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.

'I thirst': Our faith is missionary

By Archbishop Raymond L. Burke


One of the best memories which I have from my days in Catholic elementary school is the many activities surrounding the Church’s missions. I recall enrollment in the Holy Childhood Association and the practice of making little offerings so that children in the missions could be catechized and baptized.We called it "ransoming pagan babies," which is not politically correct language for our day, but the meaning of our activity is at the heart of our faith. Our parents and teachers taught us to love Christ with all our hearts and, therefore, it was only natural that we wanted our brothers and sisters around the world to come know and love Christ.During my years of study in Rome, from 1971-1975 and from 1980-1984, I met many brother priests from Africa, who mentioned how much the donations of the Catholic schoolchildren of America had meant to their receiving the gift of faith and baptism.

Being the youngest of my family and wanting a little brother or sister, I was always hoping that we might be able to bring one of the babies home.But my parents and Sister Lucia, OSB, my teacher in third grade, explained to me that the babies needed to remain with their parents. I also recall saving coins during Lent for the diocesan mission in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.My parents were always good to provide the little offerings, when they learned it was for the missions.

When I entered the high-school seminary, Holy Cross Seminary in La Crosse, I discovered that the most important organization in the seminary was the St. Francis Xavier Mission Society.Throughout the year, seminarian volunteers ran a bookstore and laundry service, shined shoes for fellow seminarians and provided other services, all to raise funds for the missions. Every spring, the whole seminary worked for several weeks to put on a mission festival, which, thanks to the generosity of our families and friends, raised significant funds for the missions.

I am grateful for all of those early experiences which deepened within me the essentially missionary aspect of my Catholic faith.When I began teaching in the Catholic high school in La Crosse in the fall of 1977, it pleased me to discover that the Mission Club was an important part of student activities.I look forward to learning more about the missionary activities of our Catholic schools, as I get to know the archdiocese better.

Mission Sunday collection

On the weekend of Oct. 23-24, the Universal Church celebrates Mission Sunday. It is an important annual celebration to renew the missionary zeal which is integral to our Catholic faith.It also provides us a special occasion each year to renew our prayers and devotions on behalf of missionaries throughout the world and to make a sacrifice from our substance to supply for their many needs.Missionaries throughout the world depend upon our prayers and upon our material sacrifices.

In his Message for World Mission Sunday 2004, our Holy Father recalls to mind the unforgettable expression of the missionary character of our faith, that is, Christ’s words as He was dying on the Cross: "I thirst" (John 19:28). The Roman soldiers mistakenly thought that Christ was referring to physical thirst.In fact, He was expressing His thirst for our souls, the souls of all mankind.In His pierced Sacred Heart, we find the ultimate expression of His thirst for souls, His desire that all hearts find in His Sacred Heart abiding joy and peace.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta insisted that the words of Christ, "I thirst," should be placed next to the crucifix by the tabernacle and altar of every chapel of her sisters, the Missionaries of Charity.Her sisters are indeed missionaries.The gift of the Holy Spirit, given to Mother Teresa and her sisters, inspires and strengthens them to bring Christ to "the poorest of the poor" throughout the world.Christ’s words, "I thirst," remind them of their share in His mission.

The Holy Eucharist and mission

This Mission Sunday, our Holy Father invites us to discover anew the missionary nature of our Catholic faith in the holy Eucharist, in which Christ, in His thirst for souls, pours out His life for the salvation of the world.The theme which our Holy Father has chosen for Mission Sunday this year, the Year of the Holy Eucharist, is "Eucharist and Mission."In his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist and Its Relationship to the Church)," our Holy Father had already drawn our attention to the relationship of the holy Eucharist to our missionary activity.He wrote to us:

"Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination.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" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 60b).

One with Christ in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, we go forth from the Mass to carry out, with Christ, His mission to all the nations, to the ends of the world, to all brothers and sisters without boundary or border.The Latin words of dismissal at the conclusion of the Mass, "Ite, missa est," which we translate today with the words, "The Mass is ended, go in peace," express the essentially missionary aspect of our sacramental communion with Christ.

Our Holy Father reminds us, too, of the importance of eucharistic adoration to the missionary work of the Church.It is in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament that we deepen our knowledge and love of Christ in His Real Presence. The recognition of the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament draws us to pray before the tabernacle in which He remains for us and to worship Him through eucharistic exposition, benediction and processions. Our Holy Father reminds us that the Church carries out her missionary apostolate, first of all, by loving our eucharistic Lord:

"How could the Church fulfill her vocation without cultivating a constant relationship with the Eucharist, without nourishing herself with this Food which sanctifies, without founding her missionary activity on this indispensable support?To evangelize the world there is need of apostles who are ‘experts’ in the celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Eucharist" (Pope John Paul II, Message for World Mission Sunday 2004).

May our observance of the Year of the Holy Eucharist express itself also in a new generosity of prayer and sacrifice on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the missions.

Through the intercession of Mary Immaculate

Our observance of Mission Sunday comes not only during the Year of the Holy Eucharist but also during the year in which we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.We believe, as an article of faith, that the Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Ann, in order that she might be the worthy vessel of the Incarnation, the first tabernacle in which God the Son came to dwell among us for our salvation.Mary Immaculate constantly intercedes on behalf of those whom her Son came to save, in order that His grace may reach their souls and bring them to eternal life.

Our Holy Father, in his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," strikingly reminded us that we come to know Christ through His Mother.We gaze upon the Face of Christ with the help of Mary. Mary, the first tabernacle in history, always draws us to Christ, in order that we may draw others to Christ (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Nos. 55, 57 and 62).Her last recorded words in the Holy Scriptures are spoken to the wine stewards at the Wedding of Cana, who had come to her for assistance and whom she, in turn, sent to her Son, with the words: "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5). Mary always sends us to Christ with her maternal, loving command: "Do whatever He tells you."Christ gave His final command to us before ascending to the right hand of the Father:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Let us daily call upon the help of the Immaculate Virgin, that we may fulfill our missionary mandate, that, having received Christ, we may bring Christ to all other brothers and sisters.


St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who never left her cloistered convent in France, is the patron saint of the missions and of missionaries.Why?Because she devoted her prayers and sacrifices to the work of the missions.Spiritually, she was united with missionaries throughout the world by means of her prayers for them and the sacrifices which she made for them.She is a most outstanding example of how each one of us is called to be true to the Church’s missionary nature.In her correspondence with Father Maurice Belliere, a young French priest who was sent as a missionary to what is now Malawi, she wrote words which should inspire us all in our missionary prayer and activity:

"Let us work together for the salvation of souls; we have only the one day of this life to save them and thus to give the Lord proofs of our love.The tomorrow of this day will be eternity, and then Jesus will restore to you a hundredfold the very sweet and very legitimate joys that you sacrificed for Him (Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol. II, Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, p. 1042).

Let us sacrifice from our substance through the World Mission Sunday Collection, giving up some legitimate enjoyment for the sake of the salvation of souls.God is not outdone in generosity.He will, in return, shower upon us an abundance of His blessings.

