Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Encyclical Letter on the Holy Eucharist - Pope John Paul II Part 6

Theme:  Contemplating Jesus' Eucharistic presence with Mary...

6.  I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic “amazement” by the present Encyclical Letter, in continuity with the Jubilee heritage which I have left to the Church in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte and its Marian crowning, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by him she is fed and by him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light”.3 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lk 24:31).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist - Pope John Paul II Part 5

Theme:  Through the Words of Consecration, our Priests bring Jesus to us

5. “Mysterium fidei! - The Mystery of Faith!”. When the priest recites or chants these words, all present acclaim: “We announce your death, O Lord, and we proclaim your resurrection, until you come in glory”.
In these or similar words the Church, while pointing to Christ in the mystery of his passion, also reveals her own mystery: Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

By the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the Church was born and set out upon the pathways of the world, yet a decisive moment in her taking shape was certainly the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room. Her foundation and wellspring is the whole Triduum paschale, but this is as it were gathered up, foreshadowed and “concentrated' for ever in the gift of the Eucharist. In this gift Jesus Christ entrusted to his Church the perennial making present of the paschal mystery. With it he brought about a mysterious “oneness in time” between that Triduum and the passage of the centuries.

The thought of this leads us to profound amazement and gratitude. In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous “capacity” which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist. But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist. For it is he who, by the authority given him in the sacrament of priestly ordination, effects the consecration. It is he who says with the power coming to him from Christ in the Upper Room: “This is my body which will be given up for you This is the cup of my blood, poured out for you...”. The priest says these words, or rather he puts his voice at the disposal of the One who spoke these words in the Upper Room and who desires that they should be repeated in every generation by all those who in the Church ministerially share in his priesthood.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Encyclical Letter on the Holy Eucharist - Pope John Paul II Part 4

Theme: The Hour of Our Redemption, the Hour of Calvary

4. The hour of our redemption. Although deeply troubled, Jesus does not flee before his “hour”. “And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' No, for this purpose I have come to this hour” (Jn 12:27). He wanted his disciples to keep him company, yet he had to experience loneliness and abandonment: “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mt 26:40- 41). Only John would remain at the foot of the Cross, at the side of Mary and the faithful women. The agony in Gethsemane was the introduction to the agony of the Cross on Good Friday. The holy hour, the hour of the redemption of the world. Whenever the Eucharist is celebrated at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, there is an almost tangible return to his “hour”, the hour of his Cross and glorification. Every priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it, is led back in spirit to that place and that hour.

He was crucified, he suffered death and was buried; he descended to the dead; on the third day he rose again”. The words of the profession of faith are echoed by the words of contemplation and proclamation: “This is the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world. Come, let us worship”. This is the invitation which the Church extends to all in the afternoon hours of Good Friday. She then takes up her song during the Easter season in order to proclaim: “The Lord is risen from the tomb; for our sake he hung on the Cross, Alleluia”.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist Pope John Paul II - Part 3

Theme:  The Holy Mass brings us to Calvary

3. The Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is in an outstanding way the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church's life. This is already clear from the earliest images of the Church found in the Acts of the Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). The “breaking of the bread” refers to the Eucharist. Two thousand years later, we continue to relive that primordial image of the Church.

At every celebration of the Eucharist, we are spiritually brought back to the paschal Triduum: to the events of the evening of Holy Thursday, to the Last Supper and to what followed it. The institution of the Eucharist sacramentally anticipated the events which were about to take place, beginning with the agony in Gethsemane. Once again we see Jesus as he leaves the Upper Room, descends with his disciples to the Kidron valley and goes to the Garden of Olives. Even today that Garden shelters some very ancient olive trees. Perhaps they witnessed what happened beneath their shade that evening, when Christ in prayer was filled with anguish “and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (cf. Lk 22:44).

The blood which shortly before he had given to the Church as the drink of salvation in the sacrament of the Eucharist, began to be shed; its outpouring would then be completed on Golgotha to become the means of our redemption: “Christ... as high priest of the good things to come..., entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11- 12).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Encylical Letter on the Holy Eucharist - Pope John Paul II, Part 2

Theme:  "Take this all of you and eat, This is My Body which will be given up for you".

2. During the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 I had an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in the Cenacle of Jerusalem where, according to tradition, it was first celebrated by Jesus himself. The Upper Room was where this most holy Sacrament was instituted. It is there that Christ took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you” (cf. Mk 26:26; Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24). Then he took the cup of wine and said to them: “Take this, all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven” (cf. Mt 14:24; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). I am grateful to the Lord Jesus for allowing me to repeat in that same place, in obedience to his command: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), the words which he spoke two thousand years ago. 

