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Bishop Thomas Tobin

Without A Doubt

Friday, June 20, 2003

The Eucharist in Ten Sentences

Introduction

1) The Church draws her life from the Eucharist.

2) To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood.

3) The liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful.

4) The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.

5) The Eucharist spurs us on our journey through history and plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us.

6) The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church.

7) If the Eucharist is the centre and summit of the Church’s life, it is likewise the centre and summit of priestly ministry.

8) The celebration of the Eucharist cannot be the starting-point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.

9) Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life.

10) By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, and by being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands, we show that we are truly conscious of the greatness of this gift.

Introduction:

The problem with documents of the Church is that nobody reads them. At least, most people don’t read them and therefore they don’t have nearly the impact they might otherwise.

I fear that the same fate awaits Pope John Paul’s recent and beautiful Encyclical Letter on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, in which he highlights the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church, and discusses some very important themes related to the topic. As a public service, then, I’d like to outline the Pope’s Letter in ten selected sentences and offer a brief reflection on each. I do so with the realization that such a summary will be woefully inadequate, but also with the hope that it will encourage you to read the Encyclical in its entirety.

1) The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. (#1)

The Eucharist stands at the heart of the Church, and throughout its history the Divine Sacrament has traveled with the Church, filling it with hope, even in the most difficult of times. As the Pope says later in his letter, “Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery.” (#60)

2) To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood. (#6)

Christ is present in many ways when the liturgy is celebrated – in the Word, in the assembly, and in the priest, for example. But the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is very special, is called “real” – not because the other means of presence are not real, but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial, abiding presence in which Jesus Christ the Son of God is wholly present.

3) The liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful. (#10)

Full and active participation continues to be the ultimate goal of the liturgical renewal. At the same time, however, liturgical renewal involves a great deal more than exterior changes of language and posture. It calls for an authentic interior renewal that helps us receive worthily all the blessings and graces offered by the sacred liturgy.

4) The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation. (#10)

The Pope talks about the “shadows” that have also accompanied the liturgical renewal of recent years. These include the disappearance of Eucharistic adoration in some places; confusion over sound faith and Catholic doctrine about the Eucharist; a “reductive” interpretation of the Eucharist that strips it of its sacrificial meaning; and unhealthy ecumenical practices.

5) The Eucharist spurs us on our journey through history and plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us. (#20)

Devotion to the Eucharist is much more than a personal spiritual exercise. The Eucharist has profound apostolic implications that lead us to evangelization and service. We cannot worthily receive the Body of Christ and at the same time neglect the needs of his brothers and sisters. The celebration of the Eucharist “increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today,” the Pope insists.

6) The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. (#25)

Eucharistic adoration is strictly linked to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Pope reminds us. He urges pastors to encourage Eucharistic exposition and adoration in their parishes, even by their personal example. And he quotes Saint Alphonsus Liguori who wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.”

7) If the Eucharist is the centre and summit of the Church’s life, it is likewise the centre and summit of priestly ministry. (#31)

Throughout the Encyclical, the Holy Father reminds us of the intrinsic connection between the Eucharist and the Ministerial Priesthood. He points out that a parish always “requires the presence of a presbyter who alone is qualified to offer the Eucharist.” (#32) And the Eucharist is essential to the priest himself. Without it, priests run a very real risk of losing their spiritual focus. And he emphasizes that priests should celebrate the Eucharist daily, “for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and the Church.”

8) The celebration of the Eucharist cannot be the starting-point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection. (#35)

Here the Pope teaches that the Eucharist always presumes a “bond of communion” that is both invisible and visible. The invisible bond refers to the spiritual, and it is for that reason that only those who are in the state of grace are disposed to receive the Eucharist. The visible bond refers to the structure of the Church. Therefore, only those who are “fully incorporated into the Church” are permitted to receive the Eucharist. In simple terms, to receive Holy Communion, an individual must be a Catholic, and must be free of grave sin!

9) Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life. (#53)

At first glance the Scriptures are silent about the relationship between Mary and the Eucharist, the Pope acknowledges. But everything about Mary’s life relates her to the reality of the Eucharist. In the mystery of the Incarnation, Mary was the first to welcome the Body of Christ. Her Fiat is a prelude to the Amen every Catholic says in receiving Holy Communion. In bearing the Son of God in her womb, Mary became the first tabernacle. In witnessing her Son’s sacrifice on Calvary, Mary experienced the sacrificial meaning of the Eucharist. And is there any doubt that Mary participated with the first disciples in the “Breaking of the Bread?”

10) By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, and by being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands, we show that we are truly conscious of the greatness of this gift. (#61)

An authentic appreciation of the Eucharist requires us always to preserve all the dimensions of the Eucharist — sacrifice, sacramental presence and banquet. And along with maintaining the essential doctrinal elements, we should be conscious of the personal blessing it is for us! “In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body and blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope.” (#62).

With that, the Pope concludes his wonderful Encyclical on the Eucharist. His letter is a stirring reminder that the Eucharist is the finest gift God has given us, a gift always to be treasured, loved and lived!

Read Pope John Paul II’s

Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

Used with Permission from the Diocese of Youngstown, OH.

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CONGREGATION FOR THE CAUSES OF SAINTS

The Face of Christ in the Face of the Church

One of the fundamental teachings found in the Apostolic Letters Novo Millennio ineunte and the recent Rosarium Virginis Mariae, concerns the intimate and inseparable bond between Jesus Christ and his Mystical Body, which is the Church, through which he continues his saving mission among men who live through the centuries. This is certainly a subject that deserves some reflection, both for its current theological and pastoral importance.

1. Contemporary man needs to see the Face of Christ

The human person is "the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake" (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 24). "From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1703), which will have its fulfilment in the future life. Really, what God willed with the creation of the human person is that he/she reach total fulfilment (E. Colom – A. Rodríguez Luño, Chosen by Christ to be Saints. Elements of Fundamental Moral Theology, Rome 1999, pp. 66-67). To achieve such a goal is the last end and unifying principle of all of human existence. St Augustine expounds it with the famous expression: "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You" (St Augustine, Confessions, I, 1).

This aspiration to the absolute good "is presented and lived by the Christian as the aspiration to holiness, understood as the fullness of divine sonship, which is realized on earth in the following and imitation of Christ" (E. Colom – A. Rodríguez Luño, lop. cit., p. 55). St Paul is extremely clear in this regard: God the Father "chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him … in love" (Eph, 1,4-5). This is the fundamental vocation of the human person, of every human person.

Only in Christ, therefore, can we fulfil our highest vocation, and thus satisfy our deepest desire and find an adequate answer to the many questions which lie in our heart.

Precisely for this reason, the human person, and particularly contemporary man, wants to see Christ: "We wish to see Jesus" (Jn 12,21). After recalling this request made to the Apostle Philip by the Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover, the Pope emphasizes in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte that "the men and women of our own day – often perhaps unconsciously – ask believers not only to "speak' of Christ, but in a certain sense to "show' him to them" (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, 6 January 2001, n. 16). In effect, without Christ, and without the full consciousness of his original vocation, the human person's earthly life loses its bearing and everything becomes confused and unclear. St Peter's words have value for every age: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68), you have the words of love.

