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The legacy of Mrs. Tamisier

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The Eucharist is together with the Most Holy Trinity, which we celebrated last Sunday, and the Incarnation one of the central mysteries of our beautiful Catholic faith.

This Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a well-known fact that this celebration traditionally took place on a Thursday to highlight the connection that exists between the Eucharist and Holy Thursday. It was precisely during the Last Supper that the Lord instituted the sacrament of His Body and Blood.

In an act of love, Jesus Christ institutes this sacrament, a sublime expression of His love and His desire to remain with us. The Eucharist is not just a symbol of Christ. It is really and substantially His Body and Blood. When we go to Communion, we receive Him who is present in our midst. That is why we ought to always approach with awe and reverence. Our souls must prepare for such an overwhelming encounter. Thus, those who are conscious of a serious sin ought to go to Confession before they receive Communion.

Additionally, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ must have practical consequences for our lives. We must cooperate with the grace that is offered to us, that flows to us through the sacraments, especially the Most Blessed Sacrament where we receive Christ Himself. Our entire lives must be eucharistic both in an etymological and a spiritual sense.

Indeed, the word Eucharist comes from the Greek verb meaning to give thanks. In the Eucharist we receive the Body and Blood of Christ as nourishment to strengthen us in our effort to imitate Him who gave Himself up for us and continues to offer Himself in the consecrated species. Therefore, our lives must be properly eucharistic in both senses: continued thanksgiving and imitation of Christ.

As Pope Benedict explained to us: “In discovering the beauty of the eucharistic form of the Christian life, we are also led to reflect on the moral energy it provides for sustaining the authentic freedom of the children of God. Here I wish to take up a discussion that took place during the Synod about the connection between the eucharistic form of life and moral transformation. Pope John Paul II stated that the moral life “has the value of a ‘spiritual worship’, flowing from and nourished by that inexhaustible source of holiness and glorification of God which is found in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: by sharing in the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ’s self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same charity in all his thoughts and deeds.”  In a word, “‘worship’ itself, eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”

This appeal to the moral value of spiritual worship should not be interpreted in a merely moralistic way. It is before all else the joy-filled discovery of love at work in the hearts of those who accept the Lord’s gift, abandon themselves to him and thus find true freedom. The moral transformation implicit in the new worship instituted by Christ is a heartfelt yearning to respond to the Lord’s love with one’s whole being, while remaining ever conscious of one’s own weakness. This is clearly reflected in the Gospel story of Zacchaeus. After welcoming Jesus to his home, the tax collector is completely changed: he decides to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay fourfold those whom he had defrauded. The moral urgency born of welcoming Jesus into our lives is the fruit of gratitude for having experienced the Lord’s unmerited closeness.

Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist.”

Eucharistic Congresses originated in France in the 19th century to highlight this fact. It was an initiative of Mrs. Tamisier as a way to bring Christ to daily life, to public life, to counteract the impact of ideologies that sought to ban Christ from public affairs and reduce faith to an emotion. Pope Leo XIII embraced the initiative and extended it to the universal Church. The popular hymns “Gift of finest wheat” and “Cantemos al amor de los amores” were composed for the International Eucharistic Congresses in Philadelphia and Barcelona, respectively.

Next month there will be a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. We are all invited. It is an opportunity to renew and deepen our faith in the real presence of Christ and consider ways to make our lives truly eucharistic.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid