Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Catholic Conference 2003: ‘Real Presence in the Real Present

Story and photos by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Nov. 13, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Nathan Mitchell, Msgr. John SteinerNathan Mitchell (left), keynote presenter for the 2003 Catholic Conference, talks with Msgr. John Steiner, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley. (IR photo)

“The body and blood of Christ create the body of Christ,” said Dr. Nathan Mitchell, keynote presenter at the Catholic Conference held in Spokane Oct. 25

Eucharist can make Christ present in everybody, he said, even the very least among us. As a sacramental church, receiving Eucharist brings “The Real Presence into the Real Present,” which was the title of the keynote address.

Mitchell is a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He vividly recalled the days of the Second Vatican Council, in which are found the seeds of liturgical renewal. He remembered the “energy, enthusiasm, and euphoria” that were present when the bishops met in Rome, called into session by Blessed Pope John XXIII.

“Here was this grandfatherly little pope, with the big ears...,” Mitchell said, calling the church’s bishops to a historic meeting. “He was 82 years old, and he was talking about dreams and expectations.”

In that irony could be seen the Holy Spirit, “God’s providence guiding us,” Mitchell said, and the first reforms of the liturgy, “linking the Real Presence to the Real Present.”

Linking those two elements means that the “liturgy of God is never separated from the liturgy of the neighbor.” Christ is present “among the least, the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the marginalized.”

One of those expectations became a greater participation of the laity in the Mass. “That was ours by the right of our Baptism,” Mitchell said. With greater participation came greater unity. At the table, “The Eucharist makes the church and Eucharist commits us to the poor. There is an immediate connection, energizing us to serve the poor.” Liturgy doesn’t exist “by itself, but for the sake of the liturgy of the world.”

The whole human race is united, in God and in resurrection destiny. “We take on a responsibility to help others experience God’s plan for the whole human race,” he said.

What is God’s plan? Mitchell said it in one word: “dinner.” In God’s plan, he said, Christians are to prepare, cook and serve the dinner.

Mitchell expanded the concept of “dinner” to include the ancient symbolism of bread. Bread is “nearly universal in all cultures,” he said. To make and eat bread is not the act of a single individual, but the action of a community. Someone grows the grain, harvests it and grinds it to flour. Someone else makes the bread and cooks it. Then everyone shares in its nourishment.

“It’s not about control; it’s about faith, trust and surrender. The Holy Spirit is at work in all men and women,” said Dr. Mitchell.

Dr. Mitchell sees that in the church. As he travels and meets with people, he can “see the church in action, people doing all kinds of work.” Because of that, “The Church is in very good hands. Thank you for your faith and your willingness to serve.”

Father Steve DublinskiFather Steve Dublinski, chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, was one of the presenters for the conference in downtown Spokane Oct. 25.

Father Steve Dublinski, Vicar General and chairman of the diocese’s Liturgical Commission, presented a workshop on the revised General Instruction in the Roman Missal, informally called the GIRM. The GIRM revisions are to go into effect Nov. 30, the first Sunday of Advent.

Father Dublinski had two texts available: the GIRM (with a black cover) which is the explanatory section of the Roman Missal. This book contains the theology of Mass, which Father Dublinski noted is “much fuller and richer,” and also the specific instructions for celebrating Mass.

The second text, a much thinner book with a blue cover, lists the norms for the reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States. This booklet replaces an earlier version. Father Dublinski encouraged those present to read both documents; his workshop was not a substitute, he said.

Father Dublinski said that this round of liturgical revisions is the second since the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965. This second revision is “like a fine-tuning” and he gave an example: “If the tabernacle is in the sanctuary, you genuflect when you come in (at the start of Mass) and again when you come out. The goal is that everyone is doing the same thing at the same time,” he said.

Another purpose was to incorporate new developments, especially in regard to music. “We almost — but not quite — can’t have Mass without music, even on weekdays,” Father Dublinski said. “Music plays a critical role in what’s happening. When we sing together, we become one.”

Father Dublinski explained the norm which states that those present at a Mass are to receive the bread and wine consecrated at that Mass.

“To take part in a sacrifice,” Father Dublinski said, “the whole community, led by the priest, prays over the bread and wine. Then you eat of the bread and drink of the wine consecrated at the Mass you attend. In the Jewish sense, you eat at the place when you participate in a sacrifice.”

This will require careful planning on the part of ministers preparing for the Mass to make sure there is enough bread and wine for the people who will be attending. He agreed it “won’t always work 100 percent. There are some logistical considerations.”

Another important rule was that the “call for substantial periods of silence during the Mass will be enforced,” Father Dublinski said. “The holiness of Eucharist calls for it.” These times of silence will come at the beginning of Mass, after invitations to pray, after the first and second readings, after the homily, after Communion.

“Silence is psychologically difficult (for people),” he said. “The presider’s job is to catechize by teaching them what to do and then stretching the periods of silence.

Another rule was that of the proper posture near the end of the Eucharistic prayer. In this diocese, Catholics will stand “after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) until the beginning of the Communion processional. They will remain standing until everyone has received Communion.”

A few of the other revisions:

• The very top cloth on an altar is to be white. Cloths underneath can be of some other color if desired.
• The Book of the Gospels is the only book to be carried in the Mass processional. It should be elevated slightly.
• The cross carried in the processional and placed near the altar must have a corpus unless the sanctuary already has a cross with corpus. “Then it can be a cross of a different design,” Father Dublinski said.

He cautioned patience in the implementation of the norms. “It takes time to grow into the principles,” he said.

Other workshops throughout the day presented information on families, catechizing youth and children, social justice and music.

Betty Newstrom, Bishop’s Secretary for Evangelization and Director of the diocese’s Parish Services Office said 260 people attended the 14th annual conference, held at the Doubletree Hotel in Spokane. Newstrom said conference speakers were well received. Evaluation forms included such comments as “Exceptional.” “Awesome.” “Broadened and challenged me.”


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