Released on: SEPTEMBER 21, 2007


  • Abbreviations used in the Text

  • Introduction

  • First Part: Some Important Elements
    1.    Biblical Roots
    2.    One Body
    3.    Altar: Symbol of Christ
    4.    Music in the Eucharist

  • Second Part: Liturgy of the Word
  • 5.    The Greeting of the Celebrant: The Lord be with You
    6.    The Penitential Rite
    7.    The Readings
    8.    The Homily
    9.    The Profession of Faith
    10.  The Prayer of the Faithful

  • Conclusion

  • How to use this Letter

  • Appendix: Regulations on Fast and Abstinence

  •   List of Abbreviations used in the Text

      Old Testament
     Exodus  Ex
     Numbers  Nm
     Nehemiah  Neh
     Psalms   Ps
      New Testament
     Matthew  Mt
     Mark  Mk
     Luke   Lk
     John  Jn
     Acts of the Apostles  Acts
     Romans  Rom
     1 Corinthians  1 Cor
     Galatians  Gal
     Ephesians  Eph
     Philippians  Phil
     1 Thessalonians  1 Thes
     1 Timothy  1 Tim
     Hebrews  Heb
     James  Jas
     1 Peter  1 Pt
     1 John  1 Jn
     Revelation  Rv
      Church’s Documents
     Sacrosanctum Concilium
    (Constitution of Vatican II on Liturgy)
     Dei Verbum
    (Constitution of Vatican II on Scripture)
     Christus Dominus
    (Decree of Vatican II on the Bishops)
     Catechism of the Catholic Church  CCC
     Ecclesia de Eucharistia  EdE


    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    Peace be with you! This is the greeting of Jesus Christ to his disciples after his resurrection (Jn 20,19.21.26; Lk 24,36). It is also the greeting that the Bishop, the representative par excellence of Jesus Christ in the Church, addresses to the community at the beginning of the Eucharist celebration. It is with this Biblical greeting that I want to start my first Pastoral Letter to you. I wish you all and your family the Peace of God which is at the same time: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5,22). I would like to address a special wish of the Lord’s Peace to those who are alone in Kuwait, far away from family who are back in their country of origin: Peace be with you all!

    Before entering into the subject, I would like to thank you all, priests, deacon, nuns, catechists, ministers of Eucharist, lectors, servants, ushers, associations, prayer groups and all the faithful for your very warm and fraternal welcome to me. Since I arrived in Kuwait, on the 22nd August 2005, I found immediately in you brothers and sisters who accepted me with an open heart. You also participated in a very large number at my Episcopal ordination on the 2nd September 2005, and I appreciated very much your prayerful presence. I have been with you now for two years and I notice that our reciprocal relation is going on for the best, at least it seems to me. I thank God for you and for what you are for me. I can say with St. Paul that you are my joy and my crown (Phil 4,1). Thank you again and God keep us all obedient to His will.

    Perhaps you are astonished that I am sending you a Pastoral letter. I know that there is no such tradition in our Vicariate. The second Vatican Council says that the tasks of the Bishop are: to teach, to sanctify, to govern. "To govern" means that the Bishop should be with his people as one who serves. "To sanctify" means that the Bishop should be mindful of the fact that he has been chosen among men and made their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices in expiation of sins, to help the people to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, to become holy. "To teach" means that the Bishop should proclaim the gospel of Christ to men. This is one of the principal duties of the Bishops (CD 12,15,16). Until now my "teaching ministry" was done through homilies, meetings with groups, celebrations of the Word in the houses with a number of families, personal meetings, etc. Another way to teach is the pastoral letter that almost all the Bishops of the world write to their faithful every year. Through this letter the Bishop proposes the program of the year. Thus, it is not only a theological teaching but a means to stress a particular point of the message of Jesus Christ and to show to the people how to live it concretely. Such is the purpose of my pastoral letter.

    During these two years I have appreciated very much two realities of your Christian life.

    First of all your love for the Word of God. I have noticed that all families have a Bible in their house. I have seen that for many of you the Bible is a very important point of reference in your life, for a few others perhaps it is just an external sign that their family is Christian. It is necessary to read-meditate-pray the Bible every day; where we discover how much God loves us.

    The second point is your deep love for prayer. You know that I lived 38 years in the Arab countries of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the Sudan, but I must recognize that never I saw so strong a love for prayer as I see in you. After a crowded Mass when it should be normal that every body would like to take a breath, I see instead a huge number of you praying before the grotto. I see also that at any moment of the day there are always people praying in the church or before the grotto or in both places. Last Holy Thursday we opened the Adoration Chapel. We did this because it was necessary to respond to your great desire for prayer. In fact, there are continuously people adoring the Blessed Sacrament there. The Night Vigil of every third Thursday of the month always has hundreds and hundreds of people who spend the entire night in the Cathedral for prayer. Finally, I know that a very high percentage of families meet every evening to pray the Rosary and other prayers together. You know that we have problems of space, that our three churches are too few to receive all the faithful. But I am not afraid because you are praying so much and constantly: Do not be saddened: for rejoicing in the Lord is your strength (Neh 8,10). We are strong not because we are many or for any other reason but only because you pray with all your heart.

