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.

On the pastoral reorganization of the Northeast County Deanery

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


1.Our Lord Jesus Christ never ceases to provide for the Church, His beloved Bride, all that she needs to carry out His mission in the world.After His Resurrection, our Lord Jesus ascended to the right hand of the God the Father not to abandon us but to remain with us always through the Sending of the Holy Spirit.During the 40 wonderful days between His Resurrection and His Ascension, our Risen Lord showed us that He is with us always in the Church, until He returns in glory on the Last Day.As He was about to ascend to the Father, our Lord commissioned the Apostles to bring His teaching, His Sacraments and His Shepherd’s care and direction to the whole world.From the moment of His Ascension and the Sending of the Holy Spirit — two inseparable events — Christ has accompanied and sustained the Church at all times, so that she may faithfully and fully carry out her divine mission.The Gospel clearly testifies to this truth:

"So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.Amen" (Mark16:19-20).

We experience the truth of the Gospel in the Church’s teaching; her life of prayer and devotion, and the Sacraments; and her governance by pastors who are sacramentally configured to Christ the Head and Shepherd of the flock.

2.As members of the Church, members of Christ’s Mystical Body, it is our responsibility to employ Christ’s manifold gifts, so that the Church’s mission may extend to all, as fully as possible.In the Second Letter of Peter, our Lord speaks to us about our responsibility as stewards of His gifts:

"As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever.Amen" (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Christ the King must reign in our minds and hearts, so that we employ every gift which is ours in the Church for the glory of God and the service of our brothers and sisters.The Church, therefore, must constantly examine herself regarding stewardship.She must always keep in mind her missionary mandate, received from the Lord Himself, so that she may never squander God’s gifts which are given into our hands for the good of all.

3.Throughout her history, the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis has responded to the spiritual needs of her members by practicing good stewardship of God’s manifold gifts of grace.At various times, growth in Catholic population, especially through immigration, and changes in Catholic population in the various portions of the Archdiocese have necessitated the reorganization of the pastoral care of the faithful, so that all of the faithful may be served as fully as possible.In providing for the pastoral needs of the faithful, in the best possible manner, the Archdiocese prepares the faithful to carry out, with their pastors, the work of evangelization.

4.The goal of pastoral reorganization is always the strongest possible presence of the Church in the local community, in order that all may be attracted to Christ and to His Mystical Body, the Church.At times, new parishes have been created.At other times, parishes have been united with one another or parishes have been closed.The practical decisions regarding the pastoral organization of each portion of the archdiocese belong to the archbishop, but he must rely on the help of the priests, his chief co-workers and also of all the faithful.The decisions are never easy because they affect directly the lives of the faithful.Only with the help of much prayer, careful study and wide consultation, can such decisions be made.

5.As your archbishop, I write to you now regarding the reorganization of the pastoral care of the Northeast County Deanery which has experienced over the past 50 years great changes in Catholic population.I write to all the faithful of the archdiocese, because, in the Church, what affects one member affects all (1 Corinthians 12:26).The faithful of the Northeast County Deanery are very much in the thoughts and prayers of us all, as they take up the challenge of a new organization of the pastoral care in the Deanery.

6.I place the reorganization of the pastoral life in the Northeast County Deanery in the context of the consistent study of the organization of the parishes and deaneries in the archdiocese, which good stewardship of God’s manifold gifts requires.Soon, I will make the final decisions regarding the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery.Study and consultation regarding the organization of the pastoral life in the North City Deanery is under way.Such study and consultation will be consistently undertaken in every portion of the Archdiocese for the sake of the mission of Christ.

Parish: family of families

7.It is in the Christian home that we first meet Christ.In the home, we receive our first lessons in Christian doctrine; we first pray to God and are introduced to the devotional and sacramental life of the Church; and we are formed in the obedience which overcomes sinfulness and unites us more perfectly to Christ and one another in doing the Father’s will.Rightly, the Christian home is called "the little Church," ecclesiola, or "domestic Church," the "Church in the home" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, Nov. 21, 1964, No.11b).From the home is born the desire to join with other Catholic households in the community, in order to live more fully the richness of the Christian life.Our Holy Father has aptly described the parish as a "family of families" and as "the fundamental unit in the daily life of the Diocese" (Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores gregis, "On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World," Oct. 16, 2003, No. 45b).At the same time, the parish exists, first of all, to foster the life of Christ in the home, that is, to provide the sound teaching, sacramental life and pastoral guidance which are at the foundation of Christian family life.

8.It is the duty of the pastors of the Church, especially the diocesan bishop, to establish the parishes needed for the flock in his pastoral care.In doing so, he relies upon the assistance of the priests, consecrated persons and the lay faithful.The diocesan bishop, likewise, must decide when parishes should be closed or united to one another, in order to strengthen the life of the Church in a particular portion of the diocese.

9.Catholics, naturally, regard their parish as a second home, their spiritual home in which the grace of Christ comes to family members at all times and, in a special way, at those times of new beginnings, transitions and crisis, for example, baptism and First Holy Communion, marriage and Christian burial.When a change occurs in our parish life, it naturally causes us concern for the life of faith in our homes and in the homes of our fellow parishioners.If the change means the closing of a parish church or school, there is sadness over the loss of the place in which so many graces have come into our lives and at which the most significant times for family members have been celebrated.

Care of the elderly

10.The Northeast County Deanery has a special richness of elder members of the Church.In the Church, as our Holy Father has most recently reminded us in his Letter for Lent 2005, the elderly are treasured for their wisdom and for the prayers and sacrifices which they offer daily for the whole Church, especially the young.At the Presentation of the Lord, it was the elderly Simeon and the 84-year-old Anna who spoke for God, recognizing the Savior in the midst of His people and announcing the great mystery of His Redemptive Incarnation (Luke 2:22-39).Our care of the elderly not only brings security and comfort to them, but their witness of faith and prayer enriches us immeasurably.

11.In the reorganization of the parishes in the deanery, I ask that a renewed attention be given to those "advanced in years" in the community, so that they may participate fully in parish life.The changes announced here will be particularly painful for some of the elderly because of loss of a familiar parish community and a greater distance from their parish church.We must do everything possible to assist our elderly to remain active members of our parish communities.

