Posts tagged: Eucharist

Fiftieth Anniversaries Surround Us

By , April 16, 2014 5:48 am

Have you noticed that we are surrounded by a very plethora of anniversaries marking the 50th anniversary of this or the 50th anniversary of that. If it tells us anything at all, it should be that the 1960’s were an extraordinarily important period. It is fifty years since the riots in Watts, fifty years since the death of Jack Kennedy, fifty years since Lyndon Johnson led the change in America by the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is also fifty years since the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

These American events are being rather well marked but for some reason the Catholic bishops of the United States have done little or nothing to remind the 60 million of us that the Council was an extraordinary event widening horizons, creating hope and helping to lead us into the future. Maybe one of the reasons why it has not been spotlighted so much in this country is that many of the younger bishops would just as soon forget it! That is a tragedy but it is not an enduring tragedy. The Council is being brought back to life by our magnificent leader Pope Francis.

A few days ago I started a series of blogs on the documents of the Council. Since I find it so refreshing to go back and study them, you may appreciate or enjoy at least a brief mention to various segments of them as I plod through the next few weeks.

The other day I stressed that the first and most exciting of the Council documents was the one on the sacred liturgy and how it got started. Now I would like to go very briefly through certain segments of this document that has touched each and every one of us in this country and actually every Roman Catholic across the world. I break Roman Catholics into two groups about the Council. Older men and women who remember it taking place fifty years ago connect it with a time of change and tension and the most visible thing they remember is that Latin ceased to be imposed on the Universal Church and all the countries of the world were able to use vernacular language. Imagine – the Church decided to put worship into a language that the worshipers understood. What a breakthrough!

To discuss the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy would require volumes and believe me many volumes have been written about it. With the constraints of this space, I want to simply break it into two key components. Many subdivisions are possible.

The first thrust of the document centers on the fact that the Eucharist is the absolute center of the Church’s prayer life. Certainly, the other sacraments are important and they draw us closer to Jesus and private devotions and prayers of individuals are very valuable. However, it is in the Eucharistic liturgy that the entire Church prays and we pray in unison and with one faith and one heart. The Eucharist is the center of the Church and it unites each and every one of us together. We are believers.

Secondly, the liturgical document calls forcefully and urgently for a resurgence in the study of sacred scripture and more effectively integrating scripture into the Eucharist liturgy and all the other sacraments as well. I am happy to report that this early Council directive has been rather well implemented. While there is much work to be done, it is a very measurable accomplishment.

In the meantime, what we need is millions of small groups across the world taking time out of their lives, day by day and week by week, to study God’s word, to see their own lives in relationship to it and to be guided by that word. We are a long way from there but I think we are moving in the right direction. For that I thank God.

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Reaction From The Right

By , March 28, 2014 5:12 am

Many times I have pointed out in this space that Pope Francis is manifesting great determination to make the day-to-day structuring in the Church more sensitive and more effectively pastoral. He has done that time and time again, not only by his words and directions, but also by his simple, loving manner of dealing with the people.

He has convened the bishops of the world to a special Synod to be held in Rome in October of this year and he has let us know that the Synod must consider many pastoral problems, not the least of which is the question of committed Catholics, living in civil unions, being denied the Eucharist as they are today. I have been raising this topic for my entire priestly life and so I am thrilled to see that the Church is going to make an effort to deal with this important issue.
Do not be surprised, however, that the right wing is manifesting vigorous opposition to any changes in our present pastoral policies. Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who is head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has stated that this change cannot be made. Happily, other bishops, including Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga in Honduras, have challenged Cardinal Müller pointing out with a bit of humor that since Cardinal Müller is a German Theologian, he can only see black and white and never anything in-between. Other Church leaders are also supporting the possibility of a pastoral solution to this long-time problem.

Now comes Dr. Robert Fastiggi, a professor of systematic theology at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Fastiggi does not challenge the pope directly but rather goes after Cardinal Walter Kasper who gave a lengthy talk to introduce a February 20-21 discussion by the College of Cardinals on family life. Cardinal Kasper is conscious of the fact that priests all over the world are providing pastoral solutions based on individual cases rather than using the formality of an ecclesiastical Tribunal and there seems to be a greater acceptance of this temporary solution. Fastiggi challenges that and states that an ecclesiastical Tribunal could handle these cases more effectively studying them from afar and on the basis of written documents rather than a priest in direct contact with the couple. My guess is that Fastiggi thinks that the world operates with the neatness and simplicity of a classroom.

Onward through the fog, but the fog is beginning to lift thanks be to God.

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The Catholic Church Is Indeed Catholic

By , November 6, 2013 5:55 am

I have been talking briefly in the last week about certain qualities or “marks” that underline the Catholic Church. These are the four important qualities of oneness, holiness, Catholicity and apostolicity. While these words do have their own specific meaning, they point out a particular aspect of the Church that has been present since Jesus directed the apostles to go forward. The four marks are distinct but they rub up against each other and to a certain extent overlap.