In reality, "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being who is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love…. The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly … must … draw near to Christ" (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor hominis, 4 March 1979, n. 10), to see his loving face.

2. The Face of Christ in the face of the Church

1. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium begins by affirming two basic teachings: "Christ is the light of all nations. Hence this most sacred Synod, which has been gathered in the Holy Spirit, eagerly desires to shed on all men that radiance of his which brightens the countenance of the Church. This it will do by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature" (Lumen gentium, n. 1). The Conciliar document emphasizes the sacramental character of the Church: she "in Christ, is a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind". In speaking of the People of God, the text returns to this concept: "God … has established … the Church, that for each and all she may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity" (ibid., n. 9).

Henri de Lubac figuratively expresses this sacramental reality of the Church, observing that "If Christ is the sacrament of God, the Church is for us the sacrament of Christ" (H. de Lubac, Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man, trans. by Lancelot C. Sheppard and Sr Elizabeth Englund, OCD, Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1988, p. 76). The sacramental emphasis is, undoubtedly, the theological viewpoint which best allows us to understand not only the Christological but also the ecclesiological mystery. Affirming that the Church is a sacrament of Christ, in fact, means that her sole purpose is to make present and to reveal the face of Christ to every man; to "reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium" (Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 16); in short, to be "the perennial epiphany" of the God-man, "a simultaneously human and divine being, in which the human is the instrument

and manifestation of the divine" (J. A. Möhler, Symbolik, 36, 6, ed. Monaco, 1985, p. 333).

2. In what way does the Church make Christ present and reveal his face? What should we respond to those who, like the Magi who came from the East to Jerusalem to adore Jesus, ask today as well, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" (Mt 2,2).

The Church accomplishes her work of making him present when she exercises her three-fold office of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

In the office of teaching, she makes present the face of Christ the Teacher, since he is present in his Word read in the Church and by the Church and interpreted by the Magisterium (cf. Dei verbum, n. 10,1-3; Lumen gentium, nn. 24-25; Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7,1). The authority of the Magisterium is exercised in the name of Jesus and is at the service of the Word of God, never above it (cf. Dei verbum, n. 10,2). It is Christ who speaks through the mouth of the Church.

In the office of sanctifying, the Church makes present and reveals the face of Christ the Priest. It is enough to recall a text from the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: "Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of his minister, … but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7,1).

Finally, in the exercise of the office of governing, the Church makes present the face of Christ the King (cf. Lumen gentium, nn. 21,1-2 and 27,1. See G. Philips, L'Église et son mystère au II Concile du Vatican, T. I. ed. Desclée, Paris 1967, pp. 248-252 and 349-354. Regarding the relativity and fallibility of concrete measures in the government of the Church, cf. the reflections of Ch. Journet, Il carattere teandrico della Chiesa, in G. Baraúna [dir.], "La Chiesa del Vaticano II", ed. Vallecchi, Florence 1965, pp. 359-360). This is perhaps the place where the human element emerges with greatest clarity; but seeking to diminish its importance or relegate it to a secondary level would be nothing else than a refusal of the lex incarnationis. For this reason, the Constitution Lumen gentium recalls that the Bishops govern the particular churches entrusted to them "as the vicars of Christ" in his name (Lumen gentium, n. 27,1).

In sum, the Church is called to reflect his Face, the face of Christ Teacher, Prophet, Priest and King, in order that we can say of her in relation to Christ what Christ said of himself in relation to the Father: "He who has seen me, has seen the Father" (Jn 14,9). The basic mission of the Church is to be the transparence of Christ and of his face. Human beings have the inalienable right to be able to see the face of the Lord in the face of the Church, in order that in her and through her they can see and contemplate him.

We need to be accurate in what we mean. The Church, to whom the sublime mission has been entrusted to make present and reveal the face of Christ to the human person, is not only constituted by her structures, but also by all the members of the People of God. With the Incarnation in a certain sense Christ united himself to every human being (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 22,2), but He is present, in a special way, in each of the faithful. Such an intimate and profound presence can be explained in terms of identification.

St. Augustine expresses this with his usual concision: "Let us rejoice, therefore, and give thanks to God: not only have we become Christians, but we have become Christ Himself. Do you understand, brothers? Are you aware of the grace which God has poured out upon us? Be glad and amazed: we have become Christ! If Christ is the head and we the members, he and we are the complete man" (St Augustine, In Iohannis evangelium tractatus, tr. 21, 8).

In effect, baptism confers upon the one who receives it a configuration with Christ that here on earth is already real, though at the same time imperfect as a goal that is to be reached. The Christian has the face of Christ imprinted in his heart in an indelible fashion. He is not only alter Christus, but ipse Christus, in the classic, well-known expression.

The ultimate end of every human person essentially consists in a full and total identification with Christ, in being an ever more perfect reflection of his face. In thus expressing ourselves, we repeat one of the fundamental chapters of Pauline theology. Speaking of Christ's intimate and vital relationship with those who are reborn in the baptismal waters, St Paul is extremely clear and precise, affirming: "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2,20), words which apply to every baptized person (cf. II Cor 13,5; Col 3,4).

The Christian's identification with Christ should be expressed in everyday life. He/she is called to make Christ present and to manifest his Face to others with a personal witness. Paul VI's words are ever valid: "Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Paul VI, Discourse to members of the "Council for the Laity", General Audience, 2 October 1974; ORE, 10 October 1974, p. 1). John Paul II also affirms: "Today people are slow to trust verbal affirmations and amphatic declarations, but they want deeds; so they look at these witnesses with interest, with attention and also with admiration. It could even be said that in order to function properly, the much desired meditation between the Church and the modern world needs witnesses who can infuse their own lives with the perennial truth of the Gospel and at the same time make it an instrument of salvation for their brothers and sisters" (John Paul II, Discourse to a group of scholars, authors of the hagiographical series "History of the Saints and of Christian Holiness"; ORE, 11 March 1992, p. 4).

3. The Face of Christ in the Saints and Witnesses of the Church

1. The face of Christ shines most intensely in the saints and witnesses of the faith, since in the virtue of their docility to the Spirit, the conformity with Jesus received in baptism appears most clearly in them: they have become more ipse Christus in participating in his life and mission.

But the face of Christ which is reflected in the Saints, and which they have in turn revealed to the world, is that of the Lord who died and rose again, of whom the Pope speaks in Novo Millennio ineunte: "As on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the Church pauses in contemplation of this bleeding face, which conceals the life of God and offers salvation to the world. But her contemplation of Christ's face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One.

Were this not so, our preaching would be in vain and our faith empty (cf. I Cor 15,14)…. It is the Risen Christ to whom the Church now looks…. Gazing on the face of Christ, the Bride contemplates her treasure and her joy. "Dulcis Iesus memoria, dans vera cordis gaudia'" (ibid., n. 28).