    It is my duty, as your pastor, to help you in your prayer and especially in the Liturgical one. You know that every prayer is loved by God, even when we pray in secret in our house or in our room (cfr. Mt 6,5-6). But there are prayers that God wants us to say together, as a community redeemed by Jesus Christ. For example, the last supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples had to be celebrated together, it was the solemn Passover. We call these kind of prayers: Liturgical celebration! Celebration of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders, celebration of the sick, community celebration of Penance, celebration of the Hours. So, we have the personal or family prayer, which is always a private prayer, and the Liturgical prayer when we meet to celebrate together the source which feeds our Christian life, the Sacraments. We should not participate in the Sacraments as a private prayer (I go to my Mass). In the Liturgical prayer we are invited to go out from ourselves, to meet others, to pray and to sing with them, to know them personally, to help them. The purpose of the Liturgy is to call every one of us as individuals and make all of us as one, one body whose head is Christ: (The Father) made him (Jesus Christ), as he is above all things, the head of the Church; which is his Body (Eph 1,22-23).

    As I said, I have a great appreciation for your prayer, but it seems to me that we need to understand more what Liturgical prayer is. Therefore I foresee that my program of teaching as Bishop will be for some years on Liturgical formation. I have reflected on how to start and have arrived to the conclusion that it is better to meditate together on the one Sacrament which is the most attended by you all, the Eucharist. Thus, my pastoral letter of this year is about the Eucharist. I take the title from the Encyclical EdE where three times (twice in n. 5 and one in n. 6) Pope John Paul II described the Eucharist as amazement. I will try to explain in as simple terms as possible the biblical roots of the Eucharistic celebration and the first part of the Mass, from the beginning until the prayer of the faithful included. If God will give us life, we shall see next year the second part, from the preparation of the gifts to the end of the Mass.


    1. The Biblical Roots of the Eucharistic Celebration

    When I was a child, I was told that after having received Communion Jesus Christ was present in me for around twenty minutes and the catechists used to tell us to keep quiet and silent during those moments and to speak only to Jesus Christ, the divine guest in our heart. The positive aspect of this teaching was that we became convinced of the real presence of Jesus Christ in us, but the problem was that many of us grew up with only this limited teaching about the Eucharist.

    Today I notice in some of our Masses that after the Liturgical greeting to the assembly at the beginning (The Lord be with you) the priest gives too much time to speak about the Mass as a feast. People can understand that the main purpose of the Eucharist is to have a banquet of friends. Pope John Paul II writes in the Encyclical EdE (n. 10): At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Thus, we may conclude that the Mass is the celebration of the presence of Jesus in us and the joy of meeting brothers and sisters. We shall understand better the Eucharist if we have a look at the annual Passover of the Jews and at the texts of the institution of the Eucharist (Mt 26,20-30; Mk 14,17-26; Lk 22,14-39; 1 Co 11,23-26).


    A) The Annual Passover of the Jews

    1. The last supper in Egypt and its link with the crossing of the Sea

    The exodus from Egypt is without doubt the most important event of the Ancient Testament and marks the birth of the sons of Israel as the people of God. In Ex 12,1-4 God announces that the crossing of the Sea will be preceded by the last supper in Egypt. Can we consider the last supper in Egypt as something normal to be done before a trip and to be done in hurry while waiting for the signal of departure? Is it possible to consider the crossing of the Sea independently from the last supper in Egypt? So, what is the relation between these two facts? Which one is the more important?

    2. "The blood will be a sign for you"

    The context of the last supper in Egypt reveals to us that the verse The blood will be a sign for you (Ex 12,13) has to be referred to the efficacy of the blood as sign of alliance and so as a sign of belonging and protection. Through the blood of the lamb Israel is declared as not belonging anymore to the Pharaoh. Therefore when the Exterminator sees the blood on the door of the houses he will be obliged to pass over them. Through this sign the people of Israel affirms that they belong to God. By sprinkling the blood of the Pascal lamb on the door, Israel, even though physically they are still in Egypt, have already declared that they are not in Egypt anymore and that they have already left the land that is under their feet. Even though the shadow of the Pharaoh seems to be over his ancient slaves, the king of Egypt has practically no jurisdiction over them because the sign of the blood has now proved their exclusive belonging to God and making them the "Community of Israel". The last supper in Egypt is a prophetic sign announcing that Israel will be liberated next day, it "opens" in the crossing of the Sea. Both are united in a unique and indivisible intervention of liberation, even though each one has its own role. But there is much more.

    3. The last supper in Egypt for the generations to come

    With the crossing of the Sea, which is the founding event of their liberation, Israel put an end to the slavery of the Pharaoh and began to serve God. But after the crossing of the Sea, Israel discovers that they are not faithful to God. At Marah (Ex 15,22 ff) they complained because there was no water. They regretted the deceiving prosperity of Egypt (Ex 16,3; Nm 11,5; 14,2-3) and wanted to go back to the Pharaoh (Cfr Nm 14,4). How to find strength to exit once again from the house of slavery, to escape from the hands of the Pharaoh who seems to have again power on them? Can they go back to Egypt in order to cross the Sea another time? Impossible. Faith comes to help. Ex 12,14 says: This day must be commemorated by you. This divine order means that the sign of the Pascal lamb given at the vigil of the crossing of the Sea was not for that time only, when they left Egypt, but it must be celebrated again by the following generations which, in faith, shall cross the Sea. If God had not instituted the sacrament of the Pascal lamb, the new generations would have remained slaves of their rebellion to God. Meanwhile, in celebrating the Passover every year, they really cross the Sea, even though not physically. When they eat the Pascal lamb, they are brought back, in a sacramental way, to the event of their liberation, the Sea. "Sacramental way" means "really", even though not "physically". They can say that when their ancestors crossed the Sea, they were also present there with them!

