The National Catholic Review
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The year of the Eucharist, inaugurated by Pope John Paul II in October 2004, will conclude with the meeting this month of the World Synod of Bishops in Rome. This assembly of bishops will also mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops. While post-synodal papal exhortations have inspired many Catholics, what have the synods themselves accomplished? Are the synods, as presently structured, an effective expression of collegiality? And will the forthcoming meeting of the Synod of Bishops face real issues of universal import regarding the Eucharist, the source and center of our Christian lives?

 

The 250 bishops who will participate in the synod come together at a crucial time in the life of the church. They will deliberate for three weeks on the topic of “The Eucharist: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.” There could be no greater theme for discernment.

The working document, called the instrumentum laboris, which will serve as the background paper and reference point for provoking discussion, is, however, disappointing. It reflects an uneven treatment of the topic at hand. At times it offers rich insights and summaries of eucharistic theology, but more often it reflects a narrow, preconciliar view unworthy of a world meeting of bishops. It fails to recognize real issues facing the church in the contemporary world. The document speaks, for example, of “shadows in the celebration of the Eucharist,” citing “a neglect by the celebrant and the ministers to use proper liturgical vestments and participants’ lack of befitting dress for Mass,” “an inadequate catechesis for communion in the hand,” “the scant architectural and artistic quality of sacred buildings and sacred vessels” (No. 33) and “the use of the communion plate...the keeping of the tabernacle key in a secure place” (No. 39). The list goes on.

These are hardly the burning issues of the day. While they are supposedly examples of “a weakened sense of the sacred in the Sacrament,” they could all be addressed by enforcing the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the authoritative document on the correct celebration of the Eucharist. There is no need for 250 bishops from all parts of the world to incur great financial cost and loss of time from their local churches to ponder these insufficiencies.

The working document spends more time looking in the rearview mirror than looking ahead and steering the church into the future. The document avoids, for example, any major treatment of the pivotal problem of lack of priests for celebration of the Eucharist. By Christ’s design the Catholic Church is a sacramental one. To continue a sacramental ministry, priests are essential. The alarming decline in the number of priest celebrants is the priority of priorities. But the working document does not assign a major place to this topic. And the platitudinous words of the document are unhelpful. The synod fathers need creative courage, as well as the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to address this reality. For the Synod of Bishops not to discuss in a significant way the critical shortage of celebrants for Eucharist would be a disservice to God’s people. We pray in the Our Father “give us this day our daily bread.” “This day” does not mean when the priest comes to confect the Eucharist every other month or once in several months. And a paraliturgical service in the absence of a priest is not the Catholic tradition’s vision of Eucharist for a Christian community.

Jesus’ command “Do this in memory of me” demands the full celebration of the Eucharist, not merely a Communion service. The Lord’s command requires taking the bread and the cup to give praise and thanks to God, thereby making possible participation in Christ’s own self-offering to the Father. The full celebration of the Eucharist is the baptismal birthright of every Catholic. Shouldn’t the synod ponder ways to make this a reality?

Christ instituted the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, for the communication of grace and for the achievement of salvation. “The bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). God’s people have an absolute right to the Eucharist for their salvation. The Eucharist is essential for the nourishment of the soul. Did not Jesus say: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:53)? Shouldn’t these words of Jesus be a starting point for the working document for the synod?

To transform the world, Jesus gives us a twofold method: preach the word of God and celebrate the sacraments. “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? How can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15). To answer St. Paul’s questions for our day and age, shouldn’t there be a synodal discussion about the decline of vocations to the priesthood? This does not necessarily entail a discussion of optional celibacy, but it does invite a broad conversation on why young men are not answering Christ’s call, why many are not coming to Eucharist, and what the church can do now to minister more effectively to youth.

Recognizing that the permanent diaconate is a distinctive vocation, shouldn’t some men, who have been called and commissioned through ordination to the permanent diaconate, once adequately prepared and qualified, be ordained to the priesthood? Shouldn’t the synod at least explore this as a response for those areas where the word of God is not being preached and the sacraments of Christ are not being expended? Shouldn’t the Synod of Bishops consider a pastoral plan for the more equitable distribution of priests?