Did the Apostles who took part in the Last Supper understand the meaning of the words spoken by Christ? Perhaps not. Those words would only be fully clear at the end of the Triduum sacrum, the time from Thursday evening to Sunday morning. Those days embrace the myste- rium paschale; they also embrace the mysterium eucharisticum

Eucharistic Miracle Alatri, Italy 1228

The most authoritative testimony regarding this miracle is found in the Bull Fraternitas tuae (March 13, 1228) written by Pope Gregory IX in response to Bishop Giovanni V of Alatri. The text reads: “Gregory, Bishop and Servant of the Servants of God, to Venerable Brother Bishop of Alatri, greetings and Apostolic blessing. We have received your letter, dearest brother, in which you informed us of a certain young woman misguided by an evil woman, who, after having received from the priest the Most Holy Body of Christ, held the Sacred Host in her mouth until the right moment to conceal the Holy Eucharist in a cloth. After three days, she discovered the same Body which she had received in the form of bread transformed into flesh, as everyone has been able to verify with their own eyes.
Thus, dearest brother, by means of this apostolic letter, we dispose that you inflict a milder punishment on the young woman, whom we hold to have done this more from weakness than malice, especially because it can be believed that she has sufficiently repented in confessing her sin. To the instigator, who with her perversion pushed the young woman to commit sacrilege, apply those disciplinary measures that we believe opportune to leave to your judgment. She should also visit the nearest bishop so that she can humbly confess her crime, imploring pardon with devout submission.” 

 The Pope interpreted this episode as a sign against the widespread heresies regarding the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and pardoned the two repentant women. A commemorative medal was coined on the 750th anniversary of the miracle; one side showed the cathedral façade and the reliquary, while the other a bust of Pope Gregory IX with the Papal Bull.

Because both women have humbly revealed this to you, you desire our opinion regarding the punishment that should be imposed upon them. First, we give thanks with all our strength to Him Who, though He always operates in marvelous ways, in this case repeats miracles and produces new wonders so that He calls to sinners, converts evildoers and confounds heretics while strengthening faith in the truth of the Catholic Church, sustaining hope and reigniting charity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It is not Bread, but Jesus our Saviour

“This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”

- St. Justin Martyr, 2nd Century

Body and Blood of Christ

It is not the power of man which makes what is put before us the Body and Blood of Christ, but the power of Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The priest standing there in the place of Christ says these words but their power and grace are from God. 'This is My Body,' he says, and these words transform what lies before him.

- St. John Chrysostom

Encyclical Letter on the Holy Eucharist from Pope John Paul II Part I

Theme:  The Holy Eucharist - Christ Himself

1. 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.

The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life”.1 “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church's entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to men”.2 Consequently the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love. 

Eucharistic Miracle, Cava Dei Tirreni, Italy 1656

In May of 1656, a terrible epidemic of the plague overtook the city of Naples as a result of the invasion by Spanish troops from Sardinia. The plague spread so quickly to the neighboring villages and surrounding countryside that it was soon at the gates of the city of Cava dei Tirreni. The victims numbered in the thousands both in the villages and the urban centers. Fr. Paolo Franco was one of the few priests who had been spared and who had not succumbed to the epidemic. Despite the danger of contagion, he was divinely inspired to lead the people in a procession of reparation within a few kilometers of the summit of the Castello. When they arrived at the summit of the mountain, Fr. Franco blessed Cava dei Tirreni with the Blessed Sacrament. The epidemic miraculously stopped. To this day the townspeople commemorate the miracle with a solemn annual procession during the month of June.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eucharistic Jesus - Food of the Saints

"His poverty enriches, the fringe of His garment heals, His hunger satisfies, His death gives life, His burial gives resurrection. Therefore, He is a rich treasure, for His bread is rich. And 'rich' is apt for one who has eaten this bread will be unable to feel hunger. He gave it to the Apostles to distribute to a believing people, and today He gives it to us, for He, as a priest, daily consecrates it with His own words. Therefore, this bread has become the food of the saints."

- St. Ambrose of Milan


The ministerial orders of the Catholic Church include the orders of bishops, deacons and presbyters, which in Latin is sacerdos. The ordained priesthood and common priesthood (or priesthood of the all the baptized) are different in function and essence. 

A distinction is to be made between "priest" and "presbyter." In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, "The Latin words sacerdos and sacerdotium are used to refer in general to the ministerial priesthood shared by bishops and presbyters. The words presbyter, presbyterium and presbyteratus refer to priests [in the English use of the word] and presbyters".

The priesthood in the Catholic Church includes the priests of both the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rites. As of May 2007, the Vatican website stated that there were some 406,411 priests serving the Church worldwide.   While the consecrated life is neither clerical nor lay by definition, clerics can be members of institutes of consecrated, or secular (diocesan), life.

The Priesthood is understood to have begun with the Last Supper, when Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist. While the threefold ministry is recorded in the New Testament, it is believed that in many assemblies this complete articulation did not take place until the second century. Until then, most small communities were led by an episkopos (overseer or bishop) or a presbyteros(elder or priest), hence in Catholic theology they are referred to as presbyter-bishops in this period. As communities grew in size and needed more ministers, the bishops became the highest level of minister in the Church with priests assisting them in presiding at the Eucharist in the multiple communities in each city. The diaconate (deacon means 'servant') evolved as administrators of Church funds and programmes for the poor.

