One Minute Catechesis (OMC)
Our priests will be providing a One Minute Catechesis each week. The text can be found here, and on our App.
If you have questions about the Catholic Faith, please email them to email@example.com.
One Minute Catechesis - Mass 2 - 4/30/17
Last week in the One Minute Catechesis, we looked at the opening portion of the Mass, with the entrance procession, penitential rite, and opening prayer. This week, we move on to the next part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word. We consider how the disciples who saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus had the Scriptures opened for them before they recognized the Lord in the breaking of the bread. In the same way, we hear the voice of God speaking in the Sacred Scriptures as they are proclaimed at the Mass, before we then recognize him in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
On Sundays and Solemnities, the Liturgy of the Word consists of a First Reading, usually from the Old Testament, a responsorial Psalm, a Second Reading, taken from the letters of the New Testament, and then a reading from the Gospels, preceded by an acclamation (outside of Lent, this is the Alleluia). The Old Testament reading given usually sets the stage, so to speak, for what is read from the Gospel. For instance, the Old Testament reading from Holy Thursday talks about the Passover of the Jews, which then finds its fulfillment in the institution of the Christian Eucharist at the Last Supper.
After the readings, the Homily follows so as to shed light on what was read from the Scriptures. Then, on Sundays and Solemnities, the Creed follows, where we profess the central beliefs of our faith. This is followed usually by the Prayers of the Faithful, where we intercede for the needs of the Church and the whole world.
There are a few things we can do to participate more fruitfully in the Liturgy of the Word. We might read the Sunday Mass readings ahead of time, perhaps as a family the night before. We might even read next Sunday’s readings this Sunday, and spend the week referring back to them and praying over what strikes us as meaningful. It is very helpful to follow along with the readings during the Mass—and this is why books are provided in the pews that have the readings in them. In this way, what we hear is reinforced by what we read, and something may stand out to us more than it would have otherwise. And another helpful practice is to bring a little notebook to Mass with the intention of writing down one small thing we got out of the Mass—whether it comes from the prayers, the readings, the homily, or elsewhere. In this way, we’re listening for what might be speaking to our hearts each week.
One Minute Catechesis - Mass 1 - 4/23/17
This week in the One Minute Catechesis, we begin to look at the very center of Catholic life, the primary way in which we are given the opportunity to encounter the Lord Jesus, namely the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Over the next few weeks, we will look at the various parts of the Mass, how to better engage and participate in the Mass, and how to properly prepare ourselves so that we get the most out of our experience.
This week, we start with what else but the beginning of the Mass. We stand as the priest and other ministers process in, whether accompanied by an entrance hymn on the weekends or in silence, as is the practice here on weekdays. The priest and deacon venerate the altar with a kiss, a gesture of respect for the saints whose relics are found in the altar. The altar has relics in it in commemoration of how the Mass of the very earliest days of Christianity was celebrated in secret in the catacombs, in the presence of the bones of the martyrs. After venerating the altar, if it is at a Mass where incense is used, the priest and deacon walk around the altar, reverencing it by incensing around it. Incense is a symbol of our prayers rising up to God, and is used to show reverence to the Eucharistic Lord himself, as well as to images and symbols of the Lord; the altar represents both the table of the Last Supper as well as the altar of the Cross, upon which the Lord offered himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
After the priest and deacon have gone to the chair, the Mass begins with the Sign of the Cross, as should all of our prayers. We pray “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” calling to mind that our worship is offered to the Father by the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit each time we pray. Afterward, the priest greets the people with “The Lord be with you,” or another similar greeting, to which we respond “And with your spirit.” Then follows the penitential rite. This is a prayer for sorrow for our sins; as Scripture tells us, before we approach the altar to offer our sacrifice, we must be reconciled to one another, and it is in this spirit that we ask pardon for our sins at the start of Mass. Afterward, on Sundays and certain Holy Days, the Gloria is sung, giving praise to God for his greatness and mercy. And then the opening portion of Mass closes with the opening prayer, called the Collect, so named because in it are “collected” all the intentions of those gathered to pray and indeed the intentions of the whole Church throughout the world.