The life of the sacramental church is at stake. God’s people have an absolute right to receive the word of God and the sacraments of Christ for their salvation.

A prime example of the poor quality of theological insight referenced in the instrumentum laboris is revealed in the following passage:

An increasingly secularized society has caused a weakening in the sense of mystery. This is witnessed in misinterpretation and distorted ideas in the council’s liturgical renewal, which has led to rites superficial in nature and devoid of spiritual significance (No. 6).

 

The instrumentum laboris does not specify if these distorted liturgical rites are widespread or isolated, approved or unapproved. If they are unauthorized, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal applies, and there is no need for a meeting of the World Synod of Bishops to discuss them. If the comments refer to approved liturgical rites of the church, then I find this an audacious and even alarming statement!

That there has been a lessening in appreciation of transcendence in our secularized society is universally acknowledged, but to attribute this to the “misinterpretation and distorted ideas” of the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical renewal, ending in “rites superficial in nature and devoid of spiritual significance” is both disheartening and frightening. To find these words in the official working paper for the synod fathers is shocking. What is gratuitously asserted is gratuitously denied. Certainly cultural values, unbridled consumerism, relativism, secularism are formative factors in the loss of appreciation of transcendence. But the rites of the church are found in liturgical books approved by episcopal conferences and endorsed by the Holy See. How can they be labeled “superficial” and “devoid of spiritual significance”?

I suggest that the passage quoted above is an echo of chronic complainers who have an impoverished understanding of liturgy and Vatican II. The synod should not focus on this negative thinking.

For the healthy exercise of collegiality at the synod, there must be conversation, collaboration and consultation. To what extent have the priests, religious and laity been consulted? The late Pope John Paul II said, “Let us listen to what the faithful say, because in every one of them the Spirit of God breathes” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 1994).

Our present pope, Benedict XVI, has already made procedural changes for the forthcoming synod. Each synodal father will speak only six minutes, thereby allowing one hour for free discussion at the end of each day’s general meeting. While these changes are encouraging, one speech after another does not constitute dialogue. This approach also fails to engage participants in a mutual exchange of ideas, but holds to prepared speeches unrelated to the previous speaker’s comments. Wouldn’t a prepared schema, drafted by a commission of representative bishops and periti, similar to what was issued to the council fathers of Vatican II, be more beneficial than the present format of the instrumentum laboris? Such a schema could call for debate and dialogue centered around particular theological and pastoral statements rather than the present disconnected discussion.

Will the upcoming synod ask the hard questions? The instrumentum laboris does not. Will the synod go beyond exhortation? The instrumentum laboris does not. Will the synod have the creative courage to recommend policies for pastoral government, fulfilling the words of Paul VI, who chartered the synod, “that we...make use of the helpful service and counsel of our brothers in the episcopate for the pastoral government of the Church herself” (address of Sept. 29, 1967)?

What will the synod produce? We do not need any additional theological or disciplinary treatises on the Eucharist. The church already possesses the recently issued magnificent theological documents on the Eucharist, Mane Nobiscum Domine and Ecclesia de Eucharistia. The church is still absorbing other recent disciplinary liturgical documents: Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani and Redemptionis Sacramentum. More statements simply recasting what is already known will not be helpful to diocesan churches.

The risen Christ lives in his church. This should prompt all of us to have creative courage and confidence in facing the serious issues of the day. God’s grace is more than sufficient for the pastoral problems of the day.

Today many priests are overworked, pastoring three and four parishes or staffing by themselves parishes that once had several parochial vicars; in some countries priests have 10 or more mission stations. Acting as a circuit rider with only occasional visits to a faith community does not adequately express the presiding role of the priest at Eucharist. Such functionalism endangers the personal and the community dimensions of celebrating Eucharist: bonding with the assembly, knowing the flock, living the title “Father” with presence to the flock, involvement and regular spiritual care of the flock. Functionalism can weaken the joy of shepherding and endanger the priest’s vocation.