This is what the saints have done. In the variety of their charisms and the plurality of their vocations, they have had the humble boldness to fix their gaze upon the face of the risen Christ, totally living their radical evangelical way of life as a fascinating adventure of the Spirit. They have reached the highest peaks of sanctity, contemplating him with love.

This is certainly the basic task of every Christian, who is called to be, first and foremost, one who contemplates the face of Christ. John Paul II emphasizes this forcefully in his recent Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, signed in St Peter's Square, on 16 October 2002. In the Letter, the Pope is extremely clear and precise: "To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendour definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every disciple of Christ and therefore the task of each of us" (RVM, n. 9). The Saints are those who understood and lived intensely this mission as a true requirement of their Baptism. They have been the outstanding contemplatives of the face of the Crucified and Risen Lord.

By contemplating the face of Christ, moreover, they have "become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit" (ibid.).

By acting in this way, the saints have realized Paul's words: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (II Cor 3,18; cf. RVM, n. 9).

2. By contemplating the face of Christ, the saints and witnesses of the faith imitate the Virgin Mary, who is the perfect exemplar of one who contemplates the face of the Lord. The Pope strongly emphasizes this in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary: "In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary…. Mary's gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple…. It would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2,5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross…. On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1,14). Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: "She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart'" (Lk 2,19; cf. 2,51).

With the help of grace, the saints and witnesses of the faith have tried exactly to do this: to contemplate the clear and glorious face of Christ, and to make it shine before the world of their time. They have done this with their personal testimony, and often with the sacrifice of their lives, which, for the Christian, is always the supreme testimony of faith in the Risen Lord.

3. For this reason, as the Pope notes, the Saints have always been the true makers of human history. "The real history of humanity is comprised of the story of sanctity…: the saints and blesseds all appear as "witnesses', that is as persons who, confessing Christ, his person and his doctrine, have given concrete consistency and credible expression to one of the essential elements of the Church, namely sanctity.

Without such continual witness, the moral and religious doctrine preached by the Church would risk being confused with a purely human ideology. It is instead a doctrine of life; that is, it is applicable to life: a "livable' doctrine based upon the example given to us by Christ Himself, who proclaims "I am the life' (Jn 14,6), and affirms that He has come to give this life and to give it in abundance (cf. Jn 10,10)".

Sanctity is not a theoretical ideal, but understood in the fundamental sense of communion with the One who is the incarnate holiness of the Father, it "is a particularly urgent need in our time" (John Paul II, Discourse, 15 Feb. 1992 op. cit.). Presenting sanctity to the faithful today more than ever, is for the Pope an urgent need of the pastoral action of the Church (cf. NMI, nn 30-31).

Yes. It is saints that the Church and world need. Saints who, after "having seen" the face of Christ, considered in its historical traits and in the ineffable mystery, have given "witness" to it (cf. Jn 19,35). The need is of saints who live with absolute consonance a bold evangelical style of life and Christian virtues.

"We wear ourselves out", Archbishop Chiaretti of Perugia observes, "We wear ourselves out following the people to speak to them about Jesus Christ. On the contrary we should become saints ourselves, and then it will be the people who will seek us. We have seen this many times, for example, with Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John XXIII…. How many people were attracted to them. They loved them, followed them, and not out of a morbid curiosity … but rather because they saw in these individuals the signs of the presence and the love of Jesus through their prayer, meekness, generosity, help for the needy, and love of the Church" (Archbishop G. Chiaretti, Archbishop of Perugia, Pastoral Letter for Lent 2001).

As the philosopher Jacques Maritain observed, Christian holiness is the fitting way to demonstrate the existence of a loving and merciful God to unbelievers, it is the only Gospel which contemporary man still reads, listens to, and understands.

"It is with holiness of life", writes Archbishop Chiaretti, "that the Christian becomes "interesting'; even for a distracted public opinion. Interesting not because he works "miracles' … but because he has the courage to go against the tide, he is not ashamed of his faith, rather he speaks of it with joy and enthusiasm, he shows consistency in all of his choices, he knows the personal price of the social marginalization to which he may be condemned, forgiving and loving those who place him upon the cross" (cf. ibid.).

John Paul II says in Novo Millennio ineunte that, strengthened by the experience of the face of the risen Lord, the Church continues on its path today with renewed hope, proclaiming Christ to the world at the beginning of the third millennium. This has been the constant path followed by the saints and witnesses of the faith. This is the path that we are called to travel, to live fully the Paschal Mystery of the risen Lord and to make his resplendent face known to the men of our time.

Christian holiness essentially consists in this: in being a reflection of the holiness of God which shines on the face of Christ. This is our duty, as Cardinal Newman emphasized in one of his meditations: "Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as you shine: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be you who shines through me upon others…. Make me preach you without preaching – not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do – by my visible resemblance to your saints, and the evident fulness of the love which my heart bears to you" (Prayers, Verses and Devotion, John Henry Newman, Ignatius press, San Francisco, p. 389).

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins

Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

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The Catholic University In Crisis

The Catholic university is one of the most important and influential organs
in the life of the Church.  There, the Church educates her future leaders
in light of the faith and inculcates in them a sense of apostolate and,
hopefully, vocation.  This is where the Church engages the culture
intellectually.  As such, the Catholic university is hugely significant
in the movement to evangelize the culture and transform it into a culture
of life.  As the Holy Father says in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “Catholic
universities are called to continuous renewal, both as ‘universities’ and
as ‘Catholic.’  For what is at stake is the very meaning of scientific
and technological research, of social life and of culture, but, on an even
more profound level, what is at stake is the very meaning of the human person.”

No one is more concerned with the transmission of the authentic meaning
of the human person than are those gathered at this conference.  It is,
therefore, necessary to attend to the state of the Catholic university today.
Most Catholics know that our Catholic colleges are not what they once
were, but those same Catholics are often unaware of how urgently renewal
is needed.  Without an immediate rededication to the spiritual as well
as the academic development of students, the faith of another generation
is at stake.

Catholic identity discussions today center around the mandatum for theologians
and issues of institutional fidelity to the Church.  But despite their
importance, Catholic identity and the reasons for the mandatum are awfully
abstract ideas, and sometimes the debate and confusion over these abstract
ideas obscure the urgent and pronounced problems that exist in today’s American
Catholic colleges and universities.

The bottom line is that students at Catholic colleges tend to emerge from
those colleges less devout, practicing their faith less, and believing less
that the Church teaches.  For example, support for legalized abortion
among Catholic colleges students increased shockingly from 40.4% to 58.5%.
As part of the powerful secularizing trend in Catholic higher education
since the 1960s, Catholic universities have largely descended into a spirit
of fideism.  That is, while claiming to profess the truths of the Catholic
faith, Catholic universities actively avoid “imposing” that faith on their
own institutional functions.  They have adopted a secular understanding
of the relationship between faith and reason.  To a large extent, they
have preferred a religious studies model of religious education over that
of theology.  Theology is essentially ecclesial in character and takes
the teachings of the Magisterium as its data and first principles, whereas
religious studies is an anthropological study of religion.

