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!’


Part One of Pope Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" treats our faith in the Holy Eucharist.It first examines the Holy Eucharist as the gift of the Holy Trinity to us, examining the participation of each of the persons of the Holy Trinity in the giving. In the Holy Eucharist, God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — freely choose to share our human condition and thereby to give us a share in their one Divine Life.

Secondly, the Holy Father discusses the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to the Church.The Church is given birth in the Holy Eucharist, in the outpouring of Christ’s life for our eternal salvation.Sharing His Divine Life with us, Christ draws us all together into one, into the unity of the pure and selfless love with which God has first loved us. In the celebration of the Holy Mass, each member of the faithful is made one with every other member of the faithful throughout the world.

The Holy Father concludes Part One of "Sacramentum Caritatis" with a discussion of the relationship of the Holy Eucharist with the other Sacraments, with our final destiny and with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The subject of this week’s column is the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to the other two sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism and Confirmation), and to the sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.In next week’s column, I will complete the study of Part One of "Sacramentum Caritatis" by presenting the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to the sacraments of Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony, to our final destiny (the Last Things) and to our Blessed Mother.

The Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments

All of the sacraments are essentially related to the Holy Eucharist, even as the whole of our Christian life has its source in the Eucharistic Mystery and flows from our participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Pope Benedict XVI observes that we can best understand the central place of the Holy Eucharist in the life of the Church by remembering that the Church herself is a sacrament in the sense that she is a visible and efficacious instrument of our communion with God and with all our brothers and sisters (n. 16).It is through the seven sacraments that the Church is a sacrament.They are the privileged means by which Christ alive in the Church continues to pour out the Holy Spirit into our souls and to nourish and restore the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.The Holy Father observes:

"The Church receives and at the same time expresses what she herself is in the seven sacraments, thanks to which God’s grace concretely influences the lives of the faithful, so that their whole existence, redeemed by Christ, can become an act of worship pleasing to God" (n. 16).

In other words, the Church is an efficacious sign of God’s love in the world through the sacraments and, above all, the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

The Holy Eucharist and the sacraments of Christian initiation

There are three sacraments by which we enter fully into the life of Christ: Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.For that reason, they are called the sacraments of Christian initiation.Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that Baptism and Confirmation are directed to the Holy Eucharist by which we have the fullness of communion with Christ in His Church.By Baptism, we are cleansed of original sin and brought to life in Christ and become members of His Mystical Body, the Church.Our baptismal entrance into the Church is brought to perfection with the reception of First Holy Communion."The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the center and goal of all sacramental life" (n. 17).

The Holy Father discusses the order in which the sacraments of initiation are received.In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the relationship of the Holy Eucharist, as the perfection of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is given in Baptism and is strengthened and increased in Confirmation, is more clearly visible.The practice of the Eastern Churches is to confer the sacrament of Confirmation immediately after baptism.In the Latin Church, the same order is followed when baptizing children who have reached the age of reason and when baptizing adults.

In the Latin Church, there is a diversity of practice in the case of those baptized as infants.In some dioceses, children who were baptized as infants are confirmed before making their First Holy Communion.In other dioceses, like our own, children are confirmed a little later, especially as they are entering into their adolescent years.Regarding the diversity of practice, the Holy Father reminds us that the order of reception of Confirmation and First Holy Communion is a question of good pastoral practice.It does not pertain to the doctrine of the faith. He concludes: "Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the center, as the goal of the whole process of initiation" (n. 18).

Regarding the archdiocese’s practice of confirming those baptized as infants when they are in the seventh or eighth grades, I believe that it meets well the criterion of our Holy Father. I believe that the young people understand clearly that Confirmation completes Baptism, giving them the grace to be strong witnesses to Christ in the world, but that the Holy Eucharist is the highest expression of their Christian life.

Pope Benedict concludes the treatment of the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to Baptism and Confirmation by underlining the relationship of Christian initiation to the family and family life. He stresses the importance of the involvement of the family in the reception of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.In a particular way, he underlines the important role of the family at the time of the reception of First Holy Communion: "For many of the faithful, this day continues to be memorable as the moment when, even if in a rudimentary way, they first came to understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus" (n. 19).

The Holy Father’s words recalled to my mind the day of my reception of First Holy Communion. I remember so well the care with which my parents, my parish priests and the religious Sisters at St. Mary’s School in Richland Center, Wis., prepared me for the coming of our Eucharistic Lord into my soul.With a child’s understanding, I knew that our Lord was with me in a new and most intimate way, a wonderful way in which He would continue to be with me throughout my lifetime.I can honestly say that the day of my First Holy Communion has been the point of reference for my whole life in the Church.

The Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation

The more we appreciate the reality of the Holy Eucharist, the more we are led to confess our sins and receive our Lord’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. The reality of the Blessed Sacrament requires that we be properly disposed to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.Our Holy Father reflects upon the diminished sense of sin in our highly secularized society and the consequent "superficiality in the understanding of God’s love."It is, therefore, important for the Church to pay attention to the "elements within the Rite of the Mass that express consciousness of personal sin and, at the same time, of God’s mercy" (n. 20).Reflecting upon the essential relationship between the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance, we also become more conscious of the damage which our personal sins inflict upon the communion of the Church.Through the sacrament of Penance, our communion with the Body of Christ, is restored.The fullest expression of the restored communion is participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Regarding the relationship of the Holy Eucharist and Penance or Reconciliation, Pope Benedict XVI expresses several pastoral concerns, urging priests to "dedicate themselves with generosity, commitment and competency to administering the sacrament of Reconciliation."He gives four practical directives.First of all, confessionals in our churches are to be "clearly visible expressions of the importance of this sacrament."Secondly, great care is to be exercised by the parish priests in the celebration of the sacrament of Penance, keeping in mind that the individual confession of sins and individual absolution "is the only form intended for ordinary use."Thirdly, the Holy Father asks that there be a priest with the responsibility of penitentiary in every diocese to help meet "the need to rediscover sacramental forgiveness" (n. 21).

Lastly, Pope Benedict XVI stresses the important role of "a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences, whether for oneself or for the dead" in restoring the right understanding of the relationship of the Holy Eucharist and Penance.Although our sins are forgiven in the sacrament of Penance, they involve a temporal punishment which needs to be remitted.Through the practice of indulgences, the Church draws upon the infinite merits of our Redeemer for the remission of the temporal punishment due to our sins and the sins of our deceased brothers and sisters with whom we are one in the communion of the saints.The seeking of indulgences expresses our deep consciousness "that by our own efforts alone we would be incapable of making reparation for the wrong we have done, and that the sins of each individual harm the whole community" (n. 21).Our Holy Father reminds us that the very conditions for obtaining an indulgence, namely "going to Confession and receiving sacramental Communion," remind us of our constant need of conversion of life and of the "centrality of the Eucharist" in our daily Christian living.

The Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick

The reality of the Holy Eucharist is expressed in a particular way in the administration of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, for it "unites the sick with Christ’s self-offering for the salvation of all, so that they, too, within the mystery of the communion of saints, can participate in the redemption of the world" (n. 32).In a secularized society which views sickness and suffering as completely negative and meaningless, the Holy Eucharist reveals the mystery of love in the acceptance of suffering for the salvation of others.Even as the crucified Body of Christ, now gloriously seated at the right hand of the Father, is the greatest treasure of the Church, so also those who are sick and suffering are to be treasured by all in the Church and are a great source of blessing to all, when they embrace their suffering with and in Christ.The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick expresses the communion of our Eucharistic Lord with those who are seriously ill (n. 22).

Our Holy Father devotes special attention to Viaticum, the Holy Eucharist given to the dying, for it makes eloquently clear the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to the Anointing of the Sick. When we are dying, we most fully enter with Christ into the mystery of the passover from this life to the eternal life which is to come.The Church fervently desires, therefore, that the dying be fortified with the Bread of Heaven, the Body and Blood of Christ.Regarding the administration of Holy Communion to the dying, Pope Benedict XVI declares:"On their journey to the Father, communion in the Body and Blood of Christ appears as the seed of eternal life and the power of the Resurrection. ...Since Viaticum gives the sick a glimpse of the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, its administration should be readily provided for" (n. 22).

‘Be not afraid!’


Pope Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" is divided into three parts: "The Eucharist, A Mystery To Be Believed"; "The Eucharist, A Mystery To Be Celebrated"; and "The Eucharist, A Mystery To Be Lived."The three parts address the Church’s faith in the Holy Eucharist, her manner of celebrating the Eucharist and her new life in Christ which has its source and highest expression in the Holy Eucharist.

Part One, "The Eucharist, A Mystery To Be Believed," begins by reminding us that the Holy Eucharist is the Mystery of Faith, for it contains the entire spiritual good of the Church, the Sacrifice and Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.In the Holy Eucharist, we see the essential relationship between Catholic faith and the sacramental life.Our faith has its highest form of expression in the sacramental life.At the same time, our faith "is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments" (n. 6).Throughout the history of the Church, when there has been a strong eucharistic faith and devotion, there has also been a deep commitment to live in Christ, to carry out the mission entrusted by Him into our hands.

Part One treats, in sequence: 1) the Holy Eucharist as the gift of the Holy Trinity; 2) the Holy Eucharist as the new and eternal covenant in the Blood of Christ, the Lamb of God; 3) the work of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic Sacrifice; 4) the relationship of the Holy Eucharist with the Church; 5) the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to the other sacraments; 6) the Holy Eucharist and the Last Things, our final destiny; and 7) the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.This week, we will look at the first four points.

Holy Eucharist, Gift of the Holy Trinity

In the Holy Eucharist, we know the immeasurable love of God the Father for us.Pope Benedict XVI reminds us:

In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a "thing," but Himself; he offers His own Body and pours out His own Blood. He thus gives us the totality of His life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love.He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father (n. 7).

Our Holy Father recalls for us the words of our Lord Jesus in His discourse on the Bread of Life in the Gospel according to St. John.Our Lord declared:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (John 6:32-33).

As the discourse continues, our Lord Jesus identifies Himself with "the true bread from heaven: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:51).Reflecting upon the discourse, Pope Benedict XVI declares: "Jesus thus shows that He is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind" (n. 7).

The Holy Eucharist is a share in the life of the Triune God.It is a gift which God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — alone can give.God the Father gives the gift through the Death and Resurrection of God the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.It is a gift given out of pure and selfless love, with total freedom.In the Holy Eucharist, God, the Holy Trinity, "who is essentially love (cf. 1 John 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition" (n. 8).Sharing in the life of the Holy Trinity, we, in our human condition, share in the communion of love of the three Persons in one God.

Holy Eucharist, the Lamb of God

God the Son Incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ, fulfilled His vocation and completed His mission in the world by giving up His life for us on the Cross.In the crucified Body of Christ, "God’s freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact" (n.9). Our Holy Father refers to a striking passage from his encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est," in which he expresses the mystery of God’s love for us, revealed perfectly in the Passion and Death of Christ, and made always new for us in the Holy Eucharist: "Christ’s death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against Himself in which He gives Himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 12).

Our Lord Jesus is the Paschal Lamb by Whom we are definitively saved from sin and nourished with the gift of God’s love.At the very beginning of our Lord’s public ministry, St. John the Baptist identified Him as the "Lamb of God,Who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).Dying on the Cross, our Lord "freely gave Himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant" (n. 9). What our Lord accomplished on the Cross, the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation, is ever new for us in the Holy Eucharist.

Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, on the night before His Passion and Death.Celebrating the Passover Meal, in which the People of God not only recalled their past deliverance from slavery but also prayed for "a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation," our Lord anticipated and made present the salvation from sin and everlasting death which He was to win for us by His death on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead. The Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord are, in fact, only fully understood in the context of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet.Our Holy Father declares: "The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus’ death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in Him a supreme act of love and mankind’s definitive deliverance from evil" (n. 10).

At the Last Supper, our Lord, the Lamb of God, commanded us: "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:24).In other words, our Lord "asks us to respond to His gift and to make it sacramentally present" (n. 11).With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church has developed the Rite of the Mass by which the Lord’s Supper is continually renewed in every time and place.By the Rite of the Mass, we are united with our Lord in His Eucharistic Sacrifice.In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, we enter into the "hour" of our Lord Jesus, that is, "(t)he Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 13).Uniting ourselves to our Lord Jesus, our lives are animated by the total outpouring of self in love. Our Holy Father reminds us that the changing of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is "a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28)" (n. 11).

Holy Eucharist, Work of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit helps and guides the Church in developing the fitting liturgical rites by which the Eucharistic Sacrifice is celebrated each day.Our Holy Father tells us: "We need a renewed awareness of the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the evolution of the liturgical form and the deepening understanding of the sacred mysteries" (n. 12).The Holy Spirit, Who was dwelling, in all His fullness, in our Lord Jesus, is poured forth by our Lord into the souls of His disciples, so that they may do all that our Lord asks of them."Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ Himself continues to be present and active in His Church, starting with her vital center which is the Eucharist" (n. 12).

In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, before the words of institution by which our Lord transforms the bread and wine into His true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, the priest calls down the Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine, so that God the Father may change them into the Body and Blood of Christ, His Son and our Lord.The same Holy Spirit makes one the many members of the Body of Christ, uniting them in the outpouring of their lives, with Christ, for the sake of their brothers and sisters (n. 13).

Holy Eucharist, Birth and Life of the Church

The Church, the one Body of Christ, was born from the pierced side of Christ. From the pierced Heart of Jesus on the Cross, water and blood poured out, symbolizing the life of the Church, above all, in the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.As was just recalled, the Church is commanded by our Lord to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, but, at the same time, the Holy Eucharist gives birth to the Church and builds up the Church in unity and peace.In the relationship between the Church and the Holy Eucharist, we see that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is only possible because Christ has first given Himself to us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Banquet.Our Holy Father observes that "the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave Himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross" (n. 14).In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we understand the meaning of the words of St. John in his First Letter: "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

The faithful are all one in the Church through the Holy Eucharist.Through the Holy Eucharist, we share in the communion of the Triune God, which is the source of our communion with each other.Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the outstanding presentation of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist and communion in the encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II.Our Holy Father reflects on the individuation of each Christian community in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which also, at the same time, makes each individual Christian community one with the Church universal.Our Holy Father comments: "From this eucharistic perspective, adequately understood, ecclesial communion is seen to be catholic by its very nature" (n. 15).The unity of each Christian community with the one Body of Christ throughout the whole world is reflected in a special way in the celebration of the Holy Mass by the bishop, a successor to the apostles, with the priests, his co-workers, and with the participation of all of the faithful.


Finally, in the discussion of the relationship of the Church and the Holy Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI underlines the important contribution of eucharistic faith and practice "to the ecumenical dialogue with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities which are not in full communion with the See of Peter" (n. 15). Our Holy Father reminds us that the Holy Eucharist constitutes "a powerful bond of unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, which have preserved the authentic and integral nature of the Eucharistic Mystery."He also notes that "the ecclesial character of the Eucharist can become an important element of the dialogue with the communities of the Reformed tradition" (n. 15).

‘Be not afraid!’


Pope Benedict XVI opens the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis (On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life and Mission)" by reminding us that the Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of charity because it is "the gift that Jesus Christ makes of Himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman" (n. 1).Our Lord poured out His life for us on the Cross at Calvary, the supreme sacrifice which He makes ever new for us in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.Our Holy Father recalls how our Lord washed the Apostles’ feet at the Last Supper to signify His humble and unfailing love of them.Having washed the apostles’ feet, He instituted the Holy Eucharist, so that He might love them and us — and, indeed, all men and women of every time and place — totally and "to the end" (John 15:13). Referring to the Last Supper, Pope Benedict XVI exclaims:
"What amazement must the apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during that Supper!What wonder must the Eucharistic Mystery also awaken in our own hearts!" (n. 1).

The Holy Father’s words remind us that the action of the Holy Mass is one with the Last Supper and the Lord’s Sacrifice on Calvary.

By the Holy Eucharist, our Lord remains with us always. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "the Lord meets us, men and women created in God’s image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:27), and becomes our companion along the way" (n. 2).Our eucharistic Lord is the food of truth and freedom for our earthly pilgrimage, the spiritual nourishment which we most need and desire for our happiness in this life and our eternal happiness in the life to come (eternal salvation).

In the Holy Eucharist, we best and most fully know the love of God for us.The Holy Eucharist unveils the truth about God’s love for us and nourishes, within us, the freedom to love as God loves. If we have lost a sense of wonder and profound gratitude before the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the consecrated Host, then we do not recognize the truth which is before our eyes.

Development of the eucharistic rites

Our Lord comes to us in the Holy Eucharist through the Rite of the Mass and other eucharistic rites.The rites of the Church, and above all the Rite of the Mass, point to the reality of our Lord’s abiding presence with us.Pope Benedict XVI notes the "richness and variety" of the liturgical rites, both historically in the Latin Church and in the Churches of the East, by which our Lord makes always new His Eucharistic Sacrifice.He reminds us that all of the approved rites, inspired by the Holy Spirit, manifest a unity, that is they are the historical development of the one action of the Mass.

Commenting on the liturgical renewal which "began with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council," our Holy Father expressed the gratitude of the bishops for the fruits of the renewal.Acknowledging the many benefits of the liturgical renewal, he also acknowledged the "difficulties and even occasional abuses" in the actual carrying out of the renewal.In that regard, he affirmed the conviction of the bishops at the synod that the "riches" of the renewal "are yet to be fully explored" (n. 3).

The Holy Father then addressed a central point regarding the historical development of the liturgical rites in the Latin Church. The changes in the liturgical rites, introduced after the council, could be seen as something entirely new, that is, as having no relationship to the liturgical rites which the changes were adopted to renew.Such a perception is completely false.The changes can only be understood in the context of the organic development of the rites of the Sacred Liturgy, along the Christian centuries, true to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.Pope Benedict XVI states:

"Concretely, the changes which the council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of this historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities" (n. 3).
A change in the Sacred Liturgy, which is not a development of the rites of the Church as they have come down to us, could not be the work of the Holy Spirit.

A concrete example is the rich development of eucharistic adoration in the Middle Ages.After the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, some believed that the development of eucharistic adoration was to be set aside as somehow not essentially related to the action of the Mass.Regarding the question, Pope Benedict XVI refers to an address which he gave to the members of the Roman Curia on Dec. 22, 2005. In the address, he spoke about the whole richness of the teaching and activity of Pope John Paul II, regarding the Most Blessed Sacrament, and also about the Synod of Bishops on the Holy Eucharist, which would have just concluded a month earlier.In particular, he mentioned the false opposition seen by some in our time between the Eucharistic Sacrifice and eucharistic adoration.He concludes:

"Receiving the Eucharist means adoring the One Whom we receive. Precisely in this way and only in this way do we become one with Him.Therefore, the development of eucharistic adoration, as it took shape during the Middle Ages, was the most consistent consequence of the eucharistic mystery itself: Only in adoration can profound and true acceptance develop.And it is precisely this personal act of encounter with the Lord that develops the social mission which is contained in the Eucharist and desires to break down barriers, not only the barriers between the Lord and us but also and above all those that separate us from one another" (Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Message to the Roman Curia, "Christmas, the Council and conversion in Christ," L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, Jan. 4, 2006, p. 5).
The Holy Father shows how the significant development of eucharistic adoration in the Middle Ages was not in discontinuity with the Sacred Liturgy but, rather, was an organic development in the rites by which the eucharistic mystery has been and is celebrated in the Church.

What is the Synod of Bishops?

Pope Benedict XVI next comments on the work of the 11th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the context of the apostolic ministry of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.In last week’s column, I commented, at some length, on the context of the work of the synod.The Holy Father describes the context of the intense effort of Pope John Paul to foster eucharistic faith and devotion.He also reminds us that the Synod of Bishops, devoted to the Holy Eucharist, concluded with the solemn Mass at which Pope Benedict XVI canonized five saints "particularly distinguished for their eucharistic piety: Bishop J-zef Bilczewski; Fathers Gaetano Catanoso, Zygmunt Gorazdowski and Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga; and the Capuchin Fra Felice da Nicosia" (n. 4).

In order to understand the importance of "Sacramentum Caritatis," it will be helpful to reflect on the nature and purpose of the Synod of Bishops.From her beginnings, the Church has employed the synod or council, a meeting called by the Holy Father or bishop or group of bishops, for the purpose of seeking counsel on how best to provide for the teaching of the faith, also in regard to particular situations in the world, and for the fostering of ecclesiastical discipline.The synod has its foundation in the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit, which includes counsel.

At a synod, the members draw upon the gift of counsel, offering practical suggestions to assist the Roman Pontiff, bishop or bishops in the pastoral care and direction of the flock.Not surprisingly, from the earliest times, the synod in the Church has taken place in the context of solemn, public prayer, calling upon the help of the Holy Spirit.Also, when a synod is in preparation and in progress, all of the faithful are asked to pray for the members, so that they speak only what the Holy Spirit inspires in them.

Since the purpose of the synod is to offer counsel, it is not, in itself, deliberative.Rather, the synod offers to the pope or bishop or bishops recommendations which he or they use in giving pastoral care and direction.

The Synod of Bishops was instituted by Pope Paul VI, on Sept. 15, 1965, during the final year of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, so that the fruits of the meeting of bishops from throughout the world with the Roman pontiff, experienced at the council, could continue to be reaped.The Synod of Bishops is a solemn meeting of the Roman pontiff with representative bishops from throughout the world to receive their consultation on questions of concern for the Church.The Synod of Bishops takes one of three forms: ordinary, extraordinary and special.

Ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops
An "ordinary" assembly of the Synod of Bishops is convoked by the Holy Father "to foster closer unity between the Roman pontiff and bishops, to assist the Roman pontiff with their counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and morals and in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world" (Code of Canon Law, 342).Pope John Paul II had convoked the Ordinary Assembly on the Holy Eucharist.

A meeting of the Synod of Bishops is "extraordinary" when it is called "to treat affairs which require a speedy solution" (can. 346, 2).For example, an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops was called by Pope John Paul II in 1985 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council to address the reception of the teaching of the Council. One of the great fruits of that extraordinary assembly was the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

A meeting of the Synod of Bishops is "special," if it is made up of members of a particular portion of the Church. For example, a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America was held from Nov. 16 to Dec. 12, 1997. Pope John Paul II promulgated the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in America," the fruit of the special assembly, on Jan. 22, 1999, in Mexico City, after which he made his pastoral visit to St. Louis.Similar special assemblies of the Synod of Bishops were convoked by Pope John Paul II for Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

Fittingly, Pope John Paul II convoked an ordinary assembly, the 11th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to assist him in promoting knowledge and love of the Most Blessed Sacrament.The text of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation carries with it a special weight, for it is the fruit of a consultation of representative bishops from every portion of the universal Church.It should also be noted that, according to the usual practice of the Roman pontiff, prior to the actual celebration of the synod, all bishops were consulted and had the opportunity to submit their counsel in writing.


Pope Benedict XVI concludes the introductory chapter of "Sacramentum Caritatis" by describing the purpose of the document, namely, "to take up the richness and variety of the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops ... and to offer some basic directions aimed at a renewed commitment to eucharistic enthusiasm and fervor in the Church" (n. 5).Basing himself on the desires expressed by the bishops at the synod, the Holy Father further specifies the purpose of the document as an encouragement of the faithful "to deepen their understanding of the relationship between the eucharistic mystery, the liturgical action, and the new spiritual worship which derives from the Eucharist as the sacrament of charity."

Finally, the Holy Father relates "Sacramentum Caritatis" to his encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)."Referring to the stress that he placed upon the Blessed Sacrament in "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that God expresses His love of us in bodily form, the Body and Blood of God the Son Incarnate, in the Holy Eucharist, so that He may spread His love "in us and through us" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 14).

‘Be not afraid!’


