The Year of the Eucharist
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Peace be with you. During the momentous events of these past months, I have prayed for you each day.
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which we celebrate today, inspires me to reflect with you on the Most Holy Eucharist: the great wedding gift of Christ the bridegroom to his bride the Church. The Church's devotion to this precious gift is demonstrated in her annual celebration of this solemnity and in her daily celebration of the Mass.”
So begins Bishop Daly's pastoral letter “The Most Holy Eucharist.” The letter, addressed to the diocese and released on the feast of Corpus Christi, is meant to inspire Catholics in the diocese to deeper faith in the Eucharist.
A Pew Study released in August 2019 found that only 31 percent of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ as the Church teaches. Many who do not believe what the churches were unaware of the perennial teaching of the church on the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
The findings of the Pew Research Group were worrying to leaders in the Church, from bishops on down to lay employees and volunteers. Spokane is one of several dioceses that has opened eucharistic years in response to the pastoral concern that so many Catholics have access to a great treasure but do not know it. Several lay leaders approached Bishop Daly with an idea of a eucharistic celebration to help call attention to the Eucharist, what Vatican II calls the “source and summit” of our faith. Out of those initial conversations, Bishop Daly began writing a pastoral letter and leading plans for a Year of the Eucharist.
The pastoral letter has nine sections that highlight how the Eucharist informs and inspires the work of the Church. Below are some excerpts from each section. The full letter can be found at www.dioceseofspokane.org/yearoftheeucharist
The Divine Physician in a Time of Pandemic
While fasting and abstinence are a part of Catholic spirituality, little could one have foreseen that such a eucharistic fast would be required of us. This unexpected trial compels me to reflect anew on how vitally necessary the Holy Eucharist is for the Church and for every believer.
Where the Eucharist is celebrated, there is the threshold of heaven and earth. The voices of patriarchs and prophets are heard in the Old Testament readings; the voices of martyrs and saints are heard in the New Testament readings. Angels, patriarchs and prophets, martyrs and saints, all the citizens of heaven, join their voices to ours in praising God.
Vocations to the Holy Priesthood
Standing amidst the heavenly and earthly congregation is the priest. He is given a unique role in this cooperative work of creation. While his voice is frequently one with that of the faithful, it is his voice alone that is heard at the heart of the Eucharistic Prayer; the voice is his, but the words he speaks are those of Christ. In the words he speaks and in the actions he performs, we encounter the unseen high priest, Jesus Christ.
This truth prompts me, as your bishop, to ask your daily prayers for priestly vocations.
The Sacrament of Unity
Our diocese is blessed with the rich wheat land of the Palouse and the many vineyards of Walla Walla and the Columbia basin. From our soil come wheat and grapes, by our hands they are crafted into bread and wine, and on our altars they become the body and blood of Christ. The bread and wine are signs of the Church's unity. The many grains are ground into a single loaf and the many grapes are crushed into wine. Like the bread and the wine, we the many are made one in Christ.
The Eucharist reaches its summit in the Communion rite, during which there are three communions: the Our Father, the Kiss of Peace, and the Reception of the Holy Eucharist.
The Eucharist is “a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, [and] a bond of charity.” When we receive holy Communion, we are given new strength to love our neighbor.
The Real Presence and Eucharistic Devotion
The Mass is “the source and summit of the Christian's life.” From her beginning, the Church adored the eucharistic food she received as the body and blood of Christ. Over the centuries, she developed eucharistic devotions apart from the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Eucharist and Our Catholic Schools
May the students of our schools come to know and love the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; may they dedicate themselves to his will. The Church is only able to fulfill her mission in this world if she nourishes her children spiritually and intellectually on the Eucharist.
Our Lady—the First Tabernacle
It is in beholding Mary, our mother, that we might better behold her Son in the Eucharist.
The Year of the Eucharist A Solemn Declaration
On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi 2020, I declare a Eucharistic Year throughout the Diocese of Spokane, which will conclude with the celebration of this same Solemnity in 2021. This great year will be marked with votive Masses and special devotions in parishes throughout the diocese.
Our fast is finally over, let us give thanks for the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist; let us go forth being Christ-bearers to the world. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us! Live Jesus in our hearts forever!
– Most Rev. Thomas A. Daly, D.D.