Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Authentically Eucharistic Direction: Benedict and Francis

A source at the Vatican shared Pope Francis' recent remarks about the Eucharist:

"And we go to Mass every Sunday because it is the day of the resurrection of their Lord. That is why Sunday is so important to us. And with the Eucharist we feel this sense of belonging to the Church, the people of God, the body of God, Jesus Christ. We will never fully grasp its value and wealth. Let us ask Him then, that this Sacrament continue to keep His presence alive in the Church and to shape our community in charity and communion, according to the Father’s heart. We continue to do this throughout our lives, but begin doing it the day of our First communion.  It is important that children be well prepared for First Communion and that every child makes it, because it is the first strong, strong step of this belonging to Jesus Christ, after Baptism and Confirmation."

"We will never fully grasp its value and wealth." When I give presentations about the Eucharist, particularly when I speak about its power for reconciliation, I often tell people that we can never really grasp the power of the Eucharist; the power of God's mercy and love poured out in this sacrament.

I find Pope Francis' last line interesting; he obviously places the three sacraments of initiation in their appropriate order: Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion. I am wondering if I will ever see the Church universal return to the original order. Pope Benedict, in Sacramentum Caritatis, tried to help us move this conversation along:

The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation

17. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ, incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ's Body (1 Cor 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life.

The order of the sacraments of initiation

18. In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults, and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children. Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops' Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
I agree with Pope Benedict that the order of the sacraments of initiation need to have an "authentically eucharistic direction." Sadly, in most dioceses across the Unites States (with some exceptions in those dioceses that have restored the order of the initiation sacraments), the sacraments of initiation have a distinctly "confirmation direction."
Anyone out there in a diocese that has restored the order? Your experience?
By the way, nearly a three hour commute for me in this latest snowstorm this morning. The view from the driver's seat:
And an adorable mini-snowman:

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

1 comment:

Maria Leonard said...

Greetings --
In the 1970's in Suffern, NY our parish celebrated the sacraments of initiation with both the Catholic school and CCD children in the proper order. Confirmation was celebrated at the end of the second grade; First Communion in the fall of the third grade and penance during Lent of the third grade. We believed this afforded the children an opportunity to understand and appreciate each sacrament. I have no idea how long or if that practice has continued.
Maria Leonard