The parish school

12.The Catholic school is a privileged and most important part of the Church’s mission.Families coming together in a parish have a primary and direct concern for the Catholic education of the children and young people.Children and young people depend upon the adults in the parish to hand on to them, with integrity and generosity, the greatest treasure which we have received from God, namely, our Catholic faith and practice.At the same time, the adult members of the parish recognize in the children and young people the hope of the future for the Church and our society. Every sacrifice should be made, therefore, to prepare our children, through a sound Catholic education, to be strong members of the Church and good citizens.

13.While parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children in the Catholic faith, they look to their parish and the whole archdiocese to assist them, especially in a culture which is so completely secularized.The Church, for her part, has found the best means by which she can assist parents in the Catholic upbringing of their children is the Catholic school.For that reason, the diocesan bishop is obliged, by universal Church law, to provide Catholic schools for the families in his pastoral care (canon 802, paragraph 1).The Catholic school provides a complete education for children. They are instructed in the academic subjects and trained in various skills, as in other schools, but all within the context of our life in Christ.In other words, children acquire knowledge and develop skills in order to place them at the service of God and their neighbor.Christ is truly the First Teacher in the Catholic school, and the education imparted in the Catholic school aims always, first of all, at developing the Christian character of our children and young people.

14.It is my desire that a Catholic school be available to all the families of the deanery.The reorganization of the pastoral care of the deanery involves the closing of some school buildings and the unification of some Catholic schools.I ask every parish in the deanery to commit itself ever more generously to the Catholic schools.In a particular way, I ask the parishes to be strong in their support of Trinity Catholic High School, so that it may serve all of the families in the Northeast County Deanery.

15.For the children who are not enrolled in the Catholic schools, the parish, with the help of parents and catechists, provides the Parish School of Religion.It is essential that all parishes in each region of the deanery work together so that the limited time available to the Parish School of Religion may assist our children and young people to grow in their Catholic faith and its practice.

Parish and local community

16.The Church is deeply conscious of her responsibilities in the local community.The truth and love of Christ are given to us in the Church, in order that we may bring that same truth and love to others in the world.The reorganization of pastoral life, therefore, is always directed to a stronger and more effective presence of the Church in the local community.

17.Of special concern to the Church is the elimination of every expression or form of racism.In the reorganization of the pastoral care of the Northeast County Deanery, I call upon all parishes to educate parishioners anew about the grave evil of racism and to lead parishioners to do all that they can to foster unity in the local community.In a particular way, as I did when I visited the Northeast County Deanery for the first time, I ask the parishioners to recommit themselves to remaining in their local communities and making them strong.

18.With Christ, the Church has a preferential love of the poor.With the pastoral reorganization of the deanery, it is my hope that the Church will address with new enthusiasm and new energy her care of the homeless and the materially poor, and of those who suffer from the phenomenon we call "urban sprawl."I ask that the St. Vincent de Paul Society work to establish strong and active conferences in every part of the deanery.Every effort must be made, so that the services of Catholic Charities of the archdiocese be available to every individual and household of the deanery.

19.The reorganization of the pastoral care of the Northeast County Deanery is inspired by a strong commitment to the local communities in which the parishes of the deanery are located.The fact that there will be fewer parishes in the deanery does not mean that the Church is withdrawing, in some way, from the deanery.Rather, it is striving to use its resources to be an ever more effective part of the local civic community. For that reason, in making the decisions which I announce by this pastoral letter, I have been in communication with the local civic authorities and have taken to heart their concerns and suggestions.

20.I thank the civic authorities of the Northeast County Deanery for their keen interest in the pastoral reorganization of the deanery and for their willingness to assist me in every fitting way.I pledge to continue to work with them for the good of each of the civic communities within the Northeast County Deanery.
Strategic planning task force

21.In announcing the details of the pastoral reorganization of the Northeast County Deanery, I hasten to express my deepest gratitude to the Father John A. Brockland, the local dean, and the Northeast County Deanery Strategic Planning Task Force.Over more than 18 months, they have studied carefully the pastoral life in the Northeast County Deanery and have consulted widely with the parish priests, the faithful of the parishes, the personnel of the Catholic schools, and officials of the Archdiocesan Curia.Father Brockland, the task force and those whom they have consulted have given countless hours of selfless service for the good of the Church in the Archdiocese.May God reward them.

22. On Dec. 15, 2004, the task force presented to me the "best set of recommendations," a 94-page document which reflects the depth of the study and consultation which the members of the task force have undertaken over almost two years. Having studied thoroughly the "recommendations," I have accepted them.They are, as the title of the document states, the best recommendations at the present for the pastoral reorganization of the Northeast County Deanery.Everyone involved, including myself, is aware that they express prudential judgments, carefully studied and weighed but certainly subject to human error.Conscious of my own limitations and trusting in the unfailing help of Christ the Good Shepherd, I accept the "best set of recommendations" in its totality.
Implementation of the reorganization

23.Because of the importance of the parish and parish school to individuals and families, and to the whole archdiocese, the changes which I announce today are made only after an almost two-year study.In announcing the reorganization of the pastoral life in the Northeast County Deanery, I am deeply conscious of the suffering which change in parish and school life will necessarily bring to many individuals and families.At the same time, I ask those who will suffer some change in the reorganization of the Northeast County Deanery, to accept the suffering out of love of Christ and His Church, trusting that your suffering offered with His own for our salvation, will bring a blessing to your homes, to the deanery and to the archdiocese.

24. Be assured that I ask you to accept the changes in the pastoral life of the Northeast County Deanery for the good of the Church.At the same time, I assure you of my prayers and support, and the prayers and support of all the faithful of the archdiocese.

25.The changes announced below will take effect on July 1, 2005.During the time until then, the work of implementation of the changes will take place.I ask all of the faithful to be generous in patience and in assistance to your parish priests during the coming months.

26.To provide for the ongoing study of the pastoral care of the Northeast County Deanery, I am establishing a Deanery Pastoral Council to assist the local dean in carrying out his pastoral responsibility for the deanery.In the coming weeks, I will issue archdiocesan norms for deanery pastoral councils, so that a consultative body on the deanery level will help me consistently in addressing the pastoral care and direction of all of the faithful in the deanery.
New parishes and schools

27.Four new parishes are to be established to serve the four major portions of the deanery, effective July 1, 2005.During the coming months, the pastors of the parishes which will unite to form the four new parishes will lead parishioners in coming together as a new "family of families."During the same time, they will consult with the faithful regarding the patron under whose protection and care the parish is to be placed.

