Thursday, July 9, 2009

The New Encyclical is News, But Did You Read "Sacramentum Caritas"?

The internet is certainly alive these days with comments about Caritas in Veritate, the Pope's latest encyclical on Social Justice. Opinions certainly vary - and you can read many.

As part of my background preparation for our Diocesan Year of the Eucharist, I just finished a close reading of the Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum Caritas and found it to be a really great document on the Eucharist. It is very clear, strong and readable. You can't miss his message. Pope Benedict certainly has set an agenda in this document - calling for focused catechesis of the faithful on the Eucharist, improvement in preaching, and a general sense of the connection between Eucharist and the rest of life. Find it on the web at

A couple of items struck me most powerfully: his statement that just because a person physically shows up at Mass, does not mean he or she necessarily has the right to receive Eucharist. Benedict calls for an examination of life, a suitable, penitent disposition - and says we should not assume it. That's news to most people. For those raised with a sense of "obligation" as one of the prime motivators for Mass attendance, most people probably assume if they show up, they get the good stuff, whether or not they participate, whether or not they prepare themselves in a meaningful way. This is not their fault - catechesis has failed to emphasize the importance of examining one's life, and the failure of most adult Catholics to celebrate the Rite of Penance points also to this insufficiency.

Benedict also points to the importance of a coherent life, where people are conformed to the Body of Christ in all they do throughout the week. The people we are on Sunday should be the people we are the rest of the week. He also seconds JP II's call for a renewed sense of the sacredness of Sunday, and he deals at least briefly with the cultural challenges to the Sabbath concept.

Certainly, both of these are important points to make with the parents of children receiving First Eucharist, or adults preparing for their first reception of the sacrament. Catechetical leaders would be well-served by a reading of this document.

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