Archbishop's column

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.

‘Be not afraid!’ 'God is Love' — XII

Charity and charitable works

Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love)," comments on the different organizations that seek to meet "various human needs."He observes that they have their origin in the natural law, written upon every human heart, which teaches us the love of neighbor.He, likewise, notes that Christianity itself is an inspiration of such works, for it "constantly revives and acts out this imperative" of the natural law, "so often profoundly obscured in the course of time."He recalls his earlier reference to the "reform of paganism attempted by the Emperor Julian the Apostate," which was inspired by the Christian faith that Julian had erroneously and sadly abandoned (n. 31; cf. n. 24).

Having called to mind the Church’s inspiration of charitable works carried out by men of good will, Pope Benedict XVI underlines the importance of the Church’s fidelity to her mission of charity in all of its Christlike purity and generosity.Accordingly, he discusses the identity of "the Church’s charitable activity" vis-a-vis other forms of social assistance.

Simple response to immediate needs
The Holy Father first characterizes the Church’s charitable activity as "the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison, etc."He makes explicit reference to the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). His words clearly evoke our Lord’s teaching on the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

The work of Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, or Caritas International, is directed to providing the Christian response to man’s immediate needs.Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, or Caritas, address the needs of our brothers and sisters at every level of Church life: the diocese, the dioceses within a nation, and the universal Church (n. 31a).

The Holy Father notes that those who serve in the Church’s charitable works must be "professionally competent: They should be properly trained in what to do and how to do it, and committed to continuing care."While proper preparation for the Church’s charitable work is essential, it is not sufficient.The Holy Father reminds us that our brothers and sisters need, in addition to "technically proper care," the "heartfelt concern" of the charitable worker.When competent care is given with "heartfelt concern," persons in need experience "the richness of their humanity."

Pope Benedict XVI’s words remind me of the insistence of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta that the "poorest of the poor" need to be loved one person at a time.I recall, in particular, her account of the Christian love shown to a man left to die in the street.Before his death, the man said to Mother Teresa, "I have lived all my life like an animal on the streets, but now I am going to die like an angel!" (Navin Chawla, Mother Teresa, Rockport, Mass.: Element, p. 172.)The dying man had indeed discovered the "richness of (his) humanity," made in the image of God and redeemed by the Blood of Christ.
Formation of the heart

In order that the professionally competent worker exercise true Christian charity, he must have received, in the words of the Holy Father, "formation of the heart."In other words, the worker must unite his heart to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, from which the love of God for all men flows unceasingly.Lifting up his heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the charitable worker will be inspired and strengthened with divine love of those whom he serves.

The result of the formation of heart in the Heart of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI observes, is that "love of neighbor will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6)" (n.3la).

Free of partisan and ideological involvement
The Church’s charitable work is at the service of God alone, in Jesus Christ.It can never submit itself to the service of any partisan program or ideological scheme.
Pope Benedict XVI discusses, in particular, Marxist ideology.He describes the Marxist "theory of impoverishment," which holds that, "in a situation of unjust power," the exercise of charity only makes it possible for the unjust political or social structure to survive.Charity, in the Marxist view, is, therefore, "rejected and attacked as a means of preserving the status quo."

The Holy Father responds to Marxist ideology and other "various versions of a philosophy of progress" with two observations.First, we cannot claim "to make the world more human by refusing to act humanely here and now." In other words, we cannot leave our brothers and sisters in need because of an ideology of a better future for humanity.

Second, the Holy Father reminds us that we "contribute to a better world only by personally doing good now, with full commitment and whenever we have the opportunity, independently of partisan strategies and programs" (n. 31b).

Echoing the teaching of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000)," Pope Benedict XVI declares that the pastoral program of the Christian is Christ Himself, the program of "a heart which sees.""This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly."

The charitable activity of the Church, when it is exercised "as a communitarian initiative," must also be clearly marked by "planning, foresight and cooperation with other similar institutions." For the Christian, nevertheless, the work will always have its source in the Heart of Jesus, "a heart which sees."(n. 31b).

‘Be not afraid!’


