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October 8, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Eucharistic devotion is at
the heart of our Christian life

As I sit down to compose this column, I am within sight of the fourth anniversary of my taking on the responsibilities of the principal pastor of the Oakland Diocese. On Oct. 1, 2003 — the feast of St. Theresa, the “Little Flower” — I succeeded our beloved Bishop John Cummins as the third bishop of Oakland.

Over these four years I have received countless graces and blessings, the greatest of which have been the many ways I have shared with all of you in responding to the call to holiness which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded us Christ addresses to all his disciples.

Among the ways I have, from the first days of my arrival in Oakland, seen the Holy Spirit at work in our local Church is how strongly he is inspiring in so many of us a profound devotion to Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

And hand in hand with this love goes a zeal for promoting this devotion in our parishes. Our own diocesan Confraternity of Eucharistic Devotion has been both the manifestation of these graces and an instrument for their wider diffusion in our family of faith.

The experience of the Church today confirms that such devotion to Christ really and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament bears great fruit in our lives. Among the most significant is a renewal of participation in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the Lord’s Day in our parish communities.

The Synod of Bishops that took place in October 2005 focused on the Holy Eucharist. After it was concluded, Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI wrote the Apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” (The Sacrament of Charity) in order to share with all the members of the Church the truth about the meaning of the Eucharist to which the participants of the Synod bore witness.

Meaning of the Eucharist
In that document Pope Benedict sets out clearly and forcefully the relationship between the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy and our adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after that celebration. His message is so important that I am going to quote it in full:

One of the most moving moments of the Synod came when we gathered in Saint Peter’s Basilica, together with a great number of the faithful, for Eucharistic adoration. In this act of prayer, and not just in words, the assembly of Bishops wanted to point out the intrinsic relationship between Eucharistic celebration and Eucharistic adoration.
     A growing appreciation of this significant aspect of the Church’s faith has been an important part of our experience in the years following the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council. During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity.
     For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the Eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. In the light of the Church’s experience of prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy.
     As Saint Augustine put it: “nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando — no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”
     In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; Eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the Eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration.
     Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy.
The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself.
     Indeed, ‘only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another.’

Importance of Sunday Mass
An ardent love for and worship of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is a powerful call to all Catholics, especially those who absent themselves from Sunday Mass, to recognize in the Mass the real presence of Christ actually offering in our midst at the Sacred Liturgy the loving gift of himself in his Body and Blood — made first of all to his Heavenly Father in the Eucharistic Prayer and then to us in Holy Communion.

To miss Sunday Mass — unless, of course one is prevented for a serious reason — is to miss the opportunity to meet Christ when and where and how he wants us to meet him.

And it is a missed opportunity to receive from him the power we need and only he can give us to live out our baptismal mission of spreading his love in this world. No committed follower of Christ would think of disappointing him in that way, any more than a spouse or lover would “diss” his or her beloved for something that might mistakenly be thought “more important.”

For a believer, nothing is more important than Christ; he is for us life itself.

The Second Vatican Council, the watershed event for the Church in our age, called for a renewal in the life of the Church. Without a renewal of Eucharistic life this impulse will have been stunted, if not stillborn.

Forty-ninth Eucharistic Congress
To foster still further the love for the Holy Eucharist in our diocese, I am going to lead a group of pilgrims to the Eucharistic Congress to be held in Quebec City, June 15-22, 2008. The theme for the Congress is “The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World.” (More information about the Quebec Congress can be found at its web site: www.cei2008.ca.)

The first International Eucharistic Congress took place at Lille, France, in 1881. The one next year in Quebec is the 49th. These congresses take place every four years at a venue selected by the Holy Father. They are a gathering of laity, consecrated religious, deacons, priests and bishops from around the world. In these last decades the pope himself has customarily attended as well.

These congresses are a special manifestation of Eucharistic worship, and their purpose is that together the members of the Church join in the deepest profession of some aspect of the Eucharistic mystery and express their worship publicly in the bond of charity and unity.

Delegates from around the world come together for solemn celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy, for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament — both publicly and privately — and for catechesis on the meaning of the Holy Eucharist, with a particular emphasis on how we can put our Eucharistic faith into practice in our daily lives.

Many Catholics who have been able to attend a Eucharistic Congress say that it is a powerful opportunity to experience the Church as she lives on all the five continents of the globe and is gathered symbolically in one place to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist.

The Holy Father selected Quebec as the site for next year’s Eucharistic Congress as a way to mark the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Church in that place, which proved to be such an important cradle for the faith in North America. And the expectation is that Pope Benedict will join the pilgrims there to solemnly close the event.

Oakland pilgrimage
To help plan for our Oakland diocesan pilgrimage to the Congress, this past May a diocesan delegate went to Quebec to learn more about it. The result is that our Eucharistic Resources Commission and our diocesan Confraternity of Eucharistic Devotion will be able to share the catechesis developed for the Congress with members of our diocese, so that this deepened understanding of the Blessed Sacrament will enrich the life of the Church in the East Bay.

The leaders of the Commission and Confraternity have also put together an organized pilgrimage that promises to be an experience that is rich in graces, one which I hope many will take advantage of. In addition to participating in the Congress, pilgrims will visit the Oratory of St. Joseph (established by the charismatic holy man, Blessed Brother Andre Bessette), the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, and other shrines to the martyrs and saints of French Canada.

It is my special hope that those who join me on the pilgrimage will be able to share the gifts of the Holy Spirit they receive at the Quebec Congress, so that they will contribute to building up devotion to the Holy Eucharist in our parishes. Those who are 18 or older interested in joining me on this pilgrimage, or pastors who would like to send a parish delegate, can find out more at www.eucharisticdevotion.org or by calling 925-937-7492.

As I conclude, I want to be sure to offer my heartfelt thanks to all of you for making me part of this community of faith. What comes to mind is a prayer which a priest I worked with some years ago used to offer frequently: “For those whose salvation is linked with yours and mine….”

That’s the link that binds us, the life and salvation we share in Christ. Join me in giving thanks that together we are making our way home to the house of our Heavenly Father, and let us take great joy in anticipating the joys that he has in store for us there.


Previous "In His Light" Columns by Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

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