On this past Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, published his post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis (On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life and Mission).""Sacramentum Caritatis" is the fruit of the 11th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which was celebrated from Oct. 2-23, 2005.

Because the Holy Eucharist is the source of our life in the Church and its highest expression, I will devote the next weeks to a commentary on "Sacramentum Caritatis."It is my hope that you will obtain a copy of the apostolic exhortation.It is available at our Catholic religious goods stores and bookstores.It also is available online at the website of the Apostolic See,, and at the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, If you have any difficulty obtaining the document, please contact the Office of the Archbishop.

Context of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist

The 11th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was convoked by Pope Benedict XVI’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, as part of his extraordinary effort at the end of his pontificate to promote the knowledge and love of the Most Blessed Sacrament. On Holy Thursday of 2003, Pope John Paul II published his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)," a complete and remarkably striking presentation of the Church’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist.In "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," he announced a forthcoming "more specific document" on the care to be taken in observing the norms of the Sacred Liturgy (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 52b).

By mandate of Pope John Paul II, the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum (On Certain Matters To Be Observed or To Be Avoided Regarding the Most Holy Eucharist)" was prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments with the help of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the head of which the future Pope Benedict XVI was then serving. Pope John Paul II approved the instruction and "ordered it to be published and to be observed immediately by all concerned" on March 19, 2004 (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 186).

Year of the Eucharist

Pope John Paul II then announced the Year of the Eucharist to be observed from October 2004 to October 2005.The inspiration for the Year of the Eucharist, he explained, "came from two events" that served "to mark its beginning and end," that is, the International Eucharistic Congress, which took place from Oct. 10-17, 2004, in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in the Vatican from Oct. 2-23, 2005, on the subject of the Holy Eucharist (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter "Mane nobiscum Domine (For the Year of the Eucharist)," Oct. 7, 2004, n. 4).Pope John Paul II also asked that World Youth Day, celebrated in Cologne, Germany, from Aug. 16-21, 2005, be centered on the Holy Eucharist.Regarding World Youth Day 2005, he wrote: "I would like the young people to gather around the Eucharist as the vital source which nourishes their faith and enthusiasm" (Mane nobiscum Domine, n. 4).


The context of the Synod of Bishops was nothing less than the Holy Spirit at work through the Shepherd of the Universal Church to help us all to grow in our knowledge and love of the greatest gift which is ours in the Church, the Holy Eucharist.Pope John Paul II did not live to celebrate either World Youth Day 2005 or to preside at the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, who had worked so closely with Pope John Paul II during most of his pontificate, carried forward his extraordinary work on the Holy Eucharist.

In reading "Sacramentum Caritatis," we should keep in 0mind the great love of the Church, of us, the living members of the Church, which inspired Pope John Paul II to convoke and Pope Benedict XVI to conduct the Synod of Bishops for the purpose of promotingeucharistic faith and practice.At the conclusion of "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," Pope John Paul II wrote these words to us:

"In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into His Body and Blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and He enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope.If, in the presence of this mystery, reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 62b).

May these words of the most beloved and great Pope John Paul II inspire our reading of "Sacramentum Caritatis."

‘Be not afraid!’


The Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday recalls the fullness of the revelation of God’s all-merciful love of us in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.These holiest of days in the Church Year mark the events by which our Lord won our salvation, making us heirs, with Him, of eternal life.They also make present for us, in a strong way, the abundant gifts of God’s immeasurable love, the gifts of His grace won for us by God the Son’s Suffering and Dying.

The 50 days of Easter, beginning with the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and concluding with His sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, are filled with the recognition of how God continues to pour out His merciful love for us in His Son, our Lord, risen from the dead and alive for us in the Church. In the events of the Sacred Triduum, which culminate with the Resurrection, all time finds its meaning and every person of every time and place is embraced by the love of God. Christ, after he had risen from the dead, ascended to the right hand of God the Father, so that He might send the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and, through the Apostles, upon the whole Church.Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church, Christ is with us always, most especially in the sacraments, until His return in glory on the Last Day.

Public revelation and private revelation

In the last century, our Lord Jesus granted a private revelation to a Polish religious sister, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.The purpose of the private revelation was to draw us to the fullness of the public revelation of the Father’s immeasurable love of us in His Incarnate Son.As with all private revelations, the private revelation to Sister Maria Faustina draws us to recognize the public revelation of God’s love in the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son.

In the particular case of Sister Maria Faustina, the private revelation is centered upon the mercy of God.Sister Maria Faustina kept a meticulous record or diary of all that our Lord taught her about His immeasurable mercy toward us. It is titled "Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul" and is available through the religious order of men, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who are in charge of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy at Stockbridge, Mass.Having studied the "Diary" and having returned often to reread its passages, I wholeheartedly urge you to obtain a copy for your daily spiritual reading and meditation.

Why the private revelation of Divine Mercy?