    B) The Christian Eucharist

    Along with ancient Israel, who saw in the crossing of the Sea the founding event of their liberation from slavery of the Pharaoh, we prepare ourselves, as the new Israel, to recognize in the death and resurrection of Christ the founding event of a new and eternal covenant.

    1. The Last Supper of Jesus and its relation with the Calvary and the Empty Tomb

    It is evident that the Last Supper of Jesus cannot be reduced to a farewell supper, where Jesus Christ just wanted to remain for the last time in intimate friendship with his disciples before his death. The Last Supper cannot be separated from the death-resurrection. In fact, the Last Supper is the prophetic sign of the founding event which will be realised next day. Both are correlated to each other. We cannot consider the death-resurrection without its deep link with the Last Supper, just as the crossing of the Sea cannot be understood without its link with the last supper in Egypt.

    When Jesus Christ said: This is my body, which is for you … This cup is the new covenant in my blood (1 Cor 11,24-25), he created a profound link between the sign of the bread and the wine and the event of his death and resurrection. The bread broken (for you) and the wine shed (new covenant in my blood) announced what will happen in the next day, his death followed by the resurrection.

    But here also there is much more.

    2. The Institution of the Eucharist

    As ancient Israel saw in the verse This day must be commemorated by you (Ex 12,14) the order to celebrate the Passover every year, in the same way the new Israel sees in the verse Do this in remembrance of me ... do this as memorial of me (1 Cor 11,24-25) the order to celebrate the Last Supper and the inauguration of the Eucharist. As with these words Jesus wanted to say: "You should celebrate the sign of the bread and of the wine that I gave you at the vigil of my passion, eat this bread and drink from this cup which will put you in communion with my body that is to be delivered and with my blood that is to be shed tomorrow on the Calvary".

    If Jesus had not instituted the Eucharist, the event of his death and resurrection would have remained only for that moment when it happened on Calvary and the Church of the future generations, i.e. ourselves, would not have been able to obtain salvation from that far off event. The celebration of the Eucharist therefore brings us back to Calvary and to the Resurrection. Through baptism we enter once and for all in the death-resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we are not perfect. We are lost with many Pharaohs: sexual vice, impurity and sensuality, the worship of false gods and sorcery, antagonisms and rivalry, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, disagreements, factions and malice, drunkenness, orgies and all such things (Gal 5,20-21), our selfishness, the desperate look for richness, power, prestige, fame, self realisation beyond any limit and law. How do we free ourselves from all these Pharaohs? We cannot go back physically to the historical event of Calvary that took place two thousand years ago, nor can we go back with Mary Magdalene to the Tomb of the Resurrected. The celebration of the Eucharist brings us back really, even though not physically, to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb. We can say: when Jesus Christ was on the cross and when he resurrected we were also there!

    3. The Eucharist re-presents us to the unique sacrifice

    We can understand now that the event of death-resurrection doesn’t move, doesn’t come to us in the Eucharist, it is we ourselves who are brought to that historical event through the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Mass doesn’t "renew" the cross-death-resurrection, nor, worse, "repeats" it. The Mass re-presents us to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb. Pope John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical EdE: Whenever the Eucharist is celebrated at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, there is an almost tangible return to his "hour", the hour of his Cross and glorification. Every priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it, is led back in spirit to that place and that hour (n. 4). Our Masses don’t bring us to the Cenacle but to Calvary. Even though the Eucharist also has an aspect of feast, conviviality, this is not its first characteristic, it is a secondary one. Its first purpose is to present us to the unique sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him (Eucharistic Prayer IV). We are sure that the Eucharist has been instituted and given us. But, we ask ourselves: Why? The answer is easy: the Eucharist has been instituted and given us in order that we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, as in all the other Sacraments, Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd who takes on his shoulders the lost sheep and goes home (Cfr. Lk 15, 5-6).


    1. Read the texts of the Bible quoted above (Ex 12,1-4;12,13-14; 15,22 ff; 16,3; Nm 11,5; 14,2-3, 14,4; Mt 26,20-30; Mk 14,17-26; Lk 22,14-39; 1 Co 11,23-26) and see what, between the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, is similar and what is different. In what do they differ?

    2. In his Encyclical EdE (n.12) Pope John Paul II says that when Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist "he did not merely say: ‘This is my body’, ‘this is my blood’, but went on to add: ‘which is given for you, ‘which is poured out for you’ (Lk 22,19-20). For you, is the Eucharist only the presence of Jesus in the sacred host or is it the re-presentation of the community to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb?

    3. According to you, how can we combine the two aspects of the Eucharist: death-resurrection of Jesus Christ and conviviality?

    2. One Body

    I said above that we should not consider the participation in the Sacraments as an individualistic one (I go to my Mass). The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the New Israel, the Church. To form a community, sign that we are One Body, is essential for the disciples of Jesus Christ. St. Paul says: And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf (1 Cor 10,17) and he writes to the Galatians: There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female – for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3,28).

    We are all scattered and dispersed in many places; the Eucharist is meant to gather together into one, the scattered children of God (Jn 11,52).

    Christ is the Head of the Body: (The Father) made him (Jesus Christ), as he is above all things, the head of the Church; which is his Body (Eph 1,22-23); so he is the principal agent of the celebration. He is the High Priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration (CCC 1348).

    If the faithful meet in a place, it is not for practical reasons but because they are the Church. The term "Church" indicates first of all the Christian community, then it can be applied to the building (church) where the Church meets. The Church is formed by us, who are the living stones making a spiritual house (1 Pt 2,5); Christ is present among us as the Pastor with his flock.

