Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"The statement from the Synod on Eucharist"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Nov. 10, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

The special Synod on the Eucharist was completed in the Vatican on Sunday , Oct. 23, with a closing Mass in St. Peter Square. Five new saints were canonized at that time as well. The square was almost filled.

In my last column I reflected on the arrangement for the synod (“Synod on the Eucharist,” IR 10/20/05). I also spoke of the work of the synod as we developed a final statement, approving some 50 proposals which were given to Pope Benedict. For his part, the Holy Father may well issue an apostolic exhortation on the topic in a year or so.

The proposals initially were hammered out in the 12 smaller groups, arranged by language. I was in a group of 24. These smaller groups were highly interactive, and several days were dedicated to these discussions. I found the interaction in these smaller groups to be very respectful, yet honest and frank.

The topic of Eucharist in general was certainly an appropriate one as we concluded the Year of the Eucharist instituted by the late Pope John Paul II in October 2004. Since Eucharist is the summit and source of our spiritual life, reflection and discussion on this powerful sacrament continue to be very important. Ours is a world of rapidly evolving reality. Secularization is a fact of life. Mobility, instantaneous communication, migration of peoples: these and other radical changes have had a significant impact on the life of the Church. 

As the synod concluded, several themes surfaced. They can be found in the final message of the general assembly.

• The first is to listen to the suffering of the world. The celebration of Eucharist reminds us of the suffering of Jesus, but also places in context so much suffering and hardship in our world today. Poverty, terrorism, natural disasters, and hunger are just some of the issues which afflict our world community.

• Second: During the Last Supper, on the eve of his Passion and death, Jesus tells us: “Do this in memory of me.” This phrase, coupled with Jesus’ words in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, is very direct: “Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you.” The celebration of Eucharist has been a constant tradition in our Church.

The synod strongly reaffirmed the liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council.

• Third: There are many lights in the Eucharistic life of the Church. Celebrations both locally and internationally, such as World Youth Day, are events that significantly contribute to the life of the Church. Let’s hope that the Year of the Eucharist will bring about a new evangelization of our globalized humanity. The Church, to the best of her ability, needs to foster a sense of Eucharistic wonder and amaze-ment. Continuing catechesis is very important to this endeavor.

• Fourth: Even as we celebrate, we must honestly recognize the challenges of Eucharistic renewal. Today there is a diminished sense of sin. We need to recover the practice of celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and with that recovery, reinforce our appreciation of the sacrament.

The lack of priests in certain parts of the world causes considerable concern, since regular Sunday Eucharist is not available to the faithful. Increased pressure on priests to say multiple Masses, often in vastly different locations, must be appreciated and recognized.

The value of the discipline of celibacy for the Western Church was reaffirmed. The Catholic community must assume its responsibility to support vocations to the priesthood. That is an effort we all must assist.

Sensitivity and encouragement were expressed to the divorced and remarried.

There is much injustice and suffering in our world. Eucharist calls us to work actively for justice and transformation.

• Fifth: Jesus tells us, “You will be my witnesses.” All of us are witnesses and servants of the love of God. Priests have the opportunity to express and live this love in a special way. The synod fathers expressed gratitude to them for their humble and generous service.

In whatever vocation of life we find ourselves, each of us is called to live his or her baptismal vocation. Our mutual love is a living proof of Jesus’ life-giving presence among us.  Special appreciation needs to be given to married couples.

Those suffering, especially the sick and the handicapped, richly deserve our attention and concern.

• Sixth: We must remember Jesus’ words: “That all may be one.” The Church has a solemn commitment to ecumenism. We are all responsible for this effort. We feel the sadness of separation which prevents the common celebration of Eucharist.

In addition, we need to appreciate our faith relationship with the descendants of Abraham: the Jews who were the first to inherit the Covenant, and the Muslims.

Finally, the message from the synod concludes with an expression of peace, full of hope.

May the tradition of the celebration of this sacrament be deepened and be even a greater sign of the presence of a loving Savior in our midst.

Blessings and peace to all.

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