Baptism is the priceless gift of God’s saving grace. Born with original sin, even infants have need of this new birth as a child of God. Church Tradition has included infant Baptism since the second century.
At the Last Supper, Jesus instructed his followers to “do this in memory of me.” And the first Christians did, meeting on “the first day of the week” (Sunday) to break bread, the Acts of the Apostles tells us. The fundamental structure of our celebration of the Mass—the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist—has remained the same through the centuries, uniting God’s people
Sacred images—statues, paintings, and the like—in our churches and homes are there to inspire and engage our senses and spirits. Their role is to express visually to messages contained in Scripture. “Image and word illuminate each other,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church says. (1160) We do not worship these objects; they help us call God to mind.
Liturgy of the Word
The part of the Mass during which we hear the readings in called the Liturgy of the Word. The readings follow a pattern. The first reading is from the Old Testament or the Acts of the Apostles (except during Easter.) This is followed by a psalm—typically a cantor will read or sing the phrases, and we will respond. The second reading is from the New Testament. The Gospel reading comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
The Church’s philosophy behind the offertory collection is summed up nicely by Saint Justin, who wrote in his first “Apology” in the second century: “Those who are well off, and who are also willing, give as each chooses. What is gathered is given to him who presides to assist orphans and widows, those whom illness or any other cause has deprived of resources, prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are in need.”
Body and Blood of Christ
Christ is present in both the bread and the wine, so each fully conveys all the grace of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Catholics are encouraged to receive the Body and Blood of Christ because in this way, the sign of communion is more complete. It more closely recalls the Last Supper too, when Jesus presented the bread and wine as his Body and Blood.
In the Catholic faith, the bread and wine are not just symbols of Christ. At the moment of consecration, when the priest says “do this in memory of me” as Jesus did at the Last Supper, the Christ is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine.
At the end of Mass, we might be dismissed with the phrase “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” In Latin, the phrase is “Ite, missa est.” The word missa or “dismissal” has come to imply a mission. We are sent forth after Mass—sent forth for more than just dinner or brunch!