Other departments in the Catholic university, especially the natural sciences,
no longer, for the most part, see themselves as having any sort of relationship
to the faith.  Student life policies at many Catholic universities
are indistinguishable from those of secular universities.  Health Centers,
in order to avoid being judgmental refuse to label any reproductive choices
as immoral, including abortion and contraception.  A few colleges even
refer students to Planned Parenthood.  A vanishingly small amount of
Catholic colleges offer programs to encourage chastity among students.

In order to receive government funding, many universities have dissociated
themselves from their religious orders (a move that many legal scholars
now judge was unnecessary and imprudent).  So, most Catholic universities
are owned and governed by a lay board of governors or trustees.  So,
they lack any sort of official ties to the Church.

There have been hopeful signs, though.  University administrators,
for the most part, see that American Catholic higher education has problems
and see the strengthening of Catholic identity as the major question to be
answered in the early part of this century.  The problem is getting them
to define Catholic identity in the same way that the Catholic Church defines
Catholic identity.  So far in the debate about Catholic identity, there
have been only two viewpoints heard: the American Catholic hierarchy and
the faculties and administrations of American Catholic universities.

That discussion has gone something like this: Ex Corde Ecclesiae
is released, followed by an outcry from theologians and university administrations.
The U.S. Catholic bishops listen sympathetically to protests that Ex Corde
violates academic freedom.  Then, they release a draft of norms to implement
Ex Corde seemingly designed to placate the apoplectic Catholic
intelligentsia, but the norms are so vague about who implements Ex Corde
and how it should be implemented that they might as well not have released
anything.  Unsurprisingly, Rome shoots down the norms.  The intelligentsia
become even more disgruntled.  So, the U.S. Bishops release an implementation
document that the Holy See can finally approve.  The Catholic intelligentsia,
especially theologians, cry foul and claim the pope wants to squelch academic
freedom.  So, most bishops in the U.S. decide to placate the schismatic
theologians again and declare that the most controversial part of Ex
Corde
, the requirement that all theologians have a mandate from the
local bishop to teach Catholic theology, will be a private matter between
the bishop and the theologian.  The rest of the document has received
hardly a glance since the norms came out.

Perhaps you may have noticed what is conspicuously missing from the whole
process: any sort of serious appraisal of the interest of the Catholic student.
Both the U.S. bishops and the faculties and administrations of Catholic universities
have altogether ignored this most fundamentally important piece of the puzzle,
acting as if the university is simply a community of scholars with no end
other than their own intellectual edification.  Certainly there has
been no talk of the responsibilities that both the Bishops, as teachers of
the faith, and the universities, as Catholic educational institutions, have
to Catholic students.

If Catholic universities were merely research institutes or think tanks,
the exclusion of the student’s perspective makes sense.  They are not,
though.  Both the proximate and the final end of activity in the university
is the education of students.

The right to academic freedom is a vitally important part of university
life, as the pope declares consistently throughout Ex Corde.
But, because the education of students is the most fundamental end of university
activity, the right of academic freedom must be limited.  The right
to academic freedom may be exercised only so far as the right of the student
to be educated in the truth is respected.  In the case of the theologian,
he or she may exercise the right to academic freedom so far as the right
of the student to be educated in the true teachings of the Church is recognized.
Theology (or religious studies) departments are free to pursue almost whatever
course of study they find fitting as long as, at a Catholic university,
they honestly teach the authentic Catholic faith when they say they are
teaching Catholic theology.  If they find this distasteful, they are
then free to renounce the inaccurate adjective, “Catholic.”  They are
not free to define Catholic faith for themselves, in violation of the Bishop’s
canonical right and duty to teach the faith and the right of the student
to receive instruction in the authentic teachings of the Church at a Catholic
institution.

Of course, there are other compelling arguments against absolute academic
freedom, the best of which are outlined briefly in Ex Corde and fleshed
out significantly in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Instruction
on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian
and even further unpacked
in Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay, The Nature and Mission of Theology.

The First Buds of a New Springtime at Catholic Universities

It has been frustrating for me and the rest of the members of the advisory
board that has created the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges
that university administrations and faculties are interested in selfishly
protecting their own rights and uninterested in the rights of us faithful
Catholics who, in choosing to attend Catholic colleges, expect an honest
education in the faith, opportunities for genuinely Catholic service to those
in need, and a campus culture that supports the living out of the life of
faith.

In the last few years at Gonzaga University (Spokane, Washington), I have
worked with many of my fellow students and with an administration that is
supportive of the aims of Ex Corde to build the kind of campus culture
of life envisioned by the Holy Father.  We have accomplished an astonishing
amount in a few short years.  There has been a palpable shift in the
campus culture.  Mass attendance is way up, perhaps as much as an astonishing
250%, including and especially daily Mass, there are dozens of Bible studies,
a wide array of new faith-based clubs that have emerged and continue to
emerge, a Catholic fellowship group, weekly Eucharistic adoration, Rosary
groups, the exponential growth of Gonzaga Right to Life, a full RCIA class,
the proposed development of a St. Vincent de Paul Society conference group
on campus, and much more.

This Catholic mini-Renaissance is, I hope, a small prelude and pre-figuration
of what the pope has been calling for when he speaks of the “New Springtime.”
Being fairly isolated in Eastern Washington, we at Gonzaga, at least among
the students, thought that what we were doing at Gonzaga was pretty much
unique.  That changed when I started my job for the summer, an internship
at the Cardinal Newman Society.  As I was familiarizing myself with
the various activities of the Cardinal Newman Society, I kept coming across
small signs of similar renaissances at other Catholic universities.
The most interesting thing to me at that point was that these renaissances
were happening at fairly diverse campuses.  They were happening, for
example, at small places like Benedictine College in Kansas and St. Mary’s
College of Ave Maria Unviersity in Michigan, at medium-sized campuses like
Gonzaga in Washington state and Desales University in Pennsylvania, and at
very large campuses like Notre Dame.

Finally, I came to an article written about three years ago about the revitalization
of Catholic culture at Notre Dame, which, as I understand, is not a small
thing at all.  This article was really the first in-depth account of
a Catholic revitalization at a university I had read, and I was astonished
at how similar many of the initiatives at Notre Dame were to those we were
working on at Gonzaga.  At the same time, there were initiatives at
Notre Dame that we at Gonzaga had not thought about, but which I had a feeling
could be fairly easily tried at Gonzaga.

What struck me about most of these goings-on, though, was that they were
largely student-initiated and student-maintained, with varying degrees of
assistance or hostility from the faculty and administration.  Right
after I read the article about Notre Dame, I got up from my chair, went into
the office of my boss, Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society,
and said something like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there were some kind of
organization out there to link and support all of these grass-roots Catholics
activities at these colleges?”