It is my hope that, by the time you receive this issue of the Review, everyone in the archdiocese will again have electrical power in their homes and parishes.Be assured that you have been very much in my prayers during the time of the fierce storm on this past July 19 and July 21, with the resulting destruction and loss of electricity to so many homes, parishes and institutions.I commend all of those who have so patiently and generously worked to relieve the hardship of our brothers and sisters, especially the elderly and the residents in health care centers.

I interrupt briefly my reflection upon Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est" to write to you about a number of timely matters.Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has asked us to observe a day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East. We also are observing Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.Lastly, I want to inform you of the activities of our seminarians during the summer months.

Prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI called upon all Catholics to observe this past Sunday, July 23, as a day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East.Because of the loss of electrical power, beginning on the evening of July 19, I only received the Holy Father’s request on July 21. Although I sent a letter to all of the pastors on July 21, asking them to invite parishioners to join Catholics around the world in praying and doing penance for the intention of peace in the Middle East, I suspect that many pastors were unable to receive the letter because of impeded means of communication.

I ask you to continue to offer daily prayer and to do penance for the intention of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, who are suffering so much in these days.Please keep in your prayers, in a special way, the pastor and parishioners of St. Raymond Cathedral, who were in Lebanon and the relatives of all of our Lebanese brothers and sisters in the archdiocese.With our Holy Father, let us be especially close in prayer to the "defenseless civilian population, unjustly involved in a conflict of which they are only victims: both those in Galilee who are forced to live in shelters, and the great multitudes of Lebanese who, once again, are seeing their country destroyed and have been forced to abandon everything to seek refuge elsewhere" (Pope Benedict XVI, Sunday Angelus Address, July, 23, 2006).

With our Holy Father, let us pray that the leaders of the nations involved will declare an immediate cease fire, will allow the free passage of humanitarian relief and will begin immediately negotiations of peace.May the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the many titles with which she is honored in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine, intercede for peace in the Middle East.

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

July 23 to July 29 has been designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. It is a time for all of us and, especially, those called by God to the married life to reflect upon the responsibility to plan for the procreation and education of children who are the "crowning glory" of the love of husband and wife in marriage (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, [On the Church in the Modern World], Dec. 7, 1965, no. 48a). Through natural family planning, husband and wife cooperate with God in the procreation and education of their offspring. They remain always disposed to receive the gift of life, while they seek to conceive and give birth to a child, and space the birth of their children, to provide for them, in the best way possible.

The observance of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week gives me the occasion to thank K. Diane Daly, coordinator of the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning, and all who work with her in helping couples who are experiencing difficulty in conceiving a child and couples who want to give birth to and educate their children, in accord with God’s plan for marriage and the family. Introductory courses on natural family planning are offered throughout the archdiocese.Diane Whitely facilitates the archdiocesan Infertility Discussion Group at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center. A course on natural family planning is also offered online through the Pope Paul VI Institute for Catechetical and Pastoral Studies.The Humanae Vitae Association offers solidarity and ongoing education to couples who practice natural family planning.

For more information regarding the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning, located at the Cardinal Rigali Center, the telephone number is (314) 792-7199.The website address is

Our seminarians

During the summer months, our seminarians, in addition to taking some needed time of vacation with their families, have also been continuing their preparation for priestly ordination.First of all, almost all of the seminarians, collegians and theologians, assisted with the Kenrick-Glennon Days and Christ Power Retreats, both of which are geared to helping young men to hear the call to the priesthood.

Following the vocation camps at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, the men who are entering the first year of theology are spending some weeks living in a parish rectory.The majority of their time is spent in getting to know the history of the archdiocese, in visiting the historic places of the archdiocese, and in learning about the many archdiocesan institutions, offices and agencies.On Fridays and Sundays, they are helping the pastors of the parishes by visiting the sick and assisting with the Sunday celebrations of the Holy Mass.

The men who have completed their first year of theology have been taking part in a two-month course of spiritual theology and formation, offered by the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha. For that reason, they were unable to assist with the vocation camps. The purpose of their course is to deepen their own spiritual life, in accord with the priestly vocation, and to prepare them better to be spiritual directors for others.