    Each Diocese (or Vicariate) possesses the Cathedral; it bears this name "Cathedral" because it contains the "Cathedra" or the chair that symbolizes the authority of the Bishop and the unity of the faithful under him. Indeed, the Church is one, because there is: One Eucharist and one Bishop, with the Priests, the Deacons and the people of God under him (St. Ignatius of Antioch).


    1. Read 1 Cor 11,17-34. The Corinthians were meeting on Sunday to celebrate the Supper of the Lord. But Paul was condemning their meetings because they were displeasing the Lord. Why?

    2. Among the People who gather for Eucharist, you can meet a variety of People: one is full of joy, another is sad, a third is sick, an "enemy"… Read Rom 12,1-21: Paul teaches you the right behavior.

    3. The Altar: the Heart of the Church

    The altar is the symbol of Christ. When the faithful come together, Christ is in their midst, and the altar becomes the visible sign of his presence (CCC 1383). Since the altar is the symbol of Christ, it becomes like the center and the heart of the church and a special object of veneration. The priest kisses it as a sacred relic at the beginning and at the end of the celebration; the faithful bow respectfully in front of it, and cover it with nicely decorated cloths.

    Out of reverence, we do not use it as a common table; and we put on it only the few things that are needed for the celebration. Icons of the Virgin Mary or of a saint should not be put on the altar. Even the cross and the flowers are better placed either besides or around it.

    Many a time I find on our altars everything: Missal, chalice, water and wine, bible, book of the announcements, sheets of the readings, book of songs, paper with the name of the dead for whom the Mass is offered, small box for the glasses of the priest, etc. Nothing is missing. The altar is not a table for our use but the symbol of Christ, so we have to avoid putting things on it and they should be put elsewhere. Even the skull-cup of the Bishop should not remain on the altar. When the Bishop removes his skull-cup (at the beginning of the Preface), a server should take it and put it on another table.

    When we approach the altar, we put ourselves in communion with Christ, the Head of the Body, and enter into a real communion with all the members. This is why we cannot take part at the table of the Lord unless we reconcile first with our brothers: So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering (Mt 5,23-24).

    When he is at the altar, as well as when he is on his throne or at the pulpit, the Priest has his face addressed to the people, but his heart is addressed to God!


    1. Until now how did you consider the altar?

    2. What is your "special" sacrifice that you offer?

    3. Do you practice what Jesus Christ says in Mt 5,23-24?


    4. Music in the Eucharistic celebration

    We take active part in the celebration also by means of singing. Music is one of the important means used by the Church in order to celebrate her faith. So the sacred hymns form a necessary and integral part of the Liturgy. St. Augustine affirms that a Christian who sings well prays twice.

    Music conveys a feeling of unity to the congregation, and – if the songs are properly chosen – it introduces the faithful into the right spirit of the particular feast that is celebrated. Music possesses a rich variety of forms and expressions, and many of these are introduced in the liturgy to enrich the celebration. I give here the list of them:

    a) There are two processional songs: the first at the entrance, the second at the time of the holy communion. They are called "processional" because they are sung when the priest, ministers of the Eucharist, lectors and servants enter in a processional way to the church or when the faithful move to receive the body of the Lord. The entrance song is meant to create an atmosphere of "celebration and worship" in the assembly. We come to the church and our hearts are heavy with the problems that we face. The entrance song should help us to leave for a moment our difficulties in order to be able to hear attentively the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist with a personal participation. The communion song fosters a sense of unity among us who are aware of becoming "the Body of Christ" when we are nourished with his body.

    b) The responsorial Psalm is like the answer given to God by us after the reading of his Word and his message.

    c) The acclamation and the ordinary chants introduce the music throughout the whole Rite of the Mass. They are: Lord have mercy, Glory to God, Amen at the end of the Eucharistic prayer, the Lord’s prayer, the "Lamb of God".

    d) The Offertory Song may accompany the offering of the gifts.

    Well trained choirs add beauty, solemnity and joy to the liturgy and also assist and encourage the singing of the congregation. They must be more promoted in our three churches and must be trained by frequent "choir practice" of the members.

    Our choirs must know that their purpose is not to execute difficult songs but only to help the congregation to sing. I noticed in the Cathedral that many times some our choirs sing more like in a "concerto", for themselves. In this way they reduce the participation of the faithful to a mere passive listening of their songs.


    1. Our celebrations are full of "hymns", and "The Book of Psalms" contains 150 of them. A "Psalm" is a poetical composition accompanied by an instrument of music. Now and then, enjoy these wonderful prayers! Do you know them?

    2. According to you, how is the participation of the faithful in the songs? What do you suggest so that the faithful participate more to the songs?

    3. What do you suggest to promote our choirs?



    5. The Greeting of the Celebrant: The Lord be with you!

    The Fathers of the Church often stress that the celebrant greets the faithful as Jesus Christ greeted the Apostles after his resurrection and as the Apostles, in their turn, greeted the faithful when they were entering their houses. In fact the greeting Peace be with you!, traditionally reserved for the Bishop, as I mentioned at the beginning, is the greeting of Jesus Christ after he came up to life again. The priest greets the community saying: The Lord be with you! This greeting is the most important moment in the introductory Rite of the Mass and it has to be stressed by the celebrant with a special and higher tone of his voice.