Theology of the priesthood
Passover and Christ

The theology of the Catholic priesthood is rooted in the priesthood of Christ and to some degree shares elements of the ancient Hebraic priesthood as well.  A priest is one who presides over a sacrifice and offers that sacrifice and prayers to God on behalf of believers. The ancient Jewish priesthood which functioned at the temple in Jerusalem offered animal sacrifices at various times throughout the year for a variety of reasons.
In Christian theology, Jesus is the Lamb provided by God himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Before his death on the cross, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples and offered blessings over the bread (matzoh) and wine respectively, saying: "Take and eat. This is my body” and "Drink from this all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26b-28 Jerusalem Bible). The next day Christ's body and blood became visible in his sacrifice on the cross. Catholics believe that it is this same body, sacrificed on the cross and risen on the third day which is made present in the offering of each Eucharistic sacrifice which is called the Eucharist. However, Catholicism does not believe that the essence of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist entails that the accidental features also change. For example, scientific analysis of the Eucharistic elements would indicate the physical properties of wine and unleavened bread (or leavened bread in the case of Eastern Rite Catholics).
Thus priests (and bishops who are “high priests”) in presiding at the Eucharist join each offering of the Eucharistic elements in union with the sacrifice of Christ. Catholic ordained ministers are known as priests because by their celebration of the Eucharist, they offer in a new moment in time the one eternal sacrifice of Christ.

Catholicism does not teach that Christ is sacrificed again and again, but that "The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice.". Instead, the Catholic Church holds the Jewish concept of memorial in which "..the memorial is not merely a recollection of past events....these events become in a certain way present and real." and thus "...the sacrifice Christ offered once and for all on the cross remains ever present." Properly speaking, in Catholic theology, expressed by Saint Thomas Aquinas, "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers." Thus, Catholic clergy share in the one, unique, Priesthood of Christ.

Eucharistic Miracle of Scete, Egypt - 3rd or 5th Centuries

In the sayings and deeds of the Fathers of the Desert, we find the description of an ancient Eucharistic miracle. Fr. Daniel the Faranite attests: “Our Fr. Arsenius told us of a monk of the Scete who was a hard worker but lacked instruction in the Faith. In his ignorance he would say: ‘The Bread we receive is not really the Body of Christ, but is a symbol of that Body.’ Two of the more experienced monks heard his statement and, aware that he was a good and pious monk, decided to speak to him since they attributed his words to his ignorance and not to malice. So they informed him: ‘What you are saying contradicts our Faith.’ The accused replied: ‘Unless you can show me evidence, I will not change my mind.’ The older monks told him:  ‘We will pray to God about this mystery and we believe God will show us the truth.’

 “A week later, on Sunday, all went to the church. At the consecration, in place of the Host, a Young Boy was seen. When the priest raised the Eucharistic Bread an angel appeared with a sword and pierced the Boy and when the priest broke the Host, Blood ran into the chalice. At the Communion, the angel took Bloodied Particles from the Host and brought them to the monks to receive. At this the doubter cried out ‘Lord, I believe that the Bread is Your Body, and that Your Blood is in the chalice.’  Immediately the Bloodied Flesh he had in his hand became the Eucharistic Bread and he communicated reverently.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

By The Shedding of His Blood, He Made All Things New

 To know with an entire faith what is the excellence of the Most Holy Eucharist is in truth to know what that work is which, in the might of His mercy, God, made man, carried out on behalf of the human race. For as a right faith teaches us to acknowledge and to worship Christ as the sovereign cause of our salvation, since He by His wisdom, His laws, His ordinances, His example, and by the shedding of His blood, made all things new; so the same faith likewise teaches us to acknowledge Him and to worship Him as really present in the Eucharist, as verily abiding through all time in the midst of men, in order that as their Master, their Good Shepherd, their most acceptable Advocate with the Father, He may impart to them of His own inexhaustible abundance the benefits of that redemption which He has accomplished.   

-   Excerpt from Mirae Caritatis
(Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist) - Pope Leo XIII 1902

The Distribution of Holy Communion

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
25 March 2004
2. The distribution of Holy Communion
[88.] The faithful should normally receive sacramental Communion of the Eucharist during Mass itself, at the moment laid down by the rite of celebration, that is to say, just after the Priest celebrant’s Communion. It is the Priest celebrant’s responsibility to minister Communion, perhaps assisted by other Priests or Deacons; and he should not resume the Mass until after the Communion of the faithful is concluded. Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.[173]
[89.] “So that even by means of the signs Communion may stand out more clearly as a participation in the Sacrifice being celebrated”,[174] it is preferable that the faithful be able to receive hosts consecrated in the same Mass.[175]
[90.] “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined”, with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. “However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms”.[176]
[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”.[177] Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.
[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice,[178] if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.[179]
[93.] The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling.[180]
[94.] It is not licit for the faithful “to take . . . by themselves . . . and, still less, to hand . . . from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice.[181] Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial Mass.
[95.] A lay member of Christ’s faithful “who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only within a Eucharistic Celebration in which he or she is participating, with due regard for the prescriptions of can. 921 § 2.”[182]
[96.] The practice is reprobated whereby either unconsecrated hosts or other edible or inedible things are distributed during the celebration of Holy Mass or beforehand after the manner of Communion, contrary to the prescriptions of the liturgical books. For such a practice in no way accords with the tradition of the Roman Rite, and carries with it the danger of causing confusion among Christ’s faithful concerning the Eucharistic doctrine of the Church. Where there exists in certain places by concession a particular custom of blessing bread after Mass for distribution, proper catechesis should very carefully be given concerning this action. In fact, no other similar practices should be introduced, nor should unconsecrated hosts ever be used for this purpose.

Eucharistic Miracle of Herkenrode-Hasselt, Belgium 1317

In July 25, 1317, the pastor of the church in Viversel was called to the bedside of one his parishioners who was seriously ill, to receive the holy sacraments. Upon his arrival at the house of the sick person, he rested his handbag containing the consecrated Host on a table at the entrance and went to hear the confession of the sick person. One of the family members, curious about the handbag, opened it without being noticed. From it he pulled out the pyx, opened the cover and put his hand into it. As soon as he realized that inside there was a Host, he put everything back in order. In the meantime, the priest came out from the room of the sick person to take out the Host with which to give him Communion. He took the handbag with the pyx inside, and when he opened it he saw that the Host he himself had consecrated during Mass was stained with Blood and was in some way stuck to the linen that covered the bottom of the container. Troubled and panic-stricken with the excuse that he had forgotten something, he rushed out of the house and went to the pastor of nearby Lumen to tell him what had happened. The latter advised him to bring the Particle to the Abbey of Herkenrode. It was August 1, 1317.

The priest left, taking the pyx with him. Along the road, extraordinary things happened. As soon as he arrived at the Benedictine monastery, he showed everybody the Host stained with Blood. Then, the face of Christ crowned with thorns appeared on the Host. This was attested to by numerous witnesses.  In the Cathedral of Hasselt there is a painting in which there is depicted a flock kneeling as the priest, carrying the sacred relic, passes by. In this place, called Sacramentsberg, a chapel was built as a perpetual memorial. From that time on, “the Blessed Sacrament of the Miracle,” which had been placed in a reliquary and exposed to public veneration, more than once protected the monastery of Herkenrode from fire. The reliquary of the miracle was kept at the Abbey until 1796, and in 1804, it was transferred to the Church of St. Quintinus in Hasselt.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ

"Upon the Altar there takes place the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  That Body which the Virgin begot, which hung upon the Cross and was placed in the sepulchre, which rose again the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, this Body the Church today and everyday presents and distributes to her faithful.  When the priest speaks the words: This is My Body, the essence of the bread is changed into the Body of Christ."

- St. Anthony of Padua

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

An extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is, under the Code of Canon Law, "an acolyte, or another of Christ's faithful deputed", in certain circumstances, to distribute Holy Communion. The term "extraordinary" distinguishes such a person from the ordinary (normal, regular) minister of Holy Communion, namely a bishop, priest or deacon.

Canon law permits that "where the needs of the Church require and ministers are not available, lay people, even though they are not lectors or acolytes, can supply certain of their functions, that is, exercise the ministry of the word, preside over liturgical prayers, confer baptism and distribute Holy Communion, in accordance with the provisions of the law."  The term "lay people" does not distinguish between men and women. The extraordinary minister's function is to distribute Holy Communion, either within Mass or by taking it to a sick person, when an ordained minister (bishop, priest or deacon) is absent or impeded.

In order to avoid confusion about this function, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is not to be called a "special minister of Holy Communion", nor an "extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist", nor a "special minister of the Eucharist".

Ten years before publication of the present Code of Canon Law, some of these expressions were used in the instruction of the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments Immensae caritatis of 29 January 1973. They are now reprobated.  The only minister of the Eucharist is the priest.

An instituted acolyte (usually a seminarian) is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion by virtue of his institution. The local bishop may delegate other lay Catholics for this function either for a single occasion or for a specified period of time, if there are reasons of real necessity. The commissioning need not take a liturgical form, but an appropriate blessing, which should in no way resemble ordination, may be imparted. In special cases of an unforeseen nature, the priest celebrating Mass may grant permission for a single occasion

Extraordinary, Not Ordinary

"If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons."

The extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the priest and deacon are lacking, when the priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. ... A brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason. 

