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

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart through the Apostleship of Prayer

Introduction

Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to place our hearts in His Sacred Heart.In the Gospel according to Matthew, He speaks to us with so much understanding and tender love, bidding us to find our spiritual rest in Him, in His gentle and humble Heart:

"Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Our Lord invites us to place our poor and often troubled hearts into His Heart, all rich in divine love, pierced for us immediately after He had died on the Cross.The pierced Heart of Jesus, now in glory at the right hand of the Father, is the inexhaustible font of God’s mercy and love toward us all.Placing our hearts into His Sacred Heart, Christ assures us that we will find rest and peace for our souls.

In the Gospel according to John, our Lord issues the same invitation, using the image of water.Christ invites us to drink the water of life, which flows from His open side, so that we may become a source of life-giving water for others:

"On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38).

Christ draws us to His Heart for our own rest but also so that we may bring His rest and peace to others.The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is never solely a matter of our deeply personal relationship with Christ.It is always also a matter of our relationship, in Christ, with all our brothers and sisters.Placing our hearts in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we receive inspiration and strength to open our hearts in ever greater love of others, especially our brothers and sisters who are in most need.

The piercing of the Heart of Jesus by the spear of the Roman soldier is our Lord’s most eloquent invitation to bring our hearts to Him and to find in His Heart divine mercy and love. Christ permitted His Heart to be pierced as an open invitation to all to find in His Heart the purifying and life-giving waters of Baptism and the Heavenly Food of the Holy Eucharist, together with all of the graces which come to us in the Church.Lanspergius (1489-1539), a Carthusian monk of Cologne in Germany, in a meditation on the piercing of the side of Jesus and the opening of His Heart by the Roman soldier’s spear, placed these striking words in the mouth of the crucified Christ:

"‘Having given up My Body to torments and My Soul to death, there is nothing more that I can do, unless it be to open My Heart which has loved you so much, so that you may not only draw near to Me by coming to the Cross, but may also enter, through this Wound, into My Heart’" (Carthusian Monks of the XIV-XVII centuries, Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 3rd ed., London: Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd., 1926, p. 47).

The Heart of Jesus is pierced that we may have the most intimate communion with God the Father in Christ through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.In fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, Christ offers us a new heart, a transformed heart, in His Sacred Heart (Ezechiel 36:26).His Sacred Heart is the sign of the intimacy and fullness of communion with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — which He won for us on the Cross.

The Apostleship of Prayer

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a most privileged instrument by which our Lord communicated to the Church His immeasurable love for us, symbolized in His Sacred Heart.Christ appeared to St. Margaret Mary several times.He showed His pierced Heart to her.Through His appearances, He instructed her to foster devotion to His Sacred Heart through an annual Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the First Friday Holy Communion of Reparation, together with the Holy Hour on the Thursday prior. In my column of last week, I reflected upon the First Friday devotion and its importance.

St. Margaret Mary was very much helped in carrying out her mission by St. Claude de la Colombire (1641-1682) of the Society of Jesus, who became her spiritual director.In a vision to St. Margaret Mary, our Lord referred to the saintly Jesuit as "My faithful servant and perfect friend" (Timothy T. O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992, p. 135).

After St. Claude died, St. Margaret Mary had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which our Blessed Mother indicated how our Lord would provide for the continued fostering of the devotion to His Sacred Heart.In the vision, our Blessed Mother declared the Sisters of the Visitation to be the guardians of the Sacred Heart devotion and the Jesuit Fathers to be responsible for making the great good of the devotion known throughout the world (mile Bougaud, The Life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, translated by A. Visitandine of Baltimore, Md.; Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers Inc., 1990, pp. 215-216).

The Apostleship of Prayer, an integral part of the Sacred Heart devotion, has steadily developed through the work of the Jesuit Fathers and Brothers.On Dec. 3, 1844, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Father Franois X. Gautrelet, SJ, spiritual director of the Jesuit seminarians at Vals in France, directed the young Jesuits to offer each day everything in their lives to God the Father by the union of their hearts with the Heart of Jesus.His direction was wholeheartedly and generously received by the seminarians and, thus, the Apostleship of Prayer had its beginning.

After the association of the Apostolate of Prayer had been flourishing for some years, Father Gautrelet handed over its direction to Father Henri Ramire, SJ.Father Ramire had been among those first seminarians with whom Father Gautrelet had founded the Apostolate of Prayer.Through the work of Father Ramire, the Apostleship of Prayer experienced a great increase in interest and membership.Father Ramire’s book, "The Apostleship of Prayer," is a classic which expounds the deep spiritual and theological foundations of the Apostleship (Herbert F. Smith, SJ, Homilies on the Heart of Jesus and the Apostleship of Prayer: The Apostleship of Prayer for the World’s Salvation, New York: Alba House, 2000, pp. xviii-xix).

The superior general of the Society of Jesus remains the general director of the Apostleship of Prayer.He enjoys the assistance of national and diocesan directors whom he appoints.The national office for the United States is headquartered at Milwaukee and is under the direction of Father James Kubicki, SJ.The address is: Apostleship of Prayer, National Office, 3211 South Lake Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53235. The Web site address is www.apostlesofprayer.org.

Through the work of the Apostleship of Prayer, untold graces daily reach millions of souls throughout the world.The Apostleship is a great gift to the Church.I pray that there will be a new enrollment of members among the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, so that the great good of the Apostleship will strengthen the Church throughout the world.If you wish information about enrollment in the Apostleship of Prayer, please contact the Archdiocesan Office of Sacred Worship.

Work of the Apostleship

The Apostleship of Prayer is a most fitting way to carry out our fundamental responsibility to assist one another through prayer and holiness of life, drawing the grace for our daily living in Christ from His pierced Heart.At the conclusion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II reminded us of the essence of our way to salvation and the salvation of the world.It is the way of Christ, the way of holiness of life and heartfelt prayer (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter Novo millennio ineunte, "At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000," Jan. 6, 2001, nn. 29-34).

Father Ramire found in a passage of St. Paul the key to understanding the importance of the Apostleship of Prayer.St. Paul urged prayer of petition and the example of a holy life as our way of sharing in Christ’s saving mission:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time" (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

Through the Apostleship of Prayer, we unite ourselves to Christ, the one mediator, praying for the salvation of the world and striving to conform our every thought, word and action, after His Heart, for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world.

Clearly, the Apostleship of Prayer encourages very much the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Enthronement, the First Friday Holy Communion of Reparation and other practices of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At the same time, it gives full expression to the profound meaning of the consecration and other acts of devoted love of the Heart of Jesus.

The Apostleship and the Vicar of Christ

Pope Blessed Pius IX approved the first statutes of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1866.All of the subsequent successors to St. Peter as Vicar of Christ have given strong encouragement and support to the Apostleship.Pope Leo XIII repeatedly urged membership in the Apostleship and granted special spiritual privileges to the members of the association.Pope St. Pius X considered it one of the most fruitful associations established by the faithful.Pope Benedict XV, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII declared that every Catholic should belong to the Apostleship. Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II urged very much the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, in particular, participation in the Apostleship of Prayer.In an address to the members of the Apostleship of Prayer, on April 13, 1985, Pope John Paul II declared:

"The Apostleship of Prayer can bring a meaningful and concrete contribution to the diffusion, at all levels, of the great and consoling truth that all Christians can be intimately united to Christ the Redeemer by offering their own life to the Heart of Christ" (L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, April 29, 1985, p. 5).

Reference to the Heart of Jesus is frequently found in the teaching of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI has written extensively on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.A good compendium of his writing on the Sacred Heart is found in his book, "Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology," published by Ignatius Press.A recent article on the place of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the theology of Pope Benedict XVI expresses well the deepest meaning of the Apostleship of Prayer and its necessary appeal to all Catholics:

The call to be an adorer and an apostle of the Sacred Heart is addressed to every Christian.The apostle is, in essence, the bearer of a word, one sent forth and entrusted with a message.The message that the apostle carries into the world is the one he has learned by looking long with the eyes of adoration at the pierced Heart of the Crucified (Father Mark D. Kirby, OCist, The Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Theology of Benedict XVI: We see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer, L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, May 25, 2005, p. 10).

In the writing of our Holy Father on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are steadfastly reminded that the gift of merciful love which we receive in the Heart of Jesus is, at the same time, to be given to others.The adorer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is, by definition, also an apostle of the Sacred Heart.

Father Walter J. Ciszek, SJ

A most eloquent testimonial to the sublime spiritual good of the Apostleship of Prayer is found in the life of Father Walter J. Ciszek, SJ (1904-1984), who was condemned as a spy of the Vatican by the Soviet government in 1940.For some 23 years, he was interned in Soviet prisons, including 10 years in a penal camp north of the Arctic Circle, in which he carried out the most arduous forced labor.He returned to the United States in October of 1963.If you wish to learn more of the heroic sanctity of Father Ciszek, I recommend two of his books, both published by Ignatius Press.They are titled "He Leadeth Me" and "With God in Russia."

Father Ciszek found in the Apostleship of Prayer the way to understand and to accept God’s will in his life and to help fellow prisoners to do the same.Regarding a retreat which he gave to fellow prisoners, he stated:

"So we taught them the Morning Offering to dedicate to God all the prayers, works, joys and sufferings of each day in conformity to His will — as a means of winning grace for others, especially for their families and friends" (quoted in Homilies on the Heart of Jesus and the Apostleship of Prayer, p. xxvi).

Father Ciszek, whose cause for canonization is before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, found in the simple practice of the Morning Offering the way to understand God’s will in his life and to accept it with heroic love.Through the Morning Offering, he entered into the Heart of Jesus and there found the meaning of his sufferings, with Christ, for the sake of his own salvation and the salvation of others.

Through the Apostleship of Prayer, what could easily have become a source of profound discouragement became, instead, a source of hope. Surely, the injustices and the hardships of life in the various Soviet prisons and camps, like Lubianka, in which Father Ciszek was detained, could have led him to profound discouragement and to serious doubts regarding God’s love for him.Instead, through the union of his heart with the Heart of Jesus and, through the Sacred Heart, with his brothers and sisters throughout the world, he accepted his long and hard imprisonment as his way to love God and neighbor.

Practice of the Apostleship

The practice of the Apostleship of Prayer is quite simple.It consists of making the Morning Offering at the beginning of each day.As much as possible, members also participate in daily Mass.A prayer card with the text of the Morning Offering is available through the Archdiocesan Office of Worship.By the prayer, the member unites his "prayers, works, joys and suffering" of the day to the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which Calvary is always present to the Church.The union of the individual life, symbolized by the heart, with the Heart of Jesus is also union with the hearts of all who are one with Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

The union of heart with the Sacred Heart is made through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.In making the Morning Offering, we join Mary in placing our heart totally into the Heart of Jesus.We seek to imitate the Virgin Mary whose heart was indeed immaculate, that is, perfectly united to the Sacred Heart of her Son.

Through the Morning Offering, the member makes his own the intentions of the Heart of Jesus, namely, "the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians."He also makes his own the intentions of the Holy Father, Christ’s Vicar on earth; of his bishop and of all the members of the Apostleship of Prayer.Each month, the Holy Father publishes a general intention and a special missionary intention, which he asks the members of the Apostleship to include in the Morning Offering.

Conclusion

The Apostleship of Prayer is a most effective way to grow in prayer and holiness of life through the union of our hearts with the Heart of Jesus.It is an authentic daily manifestation of the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.Through the Morning Offering, we daily draw upon the fruits of the First Friday Holy Communion of Reparation and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday.

I close with words of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II, which express the truth which inspires the members of the Apostleship of Prayer:

"Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine ‘schools’ of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help, but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion until the heart truly ‘falls in love.’ Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: By opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God’s plan" (Novo millennio ineunte, n. 33c).

By our daily praying of the Morning Offering, may our hearts be placed into the Sacred Heart of Jesus and draw from the Divine Heart the grace to transform our lives and our world.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart through First Friday Communion

Introduction

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the Church fosters, in a special way, during the month of June, is rich in its forms.There are four principal forms of the devotion, all of which are strictly related to each other: 1) the First Friday Mass and Communion of Reparation; 2) the Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday to commemorate the Agony in the Garden; 3) the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrated annually on the Friday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost or the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, if it is celebrated on Sunday; and 4) the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart.

The forms of the devotion have been very much influenced by the visions of our Lord Jesus Christ, received by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, nun of the Visitation Monastery at Paray-le-Monial in France, from Dec. 27, 1673, to June of 1675.All of the visions were directed to instructing St. Margaret Mary for her service in spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Church throughout the world.The visions received by St. Margaret Mary were, in a true sense, for the universal Church.The image of the Sacred Heart, revealed to St. Margaret Mary, symbolizes the message of the ever-faithful and total love of God for us in Jesus Christ, God the Son Incarnate.The image was given to the universal Church through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Twelve promises of our Lord have been drawn from the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, in which she describes the visions which she received from our Lord.Pope Leo XIII gave his blessing to the list of the promises in 1899.Although some have expressed surprise at the promises, they are, in fact, a true reflection of the Word of God, contained in the Holy Scriptures, in which our heavenly Father makes certain promises connected with our salvation.One thinks, for instance, of the promises made by God, through the Archangel Gabriel, to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation.Our whole Christian life, in fact, is founded upon trust in God’s promises to us.It is our trust in God’s promises which gives us enthusiasm and energy to live in Christ.The theological virtue of hope, a special gift of God’s grace to us, is directed to strengthening our trust that God will do what He has promised us.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is our model of hope, of trust in God’s promises.When the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she was to become the Mother of God, Mary trusted, even though it was difficult for her to imagine how what the Angel said could come to pass.

She responded with complete trust: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me [fiat] according to your word" (Luke 1:38).At the Visitation, St. Elizabeth, referring to Mary, proclaimed: "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45).

The last promise

The 12th and last promise made to St. Margaret Mary and, through the saint to all the faithful, reads: "I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments.My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment" (Timothy T. O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992, p. 140).The promise inspires the observance of a novena of First Fridays.

The novena is an especially efficacious way for us to seek God’s grace in our lives.It has its origin in the first novena in the Church, which was made by the Apostles after our Lord’s Ascension.When our Lord had ascended to the right hand of the Father, the Apostles, faithful to our Lord’s instruction, prayed for nine days to God the Father, asking for a second outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.At the completion of their novena, on the 10th day or Pentecost Sunday, God the Father poured forth a second gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and, through the Apostles, upon the whole Church.The novena of prayer between Ascension
Thursday and Pentecost Sunday has inspired in the Church the practice of making a novena of prayer when we are in need of a special grace.

The novena of First Fridays is integral to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is centered upon the total outpouring of Christ’s life for us on Calvary, on Good Friday, which He makes always present for us through the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is centered upon the Cross and the Holy Eucharist, is centered upon the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, that is, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.

Every Friday reminds us that God has loved us so much that His only-begotten Son died on the Cross for us.By keeping a novena of First Fridays, we accompany our Lord in His suffering and dying.In a particular way, we offer reparation for the indifference and coldness with which the gift of His total love in the Holy Eucharist is received by many.Our novena of First Fridays is, in fact, a prayer to know more fully the mystery of God’s love for us and to return our love for His love. In other words, our novena is approaching the Heart of Jesus, pierced at His death on the cross, from which there flows unending grace for us, and placing our poor and often anxious hearts within His glorious pierced Heart to find there our lasting joy and peace.

First Friday Communion

The observance of the First Fridays, our response of love to the immeasurable love of God for us, consists principally in participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the reception of Holy Communion.The more we grow in knowledge and love of Christ, through His Sacred Heart, the more we are conscious of our sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance.To prepare ourselves for the fullest possible union of our hearts with the Heart of Jesus on the First Fridays, we confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.It would be a total contradiction to approach the Holy Eucharist in reparation of sins committed against the Blessed Sacrament without reflecting sufficiently on the great mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood given up for us, without seeking the purification of anything in us, which is unworthy of Christ who comes to dwell within us through the Holy Eucharist.

There is for us no more fitting or complete way to make reparation than to prepare ourselves to express our love of Christ by participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and receiving Holy Communion.There is no better way for us to express sorrow for sins and make reparation for any indifference or coldness shown to Christ, really present in the Blessed Sacrament.Participation in the Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion in reparation fulfill, at one and the same time, the twofold dimension of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Communion of reparation is an expression of deepest love of God in response to His immeasurable love of us.It is also reparation for any neglect or contempt, on our part, before the great mystery of faith.

For many the practice of the novena of First Fridays leads to the devout observance of every First Friday, a continuous novena. The continuous observance of the First Friday helps the faithful to establish the mystery of the Cross as the pattern of our daily living, striving daily to pour out our lives, with Christ, in love of God and our neighbor.When we observe how much the life of Christ with us in the Church is treated with indifference or even hostility, we are led to make a Communion of Reparation on all of the First Fridays of the year, asking God to pardon those who so offend Him and expressing, on their behalf, sorrow for sin and an ardent love of Christ.

Holy Hour on Thursday

In order to accompany our Lord as faithfully as possible in His Suffering and Dying, the evening before the First Friday is kept as a time to be mystically united with our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.Calling to mind how our Lord was betrayed and handed over to the torturers in the Garden, we come to a deeper understanding of His love for us.At the same time, we are inspired to express our grateful love of Him.On the Thursday before the First Friday, it is the practice to make what we call a Holy Hour.It is an hour of time spent before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, contemplating the Eucharistic Presence, giving thanks to God for His many favors and seeking from God the grace we need to meet the great challenge of everyday Christian living.

It is best to make the Holy Hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, that is, in prayer, before the tabernacle in the church or, even better, before the Sacred Host exposed in the monstrance.If obligations at home or other justifiable reasons keep a person from making the Holy Hour before the tabernacle in the parish church or local chapel, the Holy Hour may be made at home.The Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday is the model for the practice of making a daily or weekly holy hour.Through the Holy Hour, the faithful have time alone with our Lord to look upon His Holy Face and to seek His grace, the fuller union of our hearts with His Heart. Sacramentally present in the Sacred Host, our Lord speaks to the hearts of those making the Holy Hour, granting to them His joy and peace.

We are blessed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have many parishes with extended periods of eucharistic adoration or continuous adoration of the Holy Eucharist exposed in the monstrance.I ask that every parish in the archdiocese, if possible, have an extended time of eucharistic adoration on the Thursday before the First Friday, so that many of the faithful will be able to make the Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.

God’s promise

Some have questioned the 12 promises, especially the last promise, saying that they are an attempt to control God, to wrest from Him the gift of salvation, instead of receiving the gift freely from Him.The promises and especially the last promise contain nothing more than is found in our Lord’s own word to us.He showers His love upon those who are sorry for their sins and love Him sincerely.

The practice of observing the First Friday of each month by receiving Holy Communion in reparation for sins committed against the love of God, especially the Blessed Sacrament, is not some mechanical way of guaranteeing one’s eternal salvation.Rather, it is a response of ardent love to Him Who has first loved us and gave up His life for us. The faithful who seek to place their hearts in the all-merciful and all-loving Heart of Jesus are, first and foremost, deeply conscious of their own unworthiness of God’s love.They approach the Heart of Jesus not out of some pretense of manipulating God’s love for them but at the invitation of Jesus Who invites us who are poor and burdened to find in His Heart rest and refreshment (Matthew 11:28).

Christ invites the spiritually thirsty to come to His Heart from which there never cease to flow the cleansing and life-giving water and blood, which first flowed from His pierced Heart on Calvary (John 7:35).

Consecration and First Fridays

As I mentioned at the beginning, the forms of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are essentially related to each other.I have written, first, about the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the home and other important places in our lives.The heart consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that is, devoted to the mystery of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us and gives us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, will keep the observance of the First Friday and of the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday.

In writing about the consecration and enthronement, I noted that the Act of Consecration and the enthronement are not just single acts, that is an isolated prayer or the appending of a sacred image on the wall.Rather, they symbolize a way of life.They represent a way of living which seeks to keep company with Christ at all times, which seeks to extend communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist into every dimension of one’s life.The First Friday Communion of Reparation is an essential part of a life consecrated to the Sacred Heart, of a heart in which Christ the King is enthroned.If Christ is our constant companion, if our way of life is the Way of Christ, the Way of the Cross, then we will not fail to observe the Thursday of His Agony in the Garden and the Friday of His death with special prayer and with participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Teaching the devotion

During the past several decades, there has been a general failure to teach our children the great richness of the devotional life, especially the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How much the observance of the First Friday of the month forms our children and young people in love of our Lord Jesus who died for us on the Cross and gives us His true Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist!Teaching our children to make the novena of First Fridays is not to form them in some magical approach to receiving a grace from God but to help them respond, in a concrete and constant way, to Christ’s invitation to come to Him and to draw from His Heart, in abundance, the grace which we need for our daily living.Children and young people who are taught to observe the First Friday and the Thursday before the First Friday will pattern their lives more completely upon the mystery of Christ’s suffering, dying and rising from the dead. They will be formed in the love of the Holy Eucharist.

Last year, on March 25, 2004, the Feast of the Annunciation, I blessed images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for every Catholic school and parish school of religion during the solemn celebration of the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.As I travel throughout the archdiocese, I see the image of the Sacred Heart enthroned in our churches and schools.In order that the enthronement and consecration remain for our children and young people a way of life, it is important that we teach them to observe the novena of First Fridays and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday.How wonderful it would be, if all of our children would have the opportunity to make the Communion of Reparation on the First Friday of each month!

I am asking our Office of Sacred Worship to put together a simple guide on the First Friday Communion of Reparation and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday for our children and young people.The guide will explain the devotion and the spiritual fruit which it bears in our daily living.The guide will also provide prayers to help the children to accompany the Lord in His suffering and dying, and so one day to share in His Resurrection.

Conclusion

Christ invites us to draw from His pierced Heart, in abundance, the grace of the Father’s all-merciful love.Through the First Friday Communion of Reparation and the Thursday Holy Hour, may we come to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ and of the Sacrament of His Real Presence, the Holy Eucharist.May we respond wholeheartedly to Christ’s invitation to come to Him to find rest and refreshment for our weary hearts by observing the novena of First Fridays as an expression of our ardent love and of reparation for sins committed by us and others, especially sins of disrespect toward the Blessed Sacrament.

June: Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Introduction

The Church dedicates the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.During the days of June, we are urged to grow in our devotion to the Sacred Heart, so that we may remain more faithfully in the company of our Lord Jesus who dwells with us always in the Church, especially in the Holy Eucharist.The devotion flows from communion with our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and fosters the desire of Eucharistic Communion.For that reason, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has enjoyed a privileged place in the life of the Church.

Father John Croiset, SJ, spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and authoritative commentator on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has described the object of the devotion in clear and striking terms:

"The particular object of this devotion is the immense love of the Son of God, which induced Him to deliver Himself up to death for us and to give Himself entirely to us in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar (John Croiset, SJ, "The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ," 2nd ed., St. Paul, Minnesota: The Radio Replies Press Society, 1959, p. 43).

Father Croiset’s book on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus enjoys particular authority, for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque read the manuscript before her death and declared that there was nothing that she would add to or correct in the book.