One Minute Catechesis - Confession 4 - How to make a good Confession - 4/2/17
The past few weeks we have heard about the great gift of the Sacrament of Penance, through which the Lord has granted the Church the power to restore us to life after we have fallen into sin. We heard of the origins of the sacrament and why we should avail ourselves of it, including why some sins can only be forgiven in this way. This week, we consider how we might get the most out of this sacrament by preparing for and making a good Confession.
First, to prepare ourselves, we make an examination of conscience. There are leaflets available by each of the Confessionals to aid in doing this, and there are many good resources available online and in good spiritual books. Most use the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes as a guide, giving us questions to help us discern what ways we have fallen short of the law of God. Remembering the distinction between mortal and venial sins here is helpful; mortal sins, those actions which are grave matter, done with free consent of the will, and with full knowledge of their gravity, must be confessed in kind and number. For instance, you might say “I have missed Mass on Sunday three times.” Venial sins, those which lack one of the conditions for mortal sins, can be confessed more generally, for instance “I have entertained uncharitable thoughts on occasion.” It is helpful if we carry out our preparation for Confession more often than just before going to Confession! It is good for us to examine our consciences daily, perhaps right before bed, looking back over our day and considering the ways in which we might have fallen short, and making a resolution to do better the next day. This is a helpful exercise in general for our spiritual growth, and keeps us mindful and accountable when we do go to Confession.
Second, when making our Confession, one surprising principle will help us get the most out of it: Less is more. In other words, it is better for us to simply state what we have done and to do so concisely. It may seem that the “laundry list” approach isn’t helpful to us spiritually, but in reality is a humble acknowledgment of how we have sinned. To try to explain further may tempt us to justify our sins. God knows why we did what we did, and provided that we state our sins clearly, the priest is usually aware of what is meant, and will ask for clarification if necessary. Lengthy explanations or lots of detail is not needed for our sins to be forgiven. Sometimes there are complicated situations which tempt us to sin for which we may need a great deal of counsel. This is understandable, and our priests are always available to provide this kind of direction where needed. However, the Sacrament of Penance is for the forgiveness of sins, with the priest giving counsel on how to avoid those sins in the future. For more weighty and ongoing matters, consulting a priest outside of Confession is perhaps more helpful.
Finally, we might ask: how often should I go to Confession? That will depend upon the person and his temperament and his state in life, of course. Priests and seminarians and religious are often advised to confess very often, weekly or every other week. For most people, it is good to go monthly, as this helps to keep us accountable and more mindful of the areas where we need to improve. Some people ought to go more frequently, to help keep them accountable, and some ought to go less frequently, particularly if they struggle with a scrupulous conscience, as confession can become compulsive for them. Frequency of confession is most helpfully left to the advice of the priest hearing one’s confession, so feel free to ask if you’re unsure.
One Minute Catechesis - Confession 3 - 3/26/19
Last week in the One Minute Catechesis, we looked at why we ought to make use of the Sacrament of Penance, namely to have our sins, particularly more serious sins, forgiven, as well as to receive the grace to be strengthened in our battle against temptation day to day. This week, we look to how to prepare to make a good Confession.
It is first important to note that a sin is an action; sins are not unpleasant feelings, but rather something we chose to do. We may have unpleasant feelings about things which are good to do, and we may have good feelings about having done bad things. Sins are actions, feelings are not. Further, we can sin by thought, as we say in the prayer "I Confess" at the beginning of Mass; but thoughts which we did not choose to entertain are not of themselves sins. Impure or angry thoughts may constitute a temptation for us, but unless we consent to them by further thinking about them, we have not yet sinned in thought. It's the difference, we might say, between seeing the cover of a magazine at the checkout stand of the grocery store but passing it by, and seeing the cover of the magazine and examining its contents. To simply acknowledge the thought without entertaining it is not sinful, to continue to indulge it can be.
