Priests reflect on the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass

The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith, and gives meaning to everything else we do as Catholics.

The Church encourages us, as faithful Catholics, to show great reverence to the Eucharist, especially at the moment of consecration during Mass, offering up our whole lives along with the sacrifice of Christ to God the Father. Then we receive the sacred body and blood of Christ as spiritual nourishment for our daily journey.

But what does it mean to priests, both pastorally and personally, to hold in their hands the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ?

The Catholic Voice asked several priests of the archdiocese to share their reflections on what the Eucharist and their presiding at the Holy Sacrifice mean to them.

Father Scott Schilmoeller, associate pastor, Sacred Heart Parish, Norfolk; St. Leonard Parish, Madison; St. Peter Parish, Stanton; and St. Patrick Parish, Battle Creek

The Mass is both mysterious and familiar. The consecration of the host is the central part of the Mass and very familiar to Catholics. However, through study and personal experience, I have come to appreciate the mysteriousness of this part of the Mass in a deeper and more profound way. When the host is in my consecrated hands and I lift it toward heaven, I tend to imagine myself lifting the entirety of my day, my week and my life toward God the Father.

I also tend to imagine myself lifting heavenward the prayers, hopes, suffering and lives of all those present at this particular Mass. On occasion, I have also imagined all parishioners being taken up into Jesus’ offering of his life to his Father, those present and those absent. This is the amazing and mysterious reality of the Mass, that we are taken up into Jesus’ own offering of his life to his Father. All of our experiences, personal and collective, are meant to be united with Jesus as he offers himself. Before receiving communion, we are called to offer ourselves as a gift with Jesus to the Father.

Father John Norman, pastor, St. Peter de Alcántara, Ewing; St. John the Baptist, Deloit Township; St. Theresa of Avila, Clearwater; St. Boniface, Elgin; St. Bonaventure, Raeville; and St. John the Baptist, Petersburg

My first year of priesthood was spent in continuing studies. I was away from home, and I was away from the parish context. Yet I felt that my participation in the Mass, in offering the eucharistic sacrifice, was how I was called to participate in the work for the salvation of the world. In an amazing way, it mattered that I offered the sacrifice. That moment connected me with home and with eternity. The celebration of the Eucharist united me in a way that overcame the felt barriers of distance.

Not every experience of celebrating the Eucharist feels the same. Especially in the more tender moments of ministry, I do find that I am aware that the sacrifice I am offering is a gift and my offering of this sacrifice is an elevation of the community that I am accompanying and serving.

Father Leo Rigatuso, pastor, St. Matthew the Evangelist Parish, Bellevue

The first thing that always strikes me is a sense of gratitude. Then to know that the God through whom everything in existence is created is here, at this altar. That he suffered, died and rose that he might be with us always through the Spirit given to us at Pentecost and in the form of bread and wine as he said at his last supper and is being held in my hands for his people to be fed and strengthened at “this moment” is too much to comprehend.

So, what I’m often thinking and feeling is simply: “Please don’t allow me to get in your way!” The ordinariness of it all is overwhelming when you pause to reflect on it. I think that for us, it has to unfold in that way. Remember Jesus’ words; “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” Yeah, I feel that too.

Father Marcus Knecht, associate pastor, St. Gerald Parish, Ralston

The reality of the Eucharist is why I remained Catholic in college and as a young adult. When I finally allowed myself to imagine the possibility of me being a priest, I was excited about celebrating the Mass and bringing the eucharistic presence of Jesus to the altar. He is why I am a priest. Therefore, I thought celebrating the Mass would be my favorite aspect to being a priest. But it has rarely been an emotional high for me.

Sometimes I get disappointed that I don’t have more feelings during the consecration or the elevation. But what my mind is focused on during that time means my disappointment is short lived. At the elevation of the host, as I stare up at Jesus, I say under my breath, “My Lord and my God! I believe. Help my unbelief.” After that is the scheduled Mass intention. So, continuing under my breath, I will say something like, “For the repose of the soul of (name).” When I elevate Jesus in the chalice I will say, “My Lord and my God! Let your blood cleanse me from the inside out.” Then I repeat the Mass intention.

This way of participating in the Paschal Mystery keeps me “grounded in Heaven.” No feelings, just Truth. I focus on Who I am holding onto, what is happening, and my purpose for doing so.

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