Sunday, October 19, 2014

A week with Blessed Paul VI: Day One


Today, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI (reigned 1963-1978).

Pope Paul did not have a direct impact on me, as a layman or a priest. I was too young (and not in a Christian family, to boot) to remember the "year of three Popes," and the Humanae Vitae bombshell was before my time.

However, he is a pivotal figure for the history of the Church in the twentieth century, the architect of the Twenty-First Ecumenical Council, guiding four of its five sessions, and the main implementer of its directives for the renewal of the Church.

As a priest, I offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Missal of Bl. Paul VI pretty much all the time, and I pray the Divine Office from the Breviary revised by his directives. In that sense, he shapes my priestly ministry in a very direct, quotidian way.

For this upcoming week, I am going to share some quotes from his Papal magisterium, which is one of the most enduring legacies of any Roman Pontiff.

Today's selection comes from "Solemni Hac Liturgia," also known as the Credo of the People Of God, a document written by Bl. Paul Vi in 1968, as a response to the theological and doctrinal crisis of dissent that exploded as the Council came to an end. This selection is, fittingly, about the Sacred Liturgy, fons et culmen vitae ecclesia. The fact that the Holy Father felt the need to restate forcefully what had been the perennial teaching of the Church was a sad "sign of the times," evidence of the "smoke of Satan" that had infiltrated the Church, as he himself so famously remarked a year earlier.
24. We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.(35)

25. Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine,(36) as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.(37) 
26. The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.
Beate Paule Vi, ora pro nobis!  

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