Delivers keynote address at Eucharistic Congress in Diocese of St. Augustine
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA—His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services (AMS), shared reflections Saturday on “the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ, His sacramental presence, our reception of Him, and His perpetual presence in the tabernacle.” Delivering the keynote address at the Eucharistic Congress of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, Archbishop Broglio observed that the Eucharistic celebration amounts to nothing less than the “source and summit of our lives as Catholics.” Archbishop Broglio appeared in place of the originally-scheduled keynote speaker, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who has been called away to Rome with the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope.
Here follows the complete text of Archbishop Broglio’s address to the gathering of faithful led by Bishop Felipe J. Estévez at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center in Jacksonville:
Dear Brother Priests and Deacons,
Esteemed Religious and consecrated women and men,
Dear Sisters and Brothers all,
While I do not feel adequate to substitute for Cardinal Wuerl and I met no one on the Southwest flight last night who wanted to talk about faith, I am delighted to be with you for a number of reasons. First all, since your bishop and I met when we were doing doctoral studies in Roma, I have always admired him and considered him a friend.
Secondly, I have a tie to the Diocese of Saint Augustine. As the first changes in the liturgy were being introduced in 1965, the founding pastor of my home parish who was 88 years old began to celebrate daily Mass in the small side chapel. One of us would serve for him.
I was very moved by his reverence and devotion. He would come every day at the same hour. Despite his arthritis and the challenges of movement, he would genuflect and dutifully follow the rubrics of the 1962 missal.
During his final illness in 1966 I began to think very seriously about the priesthood. He died on February 4th and one Archbishop Joseph Hurley, Bishop of St. Augustine, came up to preach at his funeral. We had an archbishop in Cleveland, but I never remember seeing him. This was my first opportunity to see one up close.
It is important to remember that in 1929 or 1930 the people of that parish sent their pastor on a belated world cruise for his Silver Jubilee. To accompany him, he asked his good younger friend, Father Hurley. When they stopped in India to visit the Apostolic Delegate, another Clevelander, Archbishop Edward Mooney, he invited Father Hurley to stay and help him with the work of the Delegation. The rest is history.
I tell you that story, because it was the celebration of the Eucharist, source and summit of our lives as Catholics, that provoked the first thoughts of vocation in my heart. The relationship between priesthood and the Eucharist is very close indeed.
This morning—now that you have come to the Feast– I would like to spend a few moments with you to consider the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ, His sacramental presence, our reception of Him, and His perpetual presence in the tabernacle.
In Blessed Pope John Paul’s last encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, he wrote: “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfilment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 1.)
We all know these two aspects of the Eucharist as sacrifice and communion. It is ever useful to meditate on both aspects, because they complement each other and prevent this central mystery from being distorted in one way or another. Catholic theology has historically treated sacrifice as the primary aspect of this sacrament. The pastoral reality, both in the period immediately before and after the Council, has developed more the aspect of Communion, sometimes forgetting the importance of the former.
I remember well the practice of Holy Communion before the first Mass to allow those who had to be on the road the opportunity to receive without staying for the whole Mass. I run into the same problem with those who want me to authorize Communion services where troops are deployed without a priest. The questions there are many and this is not the place to discuss them, but primarily that practice divorces the celebration of the Eucharist from the reception of Holy Communion.
In many areas Communion services have become popular as the number of priests diminishes, but the door to abuse then opens more widely. We are a Church that celebrates the Eucharist and not a Church that merely receives Holy Communion.
Christ’s sacrifice has been perpetuated in our being made present for the Eucharistic sacrifice. For St. Paul, his gospel was to announce the divine plan hidden in God from all eternity and made manifest in Christ and proclaimed by the Apostles. It is that God in His wisdom and infinite goodness had determined to make humanity participants in His divine life by means of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Dei Verbum, 2.)
Pope Benedict XVI when he promulgated the Year of Faith explicitly mentioned the importance of the liturgy: “It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is“the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; … and also the source from which all its power flows.” (SC, 10; Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 9.)
¿Cómo el hombre, pecador de nacimiento, podía ofrecer algo a Dios que le fuera agradable? El Hijo al encarnarse acepta esa realidad, y para que el hombre pueda ofrecer algo que agrade a Dios se hace semejante en todo al hombre menos en el pecado. El que no tiene pecado asume los pecados: “No te agradaban los sacrificios, entonces dije: Aquí estoy para hacer tu voluntad, y tu ley en mi corazón.” (Sal 40,9.)