The seminarians who have completed their second year of theology are spending five weeks in Mexico City to study the Spanish language and Mexican culture. Their program of study is directed to preparing them for the pastoral care of the growing Hispanic population in the archdiocese.

The three seminarians who completed their third year of theological studies were ordained to the diaconate and are serving as deacons in parishes of the archdiocese. Their service as deacons in our parishes is an important part of their final preparation for ordination to the priesthood, God willing, on May 26, 2007.


From Aug. 7-9 I will be on a pilgrimage with our seminarians to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at La Crosse, Wis., located in the diocese in which I grew up and which I served as priest and bishop before coming to our archdiocese in January 2004.It will be a time for us all to pray for the grace of perseverance in the response to God’s call, and to pray for all those whom God is calling to the priesthood in our archdiocese. It also pleases me that I will be able to show the seminarians a bit of the place from which I came to serve the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Please pray for the men who will be entering Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in September as first-year collegians, pre-theologians (men with college degrees or college studies already completed but who need additional courses in philosophy) and first-year theologians. God willing, the archdiocese will admit more than 20 new seminarians in September.Let us show our gratitude to God by praying for them, encouraging them and supporting them.

‘Be not afraid!’

Proper responsibility of the lay faithful

The Church contributes to the just ordering of society, the work of politics, by calling the reasoning of politicians to a greater purity and by inspiring works of justice, according to the demands of ethics.The duty of the State is direct.The duty of the Church is indirect, that is, the duty to foster the right reasoning by which the State will fulfill its responsibility.

The lay faithful have the proper responsibility to participate in the native political activity of the State for the sake of the common good.Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)" recalls the teaching in Pope John Paul II’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Christifideles laici (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World)," which underlines the moral responsibility of the laity for "the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good" (Christifideles laici, n. 42, quoted in n. 29b).The Catholic faith has always taught patriotism as a fundamental virtue, by which the faithful assume their proper part in the safeguarding and promoting of justice in society.

Organized charitable activity

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the same charity which "must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful" must also inspire "their political activity," which, indeed, is a form of "social charity" (n. 29b). The Church’s works of charity, for example, Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences, are, however, proper to her.The Church carries out the works of charity as her "direct responsibility."As earlier noted, the Church has rightly understood, from her first days of existence, that the faithful must organize the works of charity.

In this regard, the Holy Father reminds us that "there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love" (n. 29c).

Struggle for justice and love

Pope Benedict XVI fittingly interrupts his discussion of the Church’s charitable works to consider "the overall situation of the struggle for justice and love in the world of today" (n. 30a).He observes, first of all, how the ever developing means of social communications have made us immediately aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world.The communications media make us aware that, notwithstanding all of the technological progress of our time, there is great poverty, "material and spiritual," in our world.

I think of how Blessed Teresa of Calcutta observed that the greatest poverty in the world today is the spiritual poverty found in the West, which fears human life and regularly commits the gravest moral evils in violation of the dignity of human life.She observed:

"Today there are many countries which permit abortion, sterilization and other means for avoiding or destroying life from its very inception.This is a clear sign that such countries are the poorest among the poor, since they do not have the courage to accept even one more life" (Luch Gjergji, Mother Teresa: Her Life, Her Works, Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1991, p. 67).

Her speech at the reception of the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1979, is an extraordinary commentary on the poverty of our world today, to which Mother Teresa responded with Christlike love.

Quoting the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity," the Holy Father reminds us that the progress in the means of communication means that our charitable works "can and should embrace all people and all needs" (n. 30b).The Holy Father also comments that globalization has made possible the provision of help to those in need throughout the world.He mentions, in particular, "modern systems of distributing food and clothing, and of providing housing and care" (n. 30c).He reminds us of the work of the State and of organizations in fostering a sense of global solidarity.

Cooperation of Church and State

Globalization has inspired cooperative works of the agencies of the Church and of the State in addressing social needs.The Holy Father points out that Church agencies, "with their transparent operation and their faithfulness to the duty of witnessing to love," add a particular quality to cooperative works, favoring the expression of charity.

