The Happy Priest Reflects on the Eucharist, the Bread of Life
it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it."
It is here, at the altar, it is here at the tabernacle that we encounter the God of unconditional love. It is through the Eucharist that we truly experience love. This is why the Eucharist is called the sacrament of love.
"It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us 'to the end', even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1380).
I have never really understood why people who could attend Mass or make Eucharistic visits during the week simply choose not to do so. It is quite possible that with the availability of so many parishes and adoration chapels, that people simply begin to take the gift of the Eucharist for granted.
However, what would happen if you were in a prolonged situation where you did not have the regular availability of a priest? What would happen if even Sunday Mass was no longer accessible?
Many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world experience these kinds of terrible situations. One example can be found in the life of Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
Francis was a Catholic priest from Vietnam. He was ordained a priest, became a bishop in 1975, and later was chosen to be a cardinal. Only a few months after his appointment as bishop, he was arrested by the Vietnamese government for thirteen years. Nine of those thirteen years were spent in solitary confinement!
During the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II invited the Cardinal to direct the annual Lenten spiritual exercises for himself and the Curia. The collection of meditations that were delivered make up an amazing book entitled "Testimony of Hope".
In one of the meditations, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, movingly describes what it was like not to have the Eucharist readily available and what he had to do to celebrate Mass.
"When I was arrested, I had to leave immediately with empty hands. The next day, I was permitted to write to my people in order to ask for the most necessary things: clothes, toothpaste. I wrote, 'Please send me a little wine as medicine for my stomachache.' The faithful understood right away.
They sent me a small bottle of wine for Mass with a label that read, 'medicine for stomachaches.' They also sent some hosts, which they hid in a flashlight for protection against the humidity. The police asked me, 'You have stomachaches? Yes. Here's some medicine for you.'
I will never be able to express my great joy! Every day, with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I would celebrate Mass. This was my altar, and this was my cathedral! It was true medicine for soul and body, 'Medicine of immortality, remedy so as not to die but to have life always in Jesus', as St. Ignatius of Antioch says.
Each time I celebrated the Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice. Each day in reciting the words of consecration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, and eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine. Those were the most beautiful Masses of my life!" (p. 131).
Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Sunday homily, homilies, Eucharist, Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul II, Father James Farfaglia, Catechism of the Catholic Church
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