The instruction ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’ &#151 VII

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Introduction Having completed the discussion of the Church’s discipline surrounding the celebration of the Holy Mass, the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" takes up, in Chapter 6, the discussion of the reservation of the Most Blessed Sacrament and of eucharistic worship outside of the Mass.Clearly, the reservation of the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle is directly related to the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar of sacrifice at the Mass.The custody and care of the eucharistic species during the Holy Mass is, therefore, also reflected in the custody and care of the reserved Blessed Sacrament. The reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist It may be asked why the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle after the distribution of Holy Communion during the Mass.Would it not be logical to consume all of the Sacred Hosts until the Holy Mass can be celebrated again? The Church has understood that Christ makes Him present in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, as spiritual food not only for those who are able to participate in the Holy Mass but also for those who are not able to participate, especially the homebound and the infirm.He desires, in a most special way, to come to those who carry a burden of suffering, so that they may unite their sufferings to His own Redemptive Sacrifice. What is more, the Real Presence naturally inspires in the faithful the desire to visit Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and to worship Him in the Blessed Sacrament.As a result, there have rightly developed in the Church many practices, both private and public, by which we worship the Most Holy Eucharist (n. 129).Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II repeatedly urged to worship the Holy Eucharist outside of Mass and was an outstanding example of devoted love of our Eucharistic Lord.In his last encyclical letter to us, he wrote: "The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church.This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass — a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and wine remain — derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed toward communion, both sacramental and spiritual.It is the responsibility of pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the eucharistic species" (Pope John Paul II, encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia [On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church]," April 17, 2003, n. 25a). The Holy Father makes reference to the repeated promotion of eucharistic worship outside of Mass by the Roman pontiffs and to the many examples of eucharistic devotion in the lives of the saints.He quotes St. Alphonsus Liguori, who declared that worship of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest among all devotions and the devotion which is most helpful to us. The tabernacle and its placement The Holy Eucharist is reserved in a tabernacle which is immovable, that is, securely fixed so that it cannot be carried away.It is to be made of solid and opaque material, and is to have a closure (lock) which protects the Blessed Sacrament, as much as possible, from any profanation (Code of Canon Law, canon 938, paragraph 3). The key to the tabernacle is to be most diligently kept in a safe place.It is not to be left in the door of the tabernacle (canon 938,paragraph 5). The tabernacle is to be located "in a part of the church that is noble, prominent, readily visible, and adorned in a dignified manner."The location is also to be "suitable for prayer," that is a place of quiet in which there is sufficient space for the faithful to kneel and sit in prayer (n. 130).Because of the direct connection between the Real Presence of Christ on the altar of sacrifice from the moment of the consecration at Mass and the abiding Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle, it is most fitting that the tabernacle be placed as near to the altar of sacrifice as possible.The reality of the Real Presence is visually represented when the tabernacle is placed directly behind the altar of sacrifice with the crucifix above. The location of the tabernacle must be under the clear authority of the diocesan bishop.In other words, it is not permitted to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a place other than those mentioned in universal Church law, unless permission has first been received from the diocesan bishop (canon 934, paragraphs 1-2).It is never permitted to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a place in which there is a danger that it may be violated.The instruction makes clear that, if the diocesan bishop is aware of the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in an unfitting place, he is to revoke immediately the permission for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament (n. 121). It is not permitted to take the Blessed Sacrament to one’s home or any other place, except for the purpose of bringing Holy Communion to the sick and homebound.The instruction warns that taking the Sacred Host for a sacrilegious purpose or throwing away the sacred species are most serious crimes, "the absolution of which is reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" (n. 132). When one is taking the Blessed Sacrament to the sick, he or she is to go directly from the tabernacle to the sick person’s home "leaving aside any profane business so that any danger of profanation may be avoided and the greatest reverence for the Body of Christ may be ensured."The instruction also reminds us that the Rite for the Administration of Holy Communion to the Sick, as found in the Roman Ritual, is to followed in all such cases. Forms of worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass The instruction begins the presentation on the private and public forms of worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass by reminding us that such devotion "should be vigorously promoted, for by means of it the faithful give adoration to Christ, truly and real present."The instruction also reminds us that the Holy Father, the bishops and priests have the responsibility to foster, also by their own example, eucharistic devotion.It mentions, in particular, the responsibility of pastors of souls to provide for exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, so that the faithful may worship our Eucharistic Lord (n. 134). Visits to the Blessed Sacrament should be a regular part of our lives.Because we believe that our Lord is really present in the tabernacle, we go before the tabernacle in prayer to have spiritual communion with him.Prayer offered in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord is particularly efficacious.When a young person is struggling to know his or her vocation in life, I always recommend frequent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.Many young men and women have told me how they came to know God’s will and received the courage to do His will through prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.It makes sense that the special communion with our Lord, which we have in His presence, unites us to Him in doing all that the Father asks of us.The instruction describes the power of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in these words:"For the contemplation of Jesus present in the Most Holy Sacrament, as a communion of desire, powerfully joins the faithful to Christ, as is splendidly evident in the example of so many saints." One