As the Redemption begins so also does the recreation. Every choice, response, word of God made man has infinite value. Jesus by His obedience restores what was lost in the disobedience of humanity. His “yes” to the Father’s will leads to the outpouring of His blood. St. Paul says that Christ is the “yes” of humanity to the Father. He is the head of the redeemed Body.
We celebrate those truths every time we gather for the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is a vital moment in the life of a practicing Catholic. Think about Cardinal Van Thuon who, while in prison, obtained wine so as to celebrate Mass by holding a drop of wine on the palm of his hand. I think about priests who risk severe punishment in Saudi Arabia to celebrate Mass for the Filipinos and Indians who labor in the oil fields and in the menial tasks in that society. In the embassies in Ryiad where the Mass is celebrated, admission is by ticket only—simply because there is not enough space to accommodate all of those who hunger for the celebration of the Eucharist.
Take away the Sacrifice of the Mass, prohibit it, or make it risky to attend, then we begin to appreciate how precious this celebration really is. We should remember that fact when we are tempted to skip Mass, say that it offers us nothing, or find it boring. From the origins of the believing community, men and women have made enormous sacrifices to participate in this celebration which makes us present at the central event of our salvation history.
Entre los militares se hace todo para asegurar la Santa Misa entre los que se encuentran en Afganistán o colocados en los naves. Se mueve el sacerdote de una nave a otra con el helicóptero. Todo para asegurar la celebración de la Eucaristía a los marineros. Y nosotros decimos que estamos cansados o la capilla está lejos o hace falta un pequeño sacrificio para juntarnos a la celebración. ¡No puede ser!
Es el Señor mismo quien nos invita a venir a la fiesta, al banquete, al único sacrificio que da vida. El Beato Juan Pablo II nos enseñó: “si la Eucaristía edifica la Iglesia y la Iglesia hace la Eucaristía, se deduce que hay una relación sumamente estrecha entre una y otra. Tan verdad es esto, que nos permite aplicar al Misterio eucarístico lo que decimos de la Iglesia cuando, en el Símbolo niceno-constantinopolitano, la confesamos « una, santa, católica y apostólica ». También la Eucaristía es una y católica. (Blessed Pope John Paul II, op. cit., 26.)
Es el momento que nos define como católicos. No hay nada más central a nuestra vida que la celebración eucarística. Por eso que hacemos un congreso eucarístico.
We recognize the generosity of God. He sent His Son to assure our salvation. He gives us the opportunity to keep and offer a gift acceptable to Him, permitting us also His unique and specific presence. Matthew Kelly has a great presentation about the significance of the Mass when he talks about the sacrifice of parents and a young boy who has the only cure for an epidemic raging throughout the world. The child has to surrender his life and the antibodies from his body abate the disease. However, when the time comes to thank the family for the sacrifice and honor the lad, people are too busy; it is too far away; the commemoration is boring.
Obviously, the comparison to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to give us what we are incapable of giving ourselves, salvation, is clear. Not only do we commemorate His gesture, but at the Mass we are present at the one life-giving and life-saving sacrifice.
The invitation, beyond appreciating what we are privileged to experience, is also to prepare ourselves for that definitive meeting at the end of our pilgrimage. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, the remembrance of Christ in his Paschal Mystery leads to the desire for a full and definitive encounter with Him. We live in expectation of his coming! (Blessed John Paul II, Letter to Priests on Holy Thursday, 2005, 7.)
These special moments invite us to ask a bold question about the direction of our lives. Are we really on a pilgrimage? Do we know it? Is the goal of eternal life firmly fixed or are our goals reduced to a better car, more money, a nice house, or a more interesting job?
There is nothing wrong with these good things in life, which are also a gift from God. However, we are created in the image and likeness of God. Our goal should be elevated and noble. It must be eternal life. The Eucharist puts us in contact with that life; it allows us to taste the union with Christ and the whole Church of those living, suffering, or triumphant. When we celebrate the Eucharist we are in the presence of all the Saints.
