By Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Archbishop Timothy J. Dolan of New York urged Catholics to make Mass the center of their Sunday because the observance of the Lord’s day is essential for the church, “the vibrancy of our faith” and the “clarity of our Catholic identity.”
The archbishop used his first pastoral since being named to head the New York Archdiocese a year ago to call Catholics to “keep the Lord’s day holy” and remind them that it is in receiving the Eucharist on Sunday that they sustain their faith.
“Anybody 50 or older can remember when faithful attendance at Sunday Mass was the norm for all Catholics,” Archbishop Dolan said. “To miss Sunday Eucharist, unless you were sick, was unheard of. To be a ‘practicing Catholic’ meant you were at Mass every Sunday. Over 75 percent of Catholics went to Mass every Sunday.
“That should still be the case. Sadly, it is not. Now, the studies tell us, only one-third of us go weekly, perhaps even less in some areas of the archdiocese,” he said.
“If you want your faith to wither up and die, quit going to Sunday Mass. As the body will die without food, the soul will expire without nourishment. That sustenance comes at the Sunday Eucharist,” he added.
The archbishop released his pastoral on March 17.
Archbishop Dolan noted that as head of the New York Archdiocese one of his joys is the close contact he has with the Jewish people, “our ‘elder brothers in the faith’ — to use the wonderful phrase of the Pope John Paul II.”
“Catholics and Jews work, live and pray together in this city as they are able to do in very few other places around the world. The welcome the Jewish people have given me here in New York has been a true blessing,” he said.
He said Catholics and Jews can learn much from each other, adding that one lesson the Jewish faith can teach Catholics is about “the importance of the Sabbath.”
“Observance of the Sabbath is now, and has been since time immemorial, a constitutive part of being a Jew. Even if many Jews today, like Catholics, no longer observe the Sabbath, it remains a distinctive mark of identity,” Archbishop Dolan said.
“I am afraid if you were to ask someone today whether he lives for Sunday, he might think that you are asking whether he is a football fan,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I grew up in a family where no sooner were we home from Mass on Sunday than my father was putting the beer in the cooler and looking forward to the baseball game and a barbecue. But that was after we got home from Sunday Mass!”
“Do we Catholics think that Sunday is the ‘climax of living’?” he asked. “Do we look forward to Sunday as a day dedicated to the Lord which gives meaning and purpose to our whole week?
“Or have we become accustomed to a weekend mentality,” he continued, “wherein we sleep late, catch up on chores around the house, run errands, drive the kids to sports, do a little recreation and then fit Sunday Mass in between everything else, if at all?”
Archbishop Dolan acknowledged that some have jobs they must got to on Sunday and that many families are obliged to participate in children’s sports and other activities, but he suggested Catholics avoid “unnecessary work” and, when they can, plan activities in a way that would allow the family to go to Sunday Mass.
He also suggested Catholics put aside their laptops, cell phones, computers and televisions on Sunday.