The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus evokes devotion to the immeasurable and all-merciful love of God, expressed most perfectly in the outpouring of Christ’s life on the Cross, which is ever new for us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.In fact, the fundamental image of the Sacred Heart is the crucifix depicting the pierced Heart of Jesus after He had died on the cross.Dom Dominic of Treves, a Carthusian monk who lived from 1384 to 1461, in promoting the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, wrote:

"Place all your sins in the Heart of Jesus.Through that Heart you should ask for grace and pardon, and should praise and bless God, not only for yourself, but for all who are committed to your care and for the whole Catholic Church, whose triumph you desire, invoking from the depth of your misery the depth of God’s mercy.Out of gratitude you will then often kiss a picture of the Heart of Jesus, of this most kind Heart, of this Heart in which are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God.If you have not a picture of the Sacred Heart, you can make use of one of Jesus on the Cross (Carthusian Monks of the XIV-XVII Centuries, "Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus," 3rd ed., London: Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1926, pp. 8-9).

The bodily image of the Heart of Jesus helps us to lift our minds and hearts to His glorious Heart from which flow unceasingly the graces of our salvation.

Love and reparation

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has a richness of expressions.All of the expressions have a twofold dimension: 1)our ardent love of God in return for God’s immeasurable love of us; and 2)our reparation for the neglect, ingratitude and contempt which we and others have shown to Christ on the Cross, and on the altars and in the tabernacles of our chapels and churches.The two dimensions constitute a full response to the unceasing love of God for us, notwithstanding our frequent indifference and coldness before the signs of His love, above all, the Holy Eucharist.Father Croiset expressed strikingly the unfailing love of God for us in Christ, God the Son Incarnate:

"(The Son of God) preferred to expose Himself each day to the insults and opprobrium of men rather than be prevented from testifying, by working the greatest of all miracles, to what excess He loved us" (Croiset, p. 43).

It is not by chance that the Church requires that a large crucifix be placed in a clear spatial relationship with the altar of sacrifice and tabernacle, for the fruit of the sacrifice on Calvary is ever new for us when the Holy Mass is offered on the altar of our parish church or of the chapel of our Catholic institutions.The crucifix keeps before our eyes the reality of the action taking place on the altar of sacrifice and the reality contained in the tabernacle, namely the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ poured out for all men and women of every time and place.

The end toward which devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is always tending is, therefore, also twofold.The devotion strives, first of all, "to recognize and honor ... all the sentiments of tender love which Jesus Christ has for us in the adorable Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist" and, secondly, "to make reparation, by all possible means, for the indignities and outrages to which His love has exposed Him during the course of His immortal life, and to which this same love exposes Him every day in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar" (Croiset, p. 44). All too easily, we take the greatest treasure which is ours, namely, the immeasurable love of Christ for us in the Blessed Sacrament, for granted. We grow forgetful of how much and with what tenderness God loves us in His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ.We approach the Blessed Sacrament in a careless and cold manner, or we ignore the Real Presence of Christ with us in the tabernacle.The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a strong antidote to our forgetfulness and lack of proper respect before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Forms of the devotion

Fundamental to the devotion is the contemplation of the image of the Heart of Jesus, pierced at Christ’s death on the Cross.The pierced Heart of Jesus is the fullest sign of the love of God for us, which is immeasurable and endures forever.Throughout the Christian centuries, the pierced Heart of Jesus has been depicted, especially on crucifixes, to remind us of the mercy and love of God which never cease to flow from the glorious Heart of Jesus.

Thanks to the apparitions of our Lord to St. Margaret Mary, from Dec. 27, 1673, until June 1675, several other expressions of the devotion to the Sacred Heart have developed: the First Friday Mass and Communion of Reparation; the Thursday night Holy Hour in memory of Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane before the First Friday; the annual celebration of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and the Consecration to the Sacred Heart, with the Enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart.What must be noted again is that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus did not begin with the apparitions of Christ to St. Margaret Mary.The devotion is ancient.For instance, a number of texts of Carthusian monks from the 14th to the 17th centuries show a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Earlier, I referred to a text of Dom Dominic of Treves.I quote a text of Ludolph, a Carthusian monk who lived from 1295 to 1378:

"Let us then bear in mind, Christian souls, the very great love Jesus has shown towards us in allowing His Side to be opened wide in order that we might have easy access to His Heart.Let us hasten to enter into the Heart of Jesus, bringing there all our love, and uniting it to His Divine Love" ("Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus," pp. 3-4).

Father Croiset devotes a chapter of his book on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to discussing some of the saints who had a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Croiset, pp. 70-74).

Of course, the beginning of the devotion is found in the presence of the Blessed Mother and St. John the Apostle at the foot of the Cross, when the Roman soldier Longinus pierced the Heart of Jesus who had just expired.It is prefigured in the texts of the Sacred Scriptures, which refer to the Heart of God and His desire to make our hearts like unto His own in love.All who have meditated upon the mystery of God’s unfathomable love of mankind cannot fail to have considered, above all, the pierced Heart of Jesus on the Cross and His glorious pierced Heart at the right hand of the Father.

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

First of all, I reflect upon the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the most fundamental and efficacious expressions of the devotion.By the enthronement the members of a household or an institution declare Christ King and place their hearts completely into His all-loving Heart.Clearly, it is a single and solemn action but involves a whole way of living. The enthronement is not just the appending of an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the wall of the home or institution, or the placing of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on a stand.The physical enthronement in the home or institution is symbolic of the daily spiritual enthronement of Christ the King in the heart by which He reigns with His merciful love in our lives.

In order that the enthronement be properly celebrated, it is important to prepare the members of the household or Catholic institution in advance.Usually, the preparation takes place over some weeks.It becomes particularly intense on the three days before the enthronement takes place.

Study

During the extended preparation, it is important that study be given to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, especially the form which it takes in the enthronement.Several helpful books are available for study.Last year, the archdiocese published a booklet to help individuals, families and Catholic institutions to prepare for the enthronement. The booklet, titled "The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus," is available from the archdiocesan Office of Worship.It contains an excellent summary for study.An offering of $5 is asked.The booklet, however, is supplied to all who request it. If you do not already have a copy of the booklet, I urge you to request one.

The chapters of "The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" provide a brief description of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, especially the enthronement; a list of the practical arrangements for the enthronement; a description of how to carry out the immediate preparation for the enthronement, including the triduum (three days) of prayer prior to the celebration of the enthronement; the texts of the ceremony of the enthronement for families, for other Catholic groups, and for Catholic schools; a small compendium of prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and the rite of blessing of the image of the Sacred Heart during Mass. Finally, the booklet also provides a list of resources for further study.

For those who, over time, wish to deepen their understanding and practice of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Father Croiset’s book, "The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: How to Practice the Sacred Heart Devotion," is available in a reprinted form from Tan Books and Publishers of Rockford, Ill.Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey’s "Jesus King of Love" and Father Francis Larkin’s "Enthronement of the Sacred Heart" are available through the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

Timothy T. O’Donnell, president of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., has published a wonderful study of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, titled "Heart of the Redeemer" and published by Ignatius Press.Ignatius Press also has published a study of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.It is titled "Behold the Pierced One."The May 25 edition of the weekly edition in English of L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See, has a fine article on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Mark D. Kirby, O Cist, "The Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Theology of Benedict XVI: ‘We see who Jesus is if we see Him at prayer,’" pp. 10-11).

Also, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division has published the meditations on the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by our late and beloved Pope John Paul II.The book of the meditations is titled "Pope John Paul II Prays the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus."It is a wonderful tool for daily meditation.All of these publications should be available through local Catholic bookstores.

Immediate preparation

The immediate preparation is three days (a triduum) of special prayers.The form of the prayers is found in the booklet published by the archdiocese on pages 7 to 25.Through the three days of special prayers in preparation for the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we reflect on Christ’s coming into the world at Bethlehem, His life in the home of the Holy Family at Nazareth, and His visits to the home of His friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus at Bethany.

