Monday, April 27, 2009

The Eucharist as the response to the crisis and loss of meaning of our time, says Pope

Since the time Jesus was physically present among the Apostles until today, marked by a major economic crisis and a loss of meaning especially among the young, the faithful have found inspiration and support in the Eucharist.

In “a conversion that changes the heart at the root and is translated in coherent actions through the Gospel,” it is possible “to set the bases to build a society open to justice and solidarity and overcome the economic and cultural unbalance that continues to exist in much of our planet.”

This is the lesson Benedict XVI has drawn from the lives of five blessed, four Italians and one Portuguese, who were canonised today in a solemn Mass celebrated in the parvis of St Peter’s Basilica, on a grey day, before 30,000 people.

They are: Arcangelo Tadini, (1846-1912), founder of the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth; Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348), abbot , founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Monte Oliveto of the Order of Saint Benedict; Nuno de santa Maria Álvares Pereira (1360-1431), a friar in the Carmelite order; Geltrude Comensoli (1847-1903), foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (the Sacramentine Sisters); and Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), foundress of the Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Heart.

“The different human and spiritual moments in the lives of these new saints,” said the Pope, “show us the profound renewal in man’s heart that results form the mystery of Christ’s resurrection, a fundamental mystery that leads and guides the whole history of Salvation. Hence, the Church rightly and always urges us to look upon the Risen Christ, at Eastertide especially, who is truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”

“Saint Arcangelo Tadini spent long hours praying before the Eucharist. Always keeping in mind the totality of the human person during his pastoral ministry, he helped his parishioners grow in human and spiritual terms. For this reason he was responsible for several tangible and courageous initiatives like the organisation of the ‘Società operaia cattolica di mutuo soccorso’ (Catholic Workers’ Friendly Society), the construction of a spinning mill and boarding school for women workers, and the founding in 1900 of the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth, in order to evangelise among labourers by sharing their toil following the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth. How prophetic was Dom Tadini’s charismatic intuition and how current his example remains today, a time of deep economic crisis! He reminds us that only by nurturing a constant and deep relationship with the Lord, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, can we bring the ferment of the Gospel to various workplace activities and areas of our society.

“In Saint Bernardo Tolomei, who started a singular Benedictine monastic movement, love for prayer and manual labour was also important. His was a Eucharistic life, devoted entirely to contemplation but that became humble service to his fellow man. When the Great Plague struck in 1348, he left the solitude of Mount Oliveto for the Monastery of St Benedict at Porta Tufi, in Siena, to help treat the monks who struck by the disease, and died as a result as a true martyr of charity. From the saint’s example comes an invitation to translate our faith in a life in prayer dedicated to God and spent in the service of others under the impulse of charity ready for the ultimate sacrifice.”

Álvares Pereira is a national hero in Portugal. Constable of the Kingdom of Portugal and a general at 23, he led the army to victory in the Battle of Atoleiros, which earned Portugal total independence. In 1423, after he lost his wife and married his only daughter to the son of King John (João) I, he entered the Carmelite Convent he founded in Lisbon, choosing to be a simple lay brother under the name of Nuno de Santa Maria. He died on Easter Sunday 1431, leaving [in inheritance] the memory of a man of prayer and penitence, generous towards the poor, devote to Our Lady.”

“From childhood Saint Geltrude Comensoli had a particular attraction for Jesus present in the Eucharist. [. . .] In fact in front of the Eucharist Saint Geltrude found fulfillment for her vocation and mission in the Church: that of dedicating herself unreservedly to apostolic and missionary action, especially on behalf of young people. In obedience to pope Leo XIII, her institute was born to turn the ‘contemplative charity’ in the Eucharistic Christ into the ‘experienced charity’ for one’s fellow man in need. In a society like ours that is at a loss, often hurt, whose young people seek values and meaning for their life, Saint Geltrude shows God as a strong point of reference, a fellow traveller through the Eucharist. She reminds us that ‘adoration must prevail over all charity works” because it is from the love of the Dead and Risen Christ, who is truly present in the Eucharistic Sacrament, that comes the evangelical charity that leads us to consider all men as our brothers.”

