Renewed love for sacraments sought - Catholic Courier

Renewed love for sacraments sought

Diocese issues policy updates

The following is Bishop Salvatore R. Matano’s letter of introduction for the updated “Policies for the Administration of the Sacraments in the Diocese of Rochester.”

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My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Since I began my apostolic ministry as the ninth Bishop of Rochester, I have had the joyful experience of visiting our parishes, schools, charitable agencies and outreach ministries. I have experienced the zeal and enthusiasm that characterizes your love for the poor and the forgotten members of our society, a love steeped in faith, a faith nurtured by the Church’s rich sacramental life culminating in our participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

With profound gratitude, then, for our Diocese’s beautiful manifestation of the Catholic faith, I am promulgating this first section of the Policies for the Administration of the Sacraments in the Diocese of Rochester, which concerns the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation and Penance. It is my hope that these Policies will support and assist the local communities of faith in our mutual efforts to continue the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of Christ’s Sacraments in the years ahead, always conscious that we do everything possible to hand over to our children the greatest gift we possess, the gift of faith.

In presenting these Policies, I express my deep gratitude to the Lord for the privilege of serving as your shepherd. I also am most grateful to the many who cooperated in the formulation of the Policies: our Diocesan Presbyteral Council, the regional/deanery representatives, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and so many others, pastors, parochial vicars, pastoral administrators, deacons, religious, pastoral associates, and laity, faith formation directors and catechists, the many who serve in ministries throughout our Diocese.

At the same time, the publication of these Policies affords me the possibility joyfully to fulfill my responsibility to teach and to instruct the faithful about the mysteries of our salvation in Christ. This is truly an awesome responsibility, but one greatly aided by God’s Word in Holy Scripture, the Church’s Magisterium, the Conciliar documents of the Church and with special note of the Pontiffs who have guided the Church during my years of priestly and episcopal ministry: Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now our Holy Father, Pope Francis. With this accumulated wisdom, supported by the deep faith of those I have been and am privileged to serve, I now "feed the sheep in the name of the Lord" by "performing for them the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing." (Cf. Christus Dominus, 11).

In particular, as a diocesan family, we are seeking to renew our love and appreciation for the Sacraments of the Church in order that we all may draw closer to Jesus Christ. These Policies are intended for all the faithful, not only our children preparing for the reception of the Sacraments. The adult community is called upon to support our children and young adults by our own practice and witness to the faith. Each of us is called to be a disciple and to share with others the greatest treasure that God has given to us: the gift of His Son and the Holy Spirit, personally experienced in sacramental encounter.

The Gift of Presence

Over the years many people have crossed our lives. At moments of joy and sorrow, rejoicing and disappointment, certain persons come to mind who supported us and encouraged us, not necessarily by words but simply by their presence. "He who has never struggled with his fellow creatures is a stranger to half the sentiments of mankind." (Cf. Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society, 1767). Yes, true friends are always present to us in those times both convenient and inconvenient, when we are praised and when we are criticized, when we are welcomed and when we are scorned. Thus, in the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) we read:

"A faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.

A faithful friend is something beyond price, there is no measuring his worth." (Ecclesiasticus 6:14-15).

In truth, as relational beings we need the support of others. As believers, we have the greatest support in the eternal presence of Jesus in the Sacraments, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist. Through the Sacraments, Jesus has remained faithful to His promise. "And know that I am with you always; yes to the end of time." (Matthew 28:20).

At Baptism, we are received into the Body of Christ and become the sons and daughters of God. A lifelong relationship with the Triune God commences and should accompany us until the day we return to the Father for all eternity.

This journey through life is not without its crosses, successes and failures, hopes and disappointments. And in our humanity, we sin. But the Good Shepherd again and again raises His hand in benediction and in forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus holds no grudges; He is not vindictive; He is forgiving! What an extraordinary encouragement and hope we find in this great Sacrament!

Life presents us with many challenges. In our world, now so very complex, we are faced with many decisions. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, we receive those gifts that help us make the best possible decisions, life-giving decisions, decisions that reflect our dignity as the daughters and sons of God: the gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and the spirit of wonder and awe in the presence of God.

In our Catholic faith, the Most Holy Eucharist is our greatest treasure. The Holy Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life. The other Sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself." (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324).

Barely twelve hours after his election, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address in Latin to the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. In that address, His Holiness asked "everyone to intensify in coming months love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus and to express in a courageous and clear way the real presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations." (Cf. J. J. Fischer, Pope Benedict XVI, a Personal Portrait, 2005). And so it must be because "Everything we have goes on the altar, to be made holy in Christ. The priest makes the connection explicit as he pours the water and wine into the chalices. ‘By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.’ This mingling is a rich symbol, suggesting the union of Christ’s divine and human nature, the blood and water that poured forth from His side on the cross, and the union of our gifts with the Savior’s perfect gift of Himself. That’s an offer the Father cannot refuse." (Cf. Scott Hahn, The Lamb’s Supper, 1999).

Among our people there is a deep desire to recapture a sense of the transcendent and awesome nature of the Sacraments and the Most Holy Eucharist. One must always remember that the liturgical prayers and rituals of the Sacraments proclaim the doctrine, the creed which is the very foundation of the Catholic faith. The Sacraments are not created by the Church; the Sacraments are Jesus’ gift to us. Jesus is the One Who instituted the Sacraments and now in time has shared this gift of Himself with us. Thus, we approach the Sacraments with the utmost reverence to render worship, adoration, thanksgiving and prayers of supplication to the One Who alone is Lord! In view of this sublime reality, we come to understand that it is an extraordinary privilege for us to participate in the Church’s sacramental life, Christ’s sacramental life, and above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, the foundation and heart of our redemption in Christ. "The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above the Sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the Sacraments tend.’" (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1374).

When we approach the celebration of Holy Mass or any of the Sacraments with this spirit of gratitude, it essentially changes our attitude toward the sacramental nature of the Church. Realizing that in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, Jesus comes to us, we then approach Him not asking what is in it for me, but how can I possibly thank the omnipotent God Who has chosen to come to me! We realize we do not own the Sacraments. The Sacraments, the Most Holy Eucharist, belong to God who graciously invites us to participate in His life through these personal encounters with Him. We then imitate this generosity by our loving service to our brothers and sisters in God’s family. From our encounter with Christ in the Sacraments, particularly the Most Holy Eucharist, we see the poor with new eyes; we hear the cries of the oppressed with new ears; we empathize with the suffering with a new heart; we surrender our own will to the will of Jesus Christ.

An Important Moment in the Life of the Church in Rochester

We stand at an important moment in the life of the Church in our beloved Diocese. United with all who have gone before us in the living testimony of faith, we now have been given the opportunity to recommit our parishes, parish programs and parishioners to the sacramental life of the Church. With God’s blessings, we endeavor to rekindle our love for Christ through our participation in the Sacraments and to take very seriously the implementation of all that is needed and required for the proper celebration and reception of these outward signs, instituted by Christ, to give grace, a definition some of us learned many years ago, but which remains so true.

Central to this celebration and reception is a renewed emphasis on catechesis, called for as the heart of the New Evangelization. Together, parishes, united in faith, must serve our people who come to us to be strengthened through the Sacraments, with charity and compassion, and to provide those whom we serve the necessary formation to be disciples of Jesus Christ in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.

The Sacraments and the "New Evangelization"

Over the last several years there has been much discussion about the "New Evangelization," an initiative vigorously proclaimed by John Paul II and enthusiastically taken up by his successors, Pope Benedict XVI, our Holy Father Emeritus, and our present Pontiff, Pope Francis. Yet, for many, the "New Evangelization" is a popular theme but not very easily explained. The marvelous event of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ gives us the definition of the New Evangelization. The birth of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Son of God, took place on our behalf. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity came to dwell among us to teach us about His Father, to share with us the love of the Triune God, to forgive our sins, and to open for us the doors of eternal life and to establish the community of faith, the Church, of which He is its cornerstone. Since the time of the Incarnation and the earthly mission of Jesus Christ, these realities have not changed. The New Evangelization is really a call to awaken in us a renewed appreciation for Jesus Christ present among us, continuing to live in our midst and alive in our hearts if we only open our hearts to receive Him.

The New Evangelization is not a program or another strategic plan; it is not another proposal; it is not something, but Someone, the very person of Jesus Christ: His life, His words, His presence, His union with us in the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. The New Evangelization is the Incarnation coming alive in our own age. The New Evangelization means accepting Jesus Christ as the Savior, the Redeemer, and unreservedly following Him. The essence of the New Evangelization is powerfully captured in the words of Benedict XVI: "From the moment of His birth, He belongs outside the realm of what is important and powerful in worldly terms. Yet it is this unimportant and powerless child that proves to be the truly powerful one, the one on whom ultimately everything depends. So one aspect of becoming a Christian is having to leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standards, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being, and aided by that light to find the right path." (Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, The Infancy Narratives, Jesus of Nazareth, 2012, p. 67).

The New Evangelization is not recreating a product, rather it is recreating ourselves in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Once again, the means for renewing ourselves in Christ are present and call for a rediscovery of them on our part. It is almost impossible to speak of renewal without speaking of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a Sacrament that sadly is forgotten by many in the community of the faithful. Yet it is so very powerful in its effects as so beautifully taught by John Paul II in Reconciliatio et paenitentia: "It must be recalled that … this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation." (31, 5).

Once we have experienced the Lord’s mercy, we have placed ourselves in more intimate communion with the Lord culminating in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist. One cannot understand or appreciate the One who is the New Evangelization without entering into the Mystery of the Paschal Lamb, Who forgives our sins and nourishes us with His very body and blood. The primary concern, the first concern of the New Evangelization should be welcoming back, encouraging and reaching out to our brothers and sisters who no longer attend Holy Mass. Without this emphasis upon the importance of participation at the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the New Evangelization is without a subject. In his first encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis writes: "The Eucharist is a precious nourishment for faith: an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of His love, the life-giving gift of Himself." (44).

This, my brothers and sisters, is the message of the New Evangelization! Christ’s death is real, Christ’s resurrection is real and this is the reality of the Sacraments and the very foundation for the New Evangelization. The birth of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, ushered in a new moment in humanity’s history, new in every age and in every circumstance because in its transcendence it breaks the limits and boundaries of all that is human and introduces humanity to eternity!

Conclusion

How difficult it would be to try to "go it alone" — to make sense of life "on our own." But the Christ of the Sacraments has not left us orphans; He has called us by name. Our Lord has extended the invitation: "Come to me all you who find life burdensome, and I will refresh your souls!" Recalling the motto of both Saint Francis de Sales and Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, "Cor ad cor loquitur," "the heart speaks to the heart," let us respond to Christ’s invitation and open our hearts to Him present in the Sacraments, Christ’s gifts eternal, the gifts of life, the supreme gift of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Throughout this renewal let us pray the prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas:

"As one infirm, I approach the balm of life,

as one begrimed the fountain of mercy,

as one blind the light of eternal splendor,

as one poor and needy the Lord of heaven and earth."

(Robert Anderson and Johann Moser, Devoutly I Adore Thee, The Prayers and Hymns of Saint Thomas Aquinas, 1993).

With an assurance of my prayers, seeking the intercession of St. John Fisher, patron of our Diocese, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester


EDITOR’S NOTE: The complete sacramental guidelines are available for download from the Diocese of Rochester’s website,

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