Eucharistic Miracle of Mogoro, Italy 1604

In Mogoro on the Italian island of Sardinia, on the Monday after Easter in 1604, Father Salvatore Spiga, pastor of he church of Saint Bernard, was celebrating Mass. After the consecration he began distributing Holy Communion to the faithful. At a certain point, he saw in the Communion line two men who were well-known for the dissolute lives they led. The pastor gave them Holy Communion and as soon as they had taken the Host in their mouths, they spit the Holy Eucharist out on the stone floor below the altar rail. The two men justified themselves by saying that the Hosts had become as hot as burning embers, and that the Blessed Sacrament was burning their tongues. Then, taken by remorse at not first having gone to Confession, they ran away. Father Salvatore went to gather the Sacred Hosts that had fallen and saw that the imprints of the Sacred Hosts remained in the stone as if they had been sculpted there. He ordered the stone to be thoroughly washed in the hope that the imprints would be erased. But every attempt failed miserably. Many historians, including Father Pietro Cossu and Father Casu, described the findings made by the bishop at that time, Antonio Surredo, and by his successors.

Among the most important documents that confirm the miracle is a public act written by the notary Pedro Antonio Escano on May 25, 1686, in which the rector of Mogoro stipulates a contract for the construction of a wooden tabernacle over the main altar. At the base of the tabernacle, there was to be an opening for the “stone of the miracle,” which was to be enclosed in a decorative case and placed in such a way that the faithful could see it. The stone bears the imprint of the Hosts to this day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Holy Eucharist Unites Heaven and Earth...

Taken from the Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist - Pope John Paul II

When I think of the Eucharist, and look at my life as a priest, as a Bishop and as the Successor of Peter, I naturally recall the many times and places in which I was able to celebrate it. I remember the parish church of Niegowiæ, where I had my first pastoral assignment, the collegiate church of Saint Florian in Krakow, Wawel Cathedral, Saint Peter's Basilica and so many basilicas and churches in Rome and throughout the world. I have been able to celebrate Holy Mass in chapels built along mountain paths, on lakeshores and seacoasts; I have celebrated it on altars built in stadiums and in city squares... This varied scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist has given me a powerful experience of its universal and, so to speak, cosmic character. Yes, cosmic!

Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing. He, the Eternal High Priest who by the blood of His Cross entered the eternal sanctuary, thus gives back to the Creator and Father all creation redeemed. He does so through the priestly ministry of the Church, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Truly this is the mysterium fidei which is accomplished in the Eucharist: the world which came forth from the hands of God the Creator now returns to Him redeemed by Christ.

Jesus Born of Mary, Dawn of the Eucharist

I want to be like Mary, to be Mary for Jesus, to take the place of His Mother. When I receive Jesus in Communion, Mary is always present. I want to receive Jesus from her hands, she must make me one with Him. I cannot separate Mary from Jesus. Hail, O Body born of Mary. Hail Mary, dawn of the Eucharist!

- Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a devotional ceremony celebrated within the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church.  Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament begins with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (i.e., consecrated Host) in a monstrance set upon the altar. The liturgy includes singing the ancient Latin hymns written by St Thomas Aquinas, O Salutaris Hostia and Tantum Ergo, followed by the benediction proper. The celebrant holds the monstrance wearing a humeral veil covering his shoulders, arms and hands, and then blesses the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament by tracing the sign of the cross with the monstrance held steadily upright before him. The liturgy concludes with the Divine Praises and Psalm 117 (LXX 116) "Laudate Dominum" with the antiphon, "Let us forever adore the Most Holy Sacrament."

The Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a solemn service, and as such the priest vests in cope and stole. Altar servers will vest in cassock and Surplice.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

The priest or deacon takes the consecrated host out of the tabernacle and places it in the monstrance (which has already been placed on the altar) while the faithful sing O Salutaris Hostia. The faithful kneel at the moment of exposition.

Opening Prayer

When there is an extended adoration over the course of the day or days, an opening prayer suitable for the occasion collecting and offering the praise and the prayers of the faithful may be offered by the priest or deacon.


Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is almost always done in silence. Where readings, songs, psalms, devotional prayers (such as the rosary, litany or a novena prayer) or a homily are incorporated, there are still usually lengthy periods of sacred silence for the faithful to be present to Christ in the Eucharist without distraction. Solemn Vespers or Evensong is often sung in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.


Bringing adoration to a close and in preparation for the benediction while all kneel, the priest or deacon censes the exposed host while the faithful sing the Tantum Ergo. This is followed by a versicle and response:
V/ Panem de Caelo praestitisti eis.
R/ Omne delectamentum in se habentem.

V/ Thou gavest [or You gave] them bread from heaven.
R/ Containing within itself all sweetness.


After the incensing the priest prays the Collect of Corpus Christi, then stands and dons the humeral veil, ascends to the altar and lifting the monstrance above his head traces a large cross.

Divine Praises

Often Divine Praises are said, although this is not a prescribed part of the rite. After the benediction the priest removes the humeral veil and, while kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, leads the faithful in the recitation or chanting of th
e Divine Praises.


Psalm 117 is sung with the antiphon "Let us adore forever the most holy sacrament" while the priest returns the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle.