    Our Missal gives the translation: The Lord be with you! But the archangel Gabriel greeted the Virgin Mary saying: The Lord is with you (Lk 1,28). When we gather together for prayer, and especially for the Eucharist, Jesus is with us; he said: For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them (Mt 18,20). So, we could also say: The Lord is with you. But, as we saw above that in the Eucharist we are brought back to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb in order to be more strengthened against our many Pharaohs who want us as their slaves. Therefore the wish be with you signifies that the celebrant invites us to have an active, conscious and fruitful participation in the mystery that we are going to celebrate so that we may better live it in our daily lives. After every Eucharistic celebration we should be able to affirm, as the Apostles said to Thomas: We have seen the Lord! (Jn 20,25). Let us not think of particular apparitions of the Lord to the assembly during the Eucharist. "We have seen the Lord" in the Liturgy means that through songs, prayers, readings and homily we see what should be changed in our life, we go out from the church more enlightened about what God wants from us and how much more he helps us to do it. So, the wish of the celebrant: The Lord be with you has its place, it is a wish that after the Eucharist the Lord be more heard and obeyed by us.


    1. At Mass, are you "active" or "passive"? Do you join in singing and in answering or you prefer to remain dumb?

    2. Are you "conscious" of the Rites that you see on the Altar? Do you understand their deep meaning or are they meaningless? Do you realize how they are linked with your personal life?

    3. When leaving the Church, are you simply satisfied for having fulfilled a duty imposed by the Law, or does the participation become "fruitful" by provoking the need of change in your life? Read Heb 10,25: "Do not absent yourself from your own assembly". Give an answer to this question: what happens to a Christian who absents himself from attending the Eucharist celebration?

    6. The Penitential Rite

    After the greeting, the priest invites the assembly to perform the Penitential Rite. We understand its meaning if we are aware of the presence of sin in our Christian life and feel the need of a continuous and progressive conversion.

    In his letter John addresses us with these words: If we say: "We have no sin", we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us. If we acknowledge our sin , he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil (1 Jn 1,8-9).

    We experience the presence of sin in our life. Although we try to live in communion with the Lord, we are victims of the bad passions present in us that often prevails over our good will. There is in us an inner struggle: … I am a creature of flesh and blood sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand my own behavior; I do not act as I mean to, but I do things that I hate (Rom 7,14-15). We may betray our heavenly Father by acting against his love and will; we may reveal a lack of love towards our brothers and sisters by revealing a heart full of pride and of hatred.

    But John affirms us also that the Father in heaven is always ready to forgive, whenever we repent (see the parable of the lost – prodigal – son and the dutiful son, Lk 15,11-32).

    The need of being reconciled with our heavenly Father and with our brothers and sisters, should be continually present in us (we call this attitude contrition). But there are particular moments in which the Church invites us to revive it in our hearts; first, when we are given the absolution of our sins through the sacrament of penance; second, at the beginning of the Eucharist. In order to take part more conveniently in the Sacred Mysteries, and in order to open our mind to the message of his Word, we need to be purified by humbly acknowledging our failures and by asking the Lord for pardon and strength (= prayer of the Church).

    The common ways of celebrating the Penitential Rite are the following:

    a) The priest invites us to pause for a brief and silent reflection in order to call to mind our sins; then he requests of us a public confession of sins. When we say the formula I confess, at the words I have sinned through my own fault we strike our breast. This sign is very important because through it we show that we ourselves, and not others, are sinners. We recognize that we ourselves are guilty, so we need to implore mercy. After this confession the priest absolves our sins. This absolution is not sacramental (it is not equivalent to the Sacrament of Penance) but it is always a humble and confident entreaty by which we implore God’s forgiveness. Then the Kyrie eleison (= Lord have mercy) follows; it is an old Greek Liturgical expression, sung alternatively by the choir and the assembly, by which we ask the Lord to obtain for us the Father’s mercy. When we sing the Lord have mercy it is not only in order to give more solemnity to the Eucharistic celebration but it is a joy for us to experience that the Father forgives us, it is a joyful thank you, for the Father’s bounty. We should forgive others with the same joy!

    b) Sometimes (especially in Lent) the Penitential Rite described above is replaced by the Rite of Sprinkling. The priest blesses the water and sprinkles it on the faithful, while the choir sings an appropriate song. By this rite we ask our heavenly Father to wash away our sins and make our hearts whiter than snow (Ps 51,7). The drops falling on our heads remind us of the waters of baptism, and invite us to renew our baptismal promises.

    The Penitential Rite is followed, on Sundays (except during Lent) and Feasts days, by the saying or the singing of Gloria in excelsis Deo (= Glory to God in the highest), an ancient Church hymn. Then the Priest says: Let us pray and observes a brief silence so that the people may realize that they are in God’s presence and may call to mind their petitions (Missal). The priest then says (or sings) the "Opening prayer". It is called Collect because it gathers together all the requests of the assembly and presents them to the Father, through Christ in the Holy Spirit. In ancient times it was so called because it was said at the end of a procession from a secondary church to the main church and the Priest was collecting all the people and their intentions in this prayer. The Collects of the Latin Rite are a excellent model of clarity either as content or as its formal expression.

    Since the ancient times the Collect concludes the introductory part of the Eucharist.


    1. Read Rom 5,12-21. From Adam we have inherited a corrupted nature, prone to sin. Read also Gal 5,16-26. We humbly acknowledge that we are sinners, and we experience every day the power of sin.

    2. Read Mk 7,14-22. The evil present in each one of us manifests itself in various and different roots: pride, jealousy, indecency … What is the root that seems to be prevailing in you?

    3. Read 1 Jn 1,8-9. When God forgives, he removes whatever is sinful in us and transforms us into new creatures. This forgiveness takes place in several ways (even at the beginning of the Mass). But the Lord has instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the efficacious sign of his mercy.

