Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist

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1 Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist Nancy Polacek and Father Louis J. Cameli We believe that the Church reflects the light of Christ. We also believe that we, the people of God and the body of Christ, better reflect the light when we renew our purpose and our hope. Strategic Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Chicago For parish staffs... Parishes generally prepare for the coming year in springtime. These notes Circles of Witness invite your staff to begin reflecting and praying about the year ahead that the Archdiocesan pastoral plan has identified as the Year of Sunday Mass. The Year of Sunday Mass is not primarily about educating our people about the Eucharist, although necessary catechetical elements will no doubt emerge. The year is not about making liturgical improvements, although some enhancements of our worship will probably be in order. Monsignor Canary, our vicar general, described the purpose of the Year of Sunday Mass this way: The central intention of the Year of Sunday Mass is to reclaim the vital significance of our weekly worship and, therefore, to reclaim the motivation to participate. Ultimately, this has to do with the very life of faith that we share, our existence in God. Here is another way to speak of this Year of Sunday Mass. We want to enable and empower our people to embrace a passionate and knowing Eucharistic faith. Moved by faith that is deeply, deeply felt they will stand firm in their resolve to share in the Eucharist every Sunday and to witness that faith. But how can this happen? Imagine a movement of concentric circles, a movement that begins with the innermost circle that serves the parish, its staff or ministerial leadership. If the ministerial staff embraces a passionate and knowing Eucharistic faith, it can generate a momentum that will reverberate beyond itself into the parish community. The staff becomes a center circle and gives witness to the power and wisdom of the Eucharist. Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist 1

2 The staff s witness radiates to another circle of the parish those who come frequently to Sunday Mass. If those in this circle of parish life can grasp their own motivation for participating in the Mass by naming the power and wisdom of the Eucharist in their own lives, they will, in turn, be able to radiate their witness to circles of family, friends, and the community at large. Everything in this concentric vision Circles of Witness begins at the center of the circles with the staff. But how can a staff move in this way? A process for parish staffs... What you have here is a proposal for a staff gathering to focus on embracing a passionate and knowing Eucharistic faith and so to launch Circles of Witness. The ministerial staff or leadership might include parish priests, deacons, pastoral associates, directors of religious education, school leadership, youth ministers, liturgy coordinators, and others. The process itself should take a little more than an hour. This process of prayer, reflection, and sharing is a first step in giving witness to our Eucharistic faith and ministering to the parish. The process can also foster the spiritual bonds of the staff itself and revitalize its sense of mission. A basic resource for this process (and other elements of the Year of Sunday Mass) is the book Bread of Life: Exploring the Presence of Eucharist in Our Lives/Pan de vida: explorando la presencia de la Eucaristi a en nuestras vidas, by Fr. Louis Cameli. This book is available in both English and Spanish from Liturgy Training Publications, an agency of the Archdiocese of Chicago ( ; Opening Prayer STAFF PRAYER AND REFLECTION God most merciful and kind, you sustain your people with the bread of life and the chalice of salvation. Bless our gathering today. Deepen our faith in your sustaining love and help us better serve your holy people in our ministries of word and sacrament. Enable us to listen well to your word within us and within each other, so that we may sing your praises with joyful hearts. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen. Take a minute of silence to gather your thoughts and be present to the Lord. 2 Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist

3 Gospel Reading John 6:47 51 Be attentive to a reading from the holy Gospel according to John. [Jesus said,] Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Gospel of the Lord. Response: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. REFLECTION ON THE EUCHARIST In his book, Bread of Life, Father Cameli asks himself this question: How has the Eucharist been central to my journey of faith? To answer that question he embarks on a series of stories that he calls his Eucharistic autobiography. His stories illustrate a faith journey from childhood to young adult years to serving as a pastor, a journey in which the narrative of his life is intertwined with the Eucharist. His Eucharistic autobiography can be a stimulus for us to retrieve our own journey of faith and see how the Eucharist has accompanied us along the way at every stage of life. He offers a reason for all of us to do a Eucharistic autobiography: If as individual believers and as a Church, we are to give witness to the power and centrality of the Eucharist, then we must be conscious and clear about its power and centrality in our own lives... We need to find the right language to express it, and then generously and unself consciously share that with others. It s not possible to do a full-blown Eucharistic autobiography in the time that is given us today, but we can make a beginning. Take some time, perhaps ten minutes or so, and ponder these questions. You may want to do some jotting as your think, remember, and pray. After this quiet time, gather together with a partner or in small groups and share what you have retrieved. Here are the questions for reflection: Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist 3