I would like to say to the synod fathers, first and foremost: Please remember the priests, celebrants of the Eucharist, who are spread so thin in so many directions; do not neglect them. And please remember the cry of the laity, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That the Synod of Bishops will meet the challenges and opportunity for the revitalization of God’s people through the Eucharist, we pray, we pray, we pray.

Most Rev. Donald W. Trautman is bishop of Erie, Pa., and chairman of the Committee on the Liturgy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Comments

Edward Risi | 12/16/2005 - 7:40am
I appreciated Bishop Donald Trautman’s article, “Our Daily Bread’ (10/3). My response may be somewhat delayed due to the fact that it takes quite some time to receive copies of America on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

I went to the recent Synod with many of the same concerns and questions that he raises. The unique experience of the encounter that participating in a Synod offers brought something home to me from hearing the local experiences of our worldwide church, including the inputs from the Eastern Churches and other Christian churches.

A deep conviction grew in me that we Christians are often very deficient, even impoverished, in our preparation to celebrate and receive the Eucharist. And I don’t mean liturgical preparation. I mean the way we live our everyday lives.

The gift of himself in the Eucharist is part of Jesus’ on-going completely selfless offering. The Eucharist is the fruit of his human life-style of selfless giving and self-sacrifice to the point of death. A similar life-style is our preparation for and way of living Eucharist

The erosion of selflessness and willingness to sacrifice is, I believe, a main casualty in our increasingly materialistic, individualistic, consumerist and secularist culture.

Our social institutions suffer from a dearth of people truly motivated to give themselves selflessly for others. Married and family suffer from the erosion and loss of the love that is willing to accept the patient and selfless long-suffering that life together inevitably demands. The shortage of priests is also, perhaps, a result of reluctance to give of oneself to the point of sacrifice. Those at the synod from other Christian churches were quick to tell us that their Churches also experience the same vocation shortage.

In an era when the Eucharist has been made increasingly available, paradoxically, we are decreasingly selfless and self-sacrificing in the way we live our daily lives, rendering ourselves less ready to celebrate and receive this priceless gift, the summit and source of our union with Christ and of our life as Church

We need to rediscover and live the values of sacrifice, self-offering and selflessness before we can even begin to speak of the immense gift of the Eucharist as a ‘right’ to be ‘claimed’.

Edward Risi omi Bishop of Keimoes-Upington, South Africa

Leon Suprenant | 10/24/2005 - 10:48am
Dear editor,

The current Synod of Bishops devoted to the Eucharist must be interpreted through the lens of Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium. In that foundational document, the Council fathers said that promoting the full and active participation of all the faithful in the liturgy was "the aim to be considered above all else" in the forthcoming liturgical reform.

The Council fathers understood that such participation in the sacred mysteries of our faith results in a profound encounter with our Eucharistic Lord. Whenever this occurs, the entire Church benefits. And, I might add, from such faith encounters come vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Sadly, where there have been and continue to be, as the Synod fathers note, "misinterpretations and distorted ideas" about the liturgy that hinder fruitful participation at Mass, the Church suffers greatly. Those faith communities understandably experience difficulties in raising up the next generation of priests.

I appreciate Bishop Trautman's passionate concern about the need to provide an adequate number of priests (10/3). However, I also believe that the Synod is addressing this concern at the deepest level. After all, in the Church, soteriology precedes sociology, and faith precedes pastoral planning.

Leon Suprenant Steubenville, Ohio

Suprenant is the president of Catholics United for the Faith and Emmaus Road Publishing, and the publisher of Lay Witness magazine.