28. At the same time, new Catholic schools are to be established to serve the families of the new parishes.

29.For what pertains to the Parish School of Religion, I ask that the "best set of recommendations" be the guide.

Northeast region

30.The Northeast Region of the Deanery, called the Spanish Lake Area, will have a new parish comprised of the membership and territory of Saint Aloysius Parish, Our Lady of Loretto Parish, and the part of Transfiguration Parish, which is east of Highway 367. The parish church for the new parish will be the present Our Lady of Loretto Church.

31.The territory of Transfiguration Parish, which is west of Highway 367, is to be joined to St. Angela Merici Parish.

32.Regarding Catholic schools, a new inter-parish Catholic elementary school is to be established to serve the northeast and southeast regions of the deanery.It is to serve the children of both the new parish in the northeast region and the new parish in the southeast region of the deanery.It is to be supported by the new parishes in proportion to the number of students from each parish enrolled in the school.The new school will be located at the site of the present St. John Neumann School.

33.In establishing the new school, I have asked the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who have given long-standing and committed service to the Catholic elementary schools in these regions, to continue their service at the new school.At the same time, I thank the provincial superior to the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for missioning Sisters of her congregation to teach in the Catholic schools of the Northeast County Deanery.In these days, when fewer and fewer religious Sisters are able to be sent to our Catholic schools, I am especially grateful for the witness and apostolate of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Southeast region

34.The southeast region, which includes Bellefontaine Neighbors, Riverview and Jennings, will have a new parish comprised of the membership and territory of Corpus Christi Parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, St. Jerome Parish, St. Pius X Parish and the territory of St. Christopher Parish which is south of Highway I-270. The site of the parish is to be the present St. Jerome Church.

35. The territory of St. Christopher Parish, which is north of Highway I-270, is to be joined to St. Angela Merici Parish. Current parishioners of St. Christopher Parish who presently live south of Highway I-270 are invited to join their fellow parishioners at St. Angela Merici Parish.Any new families who take up residence in the territory south of Highway I-270 would be directed to membership at the new parish in the Southeast Region.

36.Regarding Catholic schools, Pope John Paul II school is to be closed and its students are to be enrolled the new inter-parish school at the present site of St. John Neumann School.

37.Corpus Christi School is to be closed.The families presently using Corpus Christi School are to be assisted in enrolling their children at the new school or at another Catholic school which is closer to their home.

Southwest region

38. The Southwest Region — Ferguson, Hazelwood, Berkeley, Dellwood, Calverton Park and Kinloch — will have a new parish comprised of the membership and territory of Good Shepherd Parish, St. Bartholomew Parish, St. Sebastian Parish, Sts. John and James Parish, the part of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is south of I-270, and the part of North American Martyrs Parish, which is south of I-270.The parish church for the new parish will be the present Good Shepherd Church.The priest’s residence is to be at the present Sts. John and James Rectory.

39.The territory of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is north of Highway I-270, is to be joined to the new parish in the Northwest Region.The territory of North American Martyrs Parish which is north of I-270 is to be joined to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Florissant.The current parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima Parish who presently live south of I-270 are invited to join their fellow parishioners at the new parish in the northwest region.The current parishioners of North American Martyrs Parish who presently live south of I-270 are invited to join their fellow parishioners at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Florissant.Any new families who take up residence in the territory south of I-270 would be directed to membership at the new parish in the southwest region.

40. Regarding Catholic schools, the parish school will be located at the present Sts. John and James School.The present Sts. John and James Church is to become the chapel of the school.

41.Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the southwest region is to continue as a personal parish for the faithful of Hispanic origin or language. Other faithful in the area may also be members of the parish, engaging fully in the life of the parish and giving particular support to the service of our Hispanic brothers and sisters in the deanery and the archdiocese, who receive instruction in the faith; pray and worship; and have pastoral direction for their lives at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.

42.Our Lady of Guadalupe School will continue to serve families of diverse cultures, and to be a privileged instrument of evangelization in the whole area.With the closing of Corpus Christi School, Our Lady of Guadalupe School will have the special responsibility to welcome and assist the enrollment of the children who have enrolled in Corpus Christi School.In confirming the mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe School, I ask the faithful to continue in your generous support of this school which serves so many children who otherwise would not be able to receive a Catholic-school education.
Northwest region

43.Seven parishes will serve the northwest region of the deanery, namely, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, St. Angela Merici Parish, St. Ferdinand Parish, St. Martin de Porres, St. Norbert Parish, St. Sabina Parish and a new parish to be comprised of the membership and territory of St. Dismas Parish, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, and that part of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is north of I-270.

44.The parish church for the new parish will be the present St. Dismas Church.The rectory and the parish offices will also be located at the present site of St. Dismas Church.

45.The parish school of the new parish is to be located at the present St. Thomas Apostle School.The present St. Thomas the Apostle church is to become the chapel of the school.

46.The membership and territory of Our Lady of Mercy Parish are to be united to St. Martin de Porres Parish.

47.The territory of North American Martyrs Parish, which is north of I-270, to be united to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.

48.The territory of that part of St. Christopher Parish, which is north of I-270, is to be united with St. Angela Merici Parish.

49.Regarding Catholic schools, six Catholic elementary schools will serve the Northwest Region: Sacred Heart of Jesus School, St. Angela Merici School, St. Ferdinand School, St. Norbert School, St. Sabina School and the school of the new parish (see No. 41 above).

50.The Archdiocesan Office of Special Education Learning Center is to be relocated at the new parish, under the same terms with which it has operated at its present site.


51.At every time and in every place, the Church faces the challenge of how to carry out her mission, the mission of Christ, as effectively as possible.She — we, her members — must constantly examine our conscience with regard to our stewardship of God’s gifts for His glory and the service of His holy people.The decisions which have been reached, after a careful study of the stewardship of the Church’s resources in the Northeast County Deanery, have been made to ensure a continued strong and effective presence of the Church in this treasured portion of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

52.I urge all of the faithful of the Northeast County Deanery to accept the decisions with the generous obedience of Christ who does the Father’s will in all things. Our obedient response to the needs of the Church in our time and place, notwithstanding the sometimes painful personal sacrifice which it entails, will bring new life and growth to the Church.As your archbishop, I thank you, in advance, for all that you will do to implement the new organization of the pastoral life in the Northeast County Deanery for the good of all.

