of me?” The general answer we find is the statement about the obligation to attend Mass every Sunday. Simple enough. We meet the obligation by setting aside an hour to attend Mass, and we move on with our lives; but do we ask ourselves, “Why am I attending?”
Are we attending Mass because we want to be good people? Are we attending because we are trying to hang on to our Faith just in case our life gets hard? Are we attending because, as Catholics, we believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist? According to a recent Pew Research Study, nearly 7 in 10 Catholics (69%) say they believe that during Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that during Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. (diolc.org/pewresearch) The way we understand the Eucharist directly affects the way we participate in our Faith.
Think about it this way: If your favorite band is coming to town to perform a free concert, you—the devoted fan—would probably be thrilled about the opportunity and jump at the chance. If you found out that the band was not actually coming, but the event organizers were going to put a poster up of the band for you to look at while recordings of their music played in the background, you probably would be less excited. The same is true with our Faith. If Jesus was actually present, people would be breaking down the doors to get in. The thing is, He is present.
Not only is our Lord present at every Mass, we have the opportunity to receive Him and have a personal encounter with Him! If we (the general Catholic population) understood that, our pews would be full, our seminaries would be overflowing and everything that our world has to offer would come a distant second to spending time with our Lord. We would be getting to know Him, growing into a deeper relationship with Him and telling other people about Him. We would devote our lives to Him, not just an hour a week.
We are beginning the Eucharistic Revival, joining most dioceses in the country. To be clear, it is not the Eucharist that needs reviving, but rather, our understanding of the Eucharist. To help foster a greater Eucharistic understanding, there will be several opportunities to connect or reconnect with Christ in the Eucharist. These are opportunities for our revival. I encourage you to be open to a revival within yourself, and invite others to come with you on that journey.
By Chris Rogers
Director of the Office for Family Life
Published in the May/June 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine
Here are some upcoming opportunities from the Office for Family Life for you to revive your devotion to Christ:
- Week 1: June 25-30
- Week 2: July 9-14
- For more information and registration information, visit diolc.org/adventure.
SEALED! Diocesan Confirmation Retreat
- When: Sept. 16
- Who: All 9th and 10th grade students
- Location: St. Olaf Catholic Church, Eau Claire
- Cost: $30 per person, including adult chaperones
- For more information and registration information visit diolc.org/immersion.
Men of the Cross Conference
- When: Oct. 14
- Who: Guys in grades 9-12 attending with their father or guardian
- Location: The La Crosse Center
- Cost: High school- age students go for free with their father or guardian.
- For more information and registration information, visit menofthecross.org.
Youth Leadership Retreat
- When: Nov. 3-5
- Who: Students in grades 9-12.
- Location: Crosswoods Camp, Mason, Wis.
- Cost: $25 per person, including adults.
- For more information and registration information visit diolc.org/yya
National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC)
- When: Nov. 16-18
- Who: Students in grades 9-12
- Location: Indianapolis, Ind.
- Cost: TBD
- For more information and registration information visit diolc.org/ncyc