Fred L. Hofheinz | 10/3/2005 - 12:34pm
Many thanks to Bishop Troutman for his article about the Synod on the Eucharist. My own thoughts as I read his essay turned back to the first session of Vatican II when the Council Fathers gathered to deal with the tepid, curia-prepared agenda that basically called for "business as usual." While the majority of the bishops were simply passive and ready to approve whatever was handed to them, a few brave souls spoke up with a loud "non placet" and demanded a fresh start. The other bishops, emboldened by the few, joined them and the rest is history... I know that Synods in the John Paul II era have been simply occasions for bishop-delegates to talk "at" (not to) each other about a curia-produced instrumentum, followed by an Apostolic Exhortation, prepared by those same curial types. And unlike at the Council, John Paul II held tight control of everything. Wouldn't it be remarkable and wonderful in this first post-John Paul II Synod if the delegates actually were to have the courage to say "non placet" to this instrumentum --as Troutman does in this essay-- and move forward boldly (led by the Holy Spirit) as they did in the later sessions of Vatican II in a real, frank and deliberative way. John Paul did not provide the atmosphere for that kind of thing, perhaps Benedict will. I have high hopes but, alas, no illusions...

Fred L. Hofheinz Indianapolis, IN

(Father) Ken Lohrmeyer | 10/2/2005 - 8:36am
Re: Bishop Donald Trautman's article on the instrumentum laboris for the upcoming Synod on the Eucharist (AMERICA 10/03/05), which seems to be at least indirectly addressed to the Bishops who will participate in the Synod: I assume that as the chair of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy, Bishop Trautman will be a participant in the Synod. That is perhaps a mistaken assumption, especially given the over-all tone of his article as addressed to "them" without including himself. I also hope that his message is widely disseminated among the participating bishops. But given the apparent rigidity of the Vatican concerning such structures of the universal Church, I am not holding my breath. He addresses the two major issues which face bishops and priests in the United States (as well as in many other parts of the world): the absolute right of the faithful to daily Eucharist, and the shortage of priests which makes that right a nearly meaningless theological dream in far too many places. With the long list of things that are "already decided and therefore not open for any further discussion," our Bishops usually have only two choices in response to the growing number of Catholic parishioners and the dwindling number of priest pastors to minister to them: either assign more parishes to already over-worked and aging priests, or close/consolidate more parishes and then assign larger congregations to fewer priests. My thanks to Bishop Trautman for his effort to call his fellow Bishops and the Curia in Rome to some degree of accountability on this most central element of our Catholic faith.

Sr. Christine Schenk | 9/26/2005 - 3:07pm
Many thanks to Bishop Don Trautman for his courageous article about the Synod on the Eucharist

It is a relief to know that at least one of our bishops, himself a synod alternate, also believes early synod emphases are askew. Finding solutions to the worldwide priest shortage should be the top synod priority.

In 2003, two U.S. church renewal groups, FutureChurch and Call To Action surveyed 15,000 priests in 55 U.S. dioceses. Sixty seven percent of respondants supported opening the discussion of mandatory celibacy. Many spontaneously added that the church must look at women's roles as well.

Delegations of our members recently delivered priest survey results and 35,000 signatures asking for open discussion of mandatory celibacy and women deacons to each of our U.S. synod delegates.

While we fully support Bishop Trautman's suggestion of opening the priesthood to permanent deacons, we don't believe Catholicism' s ministerial crisis can be solved without expanding the roles of qualifed women ministers tool.

Worldwide, we have only 405,000 priests and 31,000 deacons for 1.1 billion Catholics. However, we also have over 1.5 million female lay ministers (catechists, lay missionaries, chaplains, pastoral ministers etc.) in addition to 776,000 nuns.

Most women ministers in the U.S. (conservatively, an estimated 82% of 65,000 lay pastoral ministers and chaplains) already have qualifications (and more) to be ordained deacons. As deacons they can preach, baptize and witness marriages. This is a large new pool of ministers who could be immediately available to meet some of the sacramental needs of our church.

Opening the conversation about women deacons would also stimulate a long overdue discussion about women's canonical inclusion in Church decision-making.

We must pray the Spirit's tender yet fiery guidance on our dear Bishops.