On each day of the triduum, the members of the family or household or institution gather to listen to a reading from the Gospel, and to pray a decade of the rosary, the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a specific prayer asking for the grace to prepare well for the enthronement.Given the essential connection between the enthronement and participation in the Holy Eucharist, it is also recommended that, if possible, those who will be enthroning the image of the Sacred Heart take part in Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion on each day of the triduum of preparation and on the day of the enthronement.

The Enthronement

The enthronement may be led by the parish priest or parish deacon, or by a parent or other adult leader.The complete ritual for the enthronement in the home is found in the booklet published by the archdiocese on pages 26 to 35.The ritual to be used for communities, associations and groups of people is found on pages 36 to 45.The ritual to be used for Catholic schools is found on pages 46 to 57.

The ritual begins with an introduction which sets forth the deep meaning of the act of enthronement.It is followed by the praying of the Apostles Creed as an act of faith and reparation.Then a reading from the Holy Scriptures is proclaimed, and a brief homily or reflection given on the Scriptural text.

After the homily or reflection, if the image has not been blessed, it is blessed by the priest.If a priest cannot lead the enthronement, then the image should be blessed by a priest beforehand.The image is then enthroned, and the members of the family or household or institution kneel down and make the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.The general intercessions and the praying of the Hail Holy Queen complete the rite of enthronement.If the priest is present, he gives the final blessing. Otherwise, the rite is concluded by everyone present making the Sign of the Cross.

Conclusion

If you have not already enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home, I urge you to devote the month of June to preparation for the enthronement and the enthronement in your home.A good way to begin the preparation is to obtain the booklet, "The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus," from the archdiocesan Office of Worship. If you have any questions about the enthronement, the Office of Worship will be happy to assist you.

The Year of the Eucharist gives a special inspiration for the Act of Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI have expressed the fervent hope that the observance of the Year of the Eucharist would increase our knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.One of the most effective ways possible to remain focused on our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, offering Him love and reparation, is the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.A new devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an especially appropriate way of observing the Year of the Eucharist.The devotion to the Sacred Heart keeps the great gift of participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice before our eyes daily and throughout the day.

In the coming weeks, I will discuss the other forms of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.The next form to be presented is the First Friday Mass and Communion of Reparation, and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday to commemorate the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I conclude with words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI:

"Thus, in the Heart of Jesus, the center of Christianity is set before us.It expresses everything, all that is genuinely new and revolutionary in the New Covenant.This Heart calls to our heart.It invites us to step forth out of the futile attempt of self-preservation and, by joining in the task of love, by handing ourselves over to Him and with Him, to discover the fullness of love which alone is eternity and which alone sustains the world (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology," translated by Graham Harrison, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986, p. 69).

Our Blessed Mother, ‘Woman of the Eucharist’

Introduction

Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II dedicated the last chapter of his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)" to the Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother, and her relationship to the Holy Eucharist.It pleases me that my reflection on Chapter Six, "At the School of Mary, ‘Woman of the Eucharist,’" comes during the month of May, which we lovingly dedicate, in a special way, to our Blessed Mother.

Pope John Paul II reminds us that, if we want to ponder the profound mystery of the Holy Eucharist, especially its relationship with the Church, then we must look to Mary, Mother and model of the Church.In his apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary)," Pope John Paul II had already reminded us that our Blessed Mother is our first and best teacher in looking upon the Face of Christ.Recall that the fifth of the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary is the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, for Mary best helps us to look upon the Face of Christ by leading us to the Holy Eucharist, leading us to know our eucharistic Lord more deeply and love Him more ardently.Our late Holy Father observed: "Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it" (no. 53a).Even as Mary always leads us to Christ, her Son, so she will lead us always to the Blessed Sacrament, the true Body and Blood of her Son.

The Virgin Mary guides us to the Holy Eucharist in two ways.First of all, our Blessed Mother certainly participated in the Holy Mass from the very beginning of the Church’s life, even as she was present with the Apostles in the Cenacle after the Resurrection, praying with them for the Descent of the Holy Spirit.Because of Mary’s essential relationship to the Holy Eucharist, the saintly and extraordinarily gifted Christian artist, Fra Angelico, depicts Mary, mystically present, in the image of the Last Supper which he painted in fresco for cell no. 35 of the famous Convento San Marco in Florence, Italy.

Mary, exercising her maternity of the Church, leads us to Christ, above all, in the Holy Eucharist.
Mary also guides us to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament by the whole manner of her life, which can rightly be described as eucharistic. Mary is a "Woman of the Eucharist."In this way, she is the model of the Church.By her eucharistic manner of life, Mary invites us "to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery" (no. 53c).

Disposition of faith

The Holy Eucharist is a mystery of faith, which goes beyond our capacity to understand and requires us to trust completely in the Word of Christ.Mary teaches us to grow in the theological virtue of faith.Her disposition of faith, which we are called to imitate, is perhaps best expressed in the Gospels in her words to the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana: "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5).Mary shows her maternal care of us by urging us to go to Christ, to put our faith in Him, to trust in His words spoken at the Last Supper.Mary urges us, her children, to believe that the eucharistic species of bread and wine are, in truth, the Body and Blood of Christ (no. 54).

We see Mary’s disposition of faith in her response to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation.At her words, "Let it be done to me as you say," God the Son came into the world by becoming incarnate in her womb through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.At the moment of the Incarnation, Mary anticipated what happens for us, the faithful, at every celebration of the eucharistic liturgy: Christ becomes present for us, under the species of bread and wine, so that we may receive Him into our very being.Our Holy Father points out the profound similarity between Mary’s belief in the words of the Archangel Gabriel and our belief in approaching Holy Communion.When the priest announces, "The Body of Christ," we respond "Amen." Our "Amen" is like Mary’s "Fiat (Let it be done)" (no. 55b).

Mary expressed already the Church’s faith in the Holy Eucharist at the moment of the Incarnation.She became, as Pope John Paul II stated, "the first ‘tabernacle’ in history — in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed Himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating His light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary" (no. 55c).

Recently, I was given a beautiful book written for the Year of the Eucharist. On the cover of the book is a photograph of a host which has imprinted on it: "In sinu Mariae (In the womb of Mary)."These three words remind us that the Body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is the same Body of Christ, now gloriously reigning at the right hand of the Father, which Christ received at the Annunciation, in the womb of the Virgin Mary.Reflecting upon the relationship between Mary’s faith at the Annunciation and Birth of our Lord, and our faith in the Holy Eucharist, we are inspired to express more fervent devotion every time we are blessed to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or to receive Holy Communion.

Eucharistic Sacrifice

Mary also anticipated, by her whole life, the Church’s share in the sacrifice of Christ through the Holy Eucharist. Just as we are most perfectly united with Christ through participation in the Holy Eucharist, so Mary, from the moment of the Incarnation, poured out, with her Incarnate Son, her entire life.Simeon had expressed the sacrificial nature of Mary’s divine maternity when Joseph and she presented our Lord in the Temple.Simeon spoke these words to Mary: "A sword of sorrow will pierce your own heart" (Luke 2:35).Mary’s participation in Christ’s Suffering and Dying reached its fullness at the foot of the Cross.

Her share in Christ’s sacrifice, after His Death and Resurrection, was continued through her participation in the Holy Mass.Pope John Paul II exclaimed: "The body given up for us and made present under sacramental signs was the same body which she had conceived in her womb" (no. 56b)!

Who, then, can better teach us to unite our hearts, with her Immaculate Heart, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced out of perfect love of God and of neighbor.

Eucharistic memorial

Our late Holy Father reminded us that all that Christ accomplished for us on Calvary is made present for us in the Holy Mass.This is the meaning of Christ’s words: "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:9) (no. 57a).Therefore, at every Eucharist, Christ once again gives Mary to us as our Mother and gives us to her as her true sons and daughters, as He first did when He died on the cross for us.