    7. The Readings

    In the past, God wanted to speak to men; but in order to be understood by men, He had to use a human language; just as the Son of God had to take a human nature like ours in order to become man. The Scripture is altogether different from any other, and its difference consists exactly in this: that God himself is the main author! and as such it deserves the same adoration which we reserve for God. It is made up of many books; but it is still one book only, because many writers, who contributed towards writing it, were all under the inspiration of the one and same Spirit. Thus, when we hear the Scripture, we welcome it not (as) the word of any human being, but God’s word (1 Thes 2,13). The second Vatican Council affirms: The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of Christ, and she never ceases, particularly in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life (Jesus), and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the word of God and the Body of Christ (DV, 21).

    In the Latin Rite the Liturgy of the Word is composed of: a first reading from the Old Testament, a Responsorial Psalm, a second reading from the writings of the Apostles, song of Alleluia with its special verse taken from the Bible, and the Gospel. On weekdays we have only one reading (from the Old Testament or from the New Testament), Alleluia with its verse and the Gospel.

    Out of reverence for the Word of God, all these readings have to be proclaimed using the Lectionary and not the sheets which are distributed in the church. More than that, we have to follow the reader and to understand from him/her the reading, and not to follow the sheets. These are distributed for our personal meditation if we would like, after the Mass, to go back to the readings we heard during the celebration of the Eucharist.

    Also, the Lectionary has to be kept with respect and reverence and not to be thrown, as I see sometimes in our churches, to a corner of the altar until it will be removed again and put in another corner.

    Finally, the pulpit from which the Word of God is proclaimed is fixed in our three churches. It is important that it be fixed because it is the place from which the eternal Word of God is announced.

    Every Sunday, and also in the Solemnities (Annunciation, Transfiguration, Assumption, Christmas, Saint Peter and Paul, etc.), the first reading, taken from the Old Testament, is linked with the Gospel of the day. Indeed, the persons, the events and the teachings of the Old Testament are like a preparation to the New Testament; they are like a prophecy which has been fulfilled in the person and teaching of Jesus and in his Church.

    For example, the Old Testament speaks about the Pascal Lamb, whose flesh was eaten by the Israelites during the last supper in Egypt (Ex chapter 12), but that lamb was the image of the true Lamb, Jesus Christ, whose body we eat and whose blood we drink at our Eucharistic celebration.

    Another example: when crossing the desert, the people were fed with a special food, called Manna which God was providing for them every day (Ex chapter 16). That manna was also the symbol of that Food which the Lord provides for us today in our journey towards heaven, the promised land! Indeed, St. Augustine says: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled by the New".

    The first reading is followed by the Responsorial Psalm, so called because it is like our "response" or answer to God who has entered into a dialogue with us.

    The second reading is taken from the writings of the Apostles. Besides the four Gospels, the New Testament contains the Apostolic writings: the Acts of the Apostles, the 13 letters of St. Paul, the letter to the Hebrews, the 7 letters written by other Apostles, called "Catholic Letters", and the Book of Revelation. These writings are inspired by God and are, therefore, an indispensable part of the Holy Scripture. Their message is centered on the person of the Lord; they formulate more precisely his authentic teaching; they preach the saving power of Christ’s divine work; they explain to the faithful the greatness of their calling and the demands of their Christian vocation; they encourage them in their trials; they foretell Christ’s second coming and our glorious resurrection at the end of times.

    The Church unfolds to us the great mysteries of Christ through the various seasons that constitute the liturgical year. The major seasons are:

    1) Advent (4 weeks) and Christmas Time

    2) Lent (from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday, followed by the Pascal Triduum) and Easter Time (from Easter Sunday to the Sunday of Pentecost)

    The other season is called: Ordinary Time of the year (from Sunday after the Sunday of Pentecost till the last Sunday before Advent: 34 weeks).

    Alleluia with its verse is a joyful preparation for the listening of the Gospel. Normally this verse is linked either with the Gospel of the day or with the Liturgical Time.

    Alleluia is omitted during the Advent Time in order to give more importance and stress to the Alleluia sung by the angels in the night of Christmas, as reported in the Gospel of that Solemnity. Instead, it is omitted during the Lent Time as a sign of penance. But in both cases, only the word Alleluia is omitted, not its verse, which is always proclaimed or sung.

    The proclamation of the Gospel always stands as the climax of the Liturgy of the Word. Even the Book of the Gospels – which reminds the assembly of the presence of the Lord who speaks to his people – should be nicely decorated and shown a great respect. Reverence to the proclamation of the Gospel is shown by the fact that a special minister (priest or deacon) is appointed to proclaim it. He prepares himself by a special prayer and when the celebrant is the Bishop, he asks a blessing from him.

    The faithful, who were seated during the first and second reading, stand up and show their reverence to the Book of the Gospels by singing a solemn acclamation, the Alleluia that I have just mentioned. At the pulpit the minister greets the people, and announces the reading while making the sign of the cross with his thumb on the Book, on his forehead, mouth and breast, to symbolize the need for a Christian to think, speak and live as Jesus Christ does. He next incenses the Book; then proclaims the Gospel with a clear and audible voice; in fact the proclamation differs from a mere reading. At the end of the proclamation, he kisses the book, and raises it so that the people may revere it. Then he proclaims or sings: This is the Gospel of the Lord! and the people answer with enthusiasm: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

    The word Gospel is the translation of the Greek word Evangelium and it means Good News. The "good news" is about the person of Jesus; about the words he said and the actions he did; above all, about the last events of his life, his passion, death and resurrection. We believe that this is a good news for us, because it reveals that our Father in heaven has loved men to the point of sending his beloved Son; and in this Son, men, who were lost in sin and death, have found their salvation.