Eucharistic Miracle of Erding, Germany 1417

A poor peasant of Erding could find no way to improve his economic state, despite working many hours every day. His neighbor on the other hand, who did the same work, succeeded in living prosperously. One day the peasant asked his neighbor how he had succeeded in earning so much and the man confided to him that his success was owed to the fact that he kept the Blessed Sacrament in his house. The poor peasant, ignorant in the faith, thought that the Blessed Sacrament was a type of amulet, and decided to imitate his neighbor. He went to Mass on Holy Thursday and after having received Communion, hid the Host in his clothes and left the church with the Holy Eucharist. During his journey, however, his conscience began to accuse him, so he decided to bring the Sacred Particle
back. During the trip, however, the Host slipped from his hand and disappeared in the air. He searched everywhere, to no avail. Frightened by what had happened, he immediately ran to inform the pastor, who immediately went to the spot where the Host had disappeared.

As soon as he arrived the priest saw the Sacred Particle resting on a clump of dirt, emitting a bright light. He reached for the Sacred Host, which again flew up in the air and disappeared. The priest alerted the Bishop who wanted to go in person to the site of the miracle.  And again the Sacred Particle flew up in the air. The Bishop and the townspeople then decided to build a chapel in honor of the Eucharistic Wonder. There were so many
crowds of pilgrims that flocked there that in 1675, local authorities decided to construct a new and bigger sanctuary in the baroque style.  On Sept 19, 1677, Bishop Kaspar Kunner of Freising blessed the new church, which was dedicated to the Most Precious Blood. Various relics were brought to the sanctuary among which was that of the Most Precious Blood of Christ. Since 1992 the sanctuary has been under the care of the monks of St. Paul of the Desert.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rejoice in the Presence of Jesus

"Give me the grace to long for Your holy sacraments, and especially to rejoice in the presence of Your body, sweet Savior Christ, in the holy sacrament of the altar."

-  St. Thomas More

Altar Servers (Altar Boys/Girls & Acolytes)

Formerly, only young men, whom the Church sometimes hoped to recruit for the priesthood, and seminarians could serve at the altar, and thus altar boy was the usual term until Canon 230 was changed with the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1983 which provided the option for local ordinaries to permit females to serve at the altar. The term altar server is now widely used and accepted due to this. The entire diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska as well as many individual parishes throughout the country retain the former practice, as do traditionalist Catholic orders (FSSP, Institute of Christ the King, SSPX).
An acolyte is one of the instituted orders which is installed by a Bishop. The title of acolyte is still only given to men as it is historically a minor order. This term is now usually reserved for the ministry that all who are to be promoted to the diaconate, whether permanent or transitory, must receive at least six months beforehand (Canon 1035 of the Code of Canon Law).


Duties in the Ordinary Form

In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite of the celebration of Mass, Acolytes have the following responsibilities during
  • Entrance: Acolytes may carry the processional cross and candles (also called acolytes, or flambeaux) at the front of the entrance procession. Others may carry incense and a thurible.
  • Proclamation of the Gospel: If it is a regional habit, candles and/or incense can be carried in procession to the ambo or lectern.
  • Offertory: When the priest receiving these gifts, acolytes assist him by carrying them.
  • Preparation of the chalice: Acolytes present the cruets of water and wine for the deacon or priest to pour in the chalice.
  • Lavabo: An Acolyte administers the water to the priest as he ritually washes his hands.
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist: Acolytes ring altar bell at the Hanc Igitur and both elevations of the species.
  • Recessional: When the priest and the Acolytes leave the altar, again the processional cross and candles are carried.
At a solemn Mass, four or more Acolytes is ideal. A weekday Mass usually only requires 1 or 2 servers. If a bishop celebrates Mass solemnly, two vimpas, so as to take care of mitre and crosier, as well as other functions.


Duties in the Extraordinary Form

The extraordinary form of the Roman Rite celebration of Mass, acolytes have the following responsibilities (depending which type of mass) during
  • Mass of the Catechumens
    • Processional: Acolytes carry the thurible, incense boat, processional cross and candles (flambeaux) in a Missa Cantata.
    • After the sacristy bells are rung and first genuflection at the high altar, the acolyte takes the priest's biretta, kisses it, and places on the Presidential Chair.
    • Post-Epistle: Acolytes move Missal from Epistle side of the altar to the Gospel side of the altar.
  • Mass of the faithful
    • Acolytes ring the altar bell once as the priest unveils chalice and places veil on altar.
    • Preparation of the chalice: Acolytes present the cruets of water and wine for the deacon or priest to pour in the chalice.
    • Lavabo: An acolyte administers the water to the Priest as he ritually washes his hands.
    • Beginning of the Sanctus: Altar bell is rung thrice.
    • Canon of Mass: When the priest extends his hands over the chalice, acolytes ring altar bell once, stand, take the bell, without genuflecting kneel on either side of the priest.
    • Consecration: At each consecration acolytes make a deep bow at the priest's first genuflection, and ring the bell once. During each major elevation, acolytes kneel erect, raising the back of the chasuble and ringing the bell thrice. During the priest's second genuflection, acolytes release chasuble, make a deep bow and ring the bell once. After the consecration, holding the bell, acolytes return to their posts and kneel.
    • Post Agnus Dei: Acolytes get patens from credence table and go back to posts with genuflections and kneeling. When the priest genuflects and says the triple "Domine, non sum dignus..." acolytes ring the bell thrice.
    • Communion: Follow priest with paten in hand and hand over breast for the Communion.
    • Ablutions: Get the water and wine cruets from credence table. For the first ablution at center of the altar, the acolyte with the wine approaches as the priest tips the chalice toward the acolyte. The acolyte pours a little wine into the chalice, he bows and turns to his right and returns to the Epistle corner and wait for the priest. When the priest approaches for the second ablution, the acolyte makes a moderate bow, pours a little wine over his fingers and then as much water as he desires. Then, with genuflections, switch the chalice veil from the Gospel side to the Epistle side with the Missal at the same time.
    • Ending procession: Same as Processional.