The private revelation of the immeasurable mercy of God toward us came at a time when many had lost hope. It was the time between World War I and World War II, a time of great disillusionment and suffering.It was also the time in which the godless philosophies of rationalism and atheistic materialism (Marxism) had more and more insinuated themselves into the popular culture, leaving many with a sense that there was nothing beyond themselves and the material realities about them.The resulting forgetfulness of God and of His plan for us and our world left them without hope.

In response to man’s loss of hope, our Lord, in His infinite love, spoke to Sister Maria Faustina and revealed to her an image of Himself to remind us of His unfailing mercy.In the image, two streams of light, red and white in color, flow from the pierced Heart of Jesus.These streams represent the blood and water which flowed from the Heart of Jesus, when, after His death on the Cross, it was pierced by the Roman soldier’s spear.They symbolize the unceasing outpouring of divine grace from the glorious Heart of Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father, especially in the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.Under the image are inscribed the words: "Jesus, I trust in You." These words are our prayer when we look upon the image of our Lord, Divine Mercy Incarnate.

Divine Mercy Chaplet and Divine Mercy Sunday

Through Sister Maria Faustina, our Lord asked that, each day, we recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m., the hour of His death for our salvation.He also asked that we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, preceding the celebration with a novena to Divine Mercy, beginning on Good Friday.Those who devoutly participate in these devotions can only be filled with hope in God’s merciful love and strengthened against the temptations to discouragement and despair.

The one who most promoted the devotion to the Divine Mercy was our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II, first as archbishop of Krakow and then as Roman Pontiff.Pope John Paul II beatified Sister Maria Faustina on April 18, 1993, and he canonized her a saint on April 30, 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter.During the homily of the Mass, he declared: "It is important that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’"Since April 30, 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter also bears the name of Divine Mercy Sunday.

On Divine Mercy Sunday, the image of the Divine Mercy, revealed to St. Faustina, is to be displayed in the church or chapel, and the homily is to be a reflection on the immeasurable mercy of God toward us.In order to participate fully in the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, the faithful are asked to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion, and to cultivate interiorly a great trust in the mercy of God and to practice exteriorly acts of mercy, especially on behalf of brothers and sisters in most need.We should go to Confession on Divine Mercy Sunday itself or some days before Divine Mercy Sunday, so that we will be rightly disposed, that is, free of any mortal sin and from any attachment to sin, to receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday.


Regarding Divine Mercy Sunday, St. Faustina records these words of our Lord to her:

"My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy.I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open.I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. ...The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy (Diary, n. 699).

Let us all draw near to the Fount of Divine Mercy in the sacraments of Confession and, above all, the Holy Eucharist. Let us pray, in the coming days and especially during the Novena of Divine Mercy that all souls which have drifted away from our Lord will receive the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation with God and neighbor.

May you have a most blessed celebration of the Sacred Triduum.May the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday fill you with the peace which comes from the forgiveness of our sins and the joy which comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

‘Be not afraid!’

‘Be not afraid!’

Shrine of the Sacred Heart at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica


Having reflected at some length on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and its central place in our daily Christian living and, therefore, in our Lenten observance, I am happy to announce that a shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be installed in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.The image of the Sacred Heart will be enthroned in the shrine.At the time of the enthronement, I, together with representatives from throughout the archdiocese will solemnly consecrate the archdiocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As I understand, there had been a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the cathedral basilica, but, at one point, it was removed and never replaced.Although there is a symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as it appears on the back of the Miraculous Medal, in the mosaics of the cathedral basilica, at the top of one of the central arches, there is no proper area of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The enthronement and the act of consecration will take place in the cathedral basilica at the regular 5 p.m. Mass on this coming June 17, the Sunday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which will be celebrated on June 15. Since June 17 is a Sunday of Ordinary Time, it will be possible to celebrate the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.The choice of the Sunday afternoon Mass will make possible the participation of priests and other members of the faithful from all of our parishes and Catholic institutions.Please mark your calendar for June 17 with an appointment to participate in Holy Mass at the cathedral basilica at 5 p.m, during which the image of the Sacred Heart will be enthroned and the archdiocese will be consecrated to the Sacred Heart.

Following the Mass with the solemn enthronement and act of consecration, there will be a reception in Boland Hall, the parish hall of the cathedral basilica parish.The reception will provide a good opportunity for those participating in the joyous event to visit with one another.

The shrine itself

The shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be installed in the west transept of the cathedral basilica, directly across from the baptistery and ambry, which are in the east transept.The space for the shrine is ample without necessitating the removal of any pews or disturbing, in any other way, the present ordering of the space in the cathedral basilica.

The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been created by the Vatican Mosaic Studio.It is modeled after the image of the Sacred Heart in the Archbishop’s Residence, which has been reproduced in various sizes for the devotion of the faithful. It is also on the holy card with the Morning Offering, which is distributed by the archdiocese.

