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Holy Mass Explained Part 18

The purpose of the responsorial psalm and Alleluia

Someone asked me, why we sing the Psalm and Alleluia in between the Readings. We Catholics are accustomed to hearing the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation sung or recited between the Readings. These were instituted by the Second Vatican Council, in order to foster the meditation on the Word of God.

Following the first reading, we raise our mind and heart reciting or singing the Responsorial Psalm taken from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Since the early centuries of the Church, what was known as the Graduale and the Sequence were sung between the readings. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Responsorial Psalm forms an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and the Psalm should correspond to the first Reading (cf. GIRM #61). In fact, it has a thematic relationship to the first Reading and it is people’s response to God’s Word. In the current lectionary, the Responsorial Psalm comes with antiphon which enables the assembly to sing after every verse sung by the cantor.

There is also an option of using seasonal Psalm, namely, a psalm that fits with the mood of the Church Season. This allows the assembly to reflect on the meaning of that season.

Gospel Acclamation/ Alleluia:

The Gospel Acclamation is a song of praise, with a verse from the Gospel. Except during the season of Lent, we sing “Alleluia”. It is usually sung by everybody, standing and is led by the cantor. The verse is sung by the cantor. We stand while singing this song of praise because this posture would help the assembly to welcome and greet The Lord, who is going to speak to us in the Gospel.


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Jesus’ Healing Ministry

We hear in the Gospel from Mark how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Note that she immediately served Him after this miracle; she wanted to show thanks for what Jesus had done for her. The passage states that after sunset the whole town gathered at the door seeking Jesus. This was due to the Jewish laws regarding work on the Sabbath; no work could be done, even the act of bringing someone to be healed could be considered work, as well as Jesus’ healing actions, thus the gathering after sunset.

Jesus healed out of compassion and concern for their wellbeing. He was generous with His ministry, not holding back His power, not judging if someone was “worthy” of healing, not trying to discern the reason the person was seeking His healing powers.

I believe there are many people who seek Jesus only when they need something. A job is going poorly, their marriage is struggling, their health is poor… Yes, we can fall into this routine where the only time we pray is when we are in need. One of the commercials on Relevant Radio describes this type of prayer as a vending machine; we put in our prayer and God produces whatever we have prayed for.

The trouble with this is God is not just there for the problems in our lives, but at all times. We need to seek Him at all times; when we are living the daily routine of our lives, when we celebrate the joys of life and when we face trials. Jesus showed us the importance of prayer as we hear in the passage today; “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” Jesus knew the importance of a strong relationship with the Father.

We are called to this same relationship. One of love and trust. When we pray we should always remember who it is we are addressing, the God of power and might, of love and mercy. The God who desires each of us to be in union with Him. The God who grants our prayer requests with His wisdom. We don’t always get what we pray for, because God knows what is best for us. We often don’t understand God’s wisdom, which is why we struggle when our prayers seem to go unanswered. This is where our faith, trust that God knows best, plays a role in our relationship.

Keep on praying!

Deacon Ray


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Holy Mass Explained Part 17

Meaning of the word “Amen” in the Mass

The word “Amen” is not a strange word for any Catholic, because it is used as a concluding response to all the prayers we recite. It is also used during the Holy Mass as people’s response to the prayers offered by the priest as the president of the assembly. What does this word mean? What is its significance?

Etymologically, the word “Amen” is a Hebrew term. It signifies trustworthiness and faithfulness. Hence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church inculcates that this Hebrew word expresses both God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in him (cf. CCC 1062). It is also used to affirm, approve and emphasize something that is said. Jesus uses this word often, in order to affirm his statements: “Amen, amen, I say to you…” This Hebrew word would also mean “truly”. Thus, the double “Amen” Jesus uses is sometimes translated as “truly, truly” or “verily, verily”. The statement “Amen, amen, I say to you…” is used, in order to emphasize the trustworthiness of his teaching and his authority founded on God’s truth (cf. CCC 1063).

When we say “Amen”, in response to a prayer, it affirms the content of the prayer as an expression of faith that God will hear and act on the prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “… after the prayer is over you say ‘Amen’, which means ‘So be it’, thus ratifying with our ‘Amen’ what is contained in the prayer…” (CCC 2856).

When we receive the Holy Communion, our response to the statement “The Body of Christ” implies God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in Him (cf. CCC 1062). Thus, it is an act of our faith in God’s trustworthiness and our trust in His love. The word “Amen” precisely means that we believe in the reality of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.


