June 1, 2016
By Father William Muench
This time of the year, our Catholic Church focuses on the Holy Mass in a special way. Last week, I received an invitation from my friend, Brady Leerkes, to come to his First Communion which will take place at a Mass, of course, at St. Mary’s. I recently received an invitation to Father Arthur LaBaff’s 50th anniversary celebration which will be celebrated at a Mass. Last week, I attended a funeral Mass for Deacon Bill Schmidt, a friend, whose family was a good part of my ministry as a priest. Last week, Bishop LaValley came to our parish for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation and this was at a Mass.
Every Sunday in all our parishes, the parish community joins in prayer at the Holy Mass.
Nothing means more to me as a Catholic and as a priest than the celebration of the Holy Mass – the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. My ordination as a priest was a call to celebration the Mass. I was commissioned to say the same words as Jesus. In faith, I am united with Jesus in the consecration of the bread and wine to His Body and Blood just as at the Last Supper. Nothing else matters to me as a priest.
At each Mass, I receive the Holy Eucharist in Holy Communion. Jesus becomes my help and my strength to do all I must do as a priest and as a disciple of Jesus.
So, each year, the Feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, is truly one of my favorite feasts. Since my own First Communion, I have believed in faith in the real presence of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Blessed Eucharist. I truly believe that the bread and wine brought to the altar in the Offertory Procession, will be consecrated into the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Liturgy of the Eucharist at every Mass.
It is all about gratitude. The very name of this sacrament – the Holy Eucharist – is gratitude. Eucharist, a Greek word used today means “thank you.” Each time we Catholics gather for the celebration of the Mass, we begin in gratitude. There are so many people and things in my life that I am grateful for beginning with the very reason we are all there in gratitude for the sufferings, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. My life has been blessed, my priesthood has been blessed by God. My priesthood has been strengthened by so many wonderful people over the years. Each time I go to the altar for Mass, I begin with gratitude.
Let me tell you about my favorite Mass. I have been honored to offer Mass in some wonderful, holy places. I offered Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, in the very place where tradition says Jesus was entombed after the crucifixion. I celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. I have been honored to celebrate in most of the parish churches in my diocese – including the Cathedral Church in Ogdensburg. I have been honored to celebrate Mass in many homes of many families in the various parishes I was pastor.
But let me tell you about the Mass I remember best. I was invited by my friend and classmate, Father Phil Allen, to go hiking with him. I know what you are thinking – a rather daunting task – but I insisted he slow down for me. We were somewhere in New Hampshire, on the Appalachian Trail. I remember well. It was a perfect day, bright and sunny, not too hot, just perfect. At one point, we came upon a spot that opened up through the trees and could clearly look out on the whole expanse of a valley – a truly magnificent sight. Father Phil suggested, “Let’s say Mass.” So the two of us celebrated Mass on the side of a mountain, looking out on this unbelievable sight, just as in a brightly lit Cathedral. We read the scriptures; we prayed the prayers. We concelebrated the Eucharistic Prayer – we received Holy Communion. Every moment was a time to recognize the glory of Mass and every Mass. It was a time of gratitude that we, two priests of the Lord, could offer such a celebration of the Mass high up in the White Mountains.
I am certain that you have noticed I use the word “celebrate” often. No other word can describe what it means for a priest to offer Mass – no other word can describe what it means for a parish community as they join together every Sunday for Mass.
This is why we sing and pray and demonstrate our gratitude so enthusiastically: we are celebrating the love of Our Savior, who truly died and rose again for us.