February 25, 2005

Archbishop Buechlein speaks to
young adults about the Eucharist

By Brandon A. Evans

Dozens of young adults packed into the narrow upper room of the Bourbon Street Distillery bar in Indianapolis on Feb. 16 to eat, drink and take in Catholic teaching.

The event, at which Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein was the speaker, is part of the monthly Theology on Tap series that is sponsored by the Frassati Society. The goal is to have engaging presentations on Catholic theology in a relaxed atmosphere that is appealing to young adults.

“People our age are in a bar anyway,” said Jennifer Smith, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Fishers, Ind. (Diocese of Lafayette), who was in attendance that night. “I love bringing people who aren’t really that into their faith.”

On Feb. 16, the archbishop shared some of his reflections on the Year of the Eucharist that was proclaimed by Pope John Paul II.

As to why the Holy Father decided to call for such a year, Archbishop Buechlein said that “first of all, he wants us to truly treasure the incomparable gift that Jesus has given us.”

There have been several signs in past years that a great number of Catholics do not treasure the Eucharist.

One of those, the archbishop said, was a Gallup Poll that found that only 30 percent of Catholics could pick out the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist from a list of four choices.

He said that he is also concerned about some Catholics who leave the Church for other Christian communities and “don’t miss the Eucharist in the celebrations that happen in those Churches.”

For others, being a part of a faith community at all has led them from a Eucharist-centered life.

“There are those who would say, ‘I can just as well pray in the forest, in the freedom of nature,’ ” the archbishop said. “And that’s true—surely we can. But if it were only a matter of that, then the initiative of prayer would lie entirely with us.”

For such people, he said, the nagging question of whether God is ever out there listening to their prayers will be ever present.

For Catholics, he said, Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist is the answer to that question. The Eucharist is God’s answering presence, he added, borrowing from the writings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The archbishop quoted Cardinal Ratzinger several times, especially from his recent book titled God Is Near Us.

In the book, Cardinal Ratzinger explores why there are so many Catholics for whom the Eucharist has little meaning. He speaks of the time after the Second Vatican Council.

“We rediscovered the Eucharist as an assembly in which the Lord acts upon us and brings us together and makes us one,” the archbishop read from the book. “But in the meantime, this idea of assembly had become flattened and separated from the idea of sacrifice, and thus the Eucharist had shrunk to a mere sign of brotherly fellowship.”

The archbishop said that some theologians saw the reverent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as something that was threatening the true meaning of the celebration of the Mass. Really, he said, it is the other way around: adoration flows from the liturgy and back into it.

Again, he quoted Cardinal Ratzinger: “Confined to the space of the sacred rite of the Mass, the Eucharist was becoming like a tiny island of time on the edge of the day, which as a whole was given over to the profane and hectic business of our worldly activity.

“Only within the breathing space of adoration of the Eucharist can the Eucharistic celebration indeed be alive.”

Archbishop Buechlein challenged the young people to find a way to honor this special Year of the Eucharist.

“During this eucharistic year, I’m begging and encouraging and urging that we take the time to deepen our love for Christ and the Eucharist,” he said.

Adoration of the sacrament, Archbishop Buechlein said, is a time for us to be present with Jesus, to keep him company, to let him fill our hearts.

“We don’t make something good of prayer, we don’t make something good of adoration. We make ourselves present, … we try to open our hearts—but the initiative, the love, the power, the grace comes from Christ, and we need to recover that understanding,” he said. †

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