Please be generous in your prayers for the Church’s missions.Please be generous to the World Mission Sunday Collection which will be taken up in your parish on the weekend of Oct.23-24.

Serving others through the Annual Catholic Appeal


During the Easter Season, the Church directs our attention to the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, which recount the story of the first days and weeks of her life.It is a wonderful story of the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing all to Christ in the Church and building up the Church in unity and love, so that she, in turn, might bring Christ to the world.On this coming weekend, we will hear the account of the ordination of the first deacons to carry out the ministry of Christ the Servant in the Church.We see in the ordination of the deacons, the Holy Spirit continuing Christ’s works, as our Lord promised in His final conversation with the Apostles before His Passion and Death (John 14:12). The reading from the Acts of the Apostles concludes by telling us that the "word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly..." (Acts 6:7).

This coming weekend, we also begin the 2005 Annual Catholic Appeal — Serving Others.Through the Annual Catholic Appeal, the entire archdiocese joins in solidarity to carry out Christ the Servant’s works of charity.The Annual Catholic Appeal began in 1949, when Cardinal Joseph Ritter inaugurated what he called the Easter Campaign, asking all of the faithful in the archdiocese to help him in meeting the ever greater pastoral needs of the flock in his care.In 1954, he changed the name to the Expansion Fund, reflecting the need of the help of all to build churches, Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions for a rapidly expanding Catholic population.In 1972, Cardinal John Carberry changed the name to the Archdiocesan Development Appeal to express the support given by all to the archdiocese in developing her mission on behalf of those in most need.On Oct. 29, 2004, I changed the name to Annual Catholic Appeal to reflect the nature of the appeal: the yearly call issued to all Catholics and other persons of good will in the archdiocese to come to the help of all in the Church.The motto of the Annual Catholic Appeal, "Serving Others," identifies more accurately the work and places the emphasis on Christ serving others through us.The Annual Catholic Appeal is carried out in obedience to Christ Who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).With the new name, we strive to carry out the work of Christ with the enthusiasm and the energy of the first disciples who placed themselves and their goods at the service of one another, especially those in need.

Serving others

Recently, I wrote to you, asking for your pledge to the Annual Catholic Appeal.In my letter, I recounted the story of Melissa, a student at one of our archdiocesan Catholic high schools.Among all of the activities which typically fill the life of our teenage brothers and sisters, Melissa was blessed to take part in an annual retreat offered at her high school.Through the retreat, Melissa was given a new enthusiasm for her faith. Now, her busy life also includes regular visits to the elderly at a nearby nursing care center.Participating in the spiritual retreat, Melissa came to understand more deeply the gift of Christ’s life within her.Now, she desires to share that gift more generously with others.

Through the Annual Catholic Appeal, all the faithful of the archdiocese are called to recognize the gift of Christ’s life within them and to share that gift with others, especially those who long for a sign of God’s merciful love in their lives.Through your generous support of the Annual Catholic Appeal, Melissa has received a strengthening of her faith, leading her to show Christlike love to the elderly.Countless others could tell you of how the work of the Annual Catholic Appeal has brought God’s merciful love to them and has inspired them to share God’s merciful love with others.

This year, the goal of the appeal is $11.75 million.With the letter which I wrote to you about the appeal, I enclosed a brochure listing all of the apostolates and programs supported by the appeal. All sacrificial gifts collected through the Annual Catholic Appeal are designated, that is, they go directly to support the apostolates and programs listed in the brochure.

Serving parishes

Your sacrificial gift to the appeal serves our parishes directly.The Parish School Assistance Fund helps to ensure vital Catholic schools for the children and young people in the families of our parishes.Scholarship programs assist families seeking a Catholic education for their children.The Emergency Assistance Fund helps parishes meet unforeseen expenses.

The work of the appeal sustains many archdiocesan apostolates and programs which serve the faithful of the archdiocese by providing resources and guidance for couples preparing for marriage and for those who are experiencing challenges because of extraordinary stress or special needs.The work of the Pro-Life Office, the Office for Natural Family Planning and the St. Charles Lwanga Center, all of which are supported by your sacrificial gifts to the appeal, reaches every neighborhood in the archdiocese.

Through the Annual Catholic Appeal, your parish priests and deacons have received the education and spiritual formation which has prepared them to serve you well.The future priests of the archdiocese, our seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, are supported by the appeal.Our permanent deacons are prepared for ordination through funding from the appeal.

The appeal funds the ongoing formation of the priests of the archdiocese.At the same time, through the appeal, our retired priests receive the assistance and care which they require.Our retired priests have lovingly dedicated their entire life to our service in the archdiocese.In return, we want to do everything possible to care lovingly for them during their senior years, especially when they are experiencing health difficulties and other forms of diminishment.

Serving youth

Through the appeal, you serve our youth who, as our late and beloved Pope John Paul II frequently reminded us, are the hope of the future of the Church and society.All archdiocesan, regional and parish high schools receive direct financial grants.Through the Annual Catholic Appeal, the Office of Catholic Education provides support and resources for our Catholic schools and parish schools of religion.

Youth retreats, the university apostolate carried out at our Newman Centers and the apostolate of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are all supported by the appeal.In all of these ways, you serve our children and young people, so that they may grow into strong members of the Church and good citizens of our nation.

Serving those in need

During the weeks of the Annual Catholic Appeal, thousands of faithful in the archdiocese will participate.Their sacrificial gifts and pledges of gifts will bring apostolic and social services to so many in need.Through Catholic Charities, Immigrant and Refugee Support, Birthright Counseling, Catholic Legal Services and scores of food pantries, all of the faithful of the archdiocese will lend a hand to those in most need in our midst.

In countless other ways, the appeal supports and provides help to those who serve our brothers and sisters who are in need.The work of the appeal is the work of Christ who identifies Himself with those who are considered the least of our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:40).

Challenges of our time

The archdiocese faces many challenges in carrying out the new evangelization in our society which has become totally secularized.It is not my desire to be involved in controversy, but I also know that, in Christ, I am bound to be a sign of contradiction in the world.In a world which has grown forgetful of God, I am bound to find myself involved in controversy, if I am faithful in my witness to Christ.I am certain that you have the same experience when you give an account of your Catholic faith to others and witness to the Church’s teaching by your actions.As archbishop, it is my responsibility to lead and to provide help to all in giving witness, through my service as teacher, priest and shepherd of the whole archdiocese.It is a most weighty responsibility which I would never be able to fulfill without the unfailing help of the Holy Spirit.I am constantly calling upon the faithful of the archdiocese to pray for me that I may be a wise and good shepherd.It is a sincere and urgent plea.

I know that the controversies in which I have been involved during the first year of my service in the archdiocese, especially because of the manner in which they have been presented by the media, have led some to disagree with me.I regret the harm that misunderstandings and misinformation have caused in the archdiocese.

Also, I feel keenly the suffering of the faithful who are undergoing profound changes in their parish life as a result of the necessary pastoral planning which has been carried out in the Northeast County and South City deaneries.I hope that, through better communication, my service as archbishop will reach more effectively all of the faithful in the archdiocese, drawing us all together in unity and love, so that we, in turn, will carry out ever more effectively the work of the new evangelization.

The Annual Catholic Appeal is a call to us all to come together, by putting aside our disagreements and hurts, so that the merciful love of God can reach all of our brothers and sisters in any need.Our hearts are poor and sinful but, by God’s grace, Christ opens His Heart, full of God’s merciful love, to us.Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, invites us to place our poor hearts in His Sacred Heart, all rich in divine love, and to draw from His Heart abundant love to bring to our neighbors in need and in trouble. Let our hearts be united, in the Heart of Jesus, in carrying out the Annual Catholic Appeal on behalf of all our brothers and sisters.

Conclusion: all serving all

The Annual Catholic Appeal is our way of reaching out to the wider community to share our spiritual gifts and material goods. The history of the generosity of the faithful in the archdiocese to the Annual Catholic Appeal is rightly a source of pride.Since my arrival as your archbishop in January 2004, I have been deeply impressed by your generosity.I ask you to continue in the Christlike tradition of generosity of all on behalf of all.

In a particular way, I ask young adult Catholics and young families with children in our schools and parish schools of religion to participate strongly in the appeal.So many aspects of the appeal benefit children and young people. Fittingly, more than 25 percent of the sacrificial gifts collected through the appeal serve our youth directly.Another 30 percent benefits our parishes directly, and supports programs and apostolates which provide care, material and spiritual, for all the faithful in the archdiocese.

As you consider your gift to the 2005 Annual Catholic Appeal, please remember that the need is great.A part of your pledge will return to your parish, our children and your neighbors, as I have briefly described above.Please consider in prayer a sacrificial gift to the appeal this year.By your gift, you will join all in the archdiocese in solidarity with all in the archdiocese.With Christ, you will go out to meet your brothers and sisters, not to be served but to serve.

Before closing, I express my heartfelt thanks to all who make the Annual Catholic Appeal possible.First of all, I thank our deans and parish priests who lead the appeal by their example and the call they give to all the faithful to participate.With the priests of the archdiocese, I thank the members of the Annual Catholic Appeal Council and the chair, Mark Guyol, for the irreplaceable counsel and direct service which they give to the work of the appeal.I also thank the deanery chairpersons, lay deanery vice-chairpersons, the parish chairpersons and all who volunteer at every level by inviting others to participate in the mission of the Church through the Annual Catholic Appeal.

I thank you, in advance, for the sacrifice which you will make through the Annual Catholic Appeal.May God bless you and abundantly reward you for serving others in Christ.

The apostolic character of the Holy Eucharist


My fourth reflection upon Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, "On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church," centers on the third chapter of the encyclical letter, "The Apostolicity of the Eucharist and of the Church."In chapter two, Pope John Paul II presented the Holy Eucharist as the source of the strength and the growth of the Church.The relationship between the Church and the Holy Eucharist is, in fact, so intimate that the marks of the Church — one, holy, catholic and apostolic — also describe the Holy Eucharist. In chapter three, our late Holy Father devotes his attention to the apostolic character of the Holy Eucharist, because of its particular importance to our understanding the Holy Eucharist in our time (no. 26).

Apostolic in three senses

Pope John Paul II describes three meanings of the apostolic character or apostolicity of the Church, which are all related to one another.First of all, it means that the Church "was and remains built" upon the foundation of the Apostles.The Holy Eucharist was entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and has come to us through the unbroken succession of the apostolic ministry, from the priestly consecration of the Apostles at the Last Supper to the consecration of the successors to the Apostles today during the celebration of the Holy Mass (no. 27a).

Secondly, apostolicity means that the Church hands on the "deposit of faith," received from the Apostles.In other words, the Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist "in conformity with the faith of the Apostles."Pope John Paul II points out that the teaching authority of the Church has necessarily defined "more precisely" the doctrine on the Holy Eucharist, in order to remain true to the faith of the Apostles.The fuller understanding of the truth of the faith regarding the Holy Eucharist responds, in a particular way, to errors that have crept into the life of the Church from time to time. The Pope reminds us that the truth of the faith does not and cannot change, but the Church is required to develop her understanding and presentation of the truth: "This faith remains unchanged, and it is essential for the Church that it remain unchanged" (no. 27b).

Thirdly, the Church is apostolic because the bishops, the successors to the Apostles, teach, sanctify and guide the Church.They carry out the apostolic ministry in communion with the Roman Pontiff, Successor to St. Peter, Head of the Apostles, and with the assistance of priests who share in their apostolic ministry.

The existence of the Church depends upon the unbroken succession of the apostolic ministry. The Holy Eucharist depends upon the apostolic ministry of the Apostles and their successors, for it is only the ordained priest, acting in the person of Christ, who can offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice on behalf of all the faithful.In truth, it is Christ who offers the sacrifice, by virtue of the grace of priestly ordination.The third sense of the apostolic character of the Holy Eucharist helps us to understand the reason why only the priest recites the Eucharistic Prayer, "while the people participate in faith and in silence" (no. 28b).

In the person of Christ

The ordained priest offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice in virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, by which he is configured to Christ, Shepherd and Head of God’s flock.The ordained priest does not take the place of Christ in the offering of the Holy Eucharist, but Christ acts in him. In other words, the Holy Eucharist remains always the action of Christ.The Holy Eucharist can be offered "in the person of Christ" only in virtue of the sacramental grace of Holy Orders.For that reason, the manner of the priest, in the offering of the Mass, should always point to the person of Christ and not to the person of the priest (no. 29a).

The congregation gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist requires the ministry of the priest, who is a gift from Christ and not a functionary of their choosing and making.The priestly service is necessary, so that the celebration of the Mass is one with the Sacrifice of Calvary and the Last Supper or First Eucharist, for Christ acts in the priest.The congregation by itself, that is without the presence and action of the priest, is incapable of renewing the Eucharistic Sacrifice (no. 29a-b).

The most important responsibility of a bishop, therefore, is to ordain priests, so that they may offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice for God’s holy people.The ordination of a priest by a successor of the Apostles means that the ordained priest is a gift received from Christ Himself (no. 29b).

Ecumenical reflections

The relationship of the ordained priesthood to the Eucharistic Sacrifice points to a significant area of division between the Roman Catholic Church and the Ecclesial Communities which have sprung up in Europe and beyond, beginning with the Protestant Revolt in the 16th century. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminded us that, because the Ecclesial Communities do not have the Sacrament of Holy Orders, they have not preserved the Sacrifice of the Mass in its integrity (no. 30a).

Because of the significant difference of belief regarding the Holy Eucharist among members of the Ecclesial Communities, Catholics are not permitted to receive the communion which they give.Otherwise, a serious question would be raised about the Catholic faith in the Holy Eucharist, causing confusion about a central doctrine of the faith. For the same reason, it is never permissible to substitute participation in an ecumenical prayer service or in the liturgical services of an Ecclesial Community for participation in Sunday Mass. While participation in ecumenical services can help lead us to a fuller unity through prayer together, it cannot replace, in any way, participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice (no. 30b).

Pope John Paul II points out that the restriction of the power to consecrate the Holy Eucharist to bishops and priests alone "does not represent any belittlement of the rest of the People of God, for, in the communion of the one body of Christ which is the Church, this gift redounds to the benefit of all" (no. 30c).

Center of the priestly ministry

The Holy Eucharist is the heart and the highest expression of the life of the Church. It is, therefore, also "the center and summit of priestly ministry" (no. 31a). The Holy Eucharist, in fact, is the reason for the existence of the priestly vocation and mission which Christ instituted at the Last Supper.

Pope John Paul II sensitively observes that the volume and variety of priestly activities and the fast pace of life in society, in general, could easily cause priests to suffer a loss of focus in their lives.The pastoral charity, which is expressed in every truly pastoral act of the priest, comes chiefly from the Holy Eucharist.For that reason, the priest necessarily seeks in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in eucharistic worship outside of the Mass the direction and strength for all of his pastoral activity.In his last Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday, given from his room at Gemelli Hospital in Rome on March 13 of this year, Pope John Paul II urged priests to "shape" their priestly ministry according to the Eucharistic Sacrifice and, specifically, to make the words of consecration their "formula of life" (Pope John Paul II, "Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2005," no. 1c).

The heart of the priestly ministry in the Eucharistic Sacrifice also explains the Church’s discipline which requires that a priest offer Mass daily, even if he is without a visible congregation, for the Mass is always "an act of Christ and the Church" (no. 31b).As one of my professors of canon law frequently observed, a priest never offers the Mass alone, for the whole company of heaven assists at every offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The priest who centers his entire priestly life and ministry on the Holy Eucharist will overcome the tendency to lose his focus because of the many demands of his pastoral office. He will not become overwhelmed by the demands of his priestly ministry, for he will be united with Christ in bringing pastoral charity to God’s flock.

Center of seminary formation

Given all of the above, it is clear that the Holy Eucharist must be at the center of the formation of future priests.First of all, the manner in which a priest celebrates the Mass and brings the Holy Eucharist to the faithful outside of Mass will inspire very much those whom God is calling to the ordained priesthood. Personally, I was most deeply inspired as a boy of 8 years of age by the manner in which the parish priest came to visit my father when he was dying at home, hearing his confession and giving Holy Communion to him.

The manner of participation of all of the faithful will also contribute very much in assisting a young man to recognize the call to the priesthood and to respond wholeheartedly.Those called to the priesthood will discover God’s call before the Blessed Sacrament, through frequent and attentive participation in the Holy Mass and through eucharistic devotion.

Absence of a priest

In the context of the place of the Holy Eucharist in the life of the Catholic community and the necessity of the eucharistic ministry of the ordained priest, the Holy Father reflects upon the great distress caused to the Church by situations in which a congregation of the faithful is without a priest.For one thing, it is very difficult for those called to the priesthood to recognize God’s call without the witness of the service of the priest, especially his offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice (no. 32a).

The Holy Father refers to the various temporary solutions to the situation of a congregation without a priest. In such circumstances, members of the laity and consecrated persons, who have been properly prepared, drawing upon the common grace of Baptism, lead the faithful in prayer on Sunday and may distribute Holy Communion with hosts consecrated at an earlier celebration of the Holy Mass. It is essential to point out to the congregation that the situation is defective and temporary, and to urge the congregation to pray and sacrifice, so that those whom God is calling to the ordained priesthood will respond with a generous and undivided heart. The serious deficiency of the situation should inspire everyone to develop and employ all of the resources needed for an effective apostolate of priestly vocations (no. 32b).

Finally, Pope John Paul II points out that the laity or consecrated persons who share in the pastoral care of the parish are obliged to do all that they can to foster the love of the Holy Eucharist among the faithful and their desire to participate in the Mass celebrated by a validly ordained priest.In this way, as our late Holy Father observed, the congregation will never miss the opportunity to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice offered by Christ through the ministry of His priest (no. 33).


Continuing reflection upon the Holy Eucharist leads us to an ever deeper appreciation of the apostolic character of our life in the Church and to safeguard the integrity of eucharistic faith and practice which have been handed down to us from the Apostles. In our relationship with members of Ecclesial Communities, we must be attentive to give a clear and strong witness to the Holy Eucharist, Christ’s greatest gift to us in the Church. Our attentiveness in witness to the truth about the Holy Eucharist will be the sign of our respect and, indeed, our affection for our brothers and sisters of the Ecclesial Communities.

Our deepening understanding of the apostolic character of the Holy Eucharist naturally fosters a deeper love of the ordained priesthood.It helps us, in our relationships with priests, to honor the source and the center of their pastoral charity in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.At the same time, it inspires us to carry out faithfully our responsibility for the apostolate of priestly vocations.

The evil of so-called euthanasia


On March 31, Terri Schindler Schiavo died from the lack of nutrition and hydration.For her parents, her brother and her sister, Terri’s death was particularly sorrowful, for they were constrained by the courts of our nation to see their daughter and sister die for lack of the food and water which they so much desired to provide for her in their loving care.

The day of Terri Schiavo’s death was most sad for our whole nation.The United States of America, with its great abundance of material goods, would not provide basic food and water to a citizen whose life was heavily burdened but, rather, let her die of hunger and thirst because the "quality" of her life was judged not to merit the protection of the law.Many, especially our fellow citizens whose lives are similarly burdened, have understandably asked where the deadly failure of respect for the dignity of the human life of citizens who are burdened with advanced years, serious illness or special needs will end. All of us have cause to fear for the future of a nation in which a class or group of citizens is set aside and denied the protection of the law, especially in what regards the fundamental right to human life.

The many discussions, both in private conversations and in the media, about the denial of nutrition and hydration to Terri Schiavo raise serious questions about our understanding of the respect for human life, the meaning of human suffering and the care of the sick and dying.The Church, by her very nature, is a guardian and teacher of the natural moral law in our society, for the natural law is written upon our hearts by God.In a society in which the natural moral law, in one of its most fundamental tenets, is violated, the Church must be more diligent than ever in her witness to the dignity of every human life from the moment of its inception to the moment of its natural death.

Respect for human life

The natural moral law teaches us the inviolability of innocent human life.Deliberately taking the life of an innocent person is intrinsically evil and is never justified.Right reason teaches us the good we are to do and the evil we are to avoid. It teaches us that human life is a gift to be accorded the highest respect and care from its beginning until death. It teaches us that we are not the creators of human life and, therefore, we must respect the plan of the Author of Life for us and for our world.Respect for the dignity of human life is the foundation of good order in our individual lives and in society.The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches us:

"The natural law, the Creator’s very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community.Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draw conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature" (n. 1959).

Clearly, without the respect for the dignity of all human life, which the natural law teaches us, our personal lives become profoundly disordered and society soon becomes a theater of violence and death.

In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in an address which he gave to the members of the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas" on March 20, 2004, rightly observed:

"Moreover, to admit that decisions regarding man’s life can be based on the external acknowledgment of its quality, is the same as acknowledging that increasing and decreasing levels of quality of life, and therefore of human dignity, can be attributed from an external perspective to any subject, thus introducing into social relationships a discriminatory and eugenic principle" (Pope John Paul II, "Persons in ‘vegetative state’ deserve proper care," in L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, March 31, 2004, p. 5, n. 5b).

