2 minutes Catechism

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2 minutes Catechism
THE BLESSED SACRAMENT - Why do Catholics pray before the Blessed Sacrament?


What you see in a Catholic Church
W/hen you go into any Catholic Church, you will always see something special - a red or white light or oil lamp which is kept alight day and night, and nearby a small veiled structure or ornate door: it might be in a side chapel, it may be at the far end of the church, or it may be on a pillar or a stand. You often see people praying in this area and going on one knee or making a profound bow when they go past. What does this mean? Who do people do this?

Jesus' words at the Last Supper
In the gospels in the New Testament, one of the most important events in the life of Jesus took place on the night before his death on the Cross - the Last Supper. At this meal with his disciples, Jesus told his disciples that he would be with them until the end of time, whenever they come together in this way. When he took
the bread at the meal he said, 'This is my body' and when he took the cup of wine he said, 'This is the cup of my blood'. By doing this Jesus instituted what we call the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, or the Mass.

The Mass
The Mass is the central act of Christian worship, and when we gather to celebrate the Mass we join in a special way with what Jesus did the day after the Last Supper when he offered himself on the Cross. We believe this because of what he said - at every Mass the
bread and wine we use are changed into his body and blood. Therefore he is with us in a unique and irreplaceable way every time we come to Mass.

The Blessed Sacrament in the Mass
We are fed by Jesus when we receive Holy Communion.  Because Jesus is both God and man, in the Mass we become intimately close to God himself. Because they become the body and blood of Jesus in the Mass, the bread and wine which we use are treated during the Mass with awe and reverence: we show that love and reverence by genuflecting - going down on one knee - and great care is taken not to drop the consecrated bread (the Host) or spill the consecrated wine (the Precious Blood). They have changed and become sacred; we refer to the consecrated elements as the Blessed Sacrament.

The Reserved Sacrament

Because the Mass is the centre of a Christian's life, we are losing something special if we are not able to go to Mass. From the earliest times it has been important to enable people who are sick and housebound to receive Holy Communion. Sometimes such people may be close to death and will want to receive Holy Communion in an emergency - so the Blessed Sacrament is kept in a safe place in the church so that such people can be brought Holy Communion. This safe place is the tabernacle - a secure container that is either free-standing on an altar or a pillar or built into a wall. Sometimes the door of the tabernacle will be very ornate; sometimes it will be covered with a veil, which is white, or the same colour as the vestments worn by the priest at Mass. We believe that Jesus is present in a unique way in the tabernacle. That is why you will often see people praying to him in front of the tabernacle, and it is the reason why we go down on one knee (genuflect) when we pass in front of it and when we enter or leave the church. The red or white light or oil lamp burns nearby, day and night, to remind us of the presence of Jesus. Pope Paul VI once described the tabernacle as the 'living heart beating in our churches' and the area of the church where it is, the most sacred part of the building.

Holy Communion outside of Mass
W/hen we pray to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament we meet his love in a way which is an extension of the encounter with Jesus when we come to Mass. There are occasions when, if there cannot be a celebration of the Mass, a deacon or an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion may give people Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament.

Exposition and Benediction
There are other times when we may show Jesus how much we love him and value the gift of his Body and Blood. In the Rite of Exposition and Benediction a large consecrated host is placed in a special vessel for adoration. This is known as a monstrance (monstrare = to show), often decorated with shining rays, which draws our attention. In this act of worship we are able to grow particularly close to Jesus and there is time for prayers, hymns and silent meditation of him. At the end of this service, at Benediction, the priest or deacon blesses us with the monstrance containing the host. In many churches the Blessed Sacrament is regularly exposed in this way for an hour or so during the week, giving people an opportunity for prayer and reflection, to grow closer to Jesus.

The value of praying before the Blessed Sacrament
Most of us lead busy and pressurised lives. A church building offers a place set apart where we can find some peace and quiet, some 'space'. Because we know that in the tabernacle Jesus Christ is present in a unique way, a church is the best possible place to seek some tranquility and to listen to what God may be saying to us in our lives: that is why we try to keep our churches open all day. All over the world, every day, thousands of people are praying quietly, all the time, to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. A famous 19th century French saint, Jean Marie Vianney (known as the Curẻ d'Ars) once described praying before the tabernacle in these words, 'He just looks at me and I just look at him.' Closer to our own day, Cardinal Basil Hume said 'It is a wonderful practice just to sit or kneel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament'.

Remember what Jesus said at the Last Supper: 'This is my Body...This is the cup of my Blood' It is because of these words that we know that he is with us in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Blessed sacrament
Our Lord is hidden there, waiting for us to come and visit Him, and make our request to Him. He is there to console us, and therefore we ought often to visit Him. How pleasing to Him is the short quarter of an hour that we steal from our occupations, from something of no use, to come and pray to Him, to visit Him... What happiness do we not feel in the presence of God, when we find ourselves alone at His
feet before the Holy Tabernacle?
(St John Vianney 1786-1859)

What is Confession?
Confession is the Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. Through the Sacraments Christ continues his healing and life giving ministry in the Church.

Confession is a sacrament that goes by many names:
We call it the Sacrament of Reconciliation because it is the means Christ has left us to be reconciled with God and his Church.

It is the Sacrament of Penance because it involves a turning back to God and away from our selfishness.

It is called Confession because in this sacrament we confess or 'speak forth' our sins.

It is also fittingly called the' Sacrament of Pardon and Peace, because in this Sacrament God does what we cannot do: he forgives our sins and brings peace to our souls.

"The most precious result of the forgiveness obtained in the Sacrament of Penance is to be found in the reconciliation with God which takes place in the inmost heart of a son who was lost and is found again.
Pope John Paul II

What is Sin?
To sin is to go against God's law by thought, word, deed or omission. God's law is summed up by Jesus as loving God above all things and loving our neighbour as ourselves. The gravity of sin does not depend on how bad we feel about something we may have done. Some people feel very bad about quite insignificant things. Others are capable of committing great crimes and feeling very little compunction, or regret.

Minor Sins
Some sins we commit are relatively minor. We call them venial sins. It would be very difficult to confess all these minor sins, but nevertheless it is good for us to mention some in confession, especially those which represent a present area of struggle for us.

Major Sins
Other sins are more serious or grave. Sometimes they are called mortal sins. When we refer to a sin as grave or serious we are focusing on the objective offence given to God. When we refer to a sin as mortal we are focusing on the harm such sins do to our relationship with God. We are bound to mention in confession every mortal sin of which we are aware, including as far as possible, the number of times we may have committed it. We cannot receive Holy Communion until we have sought forgiveness for such sins.

For a sin to be mortal there are three conditions:
First of all the offence must be serious. In other words it must directly contravene one of the Ten Commandments or one of the precepts
of the Church. Sins described by the Church as 'grave' or 'serious' are mortal sins if the following two conditions are met:
We must know that we are committing a mortal sin. If we didn't realise that something was sinful, then objectively offence is still given to God (and so it is still good to confess it) although subjectively  we may not be to blame. Growth in holiness carries with it a desire to inform our consciences as to what may be a serious sin.

Finally, there must be full consent of our will to the action. If we do something by mistake or in error, we may have been careless but we are not guilty of having committed a mortal sin.
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