Introduction to Catholic Worship
THE FOUNDATIONAL BELIEFS OF CATHOLICISM
Catholicism is the foundational Christian tradition and has a direct line of apostolic succession to Christ himself. We believe God, in His divine wisdom, created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. Mankind was created as good, but sin entered the world through our choices and created a distance between us and God only overcome by the grace and love of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Because Jesus is both divine and human, He alone can be our Savior, reconciling us with God. He accomplishes this by becoming one of us, dying for our sins on the cross, rising from the dead, and uniting us to Him in His life, death, and resurrection.
As the only remedy for sin, the divine grace of God is experienced by Catholic believers through the seven sacraments – rites instituted by Jesus and practiced by His followers as acts of worship. Just as Jesus is both human and divine, the sacraments are physical signs that give the very divine grace they symbolize. Through the sacraments we receive Jesus.
- Baptism: As the first and foundational sacrament, Baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Christ, incorporating recipients into the Church in a bond of unity. Using water to represent this spiritual rebirth, the recipient is cleansed of sin and adopted into the family of God.
- Confirmation: This sacrament is the culmination of the process through which the baptized is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and strengthened for service to the Body of Christ. Individuals prepare for Confirmation through service to those in need and study of Catholic principles so that at Confirmation, he or she can recommit to participate in the Church’s mission and imitate the love and service of Christ.
- Holy Eucharist: Commonly also known as Holy Communion, this sacrament of bread and wine represents the gift of the body and blood of Christ, given to us freely by God for the forgiveness of our sins. As we share in this meal and sacrifice, we are privileged to adore the presence of the Lord. The Holy Eucharist is the focal point of the Mass.
- Penance: A gift of reconciliation and healing, the recipient confesses his or her sins. God moves through the voice of the priest to embrace, forgive, and restore the individual, absolving him or her of sin and reconciling him or her with the Church. Frequent confession empowers you to grow closer to Christ and His body, the Church.
- The Anointing of the Sick: Through this sacrament, a priest prays for recovery from illness, God willing. For the sick about to leave this earthly life, the priest prays that the recipient will have a strengthened soul as they bear the final burden of their illness. When received by the dying it is referred to by some as Last Rites, this sacrament absolves the recipient of any sin he or she has not confessed and unites his or her own suffering and dying to that of Christ and the hope of life eternal with Him.
- Matrimony: This covenant of permanent union between a husband and wife displays Christ’s spousal love for His church. Symbolizing the sacrificial love of Christ, this sacrament calls husband and wife to love each other in the same way.
- Holy Orders: This sacrament is given to bishops, priests and deacons, those called to serve the spiritual needs of those in Church after completion of sufficient spiritual and theological training.
These outward expressions of God’s grace bridge the physical and spiritual, the body and soul, to cleanse us of our sins and make us holy in the sight of God. Through the faith community, the sacraments built up the body of Christ and are held as acts of worship to God.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING MASS
The Mass is central to our worship and union with Christ. It is the most perfect union we can have with Jesus in this life. Because it is the most perfect union we have with Jesus, it is also the most perfect union we have with each other. As well, it is our most perfect worship of God. There are two main parts to the Mass: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, is focused on scripture. The Bible is read from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospel. After the readings, the priest gives a sermon, also called a homily, helping apply Christ’s teachings to our daily lives.
Christ’s act of redemption in His death and resurrection is made present to us during the second part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This is when we receive the Blessed Sacrament – the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine. If you are not prepared to receive the Eucharist, you may remain in your seat as the Holy Communion is distributed. Alternatively, you may also approach the priest with your arms crossed upon your chest and he will give you a blessing.
Songs are sung in response to the scripture readings and sermon as additional expressions of worship. An offering may be collected to support the work of the Church in and beyond the community, and news of upcoming events and celebrations will be shared so all are informed of and can participate in parish life.