Sincerely yours Christine Schenk csj FutureChurch

John E Dean | 9/26/2005 - 9:41pm
Bishop Trautman's challenging article raised many concerns about the function of the Synod of Bishops in pursuit of its mission. I urge him, once the current meeting of the Synod is over, to give us the benefit of his insights and his answers (if there are any) to his questions.

(Rev.) Brian M. Rafferty | 2/21/2007 - 9:27am
A thousand thanks for bringing us Bishop Donald W. Trautman’s penetrating insights into the role of liturgy in our church. Most especially, thanks for having shown us an approach to leadership which is more pastoral, dignified and likely to be productive than the avenue of acquiescence. The special issue for the synod is a gift to the church.

Gus Yack | 2/21/2007 - 9:40am
Thanks to Bishop Donald W. Trautman for his insights in “Our Daily Bread” (10/3). The World Synod of Bishops certainly needs to focus on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist with the faith community present. It does not need to start changes in the Mass.

What it needs to address, as the main agenda, is the lack of priests to celebrate the Eucharist with the people. In my humble opinion, it needs to consider the shortage of priests as its main topic and to discuss how to solve the problem. Let’s start by permitting deacons to be ordained to the priesthood.

Fran Salone-Pelletier | 2/21/2007 - 9:39am
I read “Our Daily Bread,” by Bishop Donald W. Trautman, (10/3) with interest and growing enthusiasm. It is most encouraging to know his thoughts on prayer as both essential and crucial to any human issues that challenge us as church members and travelers on the road to God. I agree that the Eucharist, our daily bread, is both our sustenance and an impelling force.

One of many possible ways to address the dilemma of increased membership along with decreased response to a vocational call to the priesthood is to modify the permanency of the diaconate and to raise those men to priesthood. However, this is but one response—and one that bears its own problems, both theologically and educationally.

Somewhat disturbing to me, though, is the broad statement regarding the secularity of our times and its loss of mystery. I would suggest that surveys have shown a different reality. Instead of declining, spirituality is on the rise. Even the new television programs are witness to that. “Ghost Whisperers,” “Surface,” “Medium,” each in its own way, are promoting the idea of something/someone beyond our reach—mysteries that can be felt but not touched. People are probing the unknown, entering the mystery of life, in the way they can. Why negate it because it is not the way of statues, wall-facing altars, sky-reaching cathedrals and more? Why not use the reality to go forward? Why not ask people how they view God and go from there? Why not ask more questions and live them, instead of telling us the problem and solving it?

Why not seize the opportunity to engage the laity, invite them to join with the episcopacy in its synods and enter into honest dialogue? Why not listen more than speak? Why not listen to those who are in opposition to our viewpoints and learn from them?

John L. Coakley Jr. | 2/21/2007 - 9:37am
I am encouraged by the article, “Our Daily Bread,” by Bishop Donald W. Trautman, (10/3) concerning the World Synod of Bishops on the subject of the Eucharist.

I hope that the bishops will be receptive to the sensible tone set by Bishop Trautman in his article. Our access to the Eucharist is more important than the trivial considerations often put forth, such as who pours the wine, what is the material of the cup or where should the tabernacle be located.

It is important that we have enough priests to preside over the eucharistic celebration. Current practice is counterproductive and unjust to the faithful, who are denied access to the Eucharist because of a shortage of priests.

William J. Peters | 2/21/2007 - 9:24am
I have just finished reading your excellent Oct. 3 issue. It was exciting to read Bishop Donald W. Trautman’s challenge to the World Synod of Bishops to tackle real and basic issues confronting the celebration of the Eucharist. I hope his spirit will be a common one among all the bishops at their meeting in Rome.

Prompted by “Sending Us Forth,” by Michael S. Driscoll (10/3), I would like to pass on a recollection of the closing of a Mass I still remember after many years. It was Pentecost Sunday. The priest focused on the Eucharist in much the same fashion as Michael Driscoll, using the Gospel words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” It was also the weekend of Memorial Day and the Indianapolis 500 race. The priest asked if anyone in the congregation knew how the race began. Of course the answer was, “Drivers, start your engines!” He noted that is how people should leave this celebration, so he ended the Mass with the usual, “The Mass is ended...” then paused and added with outstretched hands, “And O.K. people...” at which the congregation added without any prompting, “Start your engines!”