4 Think back on your life and your experience of the Eucharist. Can you identify two or three moments when your sharing in the Eucharist meant something very special for you? Perhaps, besides specific moments, there was a period of your life when the Eucharist sustained you in a special way. Can you name that as well? After you have looked back and remembered, are there ways that show you a path to move forward in your appreciation of the Eucharist, as you continue your life s journey? After the quiet time, share your reflections for about fifteen or twenty minutes. Then, we move from naming and sharing our experience of the Eucharist to the ways that we serve the Eucharistic life of our people, especially in the context of Sunday Mass. Reflections from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI Listen to two excerpts from Pope John Paul II s apostolic letter Dies Domini: On Keeping the Lord s Day Holy. For this presence to be properly proclaimed and lived, it is not enough that the disciples of Christ pray individually and commemorate the death and Resurrection of Christ inwardly, in the secrecy of their hearts. Those who have received the grace of baptism are not saved as individuals alone, but as members of the Mystical Body, having become part of the People of God. It is important therefore that they come together to express fully the very identity of the Church, the ekklesia, the assembly called together by the Risen Lord who offered his life to reunited the scattered children of God (John 11:52) (Dies Domini, 31). 4 Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist

5 ... the observance should be seen as a need rising from the depths of Christian life. It is crucially important that all the faithful should be convinced that they cannot live their faith or share fully in the life of the Christian community unless they take part regularly in the Sunday Eucharistic assembly (Dies Domini, 81). Now hear the following excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI s apostolic letter Porta fidei (the Door of Faith), which proclaims the coming Year of Faith: We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed... and also the source from which all its power flows. At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year (Porta fidei, 9). Excerpts from Dies Domini and Porta fidei Libreria Editrice Vaticana. All rights reserved. Take ten minutes or so of quiet time to reflect on the following questions: What do you think would help the people in your parish come to a deeper understanding of and value for the celebration of Sunday Mass? In your life experience, do you sense a shift among Catholics concerning their attitude toward the Eucharist and their participation in the Eucharist? What are the reasons for the shift? What do you think that your parish response should be to that shift? Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist 5

6 Do you sense that people are able to make connections between their participation in the Eucharist and their call to be disciples in the world witnessing God s word and working for justice and peace? Share your reflections with the group. When the sharing is concluded, you may want to identify a time or a next meeting when you can take a few steps to advance the Year of Sunday Mass in your parish. CONCLUDING PRAYER Gospel Reading Mark 14:22 24 A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark. While they were eating, [Jesus] took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, Take; this is my body. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. The Gospel of the Lord. Response: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Brothers and sisters, let us bring our prayers and needs and the needs of this parish community to the Lord. For the Church of God throughout the world, that she may continue to be a sign of unity and an instrument of peace for all people, let us pray to the Lord: For our parish community, that we may grow in faith as we are sustained by the Bread of life, let us pray to the Lord: 6 Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist

7 For our children and young people, that the Eucharist may nourish and support them on their journey of life and faith, let us pray to the Lord: For our brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, are absent from our Eucharistic assemblies, that they may soon return and find in our worship a true encounter with the living Christ, let us pray to the Lord: For our sisters and brothers who are burdened with illness, especially those who are homebound or in nursing homes or in hospitals, that they may draw strength and courage from the Eucharist and so give steadfast witness to the power of the Risen Christ, let us pray to the Lord: For all who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, that their holy communion in the Body of Christ on earth may come to full realization in the heavenly banquet, let us pray to the Lord: For our own personal intentions: Let us pray that God would grant us this day and every day our daily bread, as we say, Our Father... Concluding Blessing May the Lord bless you and keep you. May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May he look upon you with kindness and grant you his peace. May almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Response: Amen. Go in the peace of Christ. Response: Thanks be to God. Circles of Witness Sharing the Wisdom of the Eucharist 7

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