53.I urge all of the faithful of the archdiocese to keep in your thoughts and prayers your brothers and sisters in the Northeast County Deanery, especially during the coming time of transition.By your prayers and sacrifices, you will be one with them in carrying out the mission of Christ in our archdiocese.

54.Before the challenge of carrying out faithfully and generously the mission of Christ, we are all deeply conscious that the mission is His. Of ourselves, we will accomplish nothing.With Christ, we can do all that God the Father asks of us.Most of all, through our union with Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we receive the wisdom and the strength to do the Father’s will, especially when it is difficult for us.May our observance of the Year of the Eucharist bring us all closer to Christ and be a source of particular strength for the faithful of the Northeast County Deanery.

55.We carry out Christ’s mission with the help of the communion of saints.I confide the pastoral reorganization of the Northeast County Deanery to the intercession of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church; and our archdiocesan patrons, St. Louis of France, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.
Given at St. Louis on the 11th day of February, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in the Year of the Lord 2005.

Raymond L. Burke

Archbishop of St. Louis

To Christ's Faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis: 'On Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good'

The following is the full text of the pastoral letter of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke.

‘Be not afraid!’

Season of the Holy Spirit

We are bringing to a close the Easter Season, the season of our Lord’s Resurrection. It is the season of the Holy Spirit, for our Lord suffered, died, rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father in order that He might send forth the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His disciples.Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday of the Sending of the Holy Spirit, marks the culmination of the Easter Season. On Pentecost Sunday, our Lord brought to fulfillment His vocation and mission as He had announced them at the beginning of His public ministry.He set free those enslaved by sin and death, and poured forth upon them the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:16-21).

In the past weeks, we have had many occasions to witness the living presence of our Lord in the Church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our children and young people in the Sacrament of Confirmation.Christ, Who promised to His disciples the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit so that they might be his faithful and courageous witnesses to the "ends of the earth," always keeps His promise.In an unbroken line, through the apostles and their successors, the bishops, He pours forth the Holy Spirit upon the Church.We have witnessed the faithful love of Christ in the outpouring of the Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit upon those who have been confirmed during the Easter Season.

On this coming Saturday, May 26, we will witness another striking sign of the presence of the Risen Christ in the Church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon four men of the archdiocese who will be ordained to the holy priesthood. The special gift of the Holy Spirit to them will conform them to Christ the Priest, Head and Shepherd, for the care of God the Father’s flock in our archdiocese, especially through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.Their vocation, ordination and mission is a most special sign of God’s love for us, providing for us shepherds after His own Heart.

On the following Saturday, June 2, we will witness yet another striking sign of the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the ordination of new permanent deacons for the archdiocese.Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, our Risen Lord will conform the men who are ordained to the image of Christ the Servant.After ordination, they will serve throughout the archdiocese by assisting me as archbishop and the priests of the archdiocese in proclaiming the Word of God, in teaching the faith and in carrying out the Church’s charitable works.Please pray for them as they make their final preparation for ordination to the permanent diaconate.

Our grateful hearts and the Annual Catholic Appeal

Before the great mystery of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, which we celebrate most intensely during the Easter Season, our hearts are filled with the deepest gratitude. In the many signs of the Risen Christ in our midst, we contemplate our own call to share with Him in His saving work.In our time, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II has called us to share in Christ’s saving work by embracing the New Evangelization, that is, by teaching, celebrating and living our Catholic faith with the enthusiasm and energy of the first disciples and of the first missionaries to our area.

All of us experience directly the greatest sign of our Risen Lord’s living presence with us in the Church, to the end of time, in the Holy Eucharist.Through the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, our Risen Lord makes ever new for us the outpouring of His life for us on Calvary.He pours out, from His glorious pierced Heart, the gift of His Body and Blood to nourish and sustain the life of the Holy Spirit within us all.The Holy Eucharist is the source of the enthusiasm and energy of the New Evangelization.

For several weeks now, I have been reflecting with you on Pope Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis (On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life and Mission)."Thus far, I have completed the reflection on the first part of "Sacramentum Caritatis," which treats Eucharistic faith. Next week, I will begin the reflection on second part which treats the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.The third part of "Sacramentum Caritatis" treats the Holy Eucharist as the way of our life.Receiving the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Most Blessed Sacrament, we are sent to bring the gift of Christ’s love to all our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in most need. Our Holy Father reminds us: "The Eucharist, since it embraces the concrete, everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the progressive transfiguration of all those called by grace to reflect the image of the Son of God (cf. Romans 8:29ff)" (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 71).Each time that we are privileged to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice or to pray in the presence of our Lord reposed in the tabernacles of our churches and chapels, our hearts are filled with the deepest gratitude.How much God loves us!How wonderfully He calls us to share in His love for all, without boundary!

Fittingly, the Annual Catholic Appeal comes during the Easter Season, the Season of the Holy Spirit. The Annual Catholic Appeal is the privileged means by which all of us in the archdiocese, in a single and concerted effort, respond to our vocation of love, expressed most fully in the Holy Eucharist.Each year, through the work of our Office of Stewardship and Development and of countless volunteers, we are invited to join our act of sacrificial love for our brothers and sisters, especially those in most need, to the sacrificial acts of the faithful throughout the archdiocese, so that the many charitable, educational and missionary works of the Church in the parishes of the archdiocese and in the archdiocese as a whole may continue and grow.To put it plainly, the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis depends upon the Annual Catholic Appeal for the carrying out of her mission.At the same time, the activity of the Annual Catholic Appeal is an outstanding means for all to share directly in every aspect of the Church’s mission.

This year’s Annual Catholic Appeal

The pledge weekends of the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal have been completed.Presently, our pastors and the volunteers who work with them are contacting the faithful who have not yet made a sacrificial gift to this year’s Appeal.I ask every Catholic household to respond to the Appeal in the coming days.The work of the Church in the archdiocese can only approach the perfection to which our Lord calls us by the active participation of all the faithful in the life of the Church, of which the Annual Catholic Appeal is a fundamental and irreplaceable aspect.