At a small, fairly young organization like the Cardinal Newman Society,
it’s always pretty dangerous to air an idea about a new project.  His
answer was something along the lines of, “Yeah.  Go for it.”  Then,
reading through Ex Corde itself, I found this line that seems to precisely
address the project of the ASCC: “Various associations or movements of spiritual
and apostolic life, especially those developed specifically for students,
can be of great assistance in the developing the pastoral aspects of university
life.” (ECE 42)

The Proper Role of the Student at a Catholic University

A natural question at this point is: What is the proper role of a student
at today’s Catholic universities in light of the legion of problems I have
outlined briefly?  The student goes to school in order to be educated.
At best, the proposition that students have some sort of positive role to
play in the renewal of Catholic higher education seems tenuous.  Students
have neither the teaching authority of the episcopal office nor the authority
that comes from expertise and greater knowledge possessed by university
faculty members and administrators.

Nevertheless, the student has the right to expect certain things when attended
a university calling itself Catholic.  Among others, that student has
the right not to be deprived of the truths of the faith through distortions.
In essence, the Catholic student has the right not to be scandalized.
If such a situation exists, as it very often does, then the student has the
right to petition the Church, as all of the faithful do, and to demand correction
by the university.

Further, the Catholic student necessarily has the right to engage in Christian
apostolate.  Because all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ
by virtue of their baptism, they also share in the teaching authority of
the Church.  As Dominican Father Michael Sweeney says in his essay reflection
on the importance of the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation Christifideles
Laici
: “Each Christian has authority to speak for the whole Church in
presenting Christ to the world, and each Christian is called to exercise
authority for the sake and mission of the Church.”  He continues:

Christ has conferred upon you — through baptism and anointing
— the authority to teach the world about Him.  You have the authority
to speak in His name.  But you have also been given the power to do
so.  In other words, when you speak to others about Christ, the Holy
Spirit will move the hearts of others to hear you — exactly, that is, to
the degree that you really do speak with and for the Church.  The result
is that the person will respond, not simply to you, but to Christ speaking
through you.

In other words, the faithful Catholic, including students, teach with authority
when they proclaim Christ while in communion with the Church.

Christifideles Laici is a treasure trove for Catholics.
The Second Vatican Council was much less about saying Mass in the vernacular
than it was, perhaps most significantly among other things, an unprecedented
emphasis on and theological development of lay vocation.  Christifideles
Laici
is the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation on lay vocation written
in the authentic spirit of Vatican II.  Catholic students benefit from
this wisdom as much as the rest of the faithful.

In Christifideles Laici, the Holy Father defines the vocation
of the lay faithful as being to “seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in
temporal affairs and ordering them according to the plan of God” (CL
9).  In this context, lay Catholic share in Christ’s mission as priest,
prophet and king.  Lay Catholics are to offer themselves as sacrifices
in their daily lives and work, to proclaim Christ, and to spread His kingdom
through the world and through time.  (CL 14)

Put simply, the mission of the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges
is to help Catholic students live their lay vocations at Catholic colleges
and to help make them aware of the power and authority they share in by
virtue of their baptism.  Because that power and authority come from
being in communion with the Church, we also insist that our members be entirely
faithful to the Catholic faith as it comes to us through the Magisterium
of the Church.

The Association Itself

The ASCC’s mission statement reads: “The Cardinal Newman Society’s national
association of students, the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges
(ASCC) is designed to serve students at Catholic colleges and universities
interested in preserving and building up the Catholic identity at their
schools through a variety of means.  The organization assists in fostering
collaboration among existing groups and individual students at Catholic
institutions throughout the country and acts to help students found groups
concerned with living the Catholic faith in a way that is faithful to the
Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and guided by the Apostolic Constitution
on Higher Education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

Because of the roughly fifty year process of secularization, especially
intensive in the seventies through the nineties, Catholic universities, for
the most part, fail spectacularly to live up to their institutional commitments
to the Church.  The personnel on the faculties, in the administration,
and on the boards of trustees are largely uninterested for the pope’s call
for a New Evangelization and the creation of the culture of life.
Because of the consequences of tenure among faculty members and the fact
that most universities have dissociated legally and officially from their
religious orders (including Notre Dame), there is simply no way juridically
to force universities to live out their Catholic mission faithfully.
The bishops have, thus far, shown an alarming reluctance to stand up for
the faith scandalized terribly at American Catholic universities.
Instead, the prefer to abandon their obligations to the faithful Catholics
working at those universities and attending them as students in favor of
placating schismatic theologians and university administrators who have,
thus far, shown themselves to be completely unwilling to teach the faith
faithfully.

Because they consider, strangely, the bishops and the governors of the
Church to be, somehow, an outside element in relation to the operation of
the Catholic university, which stands in opposition to the understanding
of the Church, which is that the Catholic university is “born from the heart
of the Church,” (ECE 1), most faculties and administrations have
not made the reforms called for by the Holy Father.  I suspect that
they will not reform if the only impetus to renewal comes from an element
they consider to be “outside.”

This is where the ASCC comes in.  Our strategy is to change the campus
culture first.  Out of that renewed, inspired culture, the students
themselves will demand that their university lives up to its moral and, frankly,
fiduciary responsibility to be Catholic.  So, the ASCC will launch projects
designed to strengthen the Catholic identity and the culture of life on campus.

In Ex Corde, the Holy Father lists four essential characteristics
a Catholic university must have.  These are:
“A Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university
community as such; A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic
faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to
contribute by its own research; Fidelity to the Christian message as it
comes to us though the Church; An institutional commitment to the service
of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent
goal which gives meaning to life.” (ECE 17)  The ASCC hopes to
serve the Church by strengthening the Catholic identity of Her universities,
especially in these four critical areas.

The main foci of the ASCC are to link and support already existing student
initiatives on campus and to help students start initiatives on campus that
help to strengthen the Catholic identity of the school.  I have, therefore,
structured the organization into departments that deal with the types of
clubs found on campuses.  They are:

1.  Pro-life activities: Most Catholic colleges have a pro-life
club on campus.  There are particularly active pro-life clubs worthy
of emulation at schools like Franciscan University at Steubenville and Gonzaga
University.

2.  Prayer and Devotions: This department will promote a variety
of activites, from Eucharistic Adoration, to Rosary groups, to various initiatives
to establish and educate about Catholic devotional practices and the life
of prayer.  One of the most acute regrets of many young Catholics is
that they have not been introduced to the incredible depth and breadth of
Catholic prayer life.  This department will try to promote various
traditional Catholic prayers like the Angelus, the Divine Mercy Chaplet,
the Novena, etc.  Many of the small, consciously orthodox colleges like
Thomas Aquinas College and Ave Maria University feature an exceptional devotional
life.

3.  Evangelism, apologetics, and Catechetics:  The vast
majority of Catholics at Catholic universities around the country are either
badly catechized or not catechized at all.  There is, therefore, a
great need for this sort of activity at college.  So, this department
is concerned with students who want to learn the faith, how to defend it,
and how to transmit it.  There are excellent programs in this vein
at Marquette University and at St. Louis University.

