My Chalice and the Mass
by Fr. Don Thomas
Here at our Retirement Home in Hartford, CT, as Missionary Priests and Brothers of Our Lady of LaSalette, we have the privilege of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every morning. It is a most important part of fostering our spiritual lives. As Priests, we take turns presiding as celebrant, and the other morning, January 14, my brother Billy's birthday, it was my turn to preside, and Brother Ron was thoughtful enough to put my personal chalice on the altar for my benefit. For some reason, the beauty of the chalice caught my attention more than usual, and thoughts of great happiness flashed through my mind, as my memory scanned like a flash the many memorable occasions upon which I had used it for weddings, many funerals, many anniversaries and regular daily and Sunday Masses. After holy communion, I was thanking God for various gifts and blessings, and I included this beautiful gold-plated chalice that was given to me almost 48 years ago when I was ordained to the priesthood. Its history is quite captivating.
William and Genevieve Pace, along with Nellie Bums, deceased relatives of my mother, had given this chalice to my mother and father, and they told my parents that they wanted me to have it if I should persevere in my vocation to the priesthood. I had never met those three people in my life, but before they died, they had told my parents that all they wanted in return was to be remembered in prayer at every Mass at which the chalice would be used. I was really wide-eyed when I saw it because our family's financial situation did not allow us to even think about having a personal chalice after ordination. There would always be sufficient chalices at our places of assignment as the years would unfold. This was a total surprise.
As I looked at the glittering gold chalice for the first time, my eyes were riveted on the base, where it was so easy to see various depictions of the life of Jesus Christ, taking in, for example, His birth, the transfiguration, the crucifixion, His resurrection and other biblical scenes. I was so impressed and full of joy as I looked at it, while reading at the same time on the base the names of the three people who had given it to me as a memorial gift. For some reason, I turned the chalice upside down, and in glancing under the base where I did not expect to see anything at all, I was completely caught off guard when I saw two wedding rings that belonged to the two women donors. In my wildest dreams I never would have come up with a chalice to match this one. It was, and still is, most attractive and beautiful, and I treasure it greatly. After my mother died in 1974, I had her wedding ring placed under the base as well. She and my father are remembered in a most special way whenever I use this chalice at Mass.For anyone, Catholic or Non-Catholic, who might want a better understanding of what the Mass is all about, let me use my chalice and also the deaths of the three donors mentioned above, along with the deaths of my parents, to provide a clear lesson in understanding the Mass. Think seriously about the following two scenarios. First of all, when our loved ones die, they die only once. When we go out and place a plant on their graves on the anniversary of their deaths, I repeat—they do not die again, but what we are doing is performing what is called a memorial act of love. It is as if we are saying as we place the plant on the ground, "Mom and Dad, I miss you, and I love you”. I remember standing at your casket and saying that I would never forget you, and I won't. That is why I am here–in memory of you". Secondly, every time I use my chalice, it is also a memorial act of love on my part, love for those three donors and my parents whose only request was to be remembered every time I would use the chalice. "Do this in memory of us". Who does that sound like, and we think immediately of Jesus Christ who, at the Last Supper, changed the bread and wine into His Body and Blood, and finished up by saying: "Do this in memory of Me". Every time you do this, think of Me. That is why the Mass is defined as a memorial act of love. At every Mass, we do exactly what Jesus did at the Last Supper. We think of Jesus and what He has done for us, and when I use the special chalice, I think of the love of those three donors and the love of my Mom and Dad for me. Using the chalice is my memorial act of love for my parents and donors, and the Mass is Christ's memorial act of love for all of us, for it is through the Mass that Christ gives us His Body and Blood for our spiritual nourishment.
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