To the parish priests and volunteers who are now contacting those who have not yet participated in this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, I offer my heartfelt encouragement.Yours is truly a spiritual mission.You assist the New Evangelization not only by collecting the necessary funds for the mission of the Church, but also and more importantly by drawing others more fully into the life and mission of the Church, the life and mission to which our Risen Lord Himself calls us.By helping them to take part in the work of the Annual Catholic Appeal, you lead them to be one with Christ in loving every brother and sister.I think of all whose lives are transformed by the Church’s mission supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.Participating in the Annual Catholic Appeal is, indeed, bringing Christ’s love to the world.

I think of the Respect Life Apostolate by which we safeguard and protect the inviolable dignity of every human life, especially those lives under threat in our culture of death.I think of the children and young people who are served through our Catholic schools, parish schools of religion, youth ministry programs, the campus ministry at our local universities, and the family and children services of Catholic Charities.I think of the frail and poor elderly who are able to have a fitting and secure place to live through Cardinal Ritter Senior Services of Catholic Charities. I think of our seminarians, the future shepherds of the flock in the archdiocese, who are prepared for the challenging mission of priestly service in our day at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, our archdiocesan seminary.I also think of our retired priests who continue to give themselves totally in priestly prayer and charity to the care of the flock.

The Annual Catholic Appeal provides the necessary financial support of the work of the Church in the just-mentioned ways and many more.Each of us, through his or her contribution to the Annual Catholic Appeal, in a real way, responds to Christ’s invitation to be one with Him in His Eucharistic Sacrifice. Through our sacrificial offering, we live the reality of God’s love which we know most fully in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Conclusion of thanksgiving

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, heroic lover of the Holy Eucharist and of "the poorest of the poor," declared: "I am a little pencil in the hand of God writing a love letter to the world."With these words, the saintly Mother Teresa reminds us all of our vocation and mission in the Church, the vocation and mission to love as Christ loves.As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Blessed Teresa, we embrace her example of Christlike charity, without boundary.

I express my heartfelt gratitude to Niall Gannon, this year’s chair of the Annual Catholic Appeal Council, and to his good wife, Gretchen, and their daughters.Under the leadership of Bishop Robert Hermann, vicar general for the Annual Catholic Appeal, Niall has provided enthusiastic and inspired leadership for this essential work of the Church.He has worked especially for the participation of an ever greater number of the faithful of the archdiocese.I thank all of the members of Annual Catholic Appeal Council, who give of themselves tirelessly in bringing the message of the Appeal to the whole archdiocese and to the wider community.

In thanking Niall and the other members of the Annual Catholic Appeal Council, I thank Frank Cognata, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development, Brian Niebrugge, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, and the staff who work with them. I thank, too, all of the volunteers who work so tirelessly in carrying out the Appeal.In a special way, I thank our parish priests who are the irreplaceable leaders of the Appeal, our permanent deacons and all who work with them.In thanking the priests, deacons and all volunteers for their service of the Annual Catholic Appeal, I thank them, first of all, for their own sacrificial gift to the Appeal which is an effective sign inviting all in the archdiocese to give generously.

I thank the Associates of the Archbishop, who have given dynamic leadership to the Appeal.Their generous gifts inspire the sacrificial gifts of all the faithful in the Archdiocese. In thanking the Associates of the Archbishop, I thank also those who have contributed to the Perpetual Light Endowment.Gifts to the Perpetual Life Endowment literally continue to support the mission of the Church after we have died and, in fact, as the name of the Endowment states, perpetually.

With a grateful heart, I thank all who have contributed, in any way, to the Annual Catholic Appeal.To those who have not yet contributed to this year’s Appeal, I invite you to consider, with a grateful heart, the great mystery of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ and to bring that love to all your brothers and sisters through a generous gift to the Annual Catholic Appeal.Following the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, let us all make our lives "a small pencil" by which God daily writes "a love letter to the world."

‘Be not afraid!’


Pope Benedict XVI concludes Part One of "Sacramentum Caritatis (The Eucharist, A Mystery To Be Believed)" by examining the relationship of eucharistic faith to our final destiny and to our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His discussion of the two relationships deepens our understanding of all that our Holy Father has presented regarding faith in the Holy Eucharist.It leads us to see more deeply the meaning of our living and our dying.It helps us to view the Mystery of Faith through the eyes of Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

The Holy Eucharist and eschatology

Eschatology is the name given to the study of our final destiny, what we have traditionally called the Last Things: death, judgment, the resurrection of the body, heaven, purgatory and hell.Clearly, the Holy Eucharist is essential to our pilgrimage to our lasting home with God in heaven.Christ pours out His life on Calvary in the sacrifice made sacramentally present in every celebration of the Holy Mass in order that we may enjoy eternal life with Him.The Holy Eucharist is the spiritual food of our earthly pilgrimage which reaches its completion in our passing from this life to the life which is to come.The Real Presence of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament permits us, already now, to share in the company of Christ, which we are destined to have with Him perfectly in heaven.

In the Holy Eucharist, we recognize the immeasurable and totally selfless love of God Who desires that we share His friendship and company for all eternity.We know our sins and the ways in which we betray God’s love in our daily living.In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the heavenly Food which heals "our wounded freedom." The Holy Eucharist nourishes the life of the Holy Spirit within us to free us from sin and to free us for the selfless love of God and our neighbor.

The Holy Eucharist opens up to us the deepest reality of our life on earth and of our world itself, namely, our destiny and our world’s destiny in God, the destiny to be realized on the Last Day, when Christ returns in glory.Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the Holy Eucharist guides us to our final destiny:

"Even though we remain "aliens and exiles" in this world (1 Peter 2:11), through faith we already share in the fullness of risen life.The Eucharistic Banquet, by disclosing its powerful eschatological dimension, comes to the aid of our freedom as we continue our journey" (n.30).

For us, it never makes sense "to live as if there were no tomorrow," for there is an eternal tomorrow that we experience each time we participate in the Holy Mass and pray in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Inauguration of the marriage feast of the Lamb

At the Last Supper, our Lord Jesus inaugurated an event for which the people of Israel and, indeed, all of humanity and creation itself look with deepest desire: the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring all mankind into one and to restore our world to the order with which He had created it.Pope Benedict XVI describes for us the eschatological meaning of Christ’s calling of the apostles and His consecration of them, at the Last Supper, to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice:

"In the calling of the Twelve, which is to be understood in relation to the 12 tribes of Israel, and in the command He gave them at the Last Supper, before His redemptive Passion, to celebrate His memorial, Jesus showed that He wished to transfer to the entire community which He had founded the task of being, within history, the sign and instrument of the eschatological gathering that had its origin in Him" (n. 31).