    1. James invites the faithful to reflect upon the danger of "listening to the word without putting it into practice" (Jas 1,22-23). Do you find that this word conveys a message to you?

    2. Reflect upon some persons of the Old Testament: Abraham, Joseph the "Egyptian", Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, Samuel, Job, Tobit, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel, Daniel … Why do they symbolize Christ?

    3. In order to become familiar with the letters of the Apostles try to find out:

    a) In Romans: the ruin caused by Adam and salvation brought by Jesus.

    b) In 1 Corinthians: the celebration of the "Agape"; the resurrection of the bodies.

    c) In Galatians: the fruits of the corrupted nature (= the flesh) and the fruits of the Spirit.

    d) In the first letter of John: God is love.

    4. The last command of the Lord is this: "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation (Mk 16,15). The reason of this command is this: "For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved" (Acts 4,12). Does this command convey you a special message?

    8. The Homily

    The Constitution of Vatican II on the Liturgy affirms that the homily is an integral part of the Liturgical Celebration: Thus, on Sundays and holydays of obligation with the people assisting, it should not be omitted (SC 52).

    According to the teaching of the Church, the Priest delivers the homily for these purposes:

    a) In order to proclaim God’s wonders in the history of salvation. The Old Testament (= the first reading) is a preparation and the New Testament (= second reading and Gospel) its fulfillment. The homily must be inspired by the readings; the Priest will find their connection and unity and will discover the message of God and His love.

    b) In order to prepare the faithful to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Word invites us to open our hearts to God’s grace; the Eucharist communicates this grace.

    c) In order to apply the Word to the concrete situation of life. The Word runs the risk of remaining like "a dead letter"; on the contrary, it becomes alive and active (He 4,12) if the Priest applies it to our life situation so that it produces fruits of Christian life.

    The homily is followed by a time of "sacred silence". It is "sacred" because it is a real part of the sacred action. It is not meant to reduce the faithful to mute listeners and spectators; rather, it reaches its purpose when the faithful take to heart the Word and reflect upon it; enter in dialogue with the Father; express to him their gratitude and their desire to conform their life to his Word; and implore from him the gift of his Spirit in order to live in conformity to his message. I know that we are not used in our churches to at least one minute of silence after the homily, so let us start this precious habitude.

    The homily cannot be improvised; neither can it be prepared some minutes before the Mass. The good Priest, who realizes its importance and wants to convey a fruitful message must give time to its preparation: This demands that the homily be truly the fruit of meditation, carefully prepared, neither too long nor too short, and suited to all those present, even children and the uneducated (General Introduction to Lectionary, n. 24).

    All the readings along with the homily unify us: by becoming true Christians we overcome our national, ritual and family divisions. They are transforming us: by becoming new men, we give up the bad habits and customs of our life. So, the purpose of the readings and the homily in the Eucharist is not only to remind us the teachings of Jesus Christ, but especially they are a strong invitation to conversion, to discover where I am in comparison with what I heard. I have to ask myself: what are these readings and homily telling me? In this way we realize that God is walking with us hand in hand in our life, He is leading us with an unlimited patience and love; in one word, we experience that He is our loving Father!, that no one in the world loves me as He does! Therefore, we can now profess our faith with joy and, later, when the Priest will say: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, we can answer with all our heart and a strong voice: It is right to give him thanks and praise, and we know why.


    1. If you are a priest or deacon: do you give time and prayer to the preparation of the homily, so that your words are a "true proclamation of God’s wonderful Works in the history of salvation", (General Introduction to Lectionary, n. 24) or do you prefer to improvise it?

    2. If you are a layman: do you simply "listen to the Priest", in order to comment on his capacities as a preacher, or are you eager to get from his words "a message regarding your Christian life’?

    3. If you realize that the homily of the Priest is too poor in Liturgical and Pastoral content, do you have the courage to approach him and to share with him your feelings and suggestions?

    9. The Profession of Faith

    Through the profession of faith, also called the Creed, we give our assent to the Word of God which was heard in the readings and explained through the homily. The Creed originally belonged to the Rite of Baptism and later it was introduced into the celebration of the Mass. The formulas commonly used in the liturgy are two: the first, called the Apostles Creed and starts with singular (I believe in God), dates probably from the time of the Apostles; and the second, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed which starts with plural (We believe in one God), was composed after the Councils of Nicea (325) and of Constantinople (381).

    The first is shorter and can be sung more easily; the second is longer but richer in theological content. Both, however, contain the fundamental mysteries of our faith: we believe in the Trinity; in the Father, the Creator; in the Son, who became man, died and rose from death for our salvation; in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; in the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic; in the forgiveness of sins and in life everlasting.

    By faith we give our personal assent to God’s revelation. By faith we call God our Father; we proclaim that Jesus is our Brother and Redeemer; we believe that the Spirit is the giver of life. By faith we belong to the Church, we are members of the mystical body, and we hope in the life everlasting. But, as James puts it, we run the risk of possessing a "dead faith": Faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead (Jas 2,17).

    We may use a powerful voice when we say in the church "We believe"; but outside the church we may contradict our profession of faith through our non-Christian behavior. If we call God "Father" we must live as obedient children; if we proclaim Jesus "Brother and Savior" we must conform our life to his Gospel; if we believe that the Spirit is "the Giver of life" we must live in communion with him through prayer and sacraments; if we want to be true "members of the Church" we must overcome divisions and show a spirit of brotherly service and love.