Commenting on the work of charitable and philanthropic organizations and the work of many volunteers in providing service to those in need, Pope Benedict XVI expresses his gratitude to all who participate in charitable activities.

Ecumenical cooperation in works of charity

The Holy Father recognizes, in a special way, the charitable works of the other churches and ecclesial communities.He notes, in particular, how the works of the churches and ecclesial communities often make it "possible to establish a fruitful link between evangelization and works of charity."For the Christian carrying out works of charity, it is most natural to communicate the source of his charitable works in God, in the faithful and enduring love of God the Father for us in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Pope Benedict XVI takes the occasion of the encyclical letter to renew what our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II had declared, namely, the Catholic Church’s disposition "to cooperate with the charitable agencies of these churches and ecclesial communities, since we all have the same fundamental motivation and look toward the same goal: a true humanism, which acknowledges that man is made in the image of God and wants to help him to live in a way consonant with that dignity."

Pope John Paul II had appealed to all Christians, asking them "to speak with a united voice," to promote the common good, especially the respect for the inviolable dignity of the "the poor, the lowly and the defenseless" (n. 30e).Pope Benedict XVI expresses his "satisfaction that this appeal has found a wide resonance in numerous initiatives throughout the world" (n. 30e).

Certainly, the Archdiocese of St. Louis readily works with the other churches and ecclesial communities in addressing the needs of our brothers and sisters.The collaboration of the archdiocese is always predicated on the respect for the inviolable dignity of innocent and defenseless human life.The Church cannot join in any initiative which does not respect fully the dignity of every human life, from its inception to its natural death.

‘Be not afraid!’

Charity and justice

How does the Church understand the relationship between "the necessary commitment to justice and the ministry of charity"?Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)" gives a twofold response.

The first response has to do with the service of the faith to politics.The "just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics" (n. 28b).The Holy Father recalls the Church’s teaching on "the distinction between Church and State," and the proper autonomy of the State.Church and State, however, are related to each other.The State safeguards the practice of religion, and the Church is a significant free community within the State, contributing to the good of all.

The State has the purpose of serving justice, "which by its very nature has to do with ethics."The State must constantly seek what is just, purifying itself of "a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests" (n. 28c).

Politics and faith

In the State’s pursuit of justice for all, in accord with the demands of ethics, the Church provides an essential service.The State strives to know what is just by means of human reasoning. Faith in God necessarily leads to the purification of human reasoning, to the enlightening of the mind clouded or darkened through the commission of injustices.The Church’s social teaching, which is the fruit of faith in God, helps the State to purify anything in its policies and law which is unethical and, therefore, unjust.The Church does not attempt to impose its properly internal teaching and discipline upon others but to present its teaching on the natural moral law as a fitting means of pursuing justice (n. 28d).

It will be helpful here to remind ourselves that the autonomy of the State does not mean autonomy from ethics, from the natural moral order.The Church calls the State, as she calls herself, to respect and uphold, in all things, the order with which God has created us and our world.

The Church presents her teaching which is founded on right reason, that is, "on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being."She does so, to assist those responsible for the political order to form their consciences, in accord with the common good, and so to act ethically.Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that "the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest" (n. 28e).

It is clear that the Church does not invade the proper autonomy of the State, but she serves the State by advancing what is right and good for all."She has to play her part through rational argument, and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper" (n. 28f).The Church, by her very nature, must tirelessly work so that the common good is served by the State, in accord with what is the proper responsibility of the State.

The necessity of charity

The second response of Pope Benedict to the question regarding the relationship of justice and charity is the reminder that charity "will always prove necessary, even in the most just society."In other words, we must remember that the ordering of the State, in accord with the requirements of justice, will never take away the need for us to care for each other with love.The State cannot respond to the multiple situations of suffering, in which what is most needed is "loving personal concern."When the State attempts to provide by itself for all of the needs of its citizens, including the love of neighbor for neighbor, it fails and devolves into a bureaucracy.