Each time the Holy Mass is offered, all of mankind is gathered together by the love of Christ and is offered to God the Father, in anticipation of Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time.

At the Holy Eucharist, our Lord gave to all His disciples the mission confided by God the Father to the chosen people, the mission of bringing the Redeemer into the world.The Jewish people retain always the honor and dignity of being the first to be chosen by God as the messengers of His saving work through the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, but the Christ, now in the world, gives to all His disciples a share in the mission of evangelization, of announcing the Gospel to all the nations, of celebrating the Holy Eucharist in every time and place.

When Christ comes on the Last Day, He will inaugurate "a new heaven and a new earth" which are eternal and unchanging (Revelation 21:1).In the "new heaven" and "new earth," the communion of saints celebrates eternally "the marriage supper of the Lamb," the feast of the totally faithful and enduring love of Christ for the Church (Revelation 19:9).St. Thomas Aquinas expressed the deeply eschatological meaning of the Holy Eucharist in his prayerful acclamation: "O Sacred Banquet in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and the pledge of future glory is given to us" (OSacrum Convivium).When we join ourselves to Christ in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, we anticipate our perfect communion with Him in love in the kingdom of heaven.

Offering Masses for the dead

Reflecting upon the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to our final destiny and the final destiny of our world reminds us of the importance of praying for the dead and, above all, of having Masses offered for their eternal rest.When Christ comes on the Last Day, our bodies will be raised to share in the glory of His risen Body, and all who have died in Christ will enjoy one another’s company, once again.Pope Benedict XVI declares: "The Eucharistic celebration, in which we proclaim that Christ has died and risen, and will come again, is a pledge of the future glory in which our bodies too will be glorified" (n. 32).

Our love for our brothers and sisters who have died is expressed in our prayers for their final purification of all sin and their eternal joy and peace at the table of the "marriage supper of the Lamb," the "green pastures," the "still waters," the prepared "table," to which our Lord, the Good Shepherd, leads us throughout our earthly pilgrimage (Psalm 23:2,5; and Revelation 19:9).The most loving prayer which we can offer for the dead is the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Through the offering of the Holy Mass for the dead, our deceased brothers and sisters are helped along the way of purification (purgatory) to attain their final destiny, the kingdom of heaven.

Our prayers for the dead and our offering of the Mass for their eternal rest are also an expression of the hope which animates us all along the way of our earthly pilgrimage, that is, the hope of joining them once again in the kingdom of heaven. Our participation in the Holy Mass and our prayer before the Blessed Sacrament keep us strong throughout the pilgrimage and keep before our eyes the goal toward which we strive with sure hope every day.

The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary

The source and highest expression of our Christian life in the worship of the Holy Eucharist naturally leads us to recognize with deepest devotion and love the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the first and best of us to live in Christ and to attain, with Him, our final destiny.In a wonderful way, Pope Benedict XVI relates our faith in the Holy Eucharist to our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary:

"Although we are still journeying toward the complete fulfillment of our hope, this does not mean that we cannot already gratefully acknowledge that God’s gifts to us have found their perfect fulfillment in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother.Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope, for it shows us on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the Sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste" (n. 33).

The life of Mary is the pattern of our own life, receiving our Lord into our very being through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and following Him faithfully on the way of the Cross, which leads us, body and soul, to eternal glory.As Pope Benedict XVI observes, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary uncovers for us our final destiny which we anticipate at each Holy Mass.

Our Lord brought to fullness Mary’s discipleship by assuming her, body and soul, into heaven at her passing from this life to the next.So, too, our Lord will bring our discipleship to fullness at the Resurrection on the Last Day.We believe "in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting" (Apostles’ Creed).As we witness the outpouring of the glorious Body and Blood of Christ for our salvation in the Holy Eucharist, we understand that our own body is destined to share in the glory of Christ Who is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Our meditation upon the life of Christ in the life of the Virgin Mary leads us always to the Holy Eucharist, for our Blessed Mother is ever directing us to her Divine Son with the instruction: "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5).In the words of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, our Blessed Mother is the "Woman of the Eucharist."I recall the words of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia":

"In repeating what Christ did at the Last Supper in obedience to his command: ‘Do this in memory of me!’ we also accept Mary’s invitation to obey Him without hesitation: ‘Do whatever He tells you’ (John 2:5). With the same maternal concern which she showed at the Wedding Feast of Cana, Mary seems to say to us: ‘Do not waver; trust in the words of my Son.If He was able to change water into wine, he can also turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood, and through this mystery bestow on believers the living memorial of His passover, thus becoming "the Bread of Life"’ (Pope John Paul II, encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia [On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church], April 17, 2003, n. 54).

When we participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, our Blessed Mother is one with us, exemplifying faith in Christ and drawing us into ever deeper love of Christ.

The Annunciation and the deposition from the cross

Our Holy Father reflects upon the mystery of God’s love for us, so wonderfully manifested in the mysteries of the life of the Virgin Mary, beginning with her Immaculate Conception. He declares: "From the Annunciation to Pentecost, Mary of Nazareth appears as someone whose freedom is completely open to God’s will" (n. 33).In a true sense, we may describe our entire life as the struggle to express our freedom in the faithful following of Christ, that is, in the doing of God’s will, with and in Christ, in all things.Our whole life is the story of daily conversion to Christ, conversion from the enslavement to sin, which is, at the same time, conversion to the freedom which Christ alone gives us.The struggle reaches its highest expression in our union with Christ in His Eucharistic Sacrifice. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we are one with the source of our freedom, our Lord Jesus Christ, in His victory over sin and everlasting death.

Our Blessed Mother both teaches us the way of conversion to Christ, of abandoning ourselves to God’s will, and she, as a loving mother, intercedes constantly for us that we may have the grace to enter ever more deeply, in our thoughts and words and actions, into the mystery of Christ’s suffering, dying and rising from the dead.Both by her example and through her intercession, she leads us to our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.Pope Benedict XVI describes Mary’s way of life, which is also our way:

"A virgin attentive to God’s Word, she lives in complete harmony with His will; she treasures in her heart the words that come to her from God and, piecing them together like a mosaic, she learns to understand them more deeply (cf. Luke 2:19, 51); Mary is the great believer who places herself confidently in God’s hands, abandoning herself to His will" (n. 33).

