With the first question answered, Bishop Monforton is responding to the 100th question posed to him via “Ask the Bishop.”
Q: Why do we have to go to church every Sunday?
A: This is a very good question, for many people wonder why they have to go every Sunday when so many Catholics and non-Catholics have decided not to. Attending Mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening) is actually one of the Five Precepts of the Church. What is a precept? A precept is a general rule or command. For our purposes here, the precept enables us to grow in the love of God and neighbor. Your question is regarding the First Precept of the Church and that is, “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and rest from servile labor.” What we do when we attend Mass every Sunday is sanctify that holy day with our own lives as we continue to grow as Christians. Here is a good question: What in our lives could be more important than receiving the Body and Blood of Christ each week?
Recall how, for many of us who played team sports or band, we had to practice before the next game or concert. Well, by going to Mass every week, we become better Christians and most certainly have a better understanding of Jesus’ “game plan” for each and every one of us, as well as for the human family. As in sports, if you continue to miss practice, you become less and less an effective member of the team. While Mass is much more than practice, I hope you get the point.
Just for your information, the other precepts are: You shall celebrate the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year; you should receive the Eucharist at least once during the Easter Season; you shall reserve the days of fasting and abstinence (especially during Lent) established by the Church and the final precept, you shall help to provide for the needs of the Church, namely to assist your pastor in the parish community to be faithful Christian stewards among the community.
Q: Why do we wear robes when we serve (at Mass)?
A: We recognize in many parishes there are servers who wear robes (also known as albs) and in others, especially at Masses with the Bishop at which I am blessed with the opportunity for our diocesan pontifical servers, we have cassocks. I’ll start with the cassock. The cassock and surplice are special garments worn by servers as they serve at Mass. Many a time, when you see a man in a cassock and surplice, he may already be a priest or a seminarian preparing for priesthood. The cassock can convey the message that this young man is thinking about the priesthood.
Albs, which can be worn by young men, young women or boys or girls, designate that they have a special role at Mass, namely to assist the presider and deacon at the liturgy. The white alb is a reminder for you and me of our baptism, for a server must be baptized, of course, before being able to serve at the Mass.
The robes set the servers apart from the rest of the community indicating that they have a special role in serving Jesus and his Church.
Q: Why is the Vatican City in Rome?
A: Here is another very good question. Did you know that both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in Rome? Historically, we have St. Peter being martyred right near where St. Peter’s Basilica stands today. That area of Vatican Hill is where the basilica was constructed by the Emperor Constantine. Over a thousand years later, St. Peter’s was rebuilt, and we see today the end result of this beautiful major basilica. The geographic center of the Roman Catholic Church has remained in Rome ever since the early days of the Church, in particular as this is the location where St. Peter was martyred. Did you know that we have scientific evidence from bones beneath St. Peter’s that take us back to the first century? Most likely, the bones below St. Peter’s are the actual bones of the first pope, St. Peter himself.
In the years following, of course, those “successors of St. Peter” resided in Rome throughout Church history with just a few exceptions. Pope Francis resides in Vatican City, and this reminds us of the continuity of all popes from St. Peter to our present successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis himself. Did you know that Vatican City is only 108.7 acres? Many golf courses are much larger than that!
On a personal note, I wish to thank all those who shared with me their best wishes and prayers on the occasion of my third anniversary as your shepherd. As I mentioned in a previous article, I truly am blessed to be both your shepherd and your fellow brother here in the Diocese of Steubenville. May Our Lord Jesus continue to bless you and your family as we endeavor into this Ohio Valley autumn with our lord Jesus Christ.
To “Ask the Bishop,” address questions to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator in the Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools – via U.S. mail, P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952; email, email@example.com; or telephone, (740) 282-3631.