October 28, 2005

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

The Eucharist links us to our ancestors

The Year of the Eucharist has come to an end. In the life of the Church, it was one of historic change. The year was opened by Pope John Paul II and closed by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Locally, the archdiocese celebrated it during a special worship service in June. Although rain forced the event to be moved from Victory Field in Indianapolis to the nearby St. John the Evangelist Church, Catholics from across the archdiocese gathered together to worship Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.

Many parishes sponsored special times of prayer and catechesis focused on the Eucharist during the past 12 months.

Hopefully, all these efforts have helped Catholic families in central and southern Indiana grow in their devotion to and knowledge of the Eucharist.

The conclusion of the Year of the Eucharist at the end of October can help families look at the coming month of November from a particular perspective.

November is a time when the faithful are invited to pray for those who have died and reflect upon the example of faith of those who have gone before us.

A paradoxical aspect about this looking back at the past is that the life of the Church in November points us to the future. The Mass readings as we approach the end of the liturgical year focus upon the end of history when Jesus will come again in the fullness of time.

This simultaneous looking backward and forward is not a contradiction in terms. In fact, for Catholic families it can be a primary means to deepen their spiritual bond with their loved ones who have died, and to strengthen their desire to be reunited with them in both body and soul when the Kingdom of God is fulfilled.

The chief place where this can happen for us is at Mass. For families, the Eucharist can be a moment in the present when their past and future meet.

The Eucharist we celebrate today is a continuation of the same sacramental celebration at which our ancestors gathered both in the recent and distant past. At the same time, it is a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven at which we all hope to be fellow guests with our friends and relatives who have died.

This is true of the Mass whenever it is celebrated. But perhaps in November, families can grow in appreciation of this deep spiritual reality and make it a conscious part of their participation in the Eucharist.

There are at least a couple of ways that this can be accomplished.

Some parishes during November display a book in their churches on which their members can write down the names of their loved ones who have died. These people are prayed for at the Masses celebrated there during the month.

The presence of such a book and taking the time to add to its list of names can be an opportunity for children in a family to make a spiritual connection between themselves and their relatives who died before they were born.

In the time before Mass, parents might encourage their children to pray for and to their deceased loved ones during the upcoming Eucharist. And since the Mass points us to heavenly realities, parents might help their children believe that the souls of their grandparents or great-grandparents are present with them when they come to the church.

These steps might on the surface seem small. But they are real ways that the blessings of the Year of the Eucharist can be planted in the hearts of our children. †


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