A Great Loss to the Diocese
Before I begin the main topic of this week’s blog, I want to say a few words to acknowledge the loss so many in our Diocese are experiencing with the unexpected death last week of Father John J. Perry. Father John was both a trusted friend and collaborator to me, and I feel that loss as well. His funeral took place this past Monday, and St. Joseph’s Church in Fall River was filled with his family, many friends, parishioners from all of the places he served, and a large representation of his brother priests. I was so pleased to celebrate the Mass, and Father Bob Oliveira offered a wonderful homily, sharing stories that reflected so well the dedicated priesthood of Father John. He loved being a priest and he loved people. His kindness will remain his legacy, and I am confident that God is now sharing His kindness with him.
The Treasure of the Eucharist
Recently we’ve seen the alarming results of a national survey published the Pew Research Center uncovering the following about Catholics and their understanding of the Eucharist.
“Half of Catholics in the United States (50%) correctly answer a question about official church teachings on transubstantiation – that during Consecration, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ. The other half of Catholics incorrectly say the church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion are just symbols of the body and blood of Christ (45%) or say they are not sure (4%)” (US Religious Knowledge Survey | Pew Research Center).
In the Mass, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is re-presented. In his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the title comes from the first line of the document in English; The Church draws her life from the Eucharist, Pope Saint John Paul II explained the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. “Crowned by the resurrection, in the Mass involves a most special presence which – in the words of Paul VI – “is called ‘real’ not as a way of excluding all other types of presence as if they were ‘not real’, but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present”” (Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 15).
He goes on in this 2003 letter, to teach what needs to be at the heart of all seeking to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, is an acceptance that cannot be explained, one that goes beyond our human comprehension. “Truly the Eucharist is a mysterium fidei,” Pope John Paul II states, “a mystery which surpasses our understanding and can only be received in faith, as is often brought out in the catechesis of the Church Fathers regarding this divine sacrament: “Do not see – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem exhorts – in the bread and wine merely natural elements, because the Lord has expressly said that they are his body and his blood: faith assures you of this, though your senses suggest otherwise.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides more evidence of the teaching of this truth within our Catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, containing the universal doctrines of the Catholic faith, originated with a recommendation made at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985. On June 25, 1992, Pope John Paul II officially approved the Catechism of the Catholic Church and on December 8, 1992, published the Catechism with an apostolic constitution.
In Section 1333 of the Catechism, one finds this about the Eucharist and may explain the possible confusion with Catholics to mistake the Eucharist as a symbol of Jesus’ Body and Blood, and not as it is, truly Jesus present to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity.
The Catechism states,
“At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread. . . .” “He took the cup filled with wine. . . .” The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory, we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the “work of human hands,” but above all as “fruit of the earth” and “of the vine” – gifts of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who “brought out bread and wine,” a prefiguring of her own offering.”
Yet, we can be assured of the validity of this important teaching, given to us by Jesus, and upheld for over 2000 years by word and tradition. Again, turning for verification in the Catechism:
“By the consecration, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651)” (Catechism of the Catholic Church – The sacrament of the Eucharist, 1413).
The Archdiocese of Boston’s Year of the Eucharist will begin on Holy Thursday 2020 and continue through Feast of Corpus Christi 2021. I look forward to the many opportunities this will provide for all of us to learn more about the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith.
Mass for the Institution of Acolytes
On Wednesday, February 12th, Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary blessed me with an invitation to celebrate the Mass for the Institution of Acolytes. These First Year Theologians will primarily aid at the altar and may also assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of the Mass.
Please join me in congratulating these newly installed Acolytes on this early step in their journey towards ordination to the priesthood.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha