Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap, the Archbishop of Boston, has issued a pastoral letter on attending Sunday Mass. Apart from his slur against Irish cooking, which is funny but no longer precise, at least not in this Irishman's kitchen as the cardinal has reason to remember, the letter should be read in its entirety. This is the passage that most jumped out at me:
The Eucharist is Jesus’ great gift to us, and the fulfillment of His promise to be with us always until the end of time. It is a central part of God’s saving plan of infinite love for us.
Many Catholics today seem to take the gift of the Sunday Mass for granted. It is a great sadness to me as spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Boston to note that, on any given Sunday, so many Catholics choose to be absent from Mass. It was not that long ago that almost all Catholics went to Sunday Mass unless they were sick or incapacitated.
In the early days of the Church, Christians did not enjoy the freedom of religion that we do today in the United States. They were regularly persecuted by the Roman authorities for attending Mass. Pope Benedict XVI often tells the story of the martyrs of Abitene (in modern-day Tunisia). In 303, forty-nine Christians suffered torture and martyrdom because they defied the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s order not to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday. When asked why they had disobeyed the emperor, one of them said, “Sine dominico non possumus” — “Without Sunday, we cannot live.”