“Saint Caterina Volpicelli was also a witness of divine love who tried hard to ‘be of Christ so as to bring to Christ’ those she met in late 19th century Naples at a time of spiritual and social crisis. For her too, the Eucharist was the secret key. She told her first aides to nurture an intense spiritual life through prayer, especially through the vital contact with the Eucharistic Jesus. In order to be true teachers of the faith, eager to pass on Christian cultural values to new generations, it is indispensable, as she liked to repeat, to set God free from the prisons where men confine him. For humanity can find its ‘stable home’ in Christ’s Heart. Saint Caterina showed her spiritual daughters and all of us the demanding path of conversion that changes the heart at the root and turns into coherent action through the Gospel. It is thus possible to set the bases to build a society open to justice and solidarity and overcome the economic and cultural unbalance that continues to exist in much of our planet.”

Before the Regina Caeli, the Pontiff said in French: “May the example of the new saints make us unafraid to go towards our brothers and sisters to pass the Word of life onto the whole world.”

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Anonymous said...

Yes, the Eucharist is the Bread of Life and Jesus told his followers to take and eat it.

All through the centuries Holy Communion has been under attack from the "reformers" and from those who hate the Church. Many separated Christians celebrate this memorial very infrequently - maybe once a quarter. And in times past Jansenists were responsible for discouraging reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. Even when Jansenism had waned, the whole of life was so set about with practically everything (we were told) being an occasion of grave sin that we were sidelined from receiving the host and anyway it was all hedged with "fasting from midnight."

It wasn't until Pope Pius X opened the reception of Holy Communion to little children that we began to be more welcome at the altar rail to receive our Lord.

What now ? There are fewer priests and many of them are very near age of retirement. Our married deacons may not celebrate the Eucharist and consecrate the elements - if there are insufficient hosts in the tabernacle, the laity cannot receive Holy Communion in the absence of a priest, deacon or no deacon. It is important for the Church to provide sufficient priests to enable the lay-folk to receive this sublime sacrament. The LORD did not tell us to gaze at the host in a monstrance - He told us to take and eat.

Rome is well-stocked with priests but most places in the world need more priests and better priests. These beautiful words from Pope Benedict are meaningless where the Eucharist cannot be celebrated. Something needs to change, and to change now.

Otherwise the believing community will be tempted to find a "solution" of its own.

colkoch said...

Well stated, especially this line:

The LORD did not tell us to gaze at the host in a monstrance - He told us to take and eat.

Anonymous said...

Bishops’ conferences from various parts of the world have called for the ordination of married men to meet the pastoral needs of their people. They understand that forced fasting from the eucharist is itself a form of oppression and remaining silent in the face of such fasting a form of complicity in injustice. Priests themselves, in growing numbers, refuse to be resigned to the present burden of mandated celibacy and are calling upon their bishops for a review of the celibacy law – a review favoured by most priests and an overwhelming majority of the laity.

Certainly the dearth of priests and the pastoral needs of the people of God make the present situation urgent. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there are more inactive priests in the US than there are active diocesan priests – approximately twenty-two thousand inactive priests and twenty thousand active diocesan priests whose average age is over 60. Many, if not most, of the inactive priests would be serving in our parishes if it were not for the law of celibacy. But even if our seminaries were full and our parishes adequately staffed, the issue of mandated celibacy would need to be addressed. It appears to growing numbers of clergy and laity to be in stark discord with the freedom of the gospel.

It is a matter of historical record that the Roman Catholic church had a married priesthood, a married episcopate, and even married popes during the first thousand years of its existence. The last married pope was Adrian II (867-72). Two popes -- Anastasius I (395-401) and Hormisdas (514-37) -- were succeeded (one immediately) by their sons, Innocent I (401-17) and Silverius (536-37). All four popes are recognized today as saints.

Richard McBrien’s review in National Catholic Reporter (2/9/07) of “Freeing Celibacy” by Donald Cozzens

Jim McCrea