Saint Paul University Catholic Center

The Mass

A student receives the Eucharist at Easter Mass.

Frequently Asked Questions

This page has answers to questions we have most frequently. However, no answer is as clear as sometimes we would hope for so we encourage you to talk someone about it. If you would like to talk with someone from the Liturgy Team or to the pastor, please send us an email or send an email to Fr. Eric Nielsen. Please email us with any further questions to add to this FAQ as well.

The Eucharist

Do we really receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist or is it just symbolic/spiritual?

As Catholics, we believe that when we receive the Eucharist, we in fact do receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is known as the Doctrine of Real Presence. We believe this is so because Jesus Christ, Himself, told us it was so. John 6:54-56 “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.’ ”

Jesus clearly indicated this at the Last Supper: Matthew 26:26-28 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’ ”

As Catholics, we believe in what Jesus handed down to Peter and the apostles and so the Doctrine of True Presence is a fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church. St. Paul the Apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 10:16 “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

The Eucharist still looks like Bread and Wine. If it looks, tastes, feels and smells like bread and wine, aren’t they just symbolic of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?

What we see, taste, touch and smell are the same properties as bread and wine. But what has changed is the substance. This real change is our belief in the true presence of the Eucharist. (see above) This change is called the transubstantiation. It is a tongue twister but don’t worry. What this means is that it has all the properties of bread and wine yet it carries the substance of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Christ is present in the Eucharist at the moment of consecration. (For further reading: please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1373-1381)

Why do Catholics celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday? Does that mean Jesus is sacrificed every week?

Jesus Christ offered the first Mass and instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. (See Matthew 26:26-28) The priest offers the holy Sacrifice every Sunday because Christ instructed the apostles to do so. Luke 19:22 “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’ ” Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation given to us by God as a day of worship.

Since Christ wills this to be so, the Church transmits this through the Eucharist every Sunday and every day Mass is offered through the priest acting in persona Christi or in the name/place of Christ. Christ uses the priest’s hands, voice, and body as His own to give us this wonderful gift. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary is a sacrifice once for all. In Hebrews 10:10, St. Paul writes “we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Every Sunday and every day a Mass is offered, the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is not re-sacrificed bur rather re-presented.

Is there any difference between receiving just the Body versus the Body and Blood?

Some people choose to receive only the consecrated bread for various reasons. However, when one receives either the consecrated bread or the consecrated wine, the person receives the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, soul and divinity. After the consecration, what was bread and wine is now united as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Christ is present whole and entirely in each of the species and each of their parts i.e. the consecrated bread the the consecrated wine.

What if a non-believer receives Holy Communion?

If a non-believer receives the Eucharist, they still consume the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is not that consuming the Eucharist is only the flesh and blood for those who believe and is something else for those who do not believe. However, our faith and belief in the true presence of the Eucharist plays a significant role in the fullness of God’s gift to us in the Eucharist. Our faith teaches us that the Eucharist is a call to Communion with Christ. This means that in sharing in the Eucharist, the faithful affirm our belief in the true presence so that we may receive the spiritual gifts granted to us in the Eucharist. A non-believer does not share this belief and thus cannot receive the spiritual benefits or fullness of Communion with Christ.

Liturgy

Is the Liturgy the same everywhere?

Unless you go to a Catholic Church of a different rite, then the liturgy is for the most part the same wherever you go. Though the Catholic Church incorporates other rites, the Roman Missal is the liturgy which we are most familiar with as it is the liturgical rite in which the Pope celebrates Mass in Rome. Mass can be said in different languages in the Roman Rite, but it follows the same rubric as instructed in the Roman Missal.

Why do we spend time at Mass instead of using that time to serve others (e.g. the poor, the sick)?

Sundays are known as the Lord’s Day. Sunday is a day of worship of God and a day of rest. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is “at the heart of the Church’s life.” (CCC 2177) Sunday is a day made holy by God in creation and by His Resurrection. In the creation account of Genesis Ch. 1, man is created on the sixth day. Man is created on the sixth day but man was created for the seventh day since God blessed the seventh day and made it holy when He rested from His work in creation. A day of rest means refraining from any unnecessary work, which hinders worship of God. Participating in Mass on Sunday sets the day apart from any other day of the week because in the Mass we honor and worship God.

It is the Lord’s Day by His Resurrection because Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday. Every Sunday we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death through His Resurrection and by the Eucharist. Our apostolic tradition holds Sunday as sacred because Jesus resurrected and appeared to the women and apostles on Sunday. (For further reading: please see Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20: 1-10)

What if I don't feel like I “get anything” from the Liturgy? How can I prepare myself for the Liturgy?

Most, if not all, of us can remember a time where we didn’t feel like we got anything out of the Liturgy. For some of us, we may even have been bored during Mass. Maybe ask yourself this question: Why do I go to Mass?

As we come to the Eucharist, we share together as children of God the gift that Jesus has given us in the Eucharist. As a community, regardless of age, gender, race ethnicity, or struggle, we can all unite as children through Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Liturgy is not about how you feel or your emotions, but rather focusing on Jesus Christ. It is an affirmation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and wholly present in the Eucharist. As you receive the Eucharist, you draw closer to God through the spiritual gifts you receive in the Eucharist.

In the Spirit of the Liturgy by Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI says that God reveals Himself to us in the liturgy and gives our existence a new direction. In terms of preparation, try starting with a prayer. It can be a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s gift of the Eucharist or it can be a prayer asking God to increase your faith.

What is the priest’s role in the Liturgy?

Jesus Christ offered the first Mass and instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Matthew 26: 26-28 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’

“Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”’ ” (For further reading of the Last Supper, please see Mark 14:22-24 & Luke 22:19-20)

Since Jesus instructed His apostles to do this, we continue in the apostolic tradition through the Liturgy of the Eucharist. St. Paul the Apostle, in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26, writes “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”

What happens after the Liturgy? How do we attempt to build from it?

As we gather together in the Eucharist, we celebrate the grace and blessing that God has given us in our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds us that we are members of the Body of Christ, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) For further reading, please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1396.

The Liturgy is the way of orienting our lives and our week towards God. The Liturgy helps to increase our awareness of God and how He is working in our lives.

Why do some people pray after the Liturgy, isn’t the Liturgy a prayer?

Praying after the Liturgy is a wonderful devotion to our Lord. Often times when people pray after the Liturgy, they offer thanksgiving for the opportunity to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.

Do I have to attend Mass on Sunday? What if I miss Mass?

Please see: “What are Holy Days of Obligation?”

Other Questions

What are Holy Days of Obligation?

Holy Days of Obligation are days in which either Catholics, that are at the age of reason and are not prevented from attendance by illness or any other serious reason, are required to participate in Mass on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day. Fulfilling the obligation also means refraining from any unnecessary work, which hinders worship of God. As Sundays are days in which we celebrate the Lord’s paschal mystery by receiving the Eucharist, the Church holds Sundays as the foremost holy days of obligation. (For further reading: please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2174-2185)

Other Holy Days of Obligation are:

  • Christmas – December 25
  • Mary, Mother of God – January 1
  • Ascension of Our Lord – Observed on the Seventh Sunday of Easter
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15
  • All Saints – November 1
  • Immaculate Conception – December 8

Regarding Obligation: If you are sick or have duties or responsibilities that prevent attendance, then there is no obligation. There also exists the inconvenience of no access to a car if there is a long drive, an unfamiliar city, or the lack of access to a Mass i.e. Mass times. If you are unable to attend Mass for a serious reason, take time in some other way to observe the Lord’s Day. (For further reading: please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181)