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Holy Mass Explained Part 16

How Many Times May a Person Receive Holy Communion?

Some of our parishioners have asked me, whether one can receive Holy Communion more than once in a day. Let me clarify, how often in a day one can receive Holy Communion.

The Church law, namely, the Code of Canon Law stipulates:

Canon 917: “A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the Eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of Can. 921, §2.”

Canon 921, §2: “Even if they have been nourished by holy communion on the same day, however, those in danger of death are strongly urged to receive communion again.”

Based on the above two Canons, we can conclude that a person can receive Holy Communion twice a day by participating in the Mass; nevertheless, a person in danger of death can receive Holy Communion again the same day, even outside the Mass.

The rationale for such a concession is that the participation in the Mass and the reception of the Holy Communion are intrinsically connected. In other words, the two parts of the Mass: The Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist are two parts of the one whole celebration.  Full participation in the Mass entails that one has to be present from the beginning until the end of the Mass and receive Holy Communion. Unfortunately, a few individuals come for Mass in the middle, receive Holy Communion and leave before the Mass concludes. One has to participate in the whole Mass and more precisely, one has to thank The Lord for His gift after receiving the Holy Communion.

According to Canon 921 §2, even if a person has already received Holy Communion twice in a day, he/she can receive Holy Communion again, in a special circumstance like danger of death.

God bless you,

Fr. Arul Joseph V


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The Epiphany of Jesus

The Epiphany of Jesus celebrates the fact that God made Himself present or manifested himself to humanity.  God did this in a special way so we could understand He is real and understand Him. Our readings today reflect the beauty of this event in our salvation history. We hear Isaiah prophesy about this event; “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” Jerusalem, the site of the temple was the center place of the Jewish faith; the site where sacrifice was offered to God. If you are familiar with biblical history you recall the Arc of the Covenant was placed in the temple after its construction and God dwelled in the “Holy of Holies”, a special section of the temple. God was present to Israel. Much later in the history of Israel the prophet, Ezekiel describes the “glory of the God of Israel” leaves the temple. (chapter 10) God had abandoned the temple because the Chosen People had turned away from God, worshiping false gods and were soon to be overtaken by the Babylonians. With the presentation of Jesus in the temple, God once again graced this sacred space. The statement by Isaiah; “the glory of the Lord shines upon you” has been fulfilled.

The celebration story we hear today is the “Wise Men”, mysterious figures from the east who arrive with gifts and bow down before this newborn king. They fulfill the prophecy we hear in the reading from Isaiah. God’s glory has been present to us ever since this holy event, the coming of the Messiah. We continue to be blessed with His presence even today, He is always present in the tabernacle and we receive Him in the Eucharist where we are nourished by His Precious Body and Blood.

Because we are blessed in such a special way it is important that we gather together every weekend to give Him praise. We join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to be enriched spiritually, to bring our prayers of petition to God, and to be sent forth to serve all peoples. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand the importance of gathering every week to stay in touch with God. We see these people at Christmas Mass and occasionally through the year, but they are not regular in their worship practices. I encourage you to pray for these brothers and sisters so they can awake from their spiritual sleep. Make this a daily prayer petition this year; perhaps our prayers will open their minds and soften their hearts.

May the God who has made Himself manifest to us be ever present to you this year!

God bless,

Deacon Ray


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HOLY MASS EXPLAINED PART 14

Guidelines For The Reception Of the Holy Communion,

Given by US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB)

On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of Communion.

FOR CATHOLICS

As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

FOR OUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS

We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

FOR NONCHRISTIANS

We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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HOLY MASS EXPLAINED PART 13

Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist: Table of The Lord

Communion is the word, we use, when we participate at the table of The Lord. This word is derived from two Latin words: com (which means “with, together”) + unus (which means “oneness, union”). The Latin root of Communion is communionem, meaning “fellowship, mutual participation or sharing”.

Meaning of Communion:

Literally, it means “sharing”. The Lord is sharing himself with us and we all share our fellowship with one another at the table of The Lord. As St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, when speaking of sharing the bread as the body of Christ, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1Corinthians 10:16 17).

Thanks to St. Paul, the word “Communion” has been in use from 57 A.D., when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. He calls each member of the community at Corinth to self-examine before partaking of The Lord’s Supper: “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1Corinthians 11:28). What remains absolutely central is the concept of Communion in the coming together as one body to share in the one bread, overcoming all distinctions and barriers.