    1. Paul affirms: "If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord, … then you will be saved"(Rom 10,9). What does it mean to profess it "externally"?

    2. Paul affirms (Rom 10,14-17) that faith comes from the proclamation of the Word and needs a messenger. Who is this "messenger"?

    10. The Prayer of the Faithful

    In writing to Timothy, Paul recommends him: I urge them, first of all that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving should be offered for everyone, for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live peaceful and quiet lives with all devotion and propriety. To do this is right, and acceptable to God our Savior: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth (1 Tm 2,1-3).

    We heard the voice of our heavenly Father; he addressed us with his Word and – though the Creed – we gave our response to his message.

    Now we speak to the Father, with the confidence and trust that suits the children. The Priest introduces the prayer; a member of the community proposes several intentions or intercessions; then, the whole assembly presents them to the Father through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ by saying or singing: Lord, hear us! Or: Kyrie eleison!

    This prayer should be regarded as an important moment of our Sunday Liturgy. Thus, this prayer to the Father which concludes the celebration of the Word of God, urges us to be aware of that priestly dignity that we share in our communion with Christ: You are a chosen race, a kingdom of Priests, a holy nation (1 Pt 2,9). With him we offer our prayer to the Father, so we participate in his priestly mission. We form with him a kingdom of Priests of which he is the Head. Indeed we are thankful to the Lord who loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a Kingdom of Priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen (Rv 1,5-6).

    We exercise our priestly office on behalf of the entire world and for the salvation of each person. The Church proposes the sequence of the first four intentions (General Introduction of the Roman Missal, n. 46):

    a. For the needs of the Church.

    b. For the public authorities and the salvation of the world.

    c. For those oppressed by any need (the sick, the prisoners, the destitute, etc.).

    d. For the local community.

    Other intentions can be added: some particular events of the parish or of the Vicariate or of the world.

    I would like to stress the point that all the intentions should be addressed always and only to God the Father and be formulated in accordance with the readings we heard, not something sentimental or general.

    In requesting the prayer from the faithful, Paul says: (God) wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one god, and there is only one mediator between God and humanity, himself a human being, Christ Jesus, who offered himself as a ransom for all (1 Tm 2,4-6).

    Thus, according to Paul, the salvation of the world, through Christ the Mediator, is linked to the prayer of the Christian community. Indeed, we pray daily for the coming of the Kingdom and share in the Eucharist which brings salvation to the whole world (Eucharistic Prayer n. 4).

    We may ask why our prayer is so powerful. The answer is given by the Church: we are "a priestly people" and when we pray we are united with Christ, the Eternal Priest, who prays with us, and the Father cannot remain deaf to the voice of his beloved Son!


    1. Read Jn 17,1-25. The Lord Jesus fulfilled his priestly mission not only by "offering himself as a sacrifice", but also by entering in communion with the Father through personal prayer.

    2. Read 1 Tm 2,1-25. For many people prayer is simply a way to ask personal favors from the Lord. For Paul, our Christian prayer is like the prayer of the Lord, a missionary prayer: the Father "wants everyone to be saved"; but he links their salvation to our prayer. Is your prayer missionary or do you ask only for your personal needs?

    3. The Father likes the prayer of the community; but he is also pleased when one enters in personal communion with him (Mt 6,6), in moments of joy (Mt 11,25-30) and of sorrow (Mt 26,36-46).


    With the first part of the Eucharist we enter into dialogue with the Father: he greets us through the celebrant, we ask him forgiveness for our sins, we raise to him our prayer (Collecte), he speaks to us in the readings and the homily, we proclaim our faith in him (Creed) and we present to him our needs (prayer of the faithful). This dialogue will also continue in the second part; more than that, we shall enter into a profound communion with him. Let us tell him: Thanks, Father!


    Yours in Jesus Christ

    + Camillo Ballin, mccj

    Vicar Apostolic of Kuwait

    14 September 2007, Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

    How to use this Letter

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    I would like to add some indications on how to use this letter.

    1. I invite everyone of you to read it personally and attentively. I am sure that you shall find time to read also the texts of the Bible that I mentioned. It is important also that everyone tries to answer personally the questions that I wrote after every point.

    2. I ask the person in charge of every group and association to suspend the normal meeting during the last week of the month and to spend time to read together every time one point of the letter. There are 10 subjects, so there is matter for 10 months (September 07 – June 08). If the group is too big, it can be divided into small groups.

    3. I kindly ask the parish priests to encourage the monthly reading of this letter and to help those responsible in the groups in this.

    4. I thank you in advance for your remarks and commentaries which can be sent to me either personally or through a Priest or by e-mail: askbishop@gmail.com that is on our website: www.vicariatekuwait.org

    Thank you for your patience.

    God bless you.

    + Camillo Ballin, mccj

    Appendix: Regulations on Fast and Abstinence

    1. Fast and Abstinence are prescribed for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, limited to the age between 21 to 60.

    2. Abstinence is prescribed as a general rule for every Friday in Lent, applicable to the age of 14 onwards. But for particular circumstances in the Vicariate of Kuwait, Abstinence is to be observed on Wednesday in Lent. Out of devotion Abstinence may be observed during the year every Wednesday.

    3. Eucharistic Fast: The faithful must abstain from solid and liquids for one hour before receiving Holy Communion. This regulation is applied to Masses celebrated in the morning, afternoon, evening or at midnight. Water does not break the fast. Those who are sick, even though not confined to bed, may take any liquid or food as medicines at any time before Holy Communion without asking permission.

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