of the difficulties today is the need to keep churches locked for a good part of the day because of the danger of the violation of the sacred space by thieves and vandals, and even by those who are engaged in the evil world of the occult.As is possible, there should be certain hours in the day when the parish church or chapel is sufficiently supervised, so that the faithful may come to make a visit to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament (n. 135). Eucharistic adoration The instruction reminds diocesan bishops and other ordinaries, for example, vicars general and major superiors of religious orders of men, that they have the responsibility to "foster eucharistic adoration, whether brief or prolonged or almost continuous, with the participation of the people."One of the great blessings which I have discovered in coming to serve the Archdiocese of St. Louis is the widespread practice of eucharistic exposition in most parishes for varied periods of time during each week.There are also a number of parishes in which there is continuous exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.Wherever there is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, countless graces are received by the parishioners and by those who are remembered in prayer before the Sacred Host.It is my hope that soon every parish will have exposition for, at least, some hours each week. Through the Archbishop’s Committee on Eucharistic Renewal, founded by Cardinal Justin Rigali, when he was archbishop, the practice of eucharistic adoration in parishes has been promoted throughout the archdiocese.I have recently renamed the committee to express more directly its purpose.It is now known as the Archbishop’s Committee on Eucharistic Adoration.The committee has been and remains under the direction of Father Joseph M. Simon, pastor of Queen of All Saints Parish. The Church provides in her liturgical books the norms for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.The prayer offered before the Sacred Host exposed in the monstrance should center around the mystery of the redemptive incarnation, the mystery of Christ’s life and of His abiding presence with us in the Church.The praying of the holy rosary is most fitting.Also, reading and meditation upon the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospels, is especially fitting (n. 137). When there is exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, there must be the constant presence of the faithful.It is never permitted to have the Sacred Host exposed in the monstrance without someone present to worship.The instruction reminds us: "Still, the Most Holy Sacrament, when exposed, must never be left unattended even for the briefest space of time" (n. 138).In parishes in which there is eucharistic exposition, members of the faithful, under the direction of their parish priest, make sure that there are adorers before the Blessed Sacrament at all times.Diocesan bishops are reminded that "the faithful have a right to visit the Most Holy Sacrament of the eucharist frequently for adoration, and to take part in adoration before the Most Holy Eucharist exposed at least at some time in the course of any given year" (n. 139). The instruction highly recommends the practice of continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in cities and larger towns in a church or chapel designated for that purpose by the diocesan bishop.In a chapel or church, in which there is continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, it is recommended that Mass be celebrated daily.While Mass is celebrated, the eucharistic adoration is interrupted.The instruction also calls to mind the fittingness of consecrating the Sacred Host for continuous adoration at the Mass "immediately preceding the time of adoration" (n. 140). Lastly, regarding eucharistic adoration, the instruction reminds diocesan bishops that they are to recognize and promote groups of the faithful who "form guilds or associations for the carrying out of adoration."If the guild or association is international, it must be established by the Holy Father’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (n. 141).At present, the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association, headquartered in Chicago, is seeking international recognition.If you are interested in its excellent work to promote eucharistic adoration, please consult its website: http://www.therealpresence.org.We are blessed in the archdiocese to have a number of churches and chapels with continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.If you wish to know the churches and chapels with Eucharistic adoration in the Archdiocese, please consult: http://archstl.org/eucharist/adoration.html. Eucharistic Congresses and eucharistic processions The instruction also discusses the practice of eucharistic congresses and eucharistic processions.The diocesan bishop is responsible to promote and regulate eucharistic processions (n. 142).It is especially fitting in the parishes of the archdiocese to have a procession with the Most Blessed Sacrament on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) and at the time of the Forty Hours Devotion.The eucharistic procession is a most effective means of giving public witness to the great Mystery of the Faith, which is the Holy Eucharist.It is also powerful for the increase of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament on the part of all the faithful (n. 143). If there is difficulty in holding a eucharistic procession, the instruction urges that the practice not be completely lost."Instead, new ways should be sought of holding them in today’s conditions: for example, at shrines, or in public gardens if the civil authority agrees" (n. 144). Eucharistic congresses require a great deal of preparation but, when well prepared, are a wonderful public sign of faith in the Holy Eucharist and the cause of growth in faith and understanding of the eucharistic mystery.The archdiocese held its last eucharistic congress on June 15-16, 2001, marking the centennial of the National Eucharistic Congress held in St. Louis in 1901.I have heard many wonderful reports about it.The instruction asks that eucharistic congresses be carefully organized "so that Christ’s faithful may have the occasion to worship the sacred mysteries of the Body and Blood of the Son of God in a worthy manner, and that they may continually experience within themselves the fruits of the redemption" (n. 145). Given the amount of preparation which must precede a eucharistic congress, it would be good in the archdiocese to establish the date for our next eucharistic congress. Conclusion Private and public forms of eucharistic adoration and worship are at the heart of our Catholic faith.The beauty of the monstrances used over the centuries for the exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament is a sign of the profound religious meaning of eucharistic adoration.I think, for instance, of the monstrance in the magnificent painting of Raphael, "The Dispute of the Sacrament," found in the Vatican. May the conclusion of the Year of the Eucharist be the occasion for us to renew our practice of eucharistic adoration.Through eucharistic adoration, we will strengthen our participation in the Holy Mass and our living in the company of our Eucharistic Lord throughout each day. Finally, I ask you to pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and the bishops who will be meeting in synod at the Vatican, beginning on Sunday, Oct. 2 next, to promote faith in and worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

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