4.  Bible Studies:  This one goes without saying.
Holy Scripture has been and will continue to be an unending source of inspiration
for Christians.  Whatever we can do to promote the study of the Bible,
we will try to do.  I am aware of good Bible Study programs at the
Unviersity of Dallas and at Notre Dame.

5.  Retreats: For many students, a huge part of their spiritual
development at college happens through the retreats program.  These
are usually, but not always, put on by the campus ministry office, led by
university staff, but crewed by students.  As the crew, students have
influence on how the retreat is organized.  Because of the disproportionately
large influence retreats have on students compared to the time spent at the
retreat, it is very important that the student have a well-formed retreat.
This department is dedicated to the dissemination of ideas about what works
and what doesn’t on retreats.  I am aware of excellent retreat programs
at Gonzaga University and at Notre Dame.

6.  Catholic Fellowship:  At many universities, the campus
culture is not conducive to a genuinely Catholic culture.  So, it is
necessary sometimes to create a group specifically for the development of
Catholic fellowship.  The model we will use for this department is
the program I helped developed at Gonzaga University, the Newman-Stein Fellowship.,
which combines elements of most of the other departments.

7.  Student Liturgies:  Frequently, students are given
a large role in the planning and the carrying out of liturgies on campus.
This department will serve those students active in student liturgies.

8.  Service:  Too often service programs at Catholic universities
are divorced form their foundation in the faith.  This department will
seek to assist and create service programs interested in doing the works
of mercy.  Benedictine College and Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio)
both have strong Catholic service programs.

9.  Student Publications: Anti-Catholic media bias is not confined
to major press outlets.  It has also crept into many publications at
Catholic universities, including here at Notre Dame.  This department
will work hand in hand with the Cardinal Newman Society’s Campus Media Project
to found and support alternative Catholic newspapers or official student
papers with strong commitments to the faith.  Excellent Catholic newspapers
exist at Boston College and Georgetown University.

10.  Women’s Issues: Among the strongest anti-Catholic forces
at Catholic universities are the Women’s Studies programs, which have, for
the most part, bought into a postmodern, secular view of the woman.
This department is dedicated to helping students interested in the Church’s
beautiful, authentically liberating message about what it means to be a
woman.  Along with the Men’s Issues department, one of the projects
of this department will be the promotion of the Holy Father’s theology of
the body.  This department will also actively promote vocations to
the religious life.

11.  Men’s Issues:  This department will be devoted to
assisting students and student groups interested in promoting and living what
it means to be a Catholic man.  It will assist the Women’s Issues department
as explained and promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

12.  Faculty/Administration Relations: As many students have
found, dealing with administrations and faculties, both those that are hostile
and those that are friendly, is a challenging task at best.  This department
focuses ways to work with faculties and administrations.

In addition to the departments of the student association, the ASCC also
has planned several projects to further its mission.  They are:

  • The Student Handbook, which provides an introduction
    to the Cardinal Newman Society, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and the thought
    of John Henry Cardinal Newman.  It also provides guidance on how to establish
    a club on campus, suggestions for officers, how to write a constitution,
    and a few suggested activities.  It also includes a list of organizations
    with missions friendly to that of the student association which students
    can contact for resources.
  • The Speakers Bureau, which consists of an extensive
    list of speakers who address topics relevant to students at Catholic colleges
    along with contact info, suggested honoraria, and an outline for a speaker’s
    contract.  At present, the speakers list includes over 80 high-profile
    Catholic speakers.
  • The Annual Conference is held upon the conclusion of
    the Cardinal Newman Society’s annual conference, the ASCC’s conference will
    address issues specifically relevant for students.  It will provide a
    basis in theory, nuts and bolts training, and time for fellowship and networking.
    The first conference was held on November 10, 2002, in Washington, D.C.
  • The Web Site will be the depository for information
    accessible by the general public, including a speaker’s list, essays and
    articles dealing with Catholic higher education, links to organizations
    with missions friendly to the goals of the ASCC, and tools for networking
    among students and student organizations, including a bulletin board system,
    a weblog, and a list of various groups at Catholic colleges and universities
    working to renew Catholic culture and their activities.

The Association is still very young.  The theory is in place, but
we still have to hammer out, concretely, we will go about performing our
mission.  Someone once said that the Christian should pray as if everything
depended on God and to work as if everything depended on him or her.
That’s what we plan on doing.  So, please pray for us.  I would
be grateful if you would join me in beseeching the Blessed Mother of Our
Lord for her intercession on behalf of the ASCC.

Hail Mary . . .

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Why College Students are Rediscovering Adoration

Students at AdorationHave you heard. Here you can buy college essays. There&’s a new trend on Catholic campuses and it&’s transforming lives. Students are rediscovering Eucharistic Adoration, a timeless Church tradition.’ There&’s nothing difficult about it:

Just take some time for prayer in front of Jesus.’ Glorify Him.’ Beseech Him.’ Come to a deeper understanding of Him as you contemplate His tremendous sacrifice for you and all mankind.’ Love Him.

Could you not watch one hour with Me?’ That question alone justifies the time that we spend with our Lord.’ But there are other benefits:

  • Experience God&’s grace, inviting you to a genuine, personal encounter with Christ truly present in the Eucharist and helping you stay faithful to Him.
  • Find peace in the love Christ showers upon you. Take a break from your hectic schedule, put your soul at rest, and build the strength that you need to succeed in college and life.
  • Work out relationship problems and other troubles with Christ, who shares both your joys and your sorrows by His sacrifice laid out before you.
  • Root your studies, athletics, charitable and social justice work, and all endeavors in Christ by first pondering and sharing in His sacrifice.’ Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it best when he said, Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are proceeded by a personal encounter with Him.
  • Experience the greatest high of your college years, one that will transform you and bring you constant joy!

What is Eucharistic Adoration?
At Eucharistic Adoration, a priest or deacon places the Eucharist in the form of an unconsumed host into a montrance, a “showcase” designed to allow the display and worship of Jesus in the Eucharist. Then, for a designated period of time, all are encouraged to visit Jesus to pray and worship. On a deeper level, Eucharistic Adoration is our response to Jesus&’ promise: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. We worship in awe the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity whose entire person, body, blood, soul, and divinity, is REALLY PRESENT. Perpetuated through the centuries, the Church has developed the devotion of adoring Christ, exposed for all to see, in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
How do I participate?

  • Individual sessions of Adoration are typically for one hour at a time. Each one hour session is called a Holy Hour. It&’s good to get into the habit of making at least one or two Holy Hours every week. By making this commitment, we gradually begin to want to spend more time with Jesus. If you&’ve never participated in Eucharistic Adoration before, it is good to start with just an hour. This, however, does not at all mean that visits for less than one hour are not acceptable. A visit can be 5, 15, or 30 minutes, or even just 30 seconds as you make your way to class. Jesus is there, ready and waiting to fill you with His love.

How do I get started?

