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Catholic liturgy is regulated by Church authority[103] and consists of the Eucharist and Mass, the other sacraments, and the Liturgy of the Hours. At a minimum, the Catechism requires every Catholic to attend Mass on Sundays, confess sins at least once a year, receive the Eucharist at least once during Easter season, and observe days of fasting and of abstinence as established by the Church, and also help provide for the Church's needs.[104] Although all Catholics are expected to participate in the liturgical life of the Church, individual or communal prayer and devotions, while encouraged, are a matter of personal preference.[105] Frequent reception of the Eucharist, often daily, and monthly confession of sins, are common Catholic practices encouraged by the Church and the various religious orders.

Liturgical rites

Differing liturgical traditions, or rites, exist throughout the worldwide Church, reflecting historical and cultural diversity rather than a difference in beliefs.[106] The most commonly used liturgy is the Latin rite. Presently, this rite exists in two forms: the ordinary form following the 1969 missal of Paul VI, celebrated primarily in the vernacular, and an extraordinary form (termed the Tridentine or Latin Mass standardized by Pius V after the Council of Trent). In 1980, Pope John Paul II issued a Pastoral Provision which allowed members of the Episcopal Church to retain many aspects of Anglican liturgical rites as a variation of the Latin rite when they joined the Catholic Church. Such Anglican Use parishes exist only in the United States. Other Western rites include the Ambrosian Rite and the Mozarabic Rite.

The Eastern Catholic Churches term the Eucharistic celebration the Divine Liturgy. These rites are the Byzantine rite, Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean.

All rites follow a Liturgical year, an annual calendar of the Catholic Church, which sets aside certain days and seasons to celebrate key events in the life of Jesus.[110] Advent, Christmas and the Epiphany celebrate his expected coming, birth and manifestation. Lent is the period of purification and penance that ends during Holy Week with the Easter Triduum. These days recall Jesus' last supper with his disciples, death on the cross, burial and resurrection. The feast of the Ascension of Jesus is followed by Pentecost which recalls the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus'


The Eucharist, is celebrated at each Mass and is the center of Catholic worship.[111][112] The Words of Institution for this sacrament are drawn from the Gospels and a Pauline letter.[113] The Church teaches that the Old Testament promise of God's salvation for all peoples was fulfilled when Jesus established a New Covenant with humanity through the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper—a covenant then consummated by his sacrifice on the cross,[114] which in contrast to some Protestant belief is made truly present in the celebration of the Eucharist.[107] It is Catholic dogma that the bread and wine brought to the altar at each Mass are changed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the true body and the true blood of Christ (termed transubstantiation) and that, by consuming these, believers are spiritually nourished and deepen their union with Jesus, are cleansed of venial sins, helped to overcome and avoid sin, unite with the poor and promote Christian unity.[114][115]

Mass consists of two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.[116] According to professor Alan Schreck, in its main elements and prayers, the Catholic Mass celebrated today "bears striking resemblance" to the form of the Mass described in the Didache and First Apology of Justin Martyr in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries.[117][118]

Because the Church teaches that Christ is present in the Eucharist,[107] there are strict rules about its celebration and reception. The ingredients of the bread and wine used in the Mass are specified and Catholics must abstain from eating for one hour before receiving Communion.[119] Those who are conscious of being in a state of mortal sin are forbidden from this sacrament unless they have received absolution through the sacrament of Penance.[119] Because the Church respects their celebration of the Mass as a true sacrament, intercommunion with the Eastern Orthodox in "suitable circumstances and with Church authority" is both possible and encouraged.[120] Although the same is not true for Protestant churches, in circumstances of grave necessity, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Protestants if they freely ask for them, truly believe what the Catholic Church teaches regarding the sacraments, and have the proper disposition to receive them.[120] Catholics are not permitted to receive communion in Protestant churches because of their different beliefs and practices regarding Holy Orders and the Eucharist.[121]

Liturgy of the Hours

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus instructs his disciples to "pray always".[122] The Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office, is the Church's effort to respond to this request. It is considered to be an extension of the celebration of the Mass and is the official daily liturgical prayer of the Church.[123] It makes particular use of the Psalms as well as readings from the New and Old Testament, and various prayers.[123] It is an adaptation of the ancient Jewish practice of reading the Psalms at certain hours of the day or night. Catholics who pray the Liturgy of the Hours use a set of books issued by the Church that has been called a breviary. By canon law, priests and deacons are required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day.[124] Religious orders often make praying the Liturgy of the Hours a part of their rule of life; the Second Vatican Council encouraged the Christian laity to take up the practice

=Devotional life, prayer, Mary and the saints

In addition to the Mass, the Catholic Church considers prayer to be one of the most important elements of Christian life. The Church considers personal prayer a Christian duty, one of the spiritual works of mercy and one of the principal ways its members nourish a relationship with God.[126] The Catechism identifies three types of prayer: vocal prayer (sung or spoken), meditation, and contemplative prayer. Quoting from the early church father John Chrysostom regarding vocal prayer, the Catechism states, "Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls."[127] Meditation is prayer in which the "mind seeks to understand the why and how of Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking."[127] Contemplative prayer is being with God, taking time to be close to and alone with him.[127] Three of the most common devotional prayers of the Catholic Church are The Lord's Prayer, the Rosary and Stations of the Cross.[128] These prayers are most often vocal, yet always meditative and contemplative. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a common form of contemplative prayer, whereas Benediction is a common vocal method of prayer. Lectio divina, which means "sacred reading", is a form of meditative prayer. The Church encourages patterns of prayer intended to develop into habitual prayer. This includes such daily prayers as grace at meals, the Rosary, or the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as the weekly rhythm of Sunday Eucharist and the observation of the year-long liturgical cycle.[127]

Prayers and devotions to the Virgin Mary and the saints are a common part of Catholic life but are distinct from the worship of God.[129] Explaining the intercession of saints, the Catechism states that the saints "... do not cease to intercede with the Father for us ... so by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."[99][129] The Church holds Mary, as ever Virgin and Mother of God, in special regard. She is believed to have been conceived without original sin, and was assumed into heaven. These teachings, the focus of Roman Catholic Mariology, are considered infallible. Several liturgical Marian feasts are celebrated throughout the Church Year and she is honored with many titles such as Queen of Heaven. Pope Paul VI called her Mother of the Church, because by giving birth to Christ, she is considered to be the spiritual mother to each member of the Body of Christ.[130] Because of her influential role in the life of Jesus, prayers and devotions, such as the Rosary, the Hail Mary, the Salve Regina and the Memorare are common Catholic practices.[128] The Church has affirmed the validity of Marian apparitions (supernatural experiences of Mary by one or more persons) such as those at Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe[131] while others such as Međugorje are still under investigation. Affirmed or not, however, pilgrimages to these places are popular Catholic devotions.[132]

Pilgrimage has been an important element of Catholic spirituality since at least the second century. Devotional journeys to the sites of biblical events or to places strongly connected with Jesus, Mary or the saints are considered an aid to spiritual growth, and can become meritorious acts if performed with the right intention. Western Europe alone has more than 6,000 pilgrimage destinations which generate around 60 million faith-related visits a year.

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