In the mysteries of the life of Mary, all essentially mysteries of the life of Christ, we see how God calls us, through the sacraments and, most especially, the Holy Eucharist to share with Him in the work of salvation, in the work of preparing daily His Final Coming in glory.

The relationship of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Holy Eucharist is seen, in a striking way, by placing side by side the Annunciation and the deposition from the cross.At the Annunciation, our Blessed Mother accepted her vocation and mission as Mother of God.Through her obedient response to the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel, Mary received the Redeemer into her womb for the salvation of mankind.God the Son "was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary" (Apostles’ Creed).At the Annunciation, Mary emptied herself of her own will in order to make God’s will her own.

Mary, Mother of Christ, continued to empty herself of her own will in doing God’s will by becoming her Divine Son’s most faithful disciple. She was one with Him throughout His public ministry.Her faithful and altogether excellent discipleship reached its height as she stood at the foot of the cross upon which her Divine Son poured out His life for our eternal salvation and as she received His dead Body into her arms after he had been taken down from the cross (deposition).Our Holy Father comments on the relationship of the Annunciation to the deposition: "From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary is the one who received the Word, made flesh, within her and then silenced in death.It is she, lastly, who took into her arms the lifeless body of the One who truly loved His own "to the end" (John13:1).

The Blessed Virgin shared, in a most privileged way, in the saving work of Christ.She shows us how we are called to share, with and in Christ, in the salvation of the world.As our Lord was dying on the cross, He gave His Mother to His apostle John, who represents us all in the Church.Mary, the Mother of Christ, is the Mother of the Church who lovingly leads her children to salvation in Christ, above all, through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.


Having completed our reflection on Part One of "Sacramentum Caritatis," which treats faith in the Holy Eucharist, we are ready now to begin our reflection on Part Two, which treats the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.Our study of Catholic faith in the Holy Eucharist is the essential preparation for our study of how the Church celebrates the Most Blessed Sacrament.

‘Be not afraid!’


In presenting our Catholic faith in the Holy Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI gives special attention to the relationship of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to the other six sacraments.In last week’s column, I treated Pope Benedict XVI’s discussion of the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.In this week’s column, I present the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to the two remaining sacraments: the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

The treatment of Eucharistic faith in Part One of "Sacramentum Caritatis" concludes with a discussion of two topics: the Holy Eucharist and our final destiny (the Last Things), and the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.In next week’s column, I will conclude the presentation of Part One by treating these topics.

The Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders

The Holy Eucharist is the reason for the existence of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.At the Last Supper, our Lord Jesus both instituted the Holy Eucharist and consecrated the Apostles as priests for the offering of the Holy Eucharist.The priest is ordained to act in the person of Christ the Shepherd and Head of the Father’s flock.The priest acts in the person of Christ, Shepherd and Head, above all, when he gives his hands and voice to Christ Who consecrates the bread and wine, changing them into His Body and Blood for our spiritual nourishment.

Pope Benedict XVI, inspired by the discussion of the Synod of Bishops, stresses several points regarding the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to Holy Orders.The first point is the truth that the relationship "is seen most clearly at Mass, when the bishop or priest presides in the person of Christ the Head" (n. 23).We understand best the vocation and mission of the priest and bishop when we participate in Holy Mass at our parish church or at the cathedral basilica.

The celebration of the Chrism Mass on the morning of Holy Thursday is a most privileged occasion to witness the bishop — and the priests in union with the bishop — offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the whole flock.Fittingly, during the celebration of the Chrism Mass, the priests renew their commitment to priestly service, and the blessing of the holy oils and the consecration of the Sacred Chrism for use throughout the archdiocese takes place.The bishop presides and as many of the priests as possible concelebrate with the bishop.Even as the sacraments and sacramentals, in which the Holy Oils and Sacred Chrism are employed by the bishop and the priests on our behalf, bring us the healing and strength of our Eucharistic Lord, so they are rightly set apart, blessed and consecrated within the solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the cathedral basilica.

The priest, at the Holy Mass, not only acts in the person of Christ the Shepherd and Head of the flock, but he also acts in the name of the Church, offering to God the Father the most perfect prayer of all the faithful."As a result, priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ."In all things and especially in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the priest "must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord’s hands."

The attentive care of the priest to celebrate the Rite of the Mass as the Church celebrates it and without drawing any attention to his own person manifests his vocation and mission on behalf of the flock he serves.
Our Holy Father encourages priests "to see their eucharistic ministry as a humble service offered to Christ and His Church" (n. 23).

The Holy Eucharist and priestly celibacy

Next, Pope Benedict XVI reflects upon priestly celibacy as complete configuration to Christ in His self-offering on Calvary, the self-offering sacramentally renewed in the Holy Eucharist.The meaning of priestly celibacy is uncovered in the celibacy of Christ Who lived the mystery of His celibate love to the very outpouring of His life on the Cross. Priestly celibacy cannot be fully understood in "functional terms," but rather in terms of the union of the heart of the priest with the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus in love of the flock.The choice of priestly celibacy "has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the Heart of Christ the Bridegroom Who gives His life for His Bride."Our Holy Father affirms that the priest’s celibate love is "an immense blessing for the Church and for society itself" (n. 24).

The Holy Eucharist and the shortage of priests

The discussion of the relationship of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders naturally leads to the discussion of the shortage of priests.Pope Benedict XVI, referring to the discussion of the subject at the Synod of Bishops, gives several directives.First, he urges a constant attention to the proper distribution of priests, in order that the Church respond to her needs throughout the world.Secondly, he recommends "pastoral initiatives aimed at promoting, especially among the young, an attitude of interior openness to a priestly calling."In this regard, the Holy Father stresses the importance of vocational discernment, so that candidates admitted to studies for the priesthood will have the requisite qualities of a true shepherd of the flock.He notes, too, the countersign and discouragement which a poorly formed clergy is for those whom Christ is calling to the priesthood.

The apostolate of priestly vocations is the responsibility of the whole Church and, as our Holy Father points out, needs to penetrate into "every area of her life."The family has a particular role in the apostolate of priestly vocations.Pope Benedict XVI expresses concern about families who "are often indifferent or even opposed to the idea of a priestly vocation."In the family, children are brought up with respect for the gift of human life and for the Christian vocation to holiness, to doing God’s will in all things.He reminds us that families "must have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is" (n.25).

