Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Sacrifice of the Mass......Explained

Browsing the responses to "Ask an Apologist" at Catholic Answers this morning, Fr. Vincent Serpa replied to a question about the Sacrifice of the Mass and gives us two excellent pieces from the Catholic Answers Library. Both carry the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. The first guarantees that it is free of doctrinal or moral error, the second gives permission to print.

The response from Fr. Serpa comes after the poster asks:

I would like to have a clarification if possible of something I read in another book (a Protestant one) concerning the Mass. Many fundamentalists claim that in the Mass our Lord is sacrificed continually on the Altar which is claimed by fundamentalists to be against the scriptures (specifically Hebrews 7:27) Could you briefly clarify for me what Catholics believe regarding what happens in the Mass with regard to Christ's sacrifice on the Cross.

Father responds:

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross transcends time. It covers all those who lived before Good Friday and all those who came after it. The Catholic Church has never taught that it offers a NEW sacrifice at each Mass. The Mass is the SAME sacrifice offered on Calvary—extended through time and sacramentally made present in our present life situations. This has been the teaching of the Church from its earliest days:

Then, he supplies the two outstanding documents below. The first addresses several arguments presented against the Mass by those who misinterpret the Church's teaching, and shows how isolating a line of text from Scripture can lead to further misinterpretation. The second takes a look at the Sacrifice of the Mass from the perspective of the early Church, including excerpts from the Church Fathers.

The Institution of the Mass
The Sacrifice of the Mass

An Era of Weak Catechesis

Many of us who grew up in the Catholic Church of the last 40 years, with terribly weak catechesis, need to take the time to better understand our faith. It has happened a few times already that one of our Protestant brothers and sisters will present one of the arguments in that first document, and someone like myself can say nothing to correct the misunderstanding.

These documents contain the kind of information that we should know off the cuff, including the key Scriptural passages. Read them once, twice, and as many times as is necessary so that you can explain the Catholic faith - especially the Mass - in charity to those who misunderstand it.

Remember that the Protestant you meet who is soundly defending his understanding of the Bible has a great and awesome love for God. I, for one, have not spent half the time studying as many Protestants I know. They put so much time into reading Scripture and that is a testimony of their love for Him. Listening to some who call in to Catholic radio programs, you can hear their vigorous defense. Catholics need to spend more time reading the Bible and studying the Church's teachings in detail. If Catholics defend their faith with just half the zeal as Protestants defend their understanding of Scripture, the misunderstandings would be diffused. I don't mean zeal in the sense that we push our faith on others who don't share it. What I do mean is having enough information, with Scriptural references to be able to correct the errors that we encounter. This should never been done emotionally or defensively - as in fighting, but with charity.

A final note about studying the Catholic faith and Scripture: Your faith may not need such study.....but God may drop someone into your path whose faith may depend on what you know. God will sometimes infuse knowledge, but He also desires us to put some time into learning the faith. The Holy Spirit depends on all of us doing our part, not just the priests. They can help us with our own understanding. It is up to us to help others with theirs.

Other resources:

  • Read Scripture daily, even if it is just 15 minutes. Make use of an aid such as the Ignatius Bible Study guides which are available through the Grotto gift shop or online. There are other commentaries great for the New Testament, such as the Navarre Bible, which has begun to help me in my understanding of Scripture. The idea is not to know-it-all, but to use such aids from a spiritual perspective to get more from a given passage. But, we should first read Scripture spiritually and meditate on the passages.

  • Study the CCC. Drop in to Fr. Perrone's catechism class on Tuesday nights from 6-7 even if you cannot make it every Tuesday.

  • Participate in Days of Recollection when they are offered at Assumption Grotto or other place near you. While these are spiritual they are often catechetical in nature. There is one coming up on December 10th from 2-5 at Assumption Grotto (details forthcoming).

  • Use online resources such as Catholic Answers, the Catholic Answers Library and the many other sections they have. The forums are good, but answers supplied there are not "free of doctrinal or moral error". It's a good place to start, but its better to search the "Ask an Apologist" archives first.

  • Become a Marian Catechist. This does not mean you will have to teach catechism. Rather, you can be a Marian Catechist by following the program (home study) and learning enough to be able to respond to those you encounter - at work, in your family, and elsewhere. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke who heads up the Marian Catechists, will be at Assumption Grotto on December 30 for a rememberance of the movement's founder, Fr. John A. Hardon. Come to learn more and to browse the home study materials.

Of course, there are other apologetics and learning resources I've provided in my sidebar, including those dealing with the study of the Bible. Most of these are sources heard on Catholic radio, such as Michael Barber, Scott Hahn, John Martignoni, Patrick Madrid and Steve Ray.