Communion is not merely coming together in unity. Jesus gathers his people together at his table and then he sends us out to feed and clothe and comfort others: “I was hungry and you gave me food… as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35-40).

To be continued

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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HOLY MASS EXPLAINED Part 12

“Lamb of God…” is a prayer of humble petition and invocation to Jesus Christ to purify the soul from every sin. It is also an immediate preparation before approaching the table of The Lord.

Then follows the invitation for the people, who are prepared, to come and take part in the banquet of The Lord. The priest, raising the consecrated host so as to be seen by the people, invites with the words: “Behold the Lamb of God … blessed are those who are called to the supper of The Lord”.

Everyone, who would like to participate in the supper of The Lord, responds saying: “Lord! I am not worthy to receive you ….” It is possible that we may not realize the significance of this response, because we recite this during every Mass, which we participate in. We may be led to say this prayer as a habitual act. Let us remember that it is exactly the words which the centurion, a Roman military officer, pronounced to Jesus, before receiving him into his home to heal one of his servants, who was sick. Imagine, how humbly this officer has invited The Lord, in spite of his power and authority! What are we, after all! Let us welcome The Lord with the same feeling and attitude of this officer. Since God comes into our soul with immense love, let us actually receive him into our soul with love and joy.

At the same time, since God comes into our soul, it is very important that we keep our soul pure. We must never receive unworthily with a mortal sin. If one is stained with a mortal sin, and there is no opportunity to go for Confession, then he/ she should sincerely feel sorry and ask internally for forgiveness from The Lord, before going to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord into his/her soul. Nevertheless, at the next opportunity, it is better to go for Confession and be cleansed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

For those who think, why one should go for the Mass and receive the Body & Blood of The Lord, let me remind what Jesus has declared: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). “… he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V


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HOLY MASS EXPLAINED Part 11

Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist:

With the prayer of glory and doxology, “Through Him, with Him and in Him…” the Eucharistic prayer comes to an end. Now we begin our immediate preparation to receive the nourishing spiritual food, the Body and Blood of Christ.

Communion Rite:

Step one: As a first step of our preparation, we pray as Our Lord has taught his disciples to pray. Taught by him, we dare to call God, who is almighty and who created heaven and earth, as our Father. The prayer “Our Father” contains, first, three praising petitions directed towards God:

  • Our Father hallowed be thy name;
  • Thy kingdom come;
  • Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This is followed by four petitions related to our various needs:

  • Give us this day our daily bread;
  • Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
  • Lead us not into temptation;
  • But deliver us from evil.

Step two: We continue to pray that we may be freed from every evil and that Jesus may consider favorably our faith, rather than our sinfulness and fill us with his peace, which he imparted to his disciples, after his resurrection. Prayer for peace is important at this juncture, because the word “Communion” means “union with” God and with one another. Having prayed for peace, as a sign and gesture of our union, we offer the sign of peace with each other.

Step three: Since by receiving of the Eucharist, we are going to receive Jesus Christ, we invoke Jesus to purify our soul by praying “Lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…”

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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HOLY MASS EXPLAINED PART 10

Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist:

Following the response of the assembly to the invitation of the priest to proclaim the Mystery of Faith saying, “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again”, the priest continues to pray as the presider of the assembly.

Prayer for unity and intercession:

This is the moment of the Mass, we are to put our heart and soul into acts of faith, love and adoration, because Jesus Christ is substantially present on the altar. Yes, Jesus Christ, with his divinity and humanity, is really present, just as he was present and offered himself for us on the cross. We should love to be beside him, just as Our Blessed Mother and St. John were present beside the cross on Calvary.

The Holy Mass is never a private action, even if a very few people or even if only one person or not even one person is present. It is a celebration of the entire Church. The prayer brings to our mind the presence of the communion of saints, which includes the angels and the saints.

We also pray that we may be gathered into one Body and Spirit by the Holy Spirit. We pray for the Pope, for the bishop of the local diocese, we pray for the living and deceased members. We pray especially for ourselves that through the intercession of the saints, we may one day arrive at the heavenly table, of which this table is only a foretaste.

In conclusion, we look forward to the glorious day raising our voices with those of angels and saints saying: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever”. Our “Amen” to this prayer of glory and doxology acclaims our assent.

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.