History teaches us the grave injustices, including genocide, committed in a society which takes to itself the judgment of which lives are worthy and which are not.

The essential tenets of the natural moral law are found in the Decalogue or Ten Command-ments. The Fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," demands respect for the dignity of all human life. Christ brings to fulfillment the teaching of the natural moral law by His Sermon on the Mount, the heart of which is the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:1-12). The Beatitudes are the summary of all that Christ teaches us about what is morally good.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ teaches the divine and universal charity which is God’s gift to us in Him.
Repeating the Fifth Commandment, He teaches that it forbids not only actual murder but also the anger which wishes evil for a neighbor (Mt 5:22-25).

The teaching of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount is further exemplified in His Parable of the Last Judgment, in which our Lord makes clear that our goodness, our righteousness, lies in following His way of universal charity by giving food to the hungry, by providing drink to the thirsty, by welcoming the stranger, by clothing the naked, and by visiting the sick and the imprisoned (Mt 25:31-46). The teaching of the parable is summed up in the words of the King:

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40).

Our Lord, God-made man, identifies Himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.He invites us to recognize Him in our brothers and sisters who are in most need, and to love Him by caring for them.

Respect for human life burdened by suffering
The natural moral law binds us in love, in a particular way, to those who have grown weak under the weight of advanced years, serious illness or special needs.It teaches us that our brothers and sisters who most depend upon us have the first title to our care.We read in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church":

"Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect.Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible" (n. 2276).

Some have argued that, when a person is no longer able to relate to others, as he or she would most wish, then human life no longer has purpose. The gravely ill person may not be able to relate to us as he or she — and we — would most like, but indeed relates to us as a brother or sister.

In his address to the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State," Pope John Paul II observes that the clinical term, "vegetative state," is always improperly used in referring to a suffering human being:

"A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal’" (Pope John Paul II, "Persons in ‘vegetative state’ deserve proper care," in L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, March 31, 2004, p. 5, n. 3b).

In the long-term care of the suffering person, our relationship with the person continues to develop and can express great, even heroic, respect and love.

The meaning of human suffering

Our culture’s view of human suffering makes it especially difficult to appreciate the good of a life which is heavily burdened.Our culture tells us that our life should be comfortable and convenient, and it devotes itself to forming us in the avoidance of all stress, pain and suffering.Sometimes, the cultural view takes on a spiritual appearance by claiming that our life in the body or physical life has no ultimate meaning, that our ultimate happiness lies in being freed of the body.

Nature, however, teaches us the unity of body and soul in the human person.All our joys and sorrows are both spiritual and physical, for we have one human nature.

The Christian faith teaches us that the soul is the form of the body. Our body, we know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit.It is through our body that we give expression to our love of God and of one another.Even as Christ was raised, body and soul, from the dead, so, when our soul has left the body at death, we await the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. For that reason, we show great respect to our body during our life on earth and, in death, bring the body to reverent burial to await the resurrection when Christ returns in glory.

Human suffering has always a physical and spiritual dimension, even as the suffering of Christ had both a physical and spiritual dimension.We know that the physical and spiritual suffering of Christ, by which He won our salvation, must be realized in our individual lives.Through baptism, we are buried with Christ sacramentally and rise with him to new and eternal life.The grace of the Holy Spirit, given to us in the Sacrament of Baptism, and strengthened and increased within us through the Sacrament of Confirmation, leads us to unite our suffering and dying to the suffering and dying of Christ, pouring out our lives, with Christ, in love of God and our neighbor.Suffering is, in no way, meaningless to us.Rather, it is for us an invitation to be ever more perfectly united to Christ, to be purified of whatever keeps us from loving God and one another, and to be ever more generous in that love.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Colossians, writes about his own suffering, reminding us that the Church and we, as individual members of the Church, continue Christ’s mission in the world through our share in His suffering. He declares:

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints" (Col 1:23-26).

It is not that Christ’s redemptive work is, in any way, lacking.Rather, we are called to share in His redemptive work in every time and in every place, and, in that sense, to "complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of ... the Church."

I recall Pope John Paul II’s extended reflection upon the meaning of human suffering in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, "On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering," published on Feb. 11, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in 1984. Referring to the passage from the Letter to the Colossians, he wrote:

"The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption.This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite.No man can add anything to it.But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His body, Christ has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings — in any part of the world and at any time in history — to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world" (n. 24b).

Even as Christ pours out ever new His life for us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is one with the Sacrifice of the Cross, so also those united to Christ in His Sacrifice, unite their sufferings to His for the sake of the salvation of the world.

Our Holy Father expresses this profound truth:

"In this dimension — the dimension of love — the
Redemption which has already been completely accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished.Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limit; but at the same time he did not bring it to a close.In this redemptive suffering, through which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so.Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ’s redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed" (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, n. 24c).

While society may consider human suffering to be useless and a diminishment of our human dignity, we know that just the opposite is true.Human suffering, embraced with the love of Christ, brings immense blessings to the Church and the world, and sheds an ever greater light upon the dignity ofevery human life.

In his "Message for Lent 2005," in which Pope John Paul II reflects upon the great gift of advanced years or old age, he raises the question:

"What would happen if the People of God yielded to a certain current mentality that considers these people [the elderly], our brothers and sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities due to the difficulties of age or sickness? Instead, how different the community would be if, beginning with the family, it tries always to remain open and welcoming toward them" (n. 3c).

In the suffering of our brothers and sisters, we see the Face of Christ and are invited to assist them in offering up their sufferings, with Christ, for the needs of the Church and the world.

Care of the sick and the dying

In the case of Terri Schiavo, the question has been raised about appropriate care of the sick and the dying. First of all, we should be clear that, although Terri Schiavo suffered from the effects of a serious medical condition, she was not dying at the time of the withdrawal of food and water from her. It is clear, from the number of days she lived after the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration, that she died slowly from the privation of the most basic human care.

In his address to the International Congress on ‘Life-sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State," Pope John Paul II reminded us that the sick person in the so-called "vegetative state," like any seriously ill person, has "the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.), and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed" (n. 4b). In addition, the Holy Father reminded us, that he or she "has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery" (n. 4b).

The Holy Father underlined that "the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act" (n. 4c). Recalling the Church’s perennial teaching that we are morally obligated to use ordinary and proportionate measures in our care of the sick, Pope John Paul II made it clear that provision of nutrition and hydration by artificial means constitutes an ordinary and proportionate means. He went on to address the case of a person who remains for a prolonged period in the so-called "vegetative state," reminding us that "waning hopes for recovery" cannot morally justify "the cessation or interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration" (n. 4e). To cause the death of the patient through starvation or dehydration is truly "euthanasia by omission" (n. 4e).