A young boy about five pews from the front broke into an impromptu, “Rummm, rummm, rummm.” Laughing, the priest added, “Boy, did he get the message, or not?” The Mass ended and I really felt sent!

(Father) Ken Lohrmeyer | 10/2/2005 - 8:36am
Re: Bishop Donald Trautman's article on the instrumentum laboris for the upcoming Synod on the Eucharist (AMERICA 10/03/05), which seems to be at least indirectly addressed to the Bishops who will participate in the Synod: I assume that as the chair of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy, Bishop Trautman will be a participant in the Synod. That is perhaps a mistaken assumption, especially given the over-all tone of his article as addressed to "them" without including himself. I also hope that his message is widely disseminated among the participating bishops. But given the apparent rigidity of the Vatican concerning such structures of the universal Church, I am not holding my breath. He addresses the two major issues which face bishops and priests in the United States (as well as in many other parts of the world): the absolute right of the faithful to daily Eucharist, and the shortage of priests which makes that right a nearly meaningless theological dream in far too many places. With the long list of things that are "already decided and therefore not open for any further discussion," our Bishops usually have only two choices in response to the growing number of Catholic parishioners and the dwindling number of priest pastors to minister to them: either assign more parishes to already over-worked and aging priests, or close/consolidate more parishes and then assign larger congregations to fewer priests. My thanks to Bishop Trautman for his effort to call his fellow Bishops and the Curia in Rome to some degree of accountability on this most central element of our Catholic faith.

Sr. Christine Schenk | 9/26/2005 - 3:07pm
Many thanks to Bishop Don Trautman for his courageous article about the Synod on the Eucharist

It is a relief to know that at least one of our bishops, himself a synod alternate, also believes early synod emphases are askew. Finding solutions to the worldwide priest shortage should be the top synod priority.

In 2003, two U.S. church renewal groups, FutureChurch and Call To Action surveyed 15,000 priests in 55 U.S. dioceses. Sixty seven percent of respondants supported opening the discussion of mandatory celibacy. Many spontaneously added that the church must look at women's roles as well.

Delegations of our members recently delivered priest survey results and 35,000 signatures asking for open discussion of mandatory celibacy and women deacons to each of our U.S. synod delegates.

While we fully support Bishop Trautman's suggestion of opening the priesthood to permanent deacons, we don't believe Catholicism' s ministerial crisis can be solved without expanding the roles of qualifed women ministers tool.

Worldwide, we have only 405,000 priests and 31,000 deacons for 1.1 billion Catholics. However, we also have over 1.5 million female lay ministers (catechists, lay missionaries, chaplains, pastoral ministers etc.) in addition to 776,000 nuns.

Most women ministers in the U.S. (conservatively, an estimated 82% of 65,000 lay pastoral ministers and chaplains) already have qualifications (and more) to be ordained deacons. As deacons they can preach, baptize and witness marriages. This is a large new pool of ministers who could be immediately available to meet some of the sacramental needs of our church.

Opening the conversation about women deacons would also stimulate a long overdue discussion about women's canonical inclusion in Church decision-making.

We must pray the Spirit's tender yet fiery guidance on our dear Bishops.

Sincerely yours Christine Schenk csj FutureChurch

John E Dean | 9/26/2005 - 9:41pm
Bishop Trautman's challenging article raised many concerns about the function of the Synod of Bishops in pursuit of its mission. I urge him, once the current meeting of the Synod is over, to give us the benefit of his insights and his answers (if there are any) to his questions.

Edward Risi | 12/16/2005 - 7:40am
I appreciated Bishop Donald Trautman’s article, “Our Daily Bread’ (10/3). My response may be somewhat delayed due to the fact that it takes quite some time to receive copies of America on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

I went to the recent Synod with many of the same concerns and questions that he raises. The unique experience of the encounter that participating in a Synod offers brought something home to me from hearing the local experiences of our worldwide church, including the inputs from the Eastern Churches and other Christian churches.