In the ordinary form of the Mass, acolytes should wear an alb and cincture or a surplice over a cassock. Everyone who wears an alb and a cinture may wear an amice (especially if normal clothing is visible above the neck of the alb). In the extraordinary form, Acolytes wear a cassock and surplice. According to the general rule of the Latin Rite a surplice should always be worn over a cassock. Traditionally, an Acolyte wore the same colour as the church's pastor or rector. Thus, a red cassock would be worn if the pastor had that privilege. Black and red are the most common colours for an Acolyte cassock. Acolytes do not wear a clerical collar or rabat. In English-speaking countries that collar is traditionally worn from ordination as a subdeacon onward, but in others it was worn by all seminarians.


Female altar servers

Once prohibited in the Catholic Church, female altar servers, also called altar girls, are now allowed provided that the diocesan bishop and the parish priest allow the practice. Today only one Roman Catholic diocese in the U.S., the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, does not allow female altar servers.

Eucharistic Miracle of Douai, France 1254

Bonum universale de Apibus is the work written by an eye witness of the miracle: the Dominican Father Thomas de Cantimpré, doctor of theology and “suffragan” Bishop of Cambrai. On the day of Easter in 1254 in the Church of St. Amato in Douai, a priest who was distributing Holy Communion unintentionally dropped a consecrated Host to the ground.  Immediately he bent down to pick up the Sacred Species, but the Host lifted up in flight and lighted on the purificator. A little later, a wonderful Child appeared there Who all the faithful and religious present in the celebration could contemplate.  The news spread quickly, and the Bishop of Cambrai, Thomas de Cantimpré, came immediately to Douai to verify the facts in person, which he described in this manner: “I went to the Dean of the Church, followed by many faithful, and I asked to see the miracle. The Dean opened the small case in which he had reposed the Host of the miracle, but initially I didn't see anything special.

“I was conscious though, that nothing could prevent me from seeing, as was true of the others, the Sacred Body. I didn’t even have time to ask myself this type of question, when I scarcely looked at the Host and saw the face of Christ crowned with thorns with two drops of Blood that descended on His forehead.  Immediately I knelt, and crying, I began to thank God”. It is certain that already by the year 1356, that is, one century after the apparition,  every year on Wednesday of Holy Week, a feast  in memory of the miracle of the Blessed Sacrament was celebrated, and the document which records it indicates that this event was in existence already for a long time. The precious relic of the miracle was conserved and honored until the Revolution. Then all signs of this marvel were lost for many years. In October 1854, the Pastor of the Church of St. Peter by chance discovered underneath the Christ in the Altar of the Dead, a small wooden box containing a small Host, still white, but with damaged edges. A letter written in Latin gives witness: “I, the undersigned, Canon of the distinguished collegial Church of St.Amato, certify it to be the real and true Host of the holy miracle, which I removed from imminent danger of profanation and which I have happily collected. I have placed the Host in this pyx and have left this witness, written by my own hand, for the faithful who will discover the Sacred Miracle in the future (January 5, 1793)”.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let us Thank Jesus for the Holy Eucharist

“Let us thank the Lord for all the spiritual blessings He has given us.

Let us especially thank Him for the Holy Eucharist, which is the greatest of His gifts.

Let our best thanksgiving be to visit Him often, even daily.”

-  St. Joseph Marello

The Hosts

A Host is a portion of bread used for Holy Communion in many Christian churches. In Western Christianity the host is often a thin, round unleavened wafer.  The word 'host' is derived from the Latin hostia, which means 'sacrificial victim'. The term can be used to describe the bread both before and after consecration, though it is more correct to use it after consecration - "altar bread" being preferred before consecration. In the Catholic Church, at the Words of Institution the bread is changed or altered (known as transubstantiation) into the Body of Christ.