The Holy Father concludes the discussion of the shortage of priests by exhorting us to trust in the Providence of God Who always calls a sufficient number of men to serve His holy people in the ordained priesthood. At the same time, the Holy Father expresses "the gratitude of the whole Church for those bishops and priests who carry out their respective missions with fidelity, devotion and zeal" (n. 26).

At the recommendation of the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father noted with special gratitude the service of diocesan priests in the missions, in response to the encyclical letter "Fidei Donum" of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII, signed on April 21, 1957.He thanks God "for all those priests who have suffered even to the sacrifice of their lives in order to serve Christ" (n. 26).Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the sending of priests of the archdiocese to the missions in Latin America by then-Archbishop Joseph Ritter.Thanks be to God, our archdiocese continues to send priests to serve in the missions of Bolivia and Belize.

The Holy Eucharist and the permanent diaconate

The permanent deacons who are ordained "not for priesthood but for service" assist the bishops and priests by their ministry of proclaiming the Word of God, assisting at the altar and administering the Church’s charitable works.Deacons are always united to the bishop and his priests and, therefore, serve by their teaching of eucharistic faith and their promotion of eucharistic life and devotion.Their service of the faithful is always carried out at the direction of the parish priest and the bishop (n. 26).

The Holy Eucharist and Holy Matrimony

The Holy Eucharist is rightly called a nuptial sacrament, for it is the highest expression of the love of Christ the Bridegroom for the Church, His Bride.In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, Christ gives His life, totally and forever, in love of the Church.It is Christ’s love of all mankind which is sealed in the outpouring of His life on Calvary, the outpouring which the Holy Eucharist makes present in every time and place (n. 27).The love of husband and wife in marriage is a most special participation in the nuptial, that is faithful and enduring, love of Christ for the Church and, indeed, for all mankind.

The Holy Eucharist sustains the unity and permanence of the love of man and woman in marriage.In the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the married see the true and full image of the love to which they are called. Pope Benedict XVI makes reference to St. Paul’s teaching on married love:

"Indeed, in the theology of St. Paul, conjugal love is a sacramental sign of Christ’s love for His Church, a love culminating in the Cross, the expression of His "marriage" with humanity and at the same time the origin and heart of the Eucharist" (n. 27).

Reflecting on the relationship of the Holy Eucharist to Holy Matrimony, the Holy Father recalls that the family, formed by the union of man and woman in marriage, is the Church at home, the first place in which the life of the Church is realized and experienced.He also underlines "the unique mission of women in the family and in society, a mission that needs to be defended, protected and promoted" (n. 27).

The Holy Eucharist and the unity of marriage

"The indissoluble, exclusive and faithful bond uniting Christ and the Church, which finds sacramental expression in the Eucharist, corresponds to the basic anthropological fact that man is meant to be definitively united to one woman and vice versa" (n. 28).In the context of the exclusive nature of marital love, reflected in the exclusive love of Christ for all mankind in the Holy Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI addresses the pastoral approach to the practice of polygamy in some cultures.The Church, of course, can never bless a union which is not exclusive, that is, between one man and one woman.

What about the situation of a person in polygamous relationships who is converted to the Catholic faith?Receiving the gift of faith, the person in question also receives the grace to conform his life to Christ.The Church accompanies the catechumen with compassion as he makes "whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to arrive at perfect ecclesial communion" (n. 28).Once the person has understood the mystery of Christ’s love, expressed most perfectly in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, he will want to rectify his marital situation, in accord with the truth of marriage in Christ.

The Holy Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage

Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church, is forever.The married in Christ are bound in love until they are parted in death.

In the context of discussing the indissolubility of marital love, Pope Benedict XVI addresses the painful situation of the divorced and remarried, which sadly is frequently repeated in a culture marked by a high percentage of marriages ending in divorce.The Synod of Bishops set forth again the Church’s discipline, founded on the Word of God, which denies the sacraments to the divorced and remarried "since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church, signified and made present in the Eucharist" (n. 29).

The Holy Father hastens to point out that the divorced and remarried, even though they may not receive the sacraments, remain members of the Church, encouraging them to participate in the Holy Mass without receiving Holy Communion, to take part in eucharistic adoration, to engage in other forms of prayer, and to be active in the life of the parish. He also urges them to be in regular communication with their parish priest for spiritual assistance and to dedicate themselves to works of charity and penance and to the education of their children.

Regarding the situation of a divorced Catholic who believes that his or her marriage is null, that is, that it was not a true marriage from the beginning, Pope Benedict XVI comments on the need of a matrimonial tribunal in each diocese, which operates according to the norms of canon law in service of the truth about the marriage bond, in general and in the specific cases brought before it.As the Holy Father wisely observes, there can be no conflict between the pastoral care of the divorced and the requirements of the law, for both are to serve the truth which is at the foundation of every relationship of love.Repeating words spoken, last year, to the judges of the Roman Rota, which is his own chief matrimonial tribunal, the Holy Father declared that "it is a grave obligation to bring the Church’s institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful" (n.29).

If, in a particular case, the tribunal does not find for the nullity of the marriage and the parties involved cannot, for good reason, separate from each other, the couple is urged to live their relationship "in fidelity to the demands of God’s law, as friends, as brother and sister," so that they may once again receive the Holy Eucharist.The decision to live in accord with God’s law will require the knowledge and assistance of the parish priest.In accord with the Church’s practice, all scandal must be avoided, and it must be clear that the relationship is not blessed by the Church as a marital relationship.

Conclusion: The Holy Eucharist and preparation for marriage

Pope Benedict XVI concludes the discussion of the relationship between the Holy Eucharist and Holy Matrimony by urging, in accord with the recommendation of the bishops at the synod, "maximum pastoral attention to training couples preparing for marriage and to ascertaining beforehand their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the Sacrament of Matrimony."The Holy Father calls for the Church’s "full pastoral commitment" to a fitting program of preparation for marriage, reminding us that a lack of care for marriage and the family "is injurious to society itself" (n. 29).

Certainly, marriage preparation should lead young couples to recognize in the Holy Eucharist the source and highest expression of married love.Our preparation of couples for marriage should, in every aspect, center upon the great mystery of Christ the Bridegroom’s love of His Bride, the Church, the Mystery of Faith contained in the Holy Eucharist.

‘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).

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