Concretely, this means a commitment on our part to be faithful students of the School of Mary, to permit Mary to exercise her maternal care of us, so that we may become more and more like Christ.Our Blessed Mother is always with us at every celebration of the Holy Eucharist.Fra Angelico was right to depict the Virgin Mary mystically present at the Last Supper. The Church never celebrates the Holy Eucharist without remembering our Blessed Mother, present with us and leading us to Christ and to obedience in doing all that He tells us (no. 57b).

Eucharistic disposition

Pope John Paul II invites us to pray the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer at the Visitation, while meditating upon the great gift of the Holy Eucharist.In the Magnificat, we find expressed, in a most wonderful way, Mary’s eucharistic way of being.

The Magnificat is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, as is every celebration of the Holy Eucharist for us.With Mary, we praise God through Jesus, our Savior, but also we praise God in Jesus and with Jesus.We praise God for all His wonders, but, most of all, for the greatest of His wonders, the Incarnation.

Finally, the Magnificat expresses the hope for and anticipation of "the new heavens" and "the new earth," as Christ promised at His Final Coming.At every celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we experience already now the grace which will be fully ours on the Last Day.We experience the truth about our lives and our world, namely that we are made for final glory, we are made to share fully in Christ’s glory, the glory He won for us on Calvary. The Holy Eucharist is the pledge of our future destiny in and with Christ (no. 58b).

Pope John Paul II’s testimony of faith

Pope John Paul II concluded the encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" with an expression of gratitude to God for the 25 years of his service in the office of St. Peter, bishop of the universal Church.He offers his own testimony of faith in the Most Blessed Sacrament.He tells us of how the Holy Eucharist has been at the heart of his priestly life and ministry.

Before the Holy Eucharist, our senses fail us. Our senses fail to identify the truth of the Holy Eucharist. Faith, however, is sufficient for us to know the truth and to profess the truth of the Eucharist (no. 59b).St. Thomas Aquinas expressed the richness of our faith in the Holy Eucharist with these words taken from his hymn, "Adoro Te Devote":

Visus, tactus, gustus in Te fallitur

Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.

Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius:

Nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.

(Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of You;

But hearing suffices firmly to believe:

I believe all that the Son of God has spoken:)

There is nothing truer than this word of truth (translation found in "Handbook of Prayers," edited by Father James Socias, Princeton, N.J.: Scepter Publishers, 1992, p. 321).

In the Holy Eucharist, we come to understand the truth about our own earthly journey, our pilgrimage home to God the Father.The truth is that our pilgrimage is with and in Christ.In Him, we live the life of the Holy Trinity and we transform the world, according to God’s plan.Pope John Paul II recalls his insistence, in his apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," that the answer to the meaning of our life pilgrimage is not found in some new program but rather in the person of Christ. The perfection of our life is found in knowing, loving and imitating Christ.Where most do we find Christ and come to understand the mystery of His life given up for us?It is the Holy Eucharist.Our late Holy Father writes: "In the Eucharist, we have Jesus, we have His redemptive sacrifice, we have His Resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father" (no. 60b).

Conclusion

We cannot redesign the Holy Eucharist or exploit if for our own purposes.The Holy Eucharist is always, at one and the same time, Sacrifice, Banquet and Real Presence.

The Holy Eucharist also expresses most perfectly the ecumenical dimension of our faith, our prayer with Christ, "that all may be one" (John 17:11).The Holy Eucharist increases our desire for full unity with all our brothers and sisters with whom we share baptism.But it also places before our eyes the real demands of "communion in faith" and "apostolic succession," the many hurdles which must be overcome before we are fully one with our Christian brothers and sisters.

Pope John Paul II reminded us that we can never show too much care and reverence for the Holy Eucharist, for in it is contained the grace of our salvation.Our beloved Pope John Paul II invited us once again to contemplate the Face of Christ in the Holy Eucharist through the eyes of Mary, His Mother and our Mother.At the School of Mary, we will never lose any of our wonder before the great mystery of faith, which is the Holy Eucharist.

I conclude my reflections on the encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" with the words of Pope John Paul II:

"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. If, in the presence of this mystery, reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love" (no. 62b).

May our minds and hearts never fail in wonder and love before the Holy Eucharist, Christ with us now, Christ the pledge of our future glory.May the Virgin Mary, our Mother, lead us always to her Son in the Holy Eucharist.

The dignity of the celebration of the Mass

Introduction

In Chapter 5 of his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)," our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II took up the question of the dignity with which the Holy Mass must necessarily be celebrated.In presenting the model of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Pope John Paul II points to the account of the Lord’s Supper, found in the Gospels and in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20; John 13:1-17; and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34).Pondering the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, when our Lord Jesus Christ handed over His life to us sacramentally on the eve of handing over His life for us on the Cross, we discover the heart of Sacred Liturgy.

Our Lord’s celebration of the Last Supper or First Eucharist was marked by both simplicity and solemnity.The disposition of Christ at the First Eucharist is the foundation and model for all the liturgical rites, especially the Rite of the Mass, which have developed in the Church over the centuries. Christ commanded the Apostles to renew His Last Supper for the disciples, in every time and place, until the day of His Final Coming. He told them, in simple and direct language: "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19; and 1 Corinthians 11:24).By these words, He consecrated the Apostles as priests for the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.These words uncover the reason for the existence of the ordained priesthood, the Holy Eucharist, which, without the ordained ministry of the priest, cannot be celebrated.In a certain sense, the whole history of the Church may be described as the story of the obedience of the Apostles and their successors to our Lord’s commission to them at the Last Supper (no. 47a).

Anointing at Bethany

The attitude and disposition of Christ at the Last Supper is best understood by recalling the account of the Anointing at Bethany.At Bethany, shortly before His Passion and Death, Mary, the sister of Lazarus whom Christ had raised from the dead, anointed Jesus with a most precious oil.Some disciples, most notably the Apostle Judas Iscariot, who betrayed our Lord, objected strongly to Mary’s gesture of great reverence and love.Judas Iscariot and others saw it as a waste of resources which could have been used to provide for the poor.

Our Lord responds to their reaction in what may be, for some, a surprising manner. He teaches them that the anointing by Mary is an act of profound reverence for His body, the instrument by which He was to carry out our redemption. He, in no way, calls into question the responsibility to provide for the poor but indicates what is prior to our care for the poor and inspires it most fully and consistently, namely, our love of Him and our devotion toward Him.

Mary’s act of generous respect and love is imitated by us in the care which we take to have only the most fitting place for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and to use the best furnishings, vestments, linens and vessels for the Eucharistic Sacrifice.The Holy Father reminds us of our Lord’s command to the disciples to prepare the Upper Room for the Last Supper.The Church’s special care for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist reflects her faith in what takes place at the Mass; it reflects her deep reverence for our Lord Who is both our Priest and Victim in the Eucharistic Sacrifice (no. 47b).

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi is a model of the consistent regard for the worthy celebration of the Mass and other sacraments.In his instructions, while requiring the strictest simplicity of life for himself and his friars, he urged that nothing should be spared in what is employed for the House of God and for the celebration of the Holy Mass and other Sacraments.In his Letter to All Clerics, St. Francis wrote:

"Those who are in charge of these sacred mysteries, and especially those who are careless about their task, should realize that the chalices, corporals and altar linens where the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are offered in sacrifice should be completely suitable.And besides, many clerics reserve the Blessed Sacrament in unsuitable places, or carry It about irreverently, or receive It unworthily, or give It to all-comers without distinction.God’s holy name, too, and his written words are sometimes trodden underfoot, because the sensual man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:14); (The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, translated by Benen Fahy, OFM, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1964, p. 101).

The clear concern of St. Francis for the sacred places and the various elements of the Eucharistic Sacrifice was inspired by his firm faith that it is Christ Himself who acts through the sacraments and, in a pre-eminent way, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.The truth which St. Francis expresses has been honored in a long and rich tradition of sacred art and architecture, also in the making of sacred linens, vestments and vessels.