Regarding the relationship of the State to the need of charity, Pope Benedict XVI declares:

"We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives which arise from the different social forces and in which are united free will and closeness to those needing assistance" (n. 28g).

The Holy Father points out that our care for one another in need must address, not only our material needs, but, more importantly, our spiritual needs.Here the Holy Father notes the fundamental error of Marxist philosophy, which reduces man to material reality only, thinking, as Pope Benedict writes, that man lives "by bread alone" (Matthew 4:4).By so thinking, Marxism "demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human" (n. 28g).

‘Be not afraid!’

The Church and charity

Pope Benedict XVI underlines two "essential facts" about the Church and works of charity in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)."First of all, charity is inherent to the nature of the Church.The nature of the Church is understood from her "threefold responsibility" of "proclaiming the Word of God" (evangelization and catechesis), "celebrating the sacraments" (Sacred Liturgy) and "exercising the ministry of charity."The Holy Father notes that the three responsibilities all relate essentially to each other and cannot be separated from each other.He concludes: "For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (n. 25a).

Secondly, the charity of the members of the Church toward one another extends to those who are not members of the Church.Within the community of the Church, "no one ought to go without the necessities of life." Charity, however, knows no boundaries and, therefore, "extends beyond the frontiers of the Church."Pope Benedict XVI recalls to mind the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), by which our Lord Jesus taught us the universality of charity.Our love is to extend to whomever we meet in need, including those strangers whom we do not know but meet along the way. Regarding charity toward all, it is our particular obligation to care for those who are united to us by bonds of faith, "to those who are of the household of faith,"as St. Paul most clearly teaches us (cf. Galatians 6:10) (n. 25b).

The objection of Marxism

The Holy Father next addresses the objection to the Church’s understanding of charity, which has been raised especially by Marxist philosophy.The objection claims that the poor "do not need charity but justice."According to the objection, the Church’s works of charity only provide an excuse for the failure to advance the cause of justice for all, permitting us to claim a clear conscience, while safeguarding our own privileged status and denying the poor what is their right.In other words, according to Marxism, if we would work for justice, assuring that every person has his share of the goods of the earth, then there would be no need of charity.

The Holy Father admits to a certain truth in the objection but quickly notes its fundamental error. In accord with the perennial social teaching of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI observes:"It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principal of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods."He goes on to note how the Industrial Revolution has centered the issue of justice in "the relationship between capital and labor."With the Industrial Revolution, money and "the means of production" began to be controlled by a few, leading to the violation of the rights of workers.It is not surprising that, with time, a rebellion occurred (n. 26).

The response of the Church

The Holy Father acknowledges that, in the face of the radically changed social and economic conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution, the Church was slow in addressing her teaching on the just ordering of society to the new situation of capital and labor. On the other hand, within the Church, various groups and associations worked to assist those who were suffering economically.At the same time, a number of new religious congregations were founded for the care of the poor and the sick, and to provide education for all children and young people, without regard to their social or economic condition (n. 27).

Beginning with the publication of Pope Leo XIII’s famous encyclical letter "Rerum Novarum, (On the Condition of Labor)," on May 15, 1891, a series of papal documents have addressed consistently the issues of justice in the new situation of society and of the economy.An excellent summary of the official teaching of the Church in response to the changing social conditions, especially of workers, is found in the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church," published on April 2, 2004, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Basing himself on the perennial social teaching of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI points out the grave error contained in the Marxist objection to the Church’s teaching on charity.In fact, the fundamental error of Marxism, with its call for "revolution and the subsequent collectivization of the means of production," has become evident.The Holy Father observes that "the Church’s social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church" (n. 27).Before the situation of increasing globalization of the economy in our time, it is the Church’s responsibility to give voice to these foundational moral principles.

‘Be not afraid!’


I interrupt briefly my reflection upon Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter, "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)," to comment on the recent approval of a new translation of the Order of the Mass by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at our meeting in Los Angeles June 14 to 17. You have, no doubt, read about changes in the secular or Catholic press.Some of the faithful have expressed to me their concern about the reason for the changes and about the number of changes.I understand that the prospect of change in those things which are dearest to us is always viewed with some skepticism.

Before commenting on the changes, I note that they are not yet final.The text which the conference of bishops approved June 16 must now be reviewed by the Holy See for final approval.

Why the new translation?

The translation of the Order of the Mass, which we are presently using, was prepared in the early 1970s, according to principles of translation which have, in recent years, been carefully and thoroughly reviewed and revised.Here, it is helpful to remind ourselves that Latin is the language of the original text from which all of the translations of the liturgical texts into the various languages of the Church are made. Latin, the official or mother tongue of the Church, provides an important service to the unity of belief and practice throughout the world. The Latin text is the standard by which the accuracy and beauty of a translation are measured.

The key principle of our present translation, known as "dynamic equivalence," permitted the translator to interpret the content of a text, apart from the actual content of the words. As a result, texts which were very rich in scriptural and theological meaning were often rendered in an English version which stripped them of their richness."Dynamic equivalence" is an inadequate tool for all translations and especially for texts of the Sacred Liturgy.The revision of the principles of translation of liturgical texts can be found in the document of the Holy Father’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Liturgiam authenticam, "Fifth Instruction on the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy," issued on March 28, 2001.

Some examples

One translation which has struck me as particularly impoverished is our response when the priest holds up the Sacred Host before Holy Communion.Presently, we respond: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."From the time of my childhood, I was impressed by the scriptural allusion to our Lord’s cure of the Roman Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:6-7) in the Latin text, which, of course, I knew through my St. Joseph Missal: "Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea."In the new translation, the richness of the Latin text is restored, with the beautiful reference to the healing presence of our Lord: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

Other changes reflect important realities of our participation in the Holy Mass. For instance, the word Credo, at the beginning of the Profession of Faith after the Gospel and Homily, is now accurately translated as "I believe" instead of "We believe," to make the Profession of Faith a proper personal and individual act, done in communion with our brothers and sisters present.

It is not possible for me to comment on all of the changes, but, when they are finally approved by the Holy See, care will be taken to explain each change. The changes are not that numerous and, I can assure you, no change was made for the sake of change. All of the changes have a sound foundation in our greatest treasure, the Catholic faith, and its most perfect expression, the Sacred Liturgy.

Change as a time of grace

The changes in the responses of the faithful are not numerous, nor are they difficult.While some have expressed frustration at having to learn a new version of their responses, I believe that the new translations, because of their greater fidelity to the original text, will actually assist us to enter more fully into the profound reality which is the Eucharistic Sacrifice.For my part, I have been inspired by studying the new translations.They reflect much more the great beauty of the Sacred Liturgy and invite us to a deeper participation in the action of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Some experts and commentators on the matter have suggested that the "rank and file" faithful will not understand the changes in translations or will resist them.I do not share their opinion in any way.From my pastoral experience, I can only imagine that the new translations will be welcomed with gratitude and attention, and that any initial awkwardness in adapting to the changes will be rapidly overcome. At the same time, if I as archbishop and our good priests provide a careful explanation of the changes, they will be more than understandable and, in fact, will be an occasion for our growing in eucharistic faith.


A month or so before the meeting of the conference of bishops, I received a letter from a young Catholic who was received into the full communion of the Church some three years ago.He has literally fallen in love with the Catholic faith and, above all, with the Holy Eucharist.
He is now a daily participant in Holy Mass. Reading about the proposed new translations, he wrote to assure me that he welcomes the prospect of a more faithful and, therefore, richer translation of the liturgical texts into English: "I only write this letter because I thought it would be good for you to have on record the thoughts of at least one lay Catholic, unworthy as he is to receive Our Lord’s Body and Blood every day, about what he thinks of the new proposed translation. I love the liturgy, and I feel particularly blessed to be in such a fine Archdiocese as St. Louis where both the old and new rites are celebrated with reverence."

May we all accept the new translation of the Order of the Mass, when it is finally approved, with a deep faith in the Holy Eucharist and a deep love of our eucharistic Lord. May the changes in the translations be the occasion for us to deepen our eucharistic faith and practice.

Syndicate content