We have already talked about the oneness of the Church. When we understand that concept that the Church is unified all over the world then it is very easy to move on to the aspect of Catholicity. In oneness, we talked about the extraordinary diversity of the Church. There are so many languages, so many cultural traditions, so many different manifestations of liturgy, etc., etc. but despite all those variations we talk about the fact that each one of these manifestations is still the same Church. Well, naturally that holds true for Catholicity too. In one local Church, the natives of Central Africa may gather in a large hut and celebrate their Catholic faith but as they gather around that altar, as they receive the Eucharist from whoever is presiding, they are one with those attending Mass at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in New York. As Eskimos pray fervently in Alaska, they have the same faith and belong to the same Universal Church as do famous scientists attending Mass in the chapel at Harvard University.
Let’s turn to Lumen Gentium which states so beautifully:

“All men are called to the Catholic unity of the people of God…and to it in different ways belong; first the Catholic faithful, then others who believe in Christ and finally, all mankind called by God’s grace to salvation. (Lumen Gentium 3:20).

As we begin to consider these marks of the Church, we begin to see that they form a beautiful collage and interact with each other to reflect God’s love for his people by pouring strengths into his Church that enables the faithful to move forward despite all the obstacles and barriers that constantly threaten the Gospel.

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The Eucharist – At The Center!

By , September 20, 2013 5:13 am

In the Eucharist, Roman Catholics are strengthened by their profound faith in the Real Presence of Jesus. He is with us. He promised that he would be with us and that he would be with the Church until the end of time.

In baptism, we were made the brothers and sisters of Jesus of Nazareth. At Confirmation, we committed ourselves to be loyal and faithful followers. Both of these sacraments were celebrated but once in our lives but, nevertheless, continue to strengthen us as we go forward on our spiritual journey.

The Eucharist is for TODAY and its reception brings with it wonderful spiritual gifts. Every individual receiving communion should be conscious that at that moment they are one with Christ. They are joined to their Savior. Their Redeemer is with them. They are not alone. Receiving communion is an intensely personal experience but it is more than that.
When we receive communion we should also be conscious that we are one with those who share our faith and who understand our oneness in Christ. At Sunday Mass we get out of our pews and move to the center aisle. See that long line of people moving towards the altar? A beautiful reality is being expressed there. This procession carries us back to the Israelites journeying across the desert being fed with bread from heaven. As we receive communion, so also are we being fed bread from heaven! We are one with Jesus, the others in the procession are one with Jesus, and we are one with our brothers and sisters in faith. Jesus ties us all together.

Those journeying with us in the Eucharistic procession are our sisters and brothers in Christ. So also are all those across the city and even across the world one with us through our union with Christ. This means that we are all responsible for each other, we need to pray for each other, defend the weak and vulnerable among us, and be prepared to witness for our faith in our Divine Lord.

The Eucharist, the Body of Christ, is an awesome multifaceted gift. Let us celebrate it always and not lose sight of the awesome reality that its presence brings to us.

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The Real Presence

By , September 19, 2013 5:47 am

Last week, I touched briefly on the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. I mentioned that each of these sacraments are received but once in our lifetime and because of that their importance can easily recede into our memories and not hold our attention as firmly as they should. We ought to mark the date of our baptism in our working calendar and remind ourselves of it frequently, but especially on the day of our baptism. With Confirmation, an exact date is nice to know, but the important thing is for us to realize that we have committed ourselves to be strong followers of Jesus of Nazareth and that carries with it challenging responsibilities.

We need to celebrate our faith, to be conscious of it, to look for calm situations where we can discuss it with others and to pray frequently that we respond generously when we have the opportunity to move forward God’s great message, which came to us through Jesus, that each and every one of us are loved – loved infinitely.

Let me just make a brief mention here of the Eucharist, the central sacrament which allows Christ to live within us and we can say, as did St. Paul, “I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me.”

The central reality of the sacrament of the Eucharist is that Jesus is not remote, not an important figure from history, not someone who lives in another world, but that he is with us day by day. Knowing and receiving the Eucharist frequently brings about many wonderful results. I will discuss them tomorrow.

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June 2nd, The Feast of Corpus Christi

By , June 1, 2013 4:29 am

Today is a beautiful, joyous and important day in the liturgical life of the Church. Today we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist itself. Of course, every time we go to Mass we celebrate the reality of the Eucharist, but today the Church turns a very bright light on this awesome gift and urges us to think clearly about the reality before us, to not have our faith blurred by habit, but rather to concentrate on what Jesus did and is doing to his followers.
The theme that runs through the three texts is bread. Bread in one form or another is the most common staple food utilized across the world and throughout history. Bread is the very symbol of sustenance and life. The first reading presents us with that intriguing picture of the King of Salem coming out to meet Abraham and offering bread and wine as a gift to the Most High God. Christian tradition has utilized this text as some type of prefiguring the Christian celebration of the Eucharist and that leads us to the second reading.
The second reading is absolutely one of the most important texts for Christians in the entire Bible. It is from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he clearly describes the institution of the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi. Let’s look at the words again.
Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Does he love us? Infinitely. Is he with us? Eternally.