In "The Testament of St. Francis," we read: "Above everything else, I want this most holy Sacrament to be honored and venerated and reserved in places which are richly ornamented.Whenever I find his most holy name or writings containing his words in an improper place, I make a point of picking them up, and I ask that they be picked up and put aside in a suitable place" (The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, p. 67).

We, too, should spare nothing possible in showing our respect for the sacraments, the divinely inspired Word of God in the Holy Scriptures, and the place and the manner of the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

Liturgical faith of our ancestors

In reading the history of parishes in the archdiocese which are celebrating the 100th, 125th and 150th anniversary of their foundation, I am struck by the great sacrifices made by the faithful, most of them immigrants with very few means, to have, as soon as possible, a worthy parish church and worthy materials for the decoration of the Church and the celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments.It was not at all uncommon for a farmer to mortgage his farm in order to make a generous pledge toward the building of a fitting parish church or the provision of fitting sacred vessels and vestments.We marvel today at the extraordinary beauty of many of the churches which our ancestors constructed and decorated and furnished with the finest sacred art.Those who have gone before us in the archdiocese certainly had the faith of Mary at Bethany.The beautiful art and architecture which has been associated with our churches and their altars of sacrifice and other furnishings down the centuries inspires us to reflect upon the great mystery of the Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith.

Sacred banquet

The Holy Father rightly asks: "Could there ever be an adequate means of expressing the acceptance of that self-gift which the divine Bridegroom continually makes to his Bride, the Church, by bringing the Sacrifice offered once and for all on the Cross to successive generations of believers and thus becoming nourishment for all the faithful?" (no. 48).The Eucharist is indeed a banquet at which Christ feeds us with the incomparable Food which is His true Body and Blood.Recognition of the heavenly Food of the Holy Eucharist halts any tendency to a familiarity which would fail to recognize, respect and adore the true Body and Blood of Christ.

The Holy Eucharist is not adequately described as a banquet or meal, for it is a sacrificial banquet, a sacred banquet in which we partake of the holiness of God Himself.Pope John Paul II reminds us that the Sacred Host which we receive is truly the Bread of Angels, the Body of Christ, and, therefore, Holy Communion cannot be approached except with a profound sense of humility, the sense of our own unworthiness because of our sins.

During the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I made a pastoral visitation to all of the Newman university apostolates in the Diocese of La Crosse.Usually, the visit consisted of praying the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, a meal and a time for discussion.At one visit, a student leader, who clearly was most interested in the faith and its practice, asked me the meaning of the prayer we say before Holy Communion, when the priest holds up the Sacred Host, saying: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."He stated that the prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you," made no sense to him because, according to his mind, we are worthy to receive Holy Communion.His question made me recognize more than ever the serious need of a thorough catechesis regarding the reality of the Holy Eucharist and our relationship to our Eucharistic Lord.

When we pray at Mass and, most especially, when we come forward to receive Holy Communion, there is at once a sense of God’s great intimacy with us, inviting us to participate in the mystery of His Son’s Suffering, Dying and Rising from the Dead, and a sense of our unworthiness and of great awe before the presence of God Himself.That is the reason why our churches are not built as multi-purpose centers, meeting halls or banquet facilities.It is also the reason why we should be very attentive to the manner of our dress and our comportment in church, especially during the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet.

Liturgical law

The outward aspects of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist express our interior disposition, in imitation of Mary at Bethany.For that reason, the Church has developed liturgical laws which both safeguard and promote the fitting disposition or devotion before the greatest treasure of our Catholic faith and practice, the Holy Eucharist.The Church’s liturgical norms, developed over the centuries of her life, safeguard the fitting celebration of the Holy Eucharist.The development of liturgical norms has been accompanied by a parallel development of sacred art, architecture and music to express and strengthen faith in the Holy Eucharist.

Pope John Paul II evokes the rich history of sacred architecture, beginning with the churches in the home. The developments in design of churches and of their altars and tabernacles is not merely a reflection of the great art of the various periods of the Church’s history but, most of all, an expression of the profound faith in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.The examples of original art and quality craftsmanship in the building of churches, and especially of their altars and tabernacles, from the very first days of the Church, tells a wonderful story of faith in the Holy Eucharist.In visiting beautiful churches, one notes how the various furnishings have been beautifully designed and crafted.Special attention was fittingly given to the confection of beautiful vestments for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and of fine linens on which to place the sacred species or with which to cleanse the sacred vessels, and to the production of beautiful vessels to contain the Body and Blood of Christ.

In the same way, sacred music has developed down the Christian centuries to help lift the minds and hearts of the faithful to contemplate the great mystery of faith, which is the Holy Eucharist.Gregorian Chant is, of course, the greatest jewel in the body of music written specifically for the celebration of the Holy Mass.As is the case with sacred art, there is a rich history of beautiful music written for the Eucharistic Sacrifice (no. 49).

Pope John Paul II refers to a certain competition in sacred art and architecture between the East and the West.He reminds us especially of the strong sense of the mystery of faith expressed in the sacred art of the East.As he states, it is a call for all of us to make certain the Church is, above all else, "a profoundly Eucharistic Church" (no. 50).

Inculturation

Our late Holy Father also reflected upon the legitimate desire of the Church in new places to employ the "forms, styles and sensibilities of different cultures" in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, so that it can truly be spiritual food for all peoples (no. 51a).The proper term for the rooting of the Catholic faith and practice in a particular culture is inculturation.Clearly, it is a delicate process because there may be elements of the local culture which need purification and transformation before they can fittingly receive and serve the Eucharistic mystery.

Inculturation must always be secondary to respect for the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, lest the greatest treasure of our faith be obscured or, even worse, betrayed.Any experimentation in inculturation must be reviewed by Church authority with the involvement of the Apostolic See "because the Sacred Liturgy expresses and celebrates the one faith professed by all and, being the heritage of the whole Church, cannot be determined by local Churches in isolation from the universal Church" (no. 51b).

Responsibility of priests

Priests act in the person of Christ at the Holy Eucharist and, therefore, bear an especially weighty responsibility for the worthy celebration of the Mass.They are "to provide a witness to and a service of communion not only for the community taking part in the celebration, but also for the universal Church which is part of every Eucharist" (no. 52a).

Pope John Paul II writes very frankly about abuses
which have entered into the celebration of the Holy Eucharist because of "a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation" (no. 52).He begs that the liturgical law pertaining to the celebration of the Holy Mass be faithfully observed.He reminds us that the Sacred Liturgy is never the private possession of the priest or the community, and speaks of the deep suffering caused to the faithful by abuses introduced into the celebration of the Mass.Our observance of liturgical law is a fundamental expression of love of Christ and of the Church.

Conclusion

Because of the importance of the fitting and dignified celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Pope John Paul II, at the conclusion of Chapter 5, announced the preparation of a special document "to bring out more clearly this deeper meaning of liturgical norms" (no. 52b).On March 19, 2004, Pope John Paul II approved the document in question, prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and entitled "Instruction on Certain Matters To Be Observed or To Be Avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist (Redemptionis Sacramentum)." The document was published on the following March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.As we continue our observance of the Year of the Eucharist, I will also be writing reflections on "Redemptionis Sacramentum."

I conclude with the words with which Pope John Paul II concluded Chapter 5 of "Ecclesia de Eucharistia":
"No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands: it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality" (no. 52).

May the special graces of the Year of the Eucharist lead us to an ever greater appreciation of the great mystery of the Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith, and to the expression of reverence for the Holy Eucharist by our care to celebrate the Holy Mass with the greatest care for its incomparable dignity.

Sacrament of Communion

Introduction

Having interrupted my reflections upon Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)," to address the historic events of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, and to urge your participation in the Annual Catholic Appeal for the support of the Church’s many apostolates, I return to the consideration of the encyclical letter as an aid to your participation in the Year of the Eucharist.Today, I write about the fourth chapter, "The Eucharist and Ecclesial Communion."

