Online Edition – Vol. VI, No. 4: June/July 2000
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago stressed the connection between Penance and Eucharist, and the centrality of eucharistic Adoration in the renewal of charity, which is a central aim of the Jubilee Year.
At one time, Cardinal George said in his column in Catholic New World (May 14-20, 2000), Catholics went to Confession almost every time they received Communion, requiring catechists to explain that only mortal sin should keep Catholics from receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord. But “the battle has now been won. Everyone understands that union with the Lord in the Eucharist forgives our venial sins and that only grave sin should keep us from receiving Communion”. What needs to be stressed now is the necesity of Penance, which “gives us the grace which overcomes our own powerlessness, trapped as we often are in patterns of sin.” Confession and Penance should be part of everyone’s preparation for the celebration of Corpus Christi, said the cardinal.
He also praised the programs for Eucharistic Adoration in western Oregon (he is the former archbishop of Portland, Oregon). The Cardinal then offered a brief historical lesson in the theology of Eucharistic Adoration:
Objections to eucharistic adoration come from a misreading of history and from erroneous sacramental theology. Because adoration of the Lord in the Eucharist arose in an era when people did not receive Holy Communion every Sunday, the practice of adoration is sometimes dismissed as an aberration, a substitute for receiving Communion. This is not a Catholic reading of history. The development of devotion to the Lord in his Eucharistic presence is not a ‘falling away’ from some imagined pristine purity; it is evidence of a greater appreciation of who the Eucharist is.
Likewise, adoration of the Lord in the Sacred Host is not in competition with the liturgical action of the Sacrifice of the Mass. To speak disdainfully, as some occasionally have, of ‘objectifying’ Christ in the Host is to speak heretically. Pope Paul VI wrote: ‘The Catholic Church … offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession’ (Mysterium Fidei, 56). It seems strange to me that we should lift high the book of the Gospels, which remains only a book, but be embarassed to elevate the consecrated host, which is the Body of the Lord. It is a good thing to find a prominent and visible place in the church for the blessed oils and consecrated chrism which are used in the sacraments, but they remain oil and chrism; how strange it is that we should be fighting over whether or not people should be able to spot without too much inconvenience the place where the Eucharist is reserved. The Eucharist is a mystery of faith; to dismiss Eucharistic adoration is to weaken the faith.