St. Paul’s attitude is a great teacher here. He was an amazing missionary, but also one who suffered a great deal because of his total commitment to preaching the Gospel. We try to say with him: “…forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, I am racing towards the finishing point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Ph. 3:13b-14)
You know that the idea of longing for a goal is also behind the Eucharistic fast: once from midnight, then three hours, and now an hour. While an hour is not very long to abstain from food, we must remember the motivation. It is to create a physical longing for the Bread of Life. The same is true for the fasting and penance we practice during Lent: the reminder is of that we are on a journey and our homeland is in heaven. We should be anxious to reach that goal and subordinate all other goods to that final victory. Fasting is a help to that realization.
As St. Basil the Great teaches: “Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.” (Basil the Great, “On Fasting”.)
Finally, let us say just a word about Eucharistic adoration and the presence of our divine Lord in the tabernacle.
After Vatican II two documents were published about the significance of Jesus sacramentally present in the Tabernacle (Mysterium Eucharisticum, Sacrosantum Mysterium). Frequent are our visits to the Lord to adore Him and to tell Him, as a friend, about our problems. This is all beautiful and produces immense fruit. As I said, these intímate conversations with the Lord increase our love and consequently our service.
There is more. The Church tells us that this Eucharistic Presence in the tabernacle is a prolonging of the Sacrifice of the Altar. What was offered at the moment of the preparation of the gifts now has to continue being realized throughout the day. Jesus accepted the offering of our lives; He made them His, and as our actions continue He presents them to the Father.
This Jesus who is interceding for us in heaven wants to do the same sacramentally from the tabernacle. He consecrates all human activity, gathering all that happens in the universe and presenting it to the Father. For this reason He is present in the midst of every parish and every community to make palpable His mission to unify what is divided, to heal what is sinful, sweeten the bitter, and give eternity to our joys and sorrows. The tabernacle must be the center of the community and the priest is there to make present in the same community Jesus in sacrament.
Certainly, as creatures we are incapable of offering anything to God and He does not need anything from us. However, in His infinite love He wanted to descend to us and give us the possibility to give something back to Him. To make clearer this aspect allow me to recall some writings which then Cardinal Ratzinger published in his book, A God who is Near, a bit before Blessed John Paul II wrote his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.
The first thing that the cardinal wrote is that “God gives Himself to us so that we are able to commit ourselves to Him. The initiative in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ comes from God. At the beginning it was He who lowered Himself.” “Christ is not a gift which we present to an angry God. On the contrary, the fact that He is here, lives, suffers, and loves is already the work of the love of God. It is the merciful love of God which He lowers on us. The Lord makes Himself a slave for us.” “Even though we are the ones who provoked the conflict and God was not the guilty party, but we, He still comes to meet us and begs for reconciliation in Christ”. “The more we walk with Him, the more conscious we are that God who apparently torments us is really the one who loves us and in Whom we can abandon ourselves without hesitation or fears.”
“The more we enter into the night of the incomprehensible mystery and confide in Him, the more we meet Him, the more we find love and liberty which sustain us through the long nights. God gives to enable our giving. This is the essence of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ,” affirmed the one who was until 28 February the Successor of Peter.
Blessed John Paul II instructed us: “If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”,how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 25.)
Indeed never far from our minds is the basic doctrine of the Church regarding Eucharistic adoration: it is born of the Mass and guides us to the Mass. Obviously, it is impossible to have adoration without first having had a celebration of the Mass. Adoration offers us the opportunity to adore the very special and unique presence of the Lord. We celebrate His presence in our midst.
We are like the disciples as they arrive at Emmaus who say to Jesus: “Stay with us!” (Lk 24, 29b). We know that He walks with us and we want to open for Him the doors of our heart, sometimes very hardened; and of our lives, so that it might be the Lord who opens our minds, eyes, and hands, and warms our hearts to recognize Him as alive and the victor over sin and death.
Adoration, dear Sisters and Brothers, leads us to the celebration. We must cultivate this desire for union and presence in the culminating moment of our salvation. The accent is also on the community. The celebration knows no limits of time and space, because it transports us to the liturgy of heaven.
What happens at the end of every Mass? What are the final words? Ite, missa est. Go forth, you are sent! Proclaim the Gospel in your lives. The new translations offer a host of possibilities which all emphasize that the celebration cannot end without a mission. What constitutes the truth about the Mass, constitutes the truth about Eucharistic adoration.