Hosts are often made by nuns as a means of supporting their religious communities. In the Latin Rite, unleavened bread is used as in the Jewish Passover or Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches (like the Eastern Orthodox Church) use leavened bread for Prosphora (the Greek word for Eucharistic altar bread).  Some traditions proscribe the use of spiced, flavored or sweetened hosts, while others allow it. However, both Eastern and Western traditions insist that the bread must be made from wheat. The Code of Canon Law, Canon 924 requires that the hosts be made from wheat flour and water only.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal §321 recommends that "the eucharistic bread ... be made in such a way that the priest at Mass with a congregation is able in practice to break it into parts for distribution to at least some of the faithful. ... The action of the fraction or breaking of bread, which gave its name to the Eucharist in apostolic times, will bring out more clearly the force and importance of the sign of unity of all in the one bread, and of the sign of charity by the fact that the one bread is distributed among the brothers and sisters."

Eucharistic Miracle of Middleburg- Louvain, Belgium 1374

There exists much documentation on the Eucharistic miracle.  In a monograph
written in 1905 by historian Joseph Wils, professor of the Catholic University of Louvain, entitled Le Sacrement du Miracle de Louvain, are cited almost all the contemporary documents and testimonies. In Middleburg lived a noble woman known by everybody for her great faith and devotion. The woman was also very attentive to the spiritual formation of her family and household staff. During the Lent of 1374, as she did every year in her house, she began to do penance in preparation for the coming of Easter. A few days before, a new manservant by the name of Jan was hired, who had not gone to confession for many years, in spite of the dissolute life he was living. The woman invited all the household staff to go to Mass. Jan did not dare oppose this invitation so as not to disappoint her. He attended the whole Eucharistic celebration, and when it was time to receive Holy Communion, the man approached the altar with much superficiality.

As soon as he received the Host on his tongue, the Sacrament changed into
bleeding Flesh. At once Jan took the Particle from his mouth; Blood dripped from the Sacred Flesh onto the cloth covering the altar rail. The priest realized at once what was happening, and with great emotion, carefully placed the miraculous Particle in a vessel inside the tabernacle. Jan repented and confessed his sin before everyone.
From that day on, he led an exemplary life and nourished a great devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament to the end of his life. All the church and civil authorities of the city were informed of the miraculous event and after diligent investigation the Archbishop authorized the cult of this miraculous event.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jesus' Thirst for Your Love...

It is there in His Eucharist that He says to me: "I thirst, thirst for your love, your sacrifices, your sufferings. I thirst for your happiness, for it was to save you that I came into the world, that I suffered and died on the Cross, and in order to console and strengthen you I left you the Eucharist. So you have there all My life, all My tenderness."

- Mother Mary of Jesus, foundress of the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice

The Monstrance

A Monstrance is the vessel used in the Roman Catholic churches to display the consecrated Eucharistic host, during Eucharistic adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Created in the medieval period for the public display of relics, the monstrance today is usually restricted for vessels used for hosts. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare, meaning "to show", and is cognate with the English word demonstrate, meaning "to show clearly".  In Latin, the monstrance is known as an ostensorium (from ostendere, "to show").

In the service of Benediction, the priest blesses the people with the Eucharist displayed in the monstrance. This blessing differs from the priest's blessing, as it is seen to be the blessing by Christ, rather than that of the individual priest. The exposition of the monstrance during Benediction is traditionally accompanied by chanting or singing of the hymn Tantum Ergo.

The monstrance is usually elaborate in design; most are carried by the priest, if sometimes with some difficulty. Others may be much larger fixed constructions, typically for displaying the host in a special side chapel, often called the "Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament". For portable designs, the preferred form is a sunburst on a stand, usually topped by a cross.

Medieval monstrances were more varied in form than contemporary ones; those for relics typically had a crystal cylinder in a golden stand, and those for hosts had a crystal window in a flat-faced golden construction, which could stand on its base. The monstrance was most often made of silver-gilt or other precious metal, and highly decorated. In the center of the sunburst, the monstrance normally has a small round glass the size of a Host, through which the Blessed Sacrament can be seen. Behind this glass is a round container made of glass and gilded metal, called a luna, which holds the Host securely in place. When not in the monstrance, the Host in its luna is placed in a special standing container, called a standing pyx, in the Tabernacle. Before the current design, earlier "little shrines" or reliquaries of various shapes and sizes were used.
When the monstrance contains the Host, the priest will not touch the vessel with his bare hands. Out of respect, he holds it with a humeral veil, a wide band of cloth that covers his shoulders (humera) and has pleats on the inside, in which he places his hands.
  • The Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka, one of Chicago's famed Polish Cathedrals, is home to the largest monstrance in the world, a 9-foot-wide (2.7 m) Iconic Monstrance of Our Lady of the Sign. It is part of the planned Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy, which is being constructed adjacent to the church.. The Monstrance is to be installed in the sanctuary's adoration chapel, to be the focus of 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration. The clergy will conduct no liturgies or vocal prayers in the chapel, either by individuals or groups, as the space is meant for private meditation and contemplation.