An important distinction exists between sins which are more serious and those which are less serious. All are sins, of course, and all still harm our relationship with God to some degree. The degree to which they do is how we classify them, when we speak of "mortal" and "venial" sins. Mortal sin occurs when someone performs an action which is a grave matter, is done with full knowledge of its gravity, and which is done with free consent of the will. In other words, someone does something serious, aware of its seriousness, and freely choosing to do it anyway. How do we know if an action is to be considered a grave matter? These would be actions which transgress the Ten Commandments. Sometimes the circumstances affect the gravity of the action. If someone were to steal a loaf of bread from the grocery store, this would obviously be less serious than stealing a loaf of bread from a starving man. If a layman were to neglect to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, this would not constitute the same kind of serious sin that it would for a priest or a deacon, who is bound by the law of the Church to pray it. In general though, when considering the seriousness of a sin, if those three conditions are present, a mortal sin has been committed. If any of those conditions is missing, then only a venial sin has occurred. Think of it like how one builds a fire--three things are necessary: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Take away any of those things, and fire does not result.
Mortal sins cut off the life of grace in the soul, and represent a "radical possibility of human freedom," namely that we can misuse our God-given freedom to reject him in a way that encompasses our whole person. This kind of sin can only be healed by perfect contrition, which is complete sorrow at having offended the goodness of God, motivated by love of him, or also by the Sacrament of Penance. If we have committed a mortal sin, we are not to present ourselves for Holy Communion until we have made a sacramental confession. Venial sins, on the other hand, weaken the soul's relationship with God without severing it totally. They strain the soul's ability to choose the good and make it easier to fall into worse sins. These may be forgiven in confession, of course, but also by praying an Act of Contrition, using Holy Water, by the Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass, and even by reception of Holy Communion.
If we examine our consciences regularly, we become more aware of the ways in which we may act that diminish or harm our relationship with God. In doing this by humbly relying on the help of God, we may discern where we can improve our relationship with him, and to bring our sins and imperfections to the Sacrament of Penance is a good first step, as there we encounter the great mercy of God, ready to heal and renew us.
One Minute Catechesis - Confession 2 - 3/19/17
Last week in the One Minute Catechesis, we looked to the origins of the Sacrament of Penance, namely its institution by Christ as recorded in Scripture and that it was in evidence in the New Testament Church. This week, we examine a simple question: Why should I go to confession?
When English Catholic author and notable convert G.K. Chesterton was asked why he joined the Catholic Church, he responded simply: “To get my sins forgiven.” This is why we should approach this sacrament, then, to get our sins forgiven, not because our behavior has broken some law, but because sin is a sickness of the soul which inhibits and even cuts off our relationship with God, our loving Father. Thus, Christ entrusted this sacrament to his Apostles as a great gift of his mercy, so that we may always access the saving power of the Cross through it.
Why should we go to Confession though? Couldn’t we just pray for forgiveness on our own? We certainly can and should do so often; we really ought to pray for the forgiveness of our sins each day, perhaps examining our day every night before retiring and asking the Lord for his mercy for the ways in which we have failed to live in a manner pleasing to him. But great grace is available to us in this sacrament to help us avoid temptation in the future. And more importantly, while we can obtain forgiveness for venial sins—those which do not cut us off from the life of grace, but merely wound our relationship with God—through prayer and penance, mortal sins, those gravely sinful actions committed with full knowledge of their gravity and free consent of the will, kill the life of grace in the soul and require the Sacrament of Penance to restore us to that life of grace. Think of it this way—when it comes to bodily health, we can and should cultivate good habits of nutrition and exercise, the day-to-day things we can do to keep ourselves of sound body. But when we become severely ill, we require more help than this, and we go to the doctor to receive care and often medicine to heal our illness. Just the same, by praying for God’s mercy and forgiveness each day, we maintain our health of soul; by approaching the Sacrament of Penance, we receive the medicine which restores that life of grace when we have become gravely sick in our souls.
One Minutes Catechesis - First Sunday of Lent 3/5/17
As we begin the season of Lent, we resume the One Minute Catechesis, and in the spirit of this season of repentance for our sins, the next several weeks we will look at the Sacrament of Penance, or Confession, or Reconciliation. We will look at the origin and purpose of the sacrament, the integral parts of it, the steps for preparing for and making a good confession, and how confession helps us to live a better Christian life, both by keeping us accountable for our sins as well as keeping us in the state of grace, so that we may be more open to the grace of God, most especially as we receive the Eucharist.
First, what should we call the sacrament? In recent years, “Reconciliation,” “Penance,” and “Confession” all have come to describe the same reality. All three names are correct, and all three are descriptive of what’s going on in the practice of the sacrament. We when we confess our sins, having become repentant of them, we are absolved through this sacrament and thus reconciled to God. And so the names may be used interchangeably.
Next, we might ask what the origin of the sacrament is. All of the sacraments, of course, are instituted by Jesus as outward signs to give grace. We see the origin of this sacrament in two main places in Scripture. First, in John’s Gospel, after the Resurrection, Jesus breathes on the apostles and tells them “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, whose sins you retain are retained.” This is only the second time in the entirety of Scripture that God breathes on man—the first time was in the book of Genesis, at the creation of man! So important is the ability for the apostles to forgive sins that it is equated in the action of God with the giving of life itself! Elsewhere, St. James instructs us: “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” So the Apostles were given the authority to forgive sins in the person of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and they exhorted their own followers to confess their sins—since in order to have one’s sins forgiven, they must be acknowledged. And the apostles knew as well that they wouldn’t be around forever, and so they handed on the authority they had received from Jesus, the authority to teach and govern in the Church, and also this forgiveness of sins. It was handed on from their successors as well, so that now the Bishops of the Church, and those to whom they impart a share in their authority, the priests, can dispense this life-giving mystery to the faithful, and thus carry on the mission of salvation handed on by Jesus.
One Minute Catechesis - Eucharist 2: Communion 1/22/17
Last week, we heard how the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, not a mere symbolic memorial, but truly his Presence among us. This week, we look to one of the most important dimensions and effects of the Eucharist, namely that it brings us into Communion with God and with one another. From the beginning, man was not made for solitary life; indeed, when creating woman, God said of Adam “it is not good for the man to be alone.” We are beings made for community, and we find the fullest expression of our own humanity when we connect with one another. Indeed, God himself is a communion of persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are all equally God, and who are one God, but who are distinct persons in communion with one another. If we are to find holiness in this life, that is, to find union and likeness to God, we must seek to imitate the very heart of divine life in the Trinity, and to be in communion with one another.
In the great gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Lord holds out to us the most perfect way of attaining Communion with God and with one another in the Church, which is indeed his Body, as St. Paul tells us in the letter to the Ephesians. By receiving Communion, we are united in an intimate way to Christ himself—what could be a closer union than him becoming our very food, by which we are sustained and built up spiritually? By being united to his Body so powerfully, we all grow into closer and stronger union with one another. And the reverse is true as well; by seeking ways to grow closer to one another in community and charity, we better prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life in communion; it leads us to communion with one another, and communion with one another leads us back to the Eucharist.
One Minute Catechesis - Eucharist 1: Body and Blood of Christ 1/15/17
This week, we resume the One Minute Catechesis by looking at what the Second Vatican Council calls “the source and summit of the Christian life,” namely the Holy Eucharist. Over the next few weeks, we will look at different dimensions and effects of the Eucharist, as well as how we can be better prepared to receive it.