Euthanasia, which literally means "good death," in fact, cannot be a good death, for it fails to respect God and His plan for us.In a"good death" or "holy death," we embrace our sufferings with faith in Christ and His Resurrection, abandoning ourselves completely to God’s will.We read in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church":

"Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable" (n. 2277).

To withdraw nutrition and hydration from a person who is not dying to bring about the death of the person "constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church," n. 2277).

The situation is entirely different when medical procedures are discontinued because they are "burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church," n. 2278).In such a case, one does not intend to cause death but one recognizes his "inability to impede death" (n. 2278).One accepts the will of God Who is clearly calling the person home to Himself in death.

Regarding extraordinary and disproportionate measures for the preservation of human life, individuals are encouraged to make known their wishes before they become ill by drawing up and executing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.For a Catholic, such a document will respect fully the dignity of human life.Certainly, it will not exclude the administration of food and water, even by artificial means.If you are interested in further information about a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, please contact the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office.

What about the so-called "right to die"?No one of us has a right to die, in the sense of a right to cause one’s own death. We have a right to those material and spiritual helps which will prepare us for death, when God calls us home to Himself.Therefore, even if a person will have expressed the desire to die under certain circumstances, his desire can be respected only to the degree that his desire is true to God’s Law.


It is my hope that the above will help you in thinking about the complex issues of death, respect for human life and the care of the sick and dying, with which our nation was confronted in the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo.I also hope that it will lead you to find ways to give a strong witness to the dignity of all of our brothers and sisters, especially when they are experiencing diminishment and serious illness.

Let us be one in praying for the eternal rest of Terri Schiavo and for the consolation of her family and friends.Let us also be fervent in our daily prayers that respect for all human life may be restored in our nation.

Let us treasure those among us who suffer from any form of weakness or infirmity. May the witness of their union with Christ in the mystery of His Passion and Death lead us to deeper faith and a stronger commitment of love.

The Holy Eucharist and the growth of the Church


After having reflected upon the Holy Eucharist as the mystery of faith in the first chapter of his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)," Pope John Paul II reflects upon the Holy Eucharist as the source of the strength and the growth of the Church. Our Holy Father is inspired by the perennial teaching of the Church, expressed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen gentium," of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.The teaching of the council reminds us that the Church receives its strength and growth from the altar of Christ’s Sacrifice.Even as the individual members of the Body of Christ are strengthened and grow in holiness, most of all, by participation in the Holy Mass, so does the whole Body of Christ receive its life and development from the Eucharistic Sacrifice (no. 21a).The importance of the Holy Eucharist for the life of the Church, from her very beginnings, cannot be emphasized enough.

At the Beginnings of the Church

The celebration of the Holy Mass was, in truth, the source of the life of the Church at her very beginnings.On the night before He died, Christ, in the company of the Apostles, instituted the Holy Eucharist and the ordained priesthood, so that, through the priestly ministry of the Apostles, the faithful might always share in the spiritual fruits of the sacrifice which He was to carry out on Calvary on the following day, Good Friday.The 12 Apostles, symbolically recalling the 12 tribes of Israel, represent the new People of God, embracing all nations.They are "the beginning of the sacred hierarchy" whose mission it is to preserve God’s flock in the unity of Christ.

The new People of God is brought to life from the pierced Heart of Jesus and sustained in life from the glorious Heart of Jesus who is now seated at the right hand of the Father.The Last Supper, which is the first celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, "laid the foundations of the new messianic community, the People of God of the New Covenant," just as the sacrifice at Mount Sinai, in the time of Moses, had sealed the Old Covenant. Our Holy Father states this profound truth in the following words:

"The Apostles, by accepting in the Upper Room Jesus’ invitation: ‘Take, eat,’ ‘Drink of it, all of you’ (Matthew 26:26-27), entered for the first time into sacramental communion with Him.From that time forward, until the end of the age, the Church is built up through sacramental communion with the Son of God who was sacrificed for our sake: ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.
...Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’ (1 Corinthians 11:24-25; Luke 22:19).

"By the same words, with which Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist, He also consecrated the first bishops and priests to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Rightly, we can say that Christ constituted the Church at her beginnings at the Last Supper" (no. 21b).

Mutual Abiding of Christ and His Disciples

When our Lord transformed the bread and wine of the Last Supper into His true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, He made possible our communion with Him through the Most Blessed Sacrament.Through the institution of the Holy Eucharist, our Lord made it possible for us to become one body with Him.Our Lord instructed the Apostles to renew always His Supper, so that the People of God might be built up in every time and place through participation in the Holy Eucharist, especially through communion with Him in His true Body and Blood (no. 21c).

Our Holy Father makes clear the profound meaning of eucharistic communion for our life in the Church by reminding us that we not only receive Christ in Holy Communion but He also receives us. Christ truly calls us His friends by inviting us to the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet.In other words, Christ deeply desires that we be in His company and that He be in our company.He fulfills His desire, best of all, through the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet (no. 22a).

"Eucharistic communion brings about in a sublime way the mutual ‘abiding’ of Christ and each of His followers: ‘Abide in me, and I in you’" (John 15:4) (no. 22a).

We are never closer to Christ than in the Holy Eucharist.There is no way in which He comes closer to us than in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in His abiding presence in the consecrated hosts reposed in the tabernacles of our churches and chapels.

Sign of Salvation for the World

Communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist has enabled the Church, from her very beginnings, to carry out her mission of being a sign of salvation in Christ for all the nations.The Church is constituted to carry out the mission of Christ in the world.Christ alive within the Church continues His saving work through the Church.The Holy Father reminds us of the strong and clear words of our Lord Jesus: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21).At the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Church receives her mission, which is to share in the mystery of Christ’s Suffering, Dying and Rising from the Dead. At the same time, at the Mass, she also expresses most fully the same mission of bringing all mankind into communion with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit (no. 22b).The Holy Father teaches us:

"The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit" (no. 22b).

To carry out the mission of Christ in the world, His disciples must first know and love Him intimately.We cannot bring Christ to others, if we have not first received Him in Holy Communion and kept company with Him in prayer and, above all, in eucharistic adoration.Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, great missionary to all the nations, insisted the words of Christ, when He was dying on the cross, "I thirst," be placed near the crucifix above the tabernacle of every chapel of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation which she founded, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the Christlike love of "the poorest of the poor" (Mother Teresa, A Simple Path, New York: Ballantine Books, 1995).The words of Christ, "I thirst," express His unquenchable thirst for souls, His undying desire that God’s truth and love reach to every man and woman of every time and place.

Confirming the Church in Unity

Participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet sustains the Church in the unity which her members enjoy because of baptism.All of the Church’s members are incorporated into Christ, become truly members of the Body of Christ, through the waters of Baptism.The Holy Eucharist nourishes the life of Christ within us from the moment of our baptism.It is in virtue of our unity with Christ in baptism and in the Eucharist that we are also one with each other.The Holy Eucharist confirms the unity of the many members of Christ’s Body (no. 23a).

The unity of the Church has its source in the "joint and inseparable activity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (no. 23b).The Church is called into being through Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, by which He has won the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us, Her members. The Holy Father comments:

"The argument is compelling: our union with Christ, which is a gift and grace for each of us, makes it possible for us, in Him, to share in the unity of His Body which is the Church.The Eucharist reinforces the incorporation into Christ which took place in baptism through the gift of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13, 27).

Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.Christ became incarnate for our salvation through the action of the Holy Spirit.It is also the Holy Spirit who overshadows our gifts of bread and wine at the Mass, transforming them into the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.The Holy Spirit unceasingly nourishes and strengthens His life within us through the incomparable spiritual food which is the Body and Blood of Christ."The Church is fortified by the divine Paraclete through the sanctification of the faithful in the Eucharist" (no. 23b).

The Holy Eucharist binds brothers and sisters in Christ in the deepest possible unity, far beyond any merely human bond.Participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet is not merely sharing a meal together.Rather, it is sharing in the divine communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which alone can bring mankind to unity and peace (no. 24a).

Desire of Unity and the Seeds of Division

There is in us, at one and the same time, the deepest desire of communion with one another and the tendency to division which is born from what our Holy Father calls the "seeds of disunity." The "seeds of disunity" come from the stain of original sin and our actual sins (no. 24b).

The Holy Eucharist fulfills our desire for unity with one another in a way beyond all our imagining; Holy Communion makes us one with each other in the divine Son of God.Our unity with one another has its origin in God.It cannot be destroyed by any human force and has its eternal fulfillment in the life which is to come.At the same time, the Holy Eucharist strengthens us, so that we may purify ourselves of the seeds of disunity.Communion with Christ strengthens us to overcome, with Christ, the division which sin introduces into our lives.Our Holy Father reminds us:

"The seeds of disunity, which daily experience shows to be so deeply rooted in humanity as a result of sin, are countered by the unifying power of the Body of Christ.The Eucharist, precisely by building up the Church, creates human community" (no. 24b).

Here we see the essential connection of the Holy Eucharist and penance.Through the confession of our sins, which separate us, in varying degrees, from God and from one another, we are prepared to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, uniting us to God and to one another.At the same time, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ enlightens our minds and inflames our hearts to see what keeps us from unity with God and with each other, and to root out from our hearts the seeds of disunity.

Worship of the Holy Eucharist Outside of Mass

In the context of reflecting upon how the celebration of the Holy Eucharist builds up the life of the Church, the Holy Father underlines the importance of worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament outside of the celebration of the Holy Mass.He reminds us that the Real Presence of Christ under the veils of the consecrated bread and wine, from the moment of the Consecration of the Mass, remains as long as the species of the consecrated bread and wine themselves remain, and that, therefore, the Church reserves the Body of Christ in the tabernacle after the distribution of Holy Communion.

The reserved Blessed Sacrament comes directly from the Sacrifice of the Mass and inspires the desire for participation in the Holy Mass and for Holy Communion, also spiritual communion when it is not possible to receive sacramental communion.So important is worship of the Blessed Sacrament that our Holy Father reminds bishops and priests of the responsibility "to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ under the Eucharistic species" (no. 25a).

Our Holy Father draws our attention to the profound reality of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.It is spending time with the Lord.He likens it to the experience of the Beloved Disciple, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, who rested his head upon the breast of Christ at the Last Supper.Through prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we experience the intimate and inexhaustible love of the glorious Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which Christ unceasingly pours forth His grace upon us, His gift of His true Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.Through Eucharistic Communion and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we lift up our poor and sinful hearts to our Lord and He receives our hearts into His Most Sacred Heart, which is all rich in divine mercy and love.

In "Novo millennio ineunte," the Holy Father’s apostolic letter "At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000," Pope John Paul II reminded us that our times require, above all, that we be persons of prayer.In other words, he taught us that the new evangelization must be accomplished, first of all, through the power of prayer.Our Holy Father puts a telling question to us:

"If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the ‘art of prayer,’ how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Blessed Sacrament?" (no. 25b).

As we recognize the need of more intense prayer in our lives, we sense the need to pray in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.The Holy Father exclaims: "How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!" (no. 25b).

Church teaching urges us to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.The example of the saints inspires us to treasure, in a most special way, eucharistic adoration.Our Holy Father quotes St. Alphonsus Liguori: "‘Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us’" (no. 25c).


Through the Holy Eucharist, first of all by participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass and then by eucharistic worship outside of Mass, we contemplate the Face of Christ as directly and as fully as is possible for us on this earth.From our contemplation of the Face of Christ, we draw the grace to live in Christ each day.It is the Holy Eucharist, above all, which builds up the Church in unity and love.If we truly desire to know Christ, to contemplate His Face, then we will be earnest in promoting eucharistic adoration, "which prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the Body and Blood of the Lord" (no. 25c).

The Holy Eucharist: The Mystery of Faith


My second reflection upon the Church’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist centers on the first chapter of Pope John Paul II encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship with the Church)," which is titled "The Mystery of Faith."It is a particularly fitting reflection during the holiest days of the Church year, in which the Holy Eucharist was instituted and Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary, which it makes present, was accomplished.Before I enter into a reflection on the Holy Eucharist as the Mystery of Faith, however, I draw your attention to a most important event in the archdiocese, which is directed toward the richer participation in the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass, by all the faithful.

Gateway Liturgical Conference

The Gateway Liturgical Conference will be held at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Downtown St. Louis from the afternoon of Thursday, April 7, to the afternoon of Friday, April 8.The conference is geared toward priests, deacons, consecrated persons and lay faithful who have responsibility for the Sacred Liturgy in their parishes or who simply desire to deepen their knowledge and love of the Church’s public worship.A number of excellent presenters from the archdiocese and from other parts of our nation will offer sessions, treating a great variety of liturgical matters.

The opening address on Thursday afternoon will be given by Msgr. James P. Moroney, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester and currently executive director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.He will speak on the development and completion of the vernacular edition of the Roman Missal for the United States.Msgr. Moroney serves not only the Conference of Bishops in our nation but also the Holy Father’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to which the Holy Father has named him a consultor.

The archdiocese is most deeply honored by the participation of Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in the Gateway Liturgical Conference.Cardinal Arinze will give the keynote address on Friday morning, speaking on the topic, "Liturgical Norms and Liturgical Piety."He will follow his address to all of the participants with a workshop on liturgical reform for priests, seminarians, deacons and liturgists. Cardinal Arinze will help participants in the conference to gain a firmer grasp of the liturgical norms in the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal" and in the "Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (On Certain Matters To Be Observed or To Be Avoided Regarding the Most Holy Eucharist)."The cardinal is a most engaging presenter who will draw upon his rich knowledge and love of the Sacred Liturgy.

Please consider taking part in all, or at least some, of the Gateway Liturgical Conference.Because of the fundamental importance of the subject matter, I am asking all of the priests of the archdiocese to participate in, at least, the Friday morning sessions with Cardinal Arinze.The seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will take part in these sessions.If you wish more information about the conference or need assistance in registering for it, please contact the Office of Worship of the Archdiocese at (314) 792-7230 or hope that you will be able to join me, together with other faithful of the archdiocese, at the Gateway Liturgical Conference.

