He that hath ears to hear, let him hear

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Today, If Ye Shall Hear His Voice

In listening to Our Holy Father deliver his message to the participants in the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which closed yesterday in Dublin, two passages of Sacred Scripture immediately came to mind: "Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Psalm 94:8);
and "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear " (Mark 4:9).

The Holy Father's message was unambiguous and to the point. He addressed four crucial issues facing the Church in Ireland:

1. The Liturgical Crisis
2. The Call to Holiness
3. Sin
4. Routine and Renewal

Bishops and Parish Priests would do well to address systematically each of these four issues in the weeks ahead, lest the good seed of the Holy Father's message fall on rocky ground or among weeds and briars.

1. The Liturgical Crisis

Until the liturgical crisis in Ireland (and elsewhere) is addressed, and concrete steps taken to remedy it, nothing of any lasting value will be accomplished at any level in the life of the Church.

The underlying principle is simple: Lex orandi>Lex credendi>Lex vivendi.

A people that worship rightly, that is:
• "as worthily and reverently as possible" (Pope Benedict XVI);
• in organic continuity with the received tradition of their historic rite;
• in fidelity to the letter of the rubrics and to their spirit;

will believe rightly, that is:
• in communion of mind and heart with the Church's living Tradition in all times and places;
• with a faith that both "seeks understanding" (Saint Anselm) and adores the Mystery;
• and in obedience to the Pope, the Successor of Peter, and to the bishops in communion with him;

and will act rightly and justly, that is;
in moral and ethical harmony with natural law and with Divine Revelation;
fructifying the theological virtues, the moral virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
and building up a civilization of love, illumined by the splendour of truth.

2. The Call to Holiness

It is time to cast off, once and for all, the minimalistic and legal moralism by which the "practicing Catholic" has been identified for too long by too many. It is not enough to practice a lifeless and sullen adhesion to the outward forms of the Catholic identity. It is time for every bishop, priest, religious, layman, laywoman, and child to look in the mirror and say, "Today, relying on the grace of Jesus Christ, I resolve to become a saint".

A new Ireland, a Holy Ireland, a people of saints, can emerge today from the obscurity, confusion, and unrest of the past five decades, just as a Holy Ireland, a people of saints emerged from the obscurity, confusion, and unrest of paganism when Saint Patrick enkindled on this island the light of the Gospel and the fire of the Sacraments.

3. Sin

Sin must be unmasked and denounced for what it is: the single greatest obstacle to man's unhappiness in this world and in the next. Sin, in all its tentacular forms, has never made anyone happy. Vice foments misery; it brings in its wake emotional, psychological, and physical fragmentation. Virtue fosters happiness; it brings in its wake the inner healing that is the full meaning of salvation.

The remedy for sin lies in:
• identifying it, first of all, in oneself;
• in detesting it;
• in repenting of it;
• in resolving to turn from it;
• in confessing it as often as necessary in the Sacrament of Penance.

As long as bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics of all ages
• turn a blind eye to sin;
• make excuses for it;
• grow comfortable in it;
• delay turning away from it;
• and neglect frequent confession,
priestly life, religious life, and family life will continue to disintegrate,
Catholic culture will become increasingly invisible and inarticulate,
and, as a result, society itself will continue to rot.

4. Routine and Renewal

The "business as usual" approach to Catholic life, based on a sterile and lifeless compliance with minimalistic interpretations and applications of liturgical principles, doctrine, and morality, is nothing more than an attempt to inject a decaying corpse with embalming fluid. A naive satisfaction with things going according routine is -- with the occasional showy splash of bureaucratically engineered vitality (itself, part of the routine) -- is the indication that, beneath the surface, there is something very wrong.

Renewal must not be equated with novelty. Nothing gets older more quickly than novelty. What is needed is Pope Benedict's famous "hermeneutic of continuity". True renewal will rise out of a hard pruning of Church life in all its facets, beginning with the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. Thus will the Church, the vine chosen and planted by the Father, begin to experience revitalization in Christ, a new vitality carried by the Holy Spirit into every branch and tendril.