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The Church’s First Chapter

By , January 28, 2013 4:52 am

People with deep faith in Jesus Christ feel very close to him and, of course, they are close. Believing in Jesus, they believe also in his presence made possible by reception of the Eucharist. When we turn our attention to our Lord’s first followers, I think that they tend to become a little more remote. Maybe that is just my opinion but Peter and Paul worked in a different culture, a different economy, all in all a very different world. Even though we study their sections of sacred scripture they still at times seem remote.
Let me make this suggestion. Go your copy of the New Testament and look at three very short letters written by two bishops, Timothy and Titus. We are used to bishop’s letters. Most of them write to the faithful of their dioceses with some regularity. Regretfully, the need for this or that annual collection somehow dominates the list of topics. Maybe the bishops themselves should go back and read these short letters of their predecessors. If you, yourself, will take the time to read them you will see that they are very simple, down to earth and very centered on problem solving, including conflict within the faith community, which was already present in that first generation. In Timothy, both letters have something to say about how the local Church should be structured and how the big concern must be given to correcting false teachers, good Christian moral life must be practiced and the faith must be taught with great clarity.
I really urge you to read these three very brief documents. They may help you to leap over those 2,000 years and realize that these two early bishops, Timothy and Titus, are in a very real way still with us.

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God Is Acting Now

By , January 16, 2013 4:11 am

Believing Catholics know full well that God is acting in our lives. While bringing us into existence, he has given us an infinitely loving invitation to share his life for all eternity. We are very conscious of God’s closeness when we receive the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. There we are on Sunday morning. We have just returned to our pews and have received the bread of life. Jesus is here. Jesus is within us. He loves us and will sustain us in our faith.
That is true of the Eucharist. It is true of all of the Sacraments. Through baptism, we are made brothers and sisters of Jesus and adopted children of God the Father. With matrimony, we receive the grace necessary to sustain a holy and faith-filled marriage. The Sacraments spiritually parallel to our material lives. Our faith enables us to see that our Lord is always with us.
But God’s love and help is not limited to the Sacraments. With eyes of faith, we can see that we are sustained time and again throughout the day and always while our lives unfold of special gifts. An unexpected telephone call that clarifies our thinking on a particular issue, seeing a very ill friend on a trip to the hospital, looking at an suddenly stunning sunset in the western sky, these opportunities that make us conscious of God and his love for us are countless. However, we must be careful that we do not take them for granted. God loves us. God is with us. Our challenge is to respond knowingly and joyfully to the fact that he touches our lives day by day and sometimes minute by minute.
We are more conscious of God’s goodness to us when we are aware of his actions in our lives.

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Trouble Across the Rhine River

By , November 28, 2012 5:50 am

Two weeks ago, I wrote with shock in this space about my disbelief that the German bishops had issued a decree refusing the sacraments to Catholics who stopped paying a Church membership tax. I was not the only one who was incredulous. That reaction has spread across the world. Global media coverage has brought into clear focus the unique situation in Germany that most people knew nothing about until this issue arose.
Since the middle of the 19th century, the German central government has collected a small tax on both the Lutherans and the Catholics in Germany, transferred the funds to the churches for use in providing schools, hospitals, youth centers and other excellent programs. Today in Germany many Catholics are angry with the Church and don’t like the tax and they have signed documents taking themselves out of the Church. So much for that but now the bishops say that such persons can be denied the sacraments!
I have no doubt that this situation creates a real financial problem. In a short period of time, the Church has to do a better job of raising its own money but it is hard to imagine the Catholic Church denying someone baptism, the Eucharist or a funeral because of a failure to pay a government tax. Something is wrong and I hope that it will be corrected very quickly. Until then, I pray with all my heart for the German Church which is truly a great Church but faced with organizational difficulties.
Luther, there is still tension on the Rhine!

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A Real Scandal

By , August 25, 2012 5:41 am

August 26th, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, when you hear the word “scandal” we almost always connect it with disappointment or a letdown relating to some religious person or program. We are scandalized when the pastor marries the church secretary but the original meaning of the word is quite simple. A scandal is something that causes you to stumble, to falter, to not be able to go forward. In today’s Gospel as we are winding down the 6th chapter of
St. John, we have a classic act of stumbling.

Jesus has been talking at great length about the fact that he will continue to abide with us in the mystery of the Eucharist and that he himself will be the food that will bring us to eternal life. This shocked many of his listeners. Jesus does not back down. Six times he repeats the basic thesis that he is the bread of life and that he will nourish us as we continue to journey after him.

The sentence reflecting the scandal is really sad.

“From this time on many of his disciples broke away and would not remain in his company.”

Our Lord does not apologize. He does not say they misunderstood. He just keeps repeating the truth of his continued presence among us. There are two things: that it is some of his disciples who are leaving and then Jesus turns to the apostles and says, “Will you also go away?” And Peter replies,

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We are convinced that you are God’s holy one.”

Let us stand beside Peter each day of our life.

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