Speaker addresses necessity of Mass, Eucharist
Carolyn Hutyra | Thursday, February 6, 2014
Dr. Timothy O’Malley, director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, opened the 2014 Winter Series, “Theology on Tap,” on Wednesday night at Legends. O’Malley, the first of four professors in the speaker series, began the Campus Ministry event with the topic, “Do I really need to go to Mass to be Catholic?”
“It’s pretty easy to go to Mass here,” O’Malley said of the Notre Dame campus. “You don’t get any ‘I worked really hard to go to Mass award.’ You went downstairs.”
Soon graduates will enter the adult world, go to work and realize attending Mass is not going to be easy, O’Malley said.
“And then you may ask yourself, legitimately, do I have to go to Mass to be Catholic?” he said. “Or do I have to go as often? Or can’t I go just a little less? I’m tired. I was out late last night. They don’t have a 10 p.m. Mass.”
O’Malley compared the question of going to Mass to the question, “Do I have to talk to my wife to be married?” He said the answer to both questions is no, but both are minimal questions to ask. He added that this does not mean Catholics should not go to Mass, but rather Mass is not the sole marker of a Catholic identity.
An additional danger for students on campus is the dorm Mass itself, O’Malley said.
“I was a student here so I’m not just being intentionally provocative,” he said. “I actually don’t think the dorms do a very good job at Notre Dame forming you for the rest of your life as a Catholic.
“That is, you belong to a perfect community of people who all look like you and they’re basically you. You sing anthem and you close a book at the end. You slam it shut and you give bro-hugs as the sign of peace. That’s not my mass experience, and that’s not the norm.”
O’Malley said he knows a number of alums who attended Notre Dame and said their faith experiences peaked when they were in a chapel at the university.
“That’s depressing to me,” he said. “Your faith experience peaked when you were 18 years old? 19? 20? 21? What about the rest of it? What is left?”
The Eucharist is the sacrament that gradually teaches a Christian to give up one’s own desires, O’Malley said. He said receiving the gift of the Eucharist is important for three reasons, the first of which is that it teaches people to live selflessly.
“All your life you’ve been told it’s about you,” he said. “It’s hard to learn that it’s not about you.”
The Eucharist and a lifetime of going to mass gradually correct that idea, O’Malley said. He said you reach outside yourself in love because you encounter God.
“Benedict XVI said this, that the Eucharist remains ultimately fragmented and incomplete unless it ends up in acts of love of charity to the neighbor,” he said. “Even when you take the sacraments in your hands … it’s not about you. It’s about the salvation of the world. Nothing you do in the Christian life is about you.”
The second reason is the Eucharist transforms suffering, O’Malley said.
“Not every one of your classmates will live. They won’t be at your 10-year reunion; they won’t be at your 20-year reunion,” he said. “Some of you won’t be able to have children. And that’s your biggest dream. That is just life.”
O’Malley said the two responses to suffering are anger toward life and a Christian response of finding God’s presence in the darkness.
“How do you transform that?” he said. “The only thing you can do, in some ways, is give it away, to allow it to become a Eucharistic offering, to allow your pain to open up a space in which love becomes more possible. The Eucharist provides a space for this.”
O’Malley said the third reason addresses those who wonder what their calling is in life.
“The Eucharist is a kind of practice for how to live out what you think your vocation is going to be,” he said. “Through the Eucharist, you practice giving yourself away.
“And if you continue to give yourself away, to love according to the logic of a God who is love, then just hypothetically, you’ll end up where you are supposed to be.”