Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 18, 2004
Devotion to Eucharist can heal society - - pope
Year of Eucharist starts October 17
By JOHN THAVIS
Catholic News Service
Pope John Paul said greater Christian devotion to the Eucharist can help heal a world torn by terrorism and racked by poverty.
In a document offering spiritual guidelines for the Year of the Eucharist, the pope called for more intense public witness of the faith. As the centre of the Christian experience, the Eucharist should have a transforming power that carries beyond Sunday Mass and into daily life, he said.
The letter, released in Italian at the Vatican Oct. 8, was written to launch the Eucharistic year that will run from Oct. 17 to October 2005.
Titled, Stay With Us, Lord, from the words of the apostles to the risen Christ, it urged local churches to promote respectful liturgies, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a better understanding of Christ's "real presence" in the Eucharist.
The pope did not call for specific celebrations or programs, and at one point he said he would be happy if the year served only to revive interest in Sunday Mass and Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass.
The Eucharist, the pope said, furnishes Christians with spiritual energy and a plan for living. It is the ideal way for the faithful to identify with Christ's message and his saving sacrifice, which should in turn have an impact on peace and justice issues in the wider society, he said.
A lacerated world
"The lacerated image of this world, which has begun the new millennium with the spectre of terrorism and the tragedy of war, calls on Christians more than ever to live the Eucharist as a great school of peace," he said.
This will help form men and women as architects of dialogue and communion in social and political life, he said.
The Eucharist should also bring Catholics closer to the world's poor because it manifests Christ's "extreme form of love" - one that replaced domination with service as the governing principle in human affairs, he said.
The pope urged local communities to adopt concrete expressions of solidarity and charity for the poor during the Eucharistic year. "I am thinking of the drama of hunger that torments hundreds of millions of human beings, of the diseases that afflict developing countries, of the loneliness of the elderly, the needs of the unemployed and the misfortunes of immigrants."
He told Catholics that the authenticity of Eucharistic celebrations will be demonstrated largely by the love shown to others and by the care given to the needy.
The pope touched briefly on many points he developed in greater detail in his encyclical on the Eucharist last year, including the need to understand the Eucharist not simply as a shared meal or a symbol, but as a real encounter with Christ.
He urged obedience of liturgical norms, including those on reception of Communion, and suggested that every local parish use the Eucharistic year to study in depth the Church's rules on proper liturgy. The respect shown the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ should be evidenced in such things as tone of voice, gestures and moments of silence during the Mass or Eucharistic Adoration, he said.
The pope urged Christians to publicly witness the faith and the presence of God during the Eucharistic year - for example, in Eucharistic processions.
"We are not afraid to speak of God and to hold high the signs of the faith," he said. Those who think public professions of faith represent an intrusion on civil society or encourage intolerance are wrong, he said.
The pope officially will open the Eucharistic year with a Mass at the Vatican Oct. 17. The same day he will greet via satellite the closing session of the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Eucharistic year will close Oct. 29, 2005, at the end of a month-long Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.
At the end of his Oct. 13 general audience, Pope John Paul asked Catholics to spend time during the coming year in adoration before Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament and offer praise to God for the gift of salvation.
"Be frequent adorers of the most holy Eucharist," he said.
And in remarks in a meeting Oct. 9 with several thousand young people from the Diocese of Rome, the pope said the Eucharistic year should be a time of mission for the Church, as Catholics are inspired to imitate the life of Christ.
The youths, many involved in Eucharistic Adoration groups, had participated in a weeklong evangelization campaign.
He said the Year of the Eucharist would mark a time of special grace and energy for the Church. Its effect should not be limited to Eucharistic celebrations, but spread into every area of life, he said.
"The Eucharist and mission are two inseparable realities," the pope said. He noted that the Eucharist is the way Catholics experience Christ's saving sacrifice.
"This mystery asks each of us to give thanks with Christ to the Father, not so much with words as with our very lives united with his," he said.
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