Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 7, 2005
Archbishop reflects on stories of persecution
By ARCHBISHOP THOMAS COLLINS
For the past three weeks I have participated in the Synod of Bishops in Rome, on the topic of the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Christian life.
Much of the synod was taken up with presentations by bishops, priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay men and women, concerning their experience of the Eucharist, and their sense of its place in our lives of discipleship.
These people had a wide experience of Christian life, and some came from situations of persecution or of great suffering. That certainly made me reflect on how we have to put our own personal concerns into perspective.
Eucharist brings life
One constant theme was the way in which the celebration of the Eucharist, and also Eucharistic Adoration, bring life to the Christian community in a world often hostile to the Gospel.
At several points there were references to the martyrs of Abitene in the early centuries of the Church, during the Roman persecution, who cried out as they were killed for celebrating Mass "We cannot live without the Sunday Eucharist."
I thought about that spirit of Christian awareness, and about how we, who face no persecution, need to value the Sunday Eucharist as greatly as they did.
A high point of the synod was the meeting of Pope Benedict with children who had made their First Communion during the past year.
Tens of thousands of them gathered in the piazza in front of St. Peter's, and the pope had a wonderful conversation with a few of them who asked him some basic questions, such as "Why don't I see Jesus when I receive Communion?" and "What can I do when my parents don't go to Mass on Sunday?" and "Should I go to Confession before going to Communion, and what do I do when I just tell the same sins?"
The pope very clearly, gently, simply and profoundly responded to them. About Confession, he noted that we clean our homes regularly, because dust and dirt build up.
Concerning not seeing Jesus in Communion he pointed out that we do not see many important realities, like electricity, but we experience their effects, as we also do more profoundly with unseen spiritual realities. He also talked about his own First Communion, and of how he was so grateful that Jesus came to be with him.
We celebrated Mass with Pope Benedict at the beginning and the end of the synod. We also joined with him for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration in St. Peter's, attended by many people. I was strengthened in my own resolve to emphasize in our diocese the contemplative gift of Eucharistic Adoration, deeply connected to the celebration of the Eucharist.
Our parishes offer this opportunity to spend some time in prayer before our Eucharistic Lord. We also have places, such as the chapel at St. Andrew's where, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, people are able to get away from the busyness of life to regain perspective through prayer before the Lord.
Sign up for an hour. It will change your life. It would be good to have a few other places like that, with perpetual adoration, in different parts of the archdiocese, in addition to the opportunities for quiet prayer in all of our parishes.
It was inspiring to be with Pope Benedict, and to listen to him as he spoke in a way that was indeed clear, gentle, simple and profound about the Word of God and about the meaning of the Eucharist.
Liturgy of the Hours
Each morning we all prayed a portion of the Liturgy of the Hours together, and one of the bishops gave a little homily on the brief Scripture passage. The first day, Pope Benedict meditated upon each of the words of the short passage, in a kind of Lectio Divina. It was a wonderful start for the synod.
The synod process began a couple of years ago when an outline of issues was sent to all the almost 5,000 bishops of the world, asking for feedback concerning important issues relating to the Eucharist in their area. The responses were distilled into a Working Document, and each of the 250 bishops present at the synod addressed some portion of that text.
All of the synod participants spent several days in small groups, organized according to language, preparing points to offer to the pope as suggestions for a document which he will write on the Eucharist. He will also have available all of the synod presentations, and the results of the whole consultation.
Pray that God will guide the pope as he completes the synod by writing the letter he is preparing, so that we can appreciate more fully that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life, and so that we may live accordingly.
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