  • Eucharistic Adoration requires the permission and participation of the priest(s) responsible for your campus church or chapel.’ But faculty, staff, or students often organize the program, especially by scheduling at least one person to be present with the Eucharist at all times that Christ is displayed.’ Contact your campus ministry about participating in Adoration or getting it started.’ For advice and resources, contact the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges (ASCC).

 

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THE EUCHARIST:

TO BE LOVED, TO BE LIVED

A Pastoral Letter on the Centrality of the Eucharist

Dear Friends in Christ:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. (Jn 6:53-54)

These words of Jesus remind us as clearly as possible of the centrality of the Eucharist to our Catholic Faith. The Eucharist is, in the simplest yet most profound of terms, the source of life. In giving us the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his very own body and blood, a priceless gift, one that enriches our spiritual lives here on earth and leads us eventually to the perfection of eternal life in heaven.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” teaches us again of the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Christian:

 

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life… For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself… By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life… In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith. (#s 1324-1327)

The teaching and lived experience of the Church have helped us to understand more fully the many dimensions of the Eucharist. It is a sacrifice—the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; it is a sacrament—the real presence of Christ under the forms of bread and wine; it is a meal—the same memorial meal Jesus shared with his apostles at the Last Supper; it is a liturgical celebration—a public proclamation of our faith in sign and symbol.

The Eucharist is all this and much more. No single one of these dimensions is sufficient unto itself to fully reveal the meaning of the Eucharist; none of them can be overlooked in fully appreciating the magnitude of the gift. The Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery: to be loved, to be lived.

Our shared preparation for the coming of the Third Millennium also centers on and leads us to the Eucharist. As the Holy Father writes in “Tertio Millennio Adveniente,” “Since Christ is the only way to the Father, the year 2000 will be intensely Eucharistic: in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Savior who took flesh in Mary’s womb twenty centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of Divine Life.” (TMA, #55)

Certainly every active member of the Church recognizes and fully appreciates the centrality of the Eucharist in our individual Catholic lives and in the communal life of the Church. No person of authentic Catholic Faith will deny the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist.

And yet, because of human nature, we often take our gifts for granted, even the most special of our gifts— our life, our health, our family, our friends and our faith. It is even possible, because of our weakness and perhaps because the Eucharist is so readily available to us, to take the Eucharist for granted and to become less than clear about its meaning and importance.

Recent surveys throughout the nation have suggested that this is exactly what has taken place in the Church. And while the validity and meaning of the surveys can be questioned, they do raise up serious concerns and provide us with an opportunity of renewing our understanding and appreciation of the most Blessed Sacrament.

For some time now, in a number of different settings, I have been discussing questions related to the Eucharist. This topic has been presented at meetings of the Priests’ Council, the Pastoral Council and priests within their deaneries. I have discussed it formally and informally. These discussions have been extremely valuable and a number of important insights and suggestions have been shared.

It is encouraging to note, first of all, that the Church in Youngstown does truly understand the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist and appreciates it as the foundation of our spiritual life, the “sum and summary of our faith.” There is also a general consensus that most Catholics have a ready understanding of the Catholic teaching about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that, “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, substantially contained’.” (Catechism, #1374) The conversations I have heard about the Eucharist are, therefore, most encouraging. And I might add that my own travels throughout the Diocese and my participation in the liturgies of our parishes have confirmed that estimation.

At the same time, however, most of our recent discussions have also suggested that we need constantly to affirm the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist, that it is necessary to stress again and again, the profound meaning of the Eucharist so that in fact we never lose sight of its beauty and importance. Some have suggested that, in particular, younger Catholics may not have received clear sufficient teaching about the Eucharist and that we have a special obligation to reach out to them with this message.

During our discussions I regularly asked what the Church in the Diocese of Youngstown might do to strengthen our understanding of the teaching about the Eucharist. In response, a number of very practical and specific suggestions were offered. I offer them to you here with the hope that they will provide a starting point for additional and prayerful reflection.

I. The key to maintaining our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the faithful and vibrant celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.

As Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, wrote in his recent pastoral letter about Sunday Mass: “We the Church assemble on the Lord’s Day, and that assembly, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, speaks and listens to the Word of God, makes holy and is made holy by its eucharistic praying and the sacred banquet of holy communion.” (“Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass”)

Cardinal Mahony’s words echo those of “The Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “It was above all on ‘the first day of the week,’ Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, that the Christians met ‘to break bread.’ From that time on down to our day the celebration of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere in the Church with the same fundamental structure. It remains the center of the Church’s life.” (#1343)

I invite the parishes of the Youngstown Diocese to review their celebration of the Sunday Eucharist to be certain that it is both faithful and vibrant: faithful to the liturgical directives of the Church and vibrant in encouraging all of God’s People toward the “full, conscious and active participation” demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. And parishes should continue to reach out to those members who do not regularly attend Sunday Mass, inviting them to become a part of the Eucharistic community.

And in highlighting the centrality of Sunday Eucharist, we should not overlook the wonderful tradition of daily Mass, which is expected of our priests, and which many of the faithful find to be a source of great comfort and blessing in their lives.

 

II. Pastors and catechists should use special moments throughout the liturgical year to teach the people, especially young people, about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The liturgical year of the Church provides frequent opportunities to speak about the Eucharist. Such occasions would include the celebration of First Holy Communion in the parish, the Solemnities of Corpus Christi and Christ the King, Holy Thursday, the Easter Season, and other occasions when the Scriptures lend themselves to Eucharistic themes.

We should be especially attentive to children and young people to be certain that in the formative years of their lives, they are receiving clear and direct teaching about the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.

Our teaching about the Eucharist should be a constant, ongoing process so that the People of God are frequently reminded of the beauty of the holy mystery in their midst.

 

III. Parishes and institutions should carefully review how the Blessed Sacrament is handled.

In some of our discussions the point was made that the manner in which we handle the Eucharist is a powerful sign of what we believe about the Eucharist. It was also suggested that familiarity may breed carelessness with the Eucharist.

Questions to be considered: Do we carry, receive, distribute and reserve the Eucharist with obvious reverence? Do we remember that “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist?” (Catechism, #1377) Are we careful and prayerful as we purify the sacred vessels after Mass, knowing that they continue to contain the Body and Blood of the Lord? Is our use of language consistent with what we believe about the Eucharist: do we speak merely about “bread and wine” or do we refer to the elements as the “Body and Blood of Christ” they have truly become?

While it is not necessary to return to the scrupulosity that may have characterized some in the past, neither should we succumb to a secular, materialistic and casual approach to the Eucharist sometimes evident today.

IV. In churches where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel, there should be a concerted effort to remind the faithful of that fact and to promote attention to the reserved Eucharist.