A deep conviction grew in me that we Christians are often very deficient, even impoverished, in our preparation to celebrate and receive the Eucharist. And I don’t mean liturgical preparation. I mean the way we live our everyday lives.

The gift of himself in the Eucharist is part of Jesus’ on-going completely selfless offering. The Eucharist is the fruit of his human life-style of selfless giving and self-sacrifice to the point of death. A similar life-style is our preparation for and way of living Eucharist

The erosion of selflessness and willingness to sacrifice is, I believe, a main casualty in our increasingly materialistic, individualistic, consumerist and secularist culture.

Our social institutions suffer from a dearth of people truly motivated to give themselves selflessly for others. Married and family suffer from the erosion and loss of the love that is willing to accept the patient and selfless long-suffering that life together inevitably demands. The shortage of priests is also, perhaps, a result of reluctance to give of oneself to the point of sacrifice. Those at the synod from other Christian churches were quick to tell us that their Churches also experience the same vocation shortage.

In an era when the Eucharist has been made increasingly available, paradoxically, we are decreasingly selfless and self-sacrificing in the way we live our daily lives, rendering ourselves less ready to celebrate and receive this priceless gift, the summit and source of our union with Christ and of our life as Church

We need to rediscover and live the values of sacrifice, self-offering and selflessness before we can even begin to speak of the immense gift of the Eucharist as a ‘right’ to be ‘claimed’.

Edward Risi omi Bishop of Keimoes-Upington, South Africa

Leon Suprenant | 10/24/2005 - 10:48am
Dear editor,

The current Synod of Bishops devoted to the Eucharist must be interpreted through the lens of Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium. In that foundational document, the Council fathers said that promoting the full and active participation of all the faithful in the liturgy was "the aim to be considered above all else" in the forthcoming liturgical reform.

The Council fathers understood that such participation in the sacred mysteries of our faith results in a profound encounter with our Eucharistic Lord. Whenever this occurs, the entire Church benefits. And, I might add, from such faith encounters come vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Sadly, where there have been and continue to be, as the Synod fathers note, "misinterpretations and distorted ideas" about the liturgy that hinder fruitful participation at Mass, the Church suffers greatly. Those faith communities understandably experience difficulties in raising up the next generation of priests.

I appreciate Bishop Trautman's passionate concern about the need to provide an adequate number of priests (10/3). However, I also believe that the Synod is addressing this concern at the deepest level. After all, in the Church, soteriology precedes sociology, and faith precedes pastoral planning.

Leon Suprenant Steubenville, Ohio

Suprenant is the president of Catholics United for the Faith and Emmaus Road Publishing, and the publisher of Lay Witness magazine.

Fred L. Hofheinz | 10/3/2005 - 12:34pm
Many thanks to Bishop Troutman for his article about the Synod on the Eucharist. My own thoughts as I read his essay turned back to the first session of Vatican II when the Council Fathers gathered to deal with the tepid, curia-prepared agenda that basically called for "business as usual." While the majority of the bishops were simply passive and ready to approve whatever was handed to them, a few brave souls spoke up with a loud "non placet" and demanded a fresh start. The other bishops, emboldened by the few, joined them and the rest is history... I know that Synods in the John Paul II era have been simply occasions for bishop-delegates to talk "at" (not to) each other about a curia-produced instrumentum, followed by an Apostolic Exhortation, prepared by those same curial types. And unlike at the Council, John Paul II held tight control of everything. Wouldn't it be remarkable and wonderful in this first post-John Paul II Synod if the delegates actually were to have the courage to say "non placet" to this instrumentum --as Troutman does in this essay-- and move forward boldly (led by the Holy Spirit) as they did in the later sessions of Vatican II in a real, frank and deliberative way. John Paul did not provide the atmosphere for that kind of thing, perhaps Benedict will. I have high hopes but, alas, no illusions...

Fred L. Hofheinz Indianapolis, IN