This week, let us consider the Eucharist as what it truly is, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not only a symbol of his body and blood, but he is Truly Present in the Eucharist. We know this from Sacred Scripture. In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus declare that he is the Bread of Life, and that whoever eats of that bread will live forever, and that the bread that he will give is his flesh for the life of the world. When questioned on this, he only grows more strident, not attempting to correct or explain as though he has spoken metaphorically. He simply repeats again and again that the way to have life is to eat his flesh and drink his blood. At the Last Supper, then, this statement finds its fulfillment, as he speaks over the bread and wine the words “This is my Body…this is my Blood.” This establishes the model for the “remembrance” of him which would be handed down through the ages, and which we experience every time we come to Mass. It is these words being said by the priest, who acts in the person of Christ, which makes his Body and Blood present to us each time we celebrate the Mass. This is not to say that Christ is sacrificed again and again each time the Mass is offered, but rather that his sacrifice—the one singular sacrifice of the Cross—is made present to us again and again, that we participate in that one sacrifice again and again.
How is it, then, that the Eucharist appears to be bread and wine, and yet we say that it is not? What takes place in the Eucharist is known as transubstantiation. The physical “accidents” or appearances of the bread and wine remain, but its underlying reality—what it truly is—is changed by the invocation of the Holy Spirit over the gifts and the speaking of the words “This is my Body…this is my Blood” by the priest. It still looks like bread and wine, tastes like bread and wine, smells like bread and wine, but what it actually is—its underlying being—has changed to be the Body and Blood of Christ. It is not perceptible to our senses that it is the Body and Blood of Christ, but the eyes of faith allow us to see this; because the Lord revealed this to us and established this pattern for us, we can believe that the change has taken place, and this is his flesh, given to us so that we may have eternal life. In weeks to come, we will look at the effects of it on us, as well as what we must do to be properly disposed and prepared to encounter him in such an intimate way.
One Minute Catechesis - Community 12/18/16
Last week, we talked about the need to rest, and how this is ultimately what our lives are directed toward, resting in God forever in heaven. This rest with our families and with our church community helps to build us up as individuals, but it has a deeper dimension as well. In the beginning, God said of Adam: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” It has been God’s plan from the beginning of creation that we exist in community with one another, sharing with one another the gifts God has given each of us, and building each other up. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, and we recall that while God is one, he is also a community of persons in the Trinity. Thus, we live more fully and abundantly when we engage in community with one another. This is especially important in the day and age in which we live, in which busyness and constant activity diminish for us the need to gather together and to truly relate to one another. Make time with family a priority, especially on Sundays and holy days. Go out of your way to help a neighbor in need or just to say hello. Ultimately, we’re all in this together. We share our gifts with one another, helping to compliment one another, since not everyone can have every kind of good gift. By staying connected with one another and entering into one another’s lives, we bring the glory of God to an age of individualism, and we live more abundantly and grow in his image each and every day.
One Minute Catechesis - Sabbath 12/11/16
Last week, we looked at how the Sunday Obligation to attend Mass helps to keep God constantly woven into the rhythm of our lives. Let us consider this week even more broadly how to observe the Lord’s Day in a way that both gives glory to God and is to our benefit.
Life is very busy and hectic in this day and age, and we often find ourselves engaged in near-constant activity every waking hour. This quickly becomes draining, and we may even be so overextended we hardly have the time or energy for what really matters—our faith and our families. The Lord provides an antidote to this by calling us to one day of rest every week. Indeed, from the very beginning, this is what the Lord models for us; it is said that he rested from his work of creation on the seventh day not because he needed rest, but because he knew we would need it. And it seems that nowadays the notion of rest is a somewhat upside down one: we rest on the weekends (if at all) so that we can be charged up to work all week.
But in a way, rest is the entire point of our being. This seems striking, as it might resemble a call not to greater holiness, but to greater laziness. However, it is resting in God that our whole lives are supposed to be directed toward, and indeed, resting in him for all eternity in heaven. Our funeral rites bespeak this, and even our everyday prayers ought to, as we pray “eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.” If we become practiced at resting in God in this life, our reward shall be to rest in him for all eternity. If all we do is work without rest, then how are we to see this ultimate goal realized?