The mosaic image of the Sacred Heart will be placed in an altarpiece made of marble from Pietrasanta in Italy.The shrine will include stands with votive candles to represent our prayers continuously lifted up to the glorious Heart of Jesus.

The shrine has been designed by Duncan G. Stroik of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.He is internationally known for his design of beautiful churches and chapels, in accord with the long tradition of sacred architecture, at an affordable cost for the parish or Catholic institution.His design of the shrine of the Sacred Heart is truly beautiful and, therefore, inspiring.

Offerings for the shrine

The shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is being funded by gifts of the faithful of the archdiocese. The creation of the shrine is itself an exemplary act of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. If you wish to make an offering for the shrine, please be in communication with Msgr. Joseph D. Pins, rector of the cathedral basilica.Your offering is needed and will bear lasting fruit in the increased knowledge and love of the Heart of Jesus in the minds and hearts of all who will pray at the shrine.


The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is most rich in grace for a deeper knowledge of our salvation in Jesus Christ, a fuller participation in the sacramental and prayer life of the Church, and a stronger witness to Christ’s living presence in the Church.It is my sincere hope that the installation of the shrine of the Sacred Heart in the cathedral basilica will be the cause of increased devotion among all of the faithful of the archdiocese and among the faithful from outside the archdiocese who visit our magnificent cathedral basilica throughout the year.

Please pray that the enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the cathedral basilica and the consecration of the archdiocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will bring us abundant grace for the new evangelization.Please pray, too, that many will be inspired to enthrone the image of the Sacred Heart in their homes and to consecrate themselves and their homes to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

'Be not afraid"
Fertility Care Week


This coming March 25-31 has been designated by FertilityCare Centers of America Inc. as Worldwide FertilityCare Week.I write about Worldwide FertilityCare Week for two reasons. First of all, many married couples in the archdiocese experience difficulties in conceiving and bearing a child.Because the gift of children is the crown of marital love, couples who suffer from some form of infertility bear a particularly heavy cross.As archbishop, I desire to be close to them and to offer them care which respects their individual health, and the integrity of their relationship with each other and of their act of human procreation.

Secondly, I want to celebrate the strong presence of FertilityCare Centers in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.There are 10 FertilityCare Centers in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, whose work is coordinated by K. Diane Daly, RN, CFCE, director of the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning, and Ann M. Prebil, RN, BSN, CFCE.Daly and Prebil have their office in the Department of Fertility Care Services at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, 11700 Studt Road, SuiteC. Their telephone number is (314) 991-0327.

It is my hope that the observance of Worldwide FertilityCare Week will be the occasion for you to learn more about the work of the FertilityCare Centers of America.In specific, I hope that you will come to know more about the wonderful care of married couples suffering from infertility, which is offered daily in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

FertilityCare Centers of America

FertilityCare Centers of America is a nonprofit organization that promotes the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning and the practice of NaPro Technology, a scientific approach to procreation which respects fully the physical integrity of the husband and wife, and treats, in a completely natural way, their difficulty in conceiving and bearing a child.NaPro Technology is practiced within the plan of God for human procreation. It does not involve any morally wrong acts like in-vitro fertilization.

NaPro Technology and the Creighton Model FertilityCare System are closely related to each other, both in their respect for the moral law pertaining to human procreation and the planning of a family and in their scientific approach in assisting couples to engage in family planning and to address difficulties in having a family.Both have been subjected to long-term and thorough scientific study and have proven effective in the lives of couples who were striving to overcome infertility and in the lives of couples who were striving to plan, as best as possible, for their family. If you wish more information about NaPro Technology and the Creighton Model FertilityCare, you may find it online at the following sites:;; www.creighton; and

Technology and prayer

The gift of a child to a couple is a gift from God.In our highly secularized and materialistic way of thinking, we tend to look at the act of human procreation in a mechanistic and dehumanized manner.When we forget that human procreation is a cooperation on the part of husband and wife with God, the Creator, in receiving the gift of a new human life, we justify immoral acts which do not respect the integrity of the human body of the man and woman and the integrity of the act of conjugal union through which God gives the gift of new human life.

It is important, therefore, that we begin and accompany all of our efforts to assist couples suffering from infertility with prayer to God.Recently, I was able to celebrate the Holy Mass for a number of couples who are seeking to conceive and bring to birth a child.At the conclusion of the Mass, I blessed each couple with the relic of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who has been a particularly powerful intercessor on behalf of couples experiencing any kind of difficulty in childbearing.St. Gianna, who died on April 28, 1962, and her husband Pietro, who is still living, had experienced many sorrows in conceiving and giving birth to their children.


I conclude by offering my heartfelt thanks to Diane Daly, Ann Prebil and the physicians and other health care professionals who provide the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaPro Technology in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.At the beginning of each day, I revere a relic of St. Gianna and pray for all of the couples who are suffering with infertility. I also pray for all those who assist them.Please join me in my prayer for the couples in the archdiocese who are desiring to have a baby and for those who care for them.

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