The Holy Father's Text

I didn't intend to offer such a developed introduction to the Holy Father's message, but it is written, and I shall leave it as it flowed almost willy-nilly from my mind and heart. What is essential is the Holy Father's message in our points. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great affection in the Lord, I greet all of you who have gathered in Dublin for the
Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress, especially Cardinal Brady, Archbishop Martin, the clergy, religious and faithful of Ireland, and all of you who have come from afar to support the Irish Church with your presence and prayers.

Koinonia--Communio

The theme of the Congress - Communion with Christ and with One Another - leads us to
reflect upon the Church as a mystery of fellowship with the Lord and with all the members of his body. From the earliest times the notion of koinonia or communio has been at the core of the Church's understanding of herself, her relationship to Christ her founder, and the sacraments she celebrates, above all the Eucharist. Through our Baptism, we are incorporated into Christ's death, reborn into the great family of the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ; through Confirmation we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit; and by our sharing in the Eucharist, we come into communion with Christ and each other visibly here on earth. We also receive the pledge of eternal life to come.

The Year of Faith

The Congress also occurs at a time when the Church throughout the world is preparing to
celebrate the Year of Faith to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, an event which launched the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known.

The Roman Rite: Misunderstandings and Irregularities

Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice. At our distance today from the Council Fathers' expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church's experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities.

The Work of Real Liturgical Renewal

The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery. Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ's love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow. Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and "active participation" has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal. In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.

Call to Holiness

The Eucharist is the worship of the whole Church, but it also requires the full engagement of each individual Christian in the Church's mission; it contains a call to be the holy people of God, but also one to individual holiness; it is to be celebrated with great joy and simplicity, but also as worthily and reverently as possible; it invites us to repent of our sins, but also to forgive our brothers and sisters; it binds us together in the Spirit, but it also commands us in the same Spirit to bring the good news of salvation to others.

Ireland Shaped by the Mass

Moreover, the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, his Body and
Blood given in the new and eternal covenant for the forgiveness of sins and the transformation of the world. Ireland has been shaped by the Mass at the deepest level for centuries, and by its power and grace generations of monks, martyrs and missionaries have heroically lived the faith at home and spread the Good News of God's love and forgiveness well beyond your shores.

A Mighty Force for Good in the World

You are the heirs to a Church that has been a mighty force for good in the world, and which has given a profound and enduring love of Christ and his blessed Mother to many, many others. Your forebears in the Church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives, how to preach the joy that comes from the Gospel, how to promote the importance of belonging to the universal Church in communion with the See of Peter, and how to pass on a love of the faith and Christian virtue to other generations.

Placed on the Lord's Altar

Our Catholic faith, imbued with a radical sense of God's presence, caught up in the beauty of his creation all around us, and purified through personal penance and awareness of God's forgiveness, is a legacy that is surely perfected and nourished when regularly placed on the Lord's altar at the sacrifice of the Mass.

Sin

Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care. Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church's message. How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's Body and confessed their sins in the Sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?

Merely a Matter of Habit

It remains a mystery. Yet evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit. The work of the Council was really meant to overcome this form of Christianity and to rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ. The Eucharistic Congress has a similar aim. Here we wish to encounter the Risen Lord. We ask him to touch us deeply. May he who breathed on the Apostles at Easter, communicating his Spirit to them, likewise bestow upon us his breath, the power of the Holy Spirit, and so help us to become true witnesses to his love, witnesses to the truth. His truth is love. Christ's love is truth.

The Next International Eucharistic Congress

My dear brothers and sisters, I pray that the Congress will be for each of you a spiritually
fruitful experience of communion with Christ and his Church. At the same time, I would like
to invite you to join me in praying for God's blessing upon the next International Eucharistic
Congress, which will take place in 2016 in the city of Cebu!

To the people of the Philippines I send warm greetings and an assurance of my closeness in prayer during the period of preparation for this great ecclesial gathering. I am confident that it will bring lasting spiritual renewal not only to them but to all the participants from across the globe.

In the meantime, I commend everyone taking part in the present Congress to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of God, and to Saint Patrick, the great patron of Ireland; and, as a token of joy and peace in the Lord, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI
17 June 2012

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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