The principal image with which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council described the nature of the Church was communion.The Church is the instrument of our communion with God and with one another.It is her mission to safeguard and foster our communion with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — and our communion with all the faithful.

The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the highest expression of the Church’s identity as communion.Through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Church best carries out her mission of maintaining and promoting "communion with the Triune God and communion among the faithful" (no. 34).It is not surprising to us, therefore, that one of our most common ways of naming the Holy Eucharist is Holy Communion.

Desire for Holy Communion

There can be no fuller communion with God than the Holy Eucharist, in which we receive the Body of Christ, God the Son made man for our salvation.For the person of faith, all other goods in life are seen always in relationship to the Holy Eucharist, our greatest good.The measure of the depth of our Catholic faith is clearly the strength of our desire to receive Holy Communion.

Our late Holy Father reminded us that the practice of making a "spiritual communion" comes from our deep desire to receive the Body of Christ."Spiritual communion" is the expression of our profound and enduring desire to receive the Body of Christ.The act of spiritual communion prepares us fittingly for the time when we are able to receive Holy Communion.

Whenever we experience a period of time during which we may not receive Holy Communion because we are guilty of a mortal sin which we have not confessed in the Sacrament of Penance or because we are, in some other way, not properly disposed to receive, then we unite ourselves to Christ in the best possible way by expressing, in prayer, our desire to receive Him.God always responds to our act of spiritual communion with the help of His grace.Regarding spiritual communion, Pope John Paul II quotes St. Teresa of Avila, doctor of the Church:

"When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you" (no. 34b).

Too easily, receiving Holy Communion can become rote for us.Whenever we are at Mass, we simply receive Holy Communion without reflecting upon the reality of the sacrament and our disposition to receive the Body of Christ.

The temptation to receive Holy Communion without recognizing the sacrament has beset the Church from her very beginnings.St. Paul addressed the situation of Christians at Corinth who were receiving Holy Communion while, at the same time, engaging publicly in activities which offended Christ and contradicted true communion with Him (1 Corinthians 11:17-29).The practice of making "spiritual communion" helps us to avoid approaching the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist routinely, that is, without due reflection.

Invisible dimension of communion

Pope John Paul II points out that the Holy Eucharist sustains and develops a certain communion which necessarily must precede it and which it expresses.The communion which participation in the Holy Eucharist presupposes has both invisible and visible dimensions.

The invisible dimension of communion is the life of grace within us.It is only by God’s grace that we have communion with Him and with one another.God, for His part, gives us the virtues of faith, hope and love — our reason for calling them the theological virtues — and we, for our part, cultivate these virtues and the moral virtues by which we, with the help and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, become more like Christ.

The invisible dimension of communion, which is the presupposition of Eucharistic Communion, demands that we examine ourselves before approaching to receive the Body of Christ and that, if we are conscious of having committed a mortal sin, we seek the forgiveness of God in the Sacrament of Penance before approaching to receive Holy Communion (no. 36).

The Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance are intimately related to each other.Communion in the Body of Christ necessarily inspires daily conversion of life, which is greatly helped through frequent confession.With the ardent desire of the Holy Eucharist comes also a deep sorrow for the ways in which we have offended God and our neighbor.The response to sorrow for sin, even venial sin, is the reconciliation with God and with the Church, which is God’s gift to us in the Sacrament of Penance.Grave or mortal sin prohibits our reception of Holy Communion, until we have received God’s forgiveness of our sin in the Sacrament of Penance.Eucharistic Communion, moreover, will inspire within us the desire to confess also our venial sins, lest we grow complacent and lukewarm in our love of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Each of us must examine his conscience regarding the state of grace, which is required to receive Holy Communion, each time we approach the sacrament.The Holy Father also mentions the case of public conduct which is "seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm."If a person is guilty of such conduct, then the Church must deny Holy Communion to him (canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law).If the person guilty of such conduct does not examine his conscious and refrain from approaching to receive Holy Communion, then the Church herself is required to refuse Holy Communion to the person.Such action of the Church is required to safeguard the sanctity of the Most Blessed Sacrament and to avoid confusion and scandal in the community of faith (no. 37).

Visible dimension of communion

The visible dimension of the communion which is the precondition for Eucharistic Communion is oneness in the doctrine of the faith, in the sacraments and in Church governance (nos. 35a and 38a). Reception of the Body of Christ is the manifestation of fullness of communion in the Church and, therefore, demands that the visible bonds of communion be present.It is, therefore, never permitted to give Holy Communion to someone who dissents from the truth of the faith regarding the Holy Eucharist or who is not baptized (no. 38b).

Eucharistic Communion is also communion with one’s own bishop and with the Roman pontiff, for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the local community is the celebration of the one Church throughout the whole world.The bishop is "the visible principle and the foundation of unity within his particular Church."It is a contradiction to speak of the celebration of the Church’s great sacrament of unity when communion with the bishop is lacking.Likewise, the Holy Eucharist must be celebrated in communion with the Roman pontiff, the successor of St. Peter, who, in the words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, is "the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity of the bishops and of the multitude of the faithful" (no. 39b).

Fostering communion

Participation in Holy Communion, when it is sincere, leads us to examine anything which separates us from one another, and to seek reconciliation.Holy Communion fosters harmony among the members of the Body of Christ.

The obligation of participation in Sunday Mass follows from the importance of the Holy Eucharist in fostering communion among all the members of the Church.In the Holy Eucharist, the community of disciples finds its true identity, and also the inspiration and strength to conform itself more and more to that identity by overcoming any element of division.Pope John Paul II recalled his apostolic letter "Dies Domini (Day of the Lord)," in which he presented the rich significance of the Sunday Mass obligation.

"All of us have responsibility for the fostering of communion in the Church and, therefore, must give special care to the Holy Eucharist.Those who have pastoral authority in the Church are especially bound to make known and to apply faithfully the Church’s "norms aimed both at fostering frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which Communion may not be given" (no. 42).

The Holy Eucharist fosters unity among Christians through the prayer, which it naturally inspires, that all may be one in Christ.At the same time, because Eucharistic Communion requires full communion in the faith, in the sacraments and in Church governance, it is not possible to celebrate the Holy Eucharist when those bonds do not fully exist.To attempt the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with those who are not in full communion with the Church is not a means of fostering unity and, in fact, becomes an obstacle to unity because it ignores what yet divides us and causes confusion about fundamental truths of the faith (no. 44).

Our late Holy Father reviewed the Church’s discipline regarding the administration of the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.They may receive these sacraments under the following conditions, to be verified in the case of each individual who request the sacraments: 1) the individual cannot approach his own minister; 2) he seeks the sacraments spontaneously; 3) he manifests Catholic faith in the sacraments; and 4) he is properly disposed (canon 844, paragraphs 3-4).Pope John Paul II made clear that the just-mentioned discipline respects "a grave spiritual need for the eternal salvation of an individual believer."It is not an attempt "to bring about an intercommunion which remains impossible until the visible bonds of ecclesial communion are fully re-established" (no. 45a).

In this regard, our late and beloved Holy Father reminded us that an essential part of faith in the sacraments is "the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity."If the person requesting the sacraments does not hold to this truth, then he or she does not manifest Catholic faith in the sacraments and may not receive them.This also explains the discipline by which a Catholic, under certain conditions, may approach a non-Catholic minister to receive the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, as long as the sacraments are validly celebrated in the Church of the non-Catholic minister (canon 844, paragraph 2) (nos. 45-46).

Conclusion

The careful study of the relationship of Holy Communion to the communion of the Church inspires in us an ever deeper knowledge and love of our Eucharistic Lord.Such study also helps us to give faithful witness to the sacred truth regarding the Holy Eucharist, our greatest treasure of faith, so that the Blessed Sacrament may foster our communion with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — and our communion with our fellow members of the Church and with all Christians.

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