“Remaining with Jesus and participating in His act of complete self-giving, because of His love without limits, commits us so that we serve our sisters and brothers with a heart burning with love:
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you to drink? (..) When did find you sick or in prison and go to see you?”And Jesus will respond: “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me!” (Mt. 25, 37.39.40)
“Celebrar la Eucaristía del Señor, participar de la fracción del pan, adorar la presencia de Cristo que se hace entrega hasta el fin, debe impulsar nuestra vida al servicio de los demás. Nos tiene que “arder el corazón” con la experiencia de su amor para hacer de nosotros servidores de los hermanos pobres, débiles y sufrientes, con los cuales el mismo Cristo se identificó!
“Debemos pasar del rito a la persona, a la persona de Cristo que nos impulsa a servirlo en los hermanos.” (Mons. Maccarone, 28.V.05. )
The social teaching of the Church is born and takes on flesh in the very celebration of the Eucharist. The examples from lives of the saints are numerous. Think about the radical message of St. Vincent de Paul, who told his religious that if a poor person asks for a favor when a priest is praying, he could stop his prayer in order to attend to Christ in that person. It would not represent a lack of respect for God.
Let us also consider the insistence of Blessed Mother Teresa with her Missionaries of Charity. The daily hour of Eucharistic adoration is essential, but indeed so as to assure the strength necessary to fulfill the mission.
Think about what the Risen Lord said to St. Thomas: “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.” (Jn 20, 26-28). We do not have to consider this invitation only as a confirmation for the Apostle of the truth regarding the Resurrection.
“Today we must hear that invitation of Jesus, a Word filled with authority, so that we reach Him in the lascerations, the wounds, the sorrows, and the miseries that disfigure the faces of so many brothers and sisters, so as to regenerate them with out humble, but ever regenerating Christian service. This is not some philanthropy which comes from some sentiment of compassion. It is the very ‘love of Christ which pushes us forward’.” (2Co. 5,14; Maccarone, op. cit.)
The great theologian Karl Rahner wrote about the Eucharist: “What we enact in the Church’s sacrificial rite, in our adoration of this Sacrament, in the receiving of Your Body and Blood, will, by Your grace, always be enacted and celebrated in the sacred enactment of our own life, in its daily routines and in its climaxes, in life and in death.” (Karl Rahner, Prayers for a Lifetime, p. 128.)
The document of Puebla teaches us to meet Christ in the faces of so many children, “beaten down by poverty even before they are born,” in the faces of so many young people “disoriented, because they cannot find their place in society,” faces of laborers who are underpaid, the faces of the under and unemployed and those who have been fired, the faces of those at the edges of our society, of the aged, “each day more numerous” and frequently set aside by a progressive society which ignores people who do not produce. (Karl Rahner, Prayers for a Lifetime, p. 128.)
We must touch these people to the extent that we are able with the charity nourished by the Eucharist, Sacrament of Christ’s love. The century and the millennium now beginning will need to see, and hopefully with still greater clarity, to what length of dedication the Christian community can go in charity towards the poorest.” (NMI 49; Blessed Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49.)
Sisters and Brothers, what a joy to be here and to celebrate with you our faith in the Eucharist! It was at the very beginning of my education in the family and in the parish that I learned about the importance of this sacrament. If we are well instructed in the teaching about the Eucharist we can build an ever stronger community of believers who make manifest in their lives the faith celebrated in Word and Sacrament.
The AMS was created as an independent archdiocese by Pope John Paul II in 1985 as the only Catholic jurisdiction responsible for endorsing and granting faculties for priests to serve as chaplains in the U.S. military and VA Medical Centers.
AMS-endorsed priests serve at more than 220 U.S. military installations in 29 countries, making the AMS the nation’s only global archdiocese. AMS-endorsed chaplains also serve at 153 VA Medical Centers throughout the U.S.
The AMS service population also includes American Catholic civilians working for the federal government in 134 countries, but currently, due to limited resources, the AMS cannot adequately serve this population.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.8 million Catholics depend on the AMS to meet their spiritual and sacramental needs.
For more information on the Archdiocese for the Military Services, visit www.milarch.org, the only official Web site for Catholics in the military and for the Cause of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M.