|'Totus tuus': The Pope who lived for the Blessed Virgin|
Anyway, now that I've got that off my chest, let us just take a little time out to honour St John Paul II the Great who was, there is little doubt, a man of astonishing and heroic sanctity.
I am currently reading his encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. I highly recommend it, especially at this time when the Eucharistic Lord is in grave threat - and continues to be the Victim - of widespread abuse and neglect.
St John Paul II has been criticised in traditional quarters for various things, but his love for God, Our Lady and especially the Holy Eucharist were never in doubt and while travelling afar, he promoted devotion wherever he went with missionary fervour and apostolic zeal. He consistently preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and prompted men and women around the world to live for holiness and virtue.
He truly believed and preached that Jesus Christ can and desires to transform the lives of those who seek God and the Truth. He valiantly fought both communism and the Culture of Death that continues to throttle the West, through artificial contraception, abortion, the embracing of homosexuality, euthanasia and IVF. His enemies were many and surviving assasination, for which he thanked the intercession of Our Lady, he forgave the man who wanted him dead. One could go on and on, which is why there are so many books on him and will doubtless be many more.
But let's highlight his deep love for the Holy Eucharist. I particularly like the following passage from his encyclical on the Eucharist...
The sacramental re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice, crowned by the resurrection, in the Mass involves a most special presence which – in the words of Paul VI – “is called 'real' not as a way of excluding all other types of presence as if they were 'not real', but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present”. This sets forth once more the perennially valid teaching of the Council of Trent: “the consecration of the bread and wine effects the change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. And the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called this change transubstantiation”. Truly the Eucharist is a mysterium fidei, a mystery which surpasses our understanding and can only be received in faith, as is often brought out in the catechesis of the Church Fathers regarding this divine sacrament: “Do not see – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem exhorts – in the bread and wine merely natural elements, because the Lord has expressly said that they are his body and his blood: faith assures you of this, though your senses suggest otherwise”.
I also appreciate these passages and cannot help but feel they remain highly relevant to our times...
All of this makes clear the great responsibility which belongs to priests in particular for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is their responsibility to preside at the Eucharist in persona Christi and to provide a witness to and a service of communion not only for the community directly taking part in the celebration, but also for the universal Church, which is a part of every Eucharist. It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against “formalism” has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the “forms” chosen by the Church's great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate.
I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated. The Apostle Paul had to address fiery words to the community of Corinth because of grave shortcomings in their celebration of the Eucharist resulting in divisions (schismata) and the emergence of factions (haireseis) (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34). Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church.
This passage speaks of the care, love, reverence and generosity with which the Saint believed the Holy Eucharist should be treated, housed and honoured.
Like the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany, the Church has feared no “extravagance”, devoting the best of her resources to expressing her wonder and adoration before the unsurpassable gift of the Eucharist. No less than the first disciples charged with preparing the “large upper room”, she has felt the need, down the centuries and in her encounters with different cultures, to celebrate the Eucharist in a setting worthy of so great a mystery. In the wake of Jesus' own words and actions, and building upon the ritual heritage of Judaism, the Christian liturgy was born. Could there ever be an adequate means of expressing the acceptance of that self-gift which the divine Bridegroom continually makes to his Bride, the Church, by bringing the Sacrifice offered once and for all on the Cross to successive generations of believers and thus becoming nourishment for all the faithful? Though the idea of a “banquet” naturally suggests familiarity, the Church has never yielded to the temptation to trivialize this “intimacy” with her Spouse by forgetting that he is also her Lord and that the “banquet” always remains a sacrificial banquet marked by the blood shed on Golgotha.
May all of us honour this Saint and not merely pay lip-service to his greatness, but imitate his deep spirituality, his personal heroism, his life of penance and prayer, his willingness to suffer for Jesus and for the salvation of sinners, his love for the Eucharist, his devoted fidelity to the Mother of God and his care and love for the Church.
Saint John Paul II the Great, pray for all of us, for the Successor of St Peter and all Bishops, Successors to the Apostles. For a gentle reminder that there are some in the Church who wish to re-write history and present to the Faithful today's Saints as radical, care-free Popes who wanted to reform everything in sight, read Offerimus Tibi Domine on Saint John XXIII.
Back by Popular Acclamation
All this saint-making without much evidence of the miraculous is a boon to those Catholics who want to be canonized within a few decades of death. Nowadays, you need not produce any miracles! Indeed, as both Popes taught us, there is hope, the hope for those who are in Christ Jesus, for us all.
A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, “Where have they taken Him?”'
E. Cardinal Pacelli said this in 1931. He became Pope Pius XII in 1939.
It appears that the Church has, in recent times, been up for canonizations by popular acclamation. Give that man a sainthood! I'm not the only one who thinks he was great.