Eucharistic Sacrifice

After the consecration of the bread and wine at Holy Mass, that is after the bread and wine have become truly and completely the Body and Blood of Christ, and after the priest has shown the sacred species, the Body and Blood of Christ, to the congregation and has adored Christ by genuflecting before the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood, he immediately invites the congregation to proclaim the mystery of faith.The congregation then sings or says: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again" or one of the other memorial acclamations which all have the same content: Christ’s Passion and Death, His Resurrection and His return in glory at the end of time.The memorial acclamation reflects the deepest truth about the Holy Eucharist, the inseparability of the Holy Eucharist from the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist on the night He was betrayed, the night before His cruel Passion and Death.He instituted the Holy Eucharist so that the fruits of His Suffering and Dying on the Cross on the next day would be constantly offered in the Church, to all peoples of every time and place.The Mass, as the Holy Father declares, "is indelibly marked by the event of the Lord’s Passion and Death, of which it is not only a reminder but the sacramental re-presentation" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 11a).

Christ desired that the sacrifice which He was going to offer on Calvary on Good Friday continue always in the Church, and He fulfills His desire by the most wondrous sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in which He, acting through His minister, the ordained priest, offers ever anew, now in an unbloody manner, the one sacrifice of His life on the Cross.In a concise and striking manner, our Holy Father describes the inseparability of the Sacrifice of Calvary and the Sacrifice of the Mass:

"This sacrifice (of Calvary) is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after He had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits" (no. 11c).

The Holy Eucharist is indeed the "inestimable gift" of Christ to us, before which the only fitting response is adoration.The Sacrifice of the Holy Mass truly makes us present at the Sacrifice on Calvary.

The Holy Eucharist is not just one of the many gifts which Christ has left to us in the Church. It is the gift of Christ’s true Body and Blood, the gift of the whole fruit of His saving Passion and Death (no. 11b).All the other gifts of Christ to us are only fully understood in relationship to the gift of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet.That is why the Holy Father rightly first turns to the teaching on the Holy Eucharist in assisting us to carry out the new evangelization.

Christ’s universal charity

Contemplating the face of Christ at the Lord’s Supper and at every celebration of the Holy Mass, we contemplate His love, the incarnation of Divine Mercy which "knows no measure" (no. 11c).When Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist, He declared the bread to be His Body given for us and the wine to be His Blood poured out for us.The Holy Eucharist is not simply a partaking in the Body and Blood of Christ, not simply a banquet, but is always, at the same time, a sharing in Christ’s sacrifice.The heavenly Bread, which is the Holy Eucharist, is essentially sacrificial, it is the Body and Blood of Christ, offered and poured out for us as He gave up His life for us on the Cross.The sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated at every celebration of the Mass.Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ is always participation in Christ’s Suffering and Dying.

It is important to understand that the sacrifice of Christ is one."The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age" (no. 12b).This is the great wonder and treasure of the Holy Mass.The Mass is not an additional sacrifice to Calvary.It is not a constant multiplication of the one sacrifice of Calvary.It is the sacrifice of Calvary, it is Calvary’s "commemorative representation," which, by the universal charity of Christ, makes his "one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time" (no. 12c).

In the Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ offers Himself completely to God the Father.God the Father, in response to the total obedience of His Son, gives Christ eternal life by raising Him from the dead.We, the Church, sharing in Christ’s sacrifice — in the love which God the Father and God the Son have shared, in the Holy Spirit, from all eternity — are called to offer ourselves in union with Christ.We are called to share in His universal charity, which "knows no measure."Through the Holy Eucharist, God the Father responds to our sacrifice with the gift of eternal life.

The Real Presence

Pope John Paul II reminds us: "The Eucharistic Sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of the Savior’s Passion and Death, but also the mystery of the Resurrection which crowned his sacrifice" (no. 14). Christ can only become the Bread of Life for us because He is risen from the dead and is alive for us in the Church.We refer to the living presence of Christ with us in the Holy Eucharist as the Real Presence.In order to help us understand more fully the meaning of the Real Presence, our Holy Father recalls for us a text of Pope Paul VI, who explained that the term does not imply that the other presences of Christ in the Church are "not real" but underlines that the eucharistic presence "is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present" (no. 15a).

The proper term for the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, which takes place during the Holy Mass, at the consecration, is transubstantiation.No other term has been found to be as adequate in pointing to the Eucharistic mystery.Theologians and saints, down the Christian centuries, have desired to plumb more and more the depth of the mystery of the Eucharist, of the profound reality which transubstantiation expresses.Often, too, their love of the Holy Eucharist and desire to express their love has taken poetic form, for example, the hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas, "Adoro Te devote (Devoutly I adore You)," to which our Holy Father refers. Once again, Pope Paul VI underlined the truth which must be reflected in our thinking, speaking and writing about the Holy Eucharist:

"Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, must firmly maintain that in objective reality, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the consecration, so that the adorable Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus from that moment on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine" (no. 15c).

Eucharistic banquet

Christ makes Himself substantially present to us through the Holy Eucharist with one only end in view, namely that we may receive Him in Holy Communion."The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion ..." (no. 16).The Holy Eucharist is true spiritual food, Christ nourishing the life of the Holy Spirit within us through the reception of His glorious Body and Blood.The sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John helps us very much to understand the Eucharistic Banquet.Christ made it clear that only by eating His Body and drinking His Blood can we have life within us.The disciples understood the true import of His teaching, for, from that day, some refused to believe in Him and left His company.

Holy Communion, participation in the Eucharistic Banquet, is Christ’s way of sustaining His life within us, poured out in us at the moment of our baptism, and strengthened and increased within us from the moment of our confirmation.The Sacraments of Initiation —Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist — are essentially related to one another. "Thus by the gift of His Body and Blood Christ increases within us the gift of His Spirit, already poured out in Baptism and bestowed as a ‘seal’ in the sacrament of Confirmation" (no. 17).


Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ is already now a participation in the fullness of communion with God, which will be ours, God willing, in the Kingdom of Heaven.The Holy Eucharist is likewise the spiritual Food to sustain us along life’s pilgrimage home to God the Father.In the wonderful words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Holy Communion is "a medicine of immortality, an antidote to death" (quoted in no. 18).That is why the Church so much desires that the dying receive Holy Communion and calls the Holy Communion of the dying by a special name, Viaticum, "food for the journey" from this life to the life which is to come.

The fact that Holy Communion is an anticipation of the life to come also means that it commits us to preparing the day of Christ’s final coming during each moment of our lives.The account of the institution of the Holy Eucharist in the Gospel according to St. John underlines the mandate which the Holy Eucharist is for us.It is a sharing in the outpouring of Christ’s life for the love of all; it contains the command to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters, without distinction or exception.I conclude my reflection with the inspiring words of our Holy Father:

"Proclaiming the death of the Lord ‘until He comes’ (1 Cor 11:26) entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely ‘Eucharistic’" (no. 20c).

May you have a blessed celebration of the Sacred Triduum and of the Easter Octave. During these holiest of days, may you receive strong grace to make your life "completely Eucharistic."

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