Liturgical law allows for the placement of the Blessed Sacrament in separate chapels in our churches, but the purpose of that reservation is surely not to distance the Eucharist from the people, but to encourage prayerful and distraction-free adoration of the Lord Jesus. As The Catechism reminds us, “The tabernacle is to be situated in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor. The dignity, placing and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.” (#1 183)

Additionally, The Code of Canon Law states: “The tabernacle in which the most Holy Eucharist is reserved should be placed in a part of the Church that is prominent, conspicuous, beautifully decorated and suitable for prayer.” (Canon #938)

The place where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved should be very evident to the faithful, and “a special lamp to indicate and honor the presence of Christ is to bum at all times before the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved.” (Canon #940)

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, before and after Mass and on other private occasions, should be encouraged as a way of preparing for the celebration of the Eucharist and of extending its meaning.

The traditional Catholic practice of genuflecting upon entering and leaving the Church, and when passing in front of the Blessed Sacrament, should be maintained, as an external sign of our awareness of and respect for Christ’s presence.

V. Parishes should seriously consider the re-establishment of traditional practices that foster devotion to the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

As noted earlier, the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is clearly the center of the Church’s life. At the same time, the Sunday Eucharist does not exhaust the prayer of the Church related to the Eucharist. “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with utmost care, exposing them to solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.” (Catechism #1378)

I commend the parishes of the Diocese that have maintained the beautiful practice of “Forty Hours” or “Eucharistic Days,” and other regular periods of adoration, and I invite other parishes to initiate these celebrations as well. “In churches and oratories where the Eucharist is reserved, it is recommended that solemn exposition of the blessed sacrament for an extended period of time should take place once a year… In this way, the local community may meditate on this mystery more deeply and adore.” (“Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist,” #86) Such devotions will also provide a fitting preparation for the coming of the Third Millennium which, as our Holy Father reminds us, is meant to be “intensely Eucharistic.”

A few of the parishes of the Diocese have received permission for “Perpetual Exposition of the Eucharist.” The Church does not envision this becoming a widespread practice. However, where it has begun, Perpetual Adoration has been a source of many blessings and graces. I commend the priests, deacons, religious and faithful who devote themselves to this discipline.

Some have maintained that the promotion of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will take away from the centrality of the Eucharistic celebration. It need not do so. In fact, proper devotion to the Blessed Sacrament will inevitably lead to a fuller participation in the Eucharistic celebration:

Outside the Eucharistic celebration, the Church is careful to venerate the Blessed Sacrament, which must be reserved… as the spiritual centre of the religious and parish community. Contemplation prolongs communion and enables one to meet Christ, true God and true man, in a lasting way… Prayer of adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament unites the faithful with the paschal mystery; it enables them to share in Christ’s sacrifice, of which the Eucharist is the permanent sacrament. (John Paul II, “Letter on the 750th Anniversary of the Feast of Corpus Christi,” #3)

Others have suggested that the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament causes people to withdraw from the cares and concerns of the world. But in fact, as the Holy Father writes, “closeness to Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries, but on the contrary, makes us attentive and open to human joy and distress and broadens our heart on a global scale.” (“Corpus Christi Letter,” #S) In recent times, the beautiful example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who every day spent considerable time with the Blessed Sacrament before serving the “poorest of the poor” helps to illustrate the Holy Father’s observation.

This dimension of the Eucharist is highlighted at the conclusion of every Mass with the words, “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” Indeed it is through our lives of faithful and generous service that the meaning of the Eucharist is completely revealed.

In short, the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist, the reception of Holy Communion, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and our commitment to service need not and should not be exclusive of one another. In fact, these practices, taken together, help us to experience the fullness of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and motivate us to carry Christ to the world.

It should be obvious that this letter does not intend to present the full teaching of the Church about the Eucharist or its profound meaning in our lives. Nor does it attempt a full discussion of the themes contained herein.

The suggestions outlined in this letter were offered during the conversations about the Eucharist which took place in the Diocese of Youngstown, and I am grateful for all those who shared in these discussions with such obvious faith, insight and candor.

In my view, the most important thing is that the conversations about the Eucharist continue. And it is in our parishes that the teaching of the Church is best presented and devotion to the real presence of Christ best preserved.

Therefore I ask that in every parish of the Diocese these themes be discussed: from the pulpit and in the classrooms; in meetings of the parish councils and parish organizations. I request that this letter be the starting point of the conversation, but you may wish to provide other material as well. I call your attention especially to “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” and its treatment of the Eucharist in paragraphs 1322-1419.

I believe that the Eucharistic faith of the Church in the Diocese of Youngstown is strong and clear, and for that we give thanks to Almighty God. May our anticipation of the Third Millennium, and our observance of this Lenten and Easter Season, allow us to be a truly Eucharistic people, a people that celebrates the Mass faithfully, receives the Lord worthily, adores His presence unceasingly, and lives the Eucharist in “a life poured out in loving service of the kingdom.” (Opening Prayer for the Feast of Corpus Christi)

 

Sincerely yours in Christ, Our Lord,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Youngstown, OH

Used with Permission from the Diocese of Youngstown, OH.

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Books:

A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, A. Vonier, Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1946.

The Blessed Eucharist, Michael Muller, Baltimore: Kelley & Piet, 1868 (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1973)

The Blessed Sacrament, Frederick W. Faber, Baltimore: John Murphy Co., 1855;

Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist, C. Lattey, ed. B. Herder Book Co., 1923.

Crossing the Tiber, Steve Ray, Ignatius Press, 1997 (whole section on the Eucharist).

The Eucharist, Aime G. Martimort, NY: Seabury, 1971;

The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVeriere, Liturgical Press, 1996.

The Eucharist in the New Testament: A Symposium, J. Delorme, P. Benoit et al, London: Chapman, 1965;

Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, Louis Bouyer, tr. C.U. Quinn (Notre Dame, IN: Fides, 1968).

The Faith of the Early Fathers (three volumes), William Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1979.

For the Life of the World: St. Maximilian and the Eucharist, George Domanski, Peter D. Fehlner (trans.), 1993

The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist, James T. O’Connor ($17.95 from Catholic Answers; call 1-888-291-8000)

The Holy Eucharist, C. Hedley, London: Longmans, 1907.

The Holy Eucharist by St. Alphonsus Liguori

The Holy Eucharist. Aidan Nichols, OP, Veritas Publications, 1991.

The Holy Eucharist, Bernard van Acken, Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1958;

In Remembrance of Me, Aime G. Martimort, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1958;

Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue: IV: Eucharist and Ministry, published jointly by Representatives of the U.S.A. National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, 1970.

Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament, by Fr. Frederick A. Reuter, K.C.B.S.

The Mysteries of Christianity, Matthias Scheeben, tr. Cyril Vollert, St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1946 (orig. 1888), pp. 469-539 on Eucharist, Transubstantiation, Real Presence.

The Real Presence through the Ages, Michael Gaudoin-Parker, Alba House, 1998.

The Sacrifice of the Mystical Body, Eugene Masure, Chicago: Regnery, 1957;

This is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence, Mark Shea ($3.95 from Catholic Answers; call 1-888-291-8000);

What is the Eucharist?, Marie J. Nicolas, NY: Hawthorn Books, 1960;

Other Materials:

Adoration by Fr. Stan Fortuna (CD). Order online at www.francescoproductions.com.

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