Thus, our lives need a rhythm of work and of rest, so that our dignity as sons and daughters of God is ensured and that we live in a way pleasing to God. How can we carve out more time, then, to rest, when it seems like we are constantly occupied? If we have gotten so busy that Mass or family time is a hardship, perhaps it is fair to say we are too busy, and we can begin to look at what occupies so much of our time that resting in God or with our families is so difficult. Make time each week to refrain from unnecessary work and to spend time in prayer and with family. This is absolutely foundational to living a dignified and abundant life, and one that helps us to build up the family. Make it a priority to go to Mass on Sundays. Make it a priority to share a meal around the table once or twice a week. Don’t let any other activity come between you and those two most important priorities—faith and family. If we adopt good habits of seeking to rest in the Lord and spend leisure time with our families, we will find our lives to be more peaceful and ordered.
One Minute Catechesis - Holy Days of Obligation 12/4/16
Last week, we considered the idea that the Catholic Faith isn’t simply about following a lot of rules, but rather that these rules point to something—staying faithful to seeking a relationship with God. This week, we look at one of those rules which is perhaps most familiar, namely the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. This has its roots, of course, in the Commandment of God to “Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy.” It is said that God rested from his work on the seventh day not because he needed to rest, but because he knew we would need to, and thus he commands that we set aside one day a week to rest and to worship. This connection between rest and worship is essential—for worship puts us into contact with God, with whom we hope to have final union in heaven, and what is heaven but to rest in God forever? The Church, then, asks that we attend Mass on the Lord’s Day—not the seventh day of the week, the former Sabbath, but the new Sabbath, the eighth day, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. By setting aside this time—a little over an hour a week, so not much in the grand scheme of things—we find rest in the midst of our often busy and chaotic lives. But furthermore, by making that small sacrifice of one hour, we give honor and glory to God, and receive his grace to strengthen us.
The precept to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is fulfilled by attending Mass on the day itself or on the evening of the previous day. This coming week, there is a Holy Day of Obligation, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday, December 8th. Thus, one fulfills the obligation of attending Mass by either going on Wednesday evening or anytime during the day on Thursday, just as you fulfill the obligation for Sunday either on Saturday evening or Sunday itself. The other Holy Days of Obligation in the Dioceses of the United States are Christmas on December 25, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1, The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary on August 15, and All Saints’ Day on November 1. Let us recall that attending Mass on these days isn’t simply a matter of checking the boxes or following the rules, but rather staying constant in the grace of God. We should seek the grace of God in the “most obvious places” by remaining regular in our contact with the sacraments and prayer, and then we will be able to carry the light of his grace into every day of our lives.
One Minute Catechesis: Introduction 11/27/16
Beginning this Advent season, at Sunday Masses there will be a brief catechetical instruction accompanying the homily. This “One Minute Catechesis” will provide an opportunity to be enriched and enlightened in your understanding of the Catholic Faith by offering an explanation of the basics of what we believe, how we worship, and how we are called to live our lives as Catholics. This will include explanations of each of the Sacraments, including how to properly prepare for receiving them; of the parts of the Mass and how to get more out of attendance at Mass; of prayer and penance and how they can help you grow closer to God; and a number of other areas which will assist in deepening our practice and experience of the faith.
This week, we will begin by looking to one commonly held difficulty with the Catholic faith, namely that it seems to have a lot of rules. It is true that there are a number of precepts which are laid down as the expectation for living the faith—the obligation to attend Mass every Sunday and on certain important Holy Days comes to mind (more on that later). But we must not let our focus be on the “rules” themselves so much as the reality to which they point. The Church is our Mother, as Scripture and the Early Fathers say, and as our Mother she guides us toward what is best for us. This, ultimately, is relationship with the God who loves us and created us, and who is our highest good. So if there are rules, they are not simply made and to be followed for their own sake, but because they keep us on the path toward that relationship and final union with God. If one wishes to drive from here to another city, he follows the directions, takes the right highways (we’re all familiar with having the directions called out to us by that little voice on the GPS!). By following those directions, we reach our destination—and we don’t complain that there are too many directions, we rather focus on reaching the destination! Just the same, our destination in life is union with God in heaven, and so the Church, better than a GPS, gives us the directions for getting there.