That is a great lesson for Americans to take to heart as we watch the Cuban faithful exhibit such reverence and love for Jesus and his holiness the Pope. The Blessed Mother has said to so many visionaries and messengers in these dire times that if we do not practice our faith and share it with others, we could lose it. Thatís not just an idle warning but one she has been reiterating for years, primarily at LaSalette when she warned the world. Yet so many go blindly on without realizing the urgency of her words. Already there are so many Catholic parishes where the true faith has been watered down, where heresies have crept in, where people are led to believe that the Eucharist isnít that important. After all, didnít Vatican II proclaim that Sacred Scripture - the Word - was equal to the Eucharist? If we have the Word, and if Jesus is equally present in the Word, then our protestant brethren have the same thing and the Eucharist is merely a ritual - a symbolism. Nothing more. Oh, how mislead modern Catholics are for the Eucharist is truly the focal point of our lives. It must be. It is true Jesus is present in the Word, just as He is present in the priest - the celebrant of the Mass, and the people - the Mystical Body of Christ. But in those three there is an ingredient missing for the Son of God is not corporally present as He is in the Eucharist where He is truly present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Vatican II documents reinforce this as does Pope Paul VIís encyclical Mysterium Fidei. This editor was discussing this with a local deacon the other day for he had been "taught in the seminary" the equality of Jesus in the Word and the Eucharist. He tried to refute my claim of Jesus being more present in the Eucharist by saying "then we are putting percentages on God." He missed the point for no one can put percentages on God. Rather, the Second Vatican Council fathers used the word "modes" so that we could attain a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist. These "modes" are principal ways in which the Lord is present to His Church in liturgical celebrations as the Constitution on the Liturgy points out. For more on this, see Vatican II Verifications in todayís issue.
The Eucharist is our life-blood, for without It we are lost. Jesus said as much in John 6: 53-59. He has also said woe to those who cause scandal and it is a great scandal that is being visited on our country these last few days; a scandal that could rock this country to its core and a scandal that has taken the Pope off the front pages and off prime time coverage of his historical visit to Cuba in favor of the more lurid findings of a "smoking gun" that could bring Bill Clinton to the brink of impeachment for his immoral ways. Yet so many Americans are immune to the fact this immorality, which has been synonymous with the Clinton administration, hurts our nation and weakens our own moral fiber. People want to overlook, yea, even condone the sin, because they are prospering. No one prospers when souls are at stake. No one prospers when immorality reigns. Let us rephrase that, there is someone who prospers in all of this - satan - for he relishes sin, but not the sinner. God hates the sin, but loves the sinner. While we might want to throw stones at Clinton for his reckless womanizing and lack of respect for the sixth and ninth commandments, not to mention many of the other commandments broken from trying to cover it all up, we must remember Christís counsel to not condemn the sinner, but rather the sin. What happens to Clinton will greatly affect our country, not because he is a great leader but because he exhibits no moral leadership. If he is disgraced because of his sins and sincerely repents for them, then we, as a nation, will be stronger for the ordeal, but if he continues to try to cover it up, our nation will be plunged in a deeper mire of hate and turmoil. Other nations will capitalize on Americaís malaize and, if Clinton is forced to step down ala Richard Nixon nearly twenty years ago there will not be a kinder, more forgiving successor like Gerald Ford in office, but rather another avowed abortionist whose intent is even more vile than Clintonís - namely Al Gore. We must hope and pray that the Republicans, still staggering from the struggle over the abortion platform, will produce a strong, viable, moral and Christian leader who can lead our nation out of the darkness and away from the culture of death, by embracing the culture of life in all its stages. Then, and only then, can we as a nation hope to be grounded in our faith. But for Catholics, without the Eucharist - all will be for nought. For God comes above country. Nations the world over throughout history have proven that, and the cries of reverent Cubans flocking to the Holy Father this weekend illustrate this profoundly. We are "one nation under God." Let us remember that and place the emphasis back on God and realize we are under Him, not over Him or equal to Him but totally dependent on Him. That is the only way to prevent our nation and our fellow Americans from being toppled. Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we commemorate in a few weeks, said it best, "A nation divided cannot stand." We have seen what has happened to Cuba over the last several decades. We must not allow division to split us asunder. Just as vital, we must not allow the liberals within the Church to split us asunder for we must remain One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Holy Father is proof of this unity. He is living proof of the word "Catholic" for he is truly universal. So too, must we be, for the sake of our country, for the sake of our Church, for the sake of our souls and the souls of our brothers and sisters universally. Let us continue to faithfully follow the Pope for he is proof that, amidst all the chaos, a light shines in the darkness.
Today we address a complexing question that many are in a quandary about. Is Jesus equally present in the Word as He is in the Eucharist. He is present in both, just as He is present in the priest as the celebrant and the body of the faithful - the Mystical Body of Christ. But in all those He is present in Spirit, but He is not present corporally. For the Eucharist is a sacrament instituted by Christ at the Last Supper and the Word, while necessary to complement the sacrament, is not a sacrament in itself. Vatican II teaches that the Word is vital in fulfilling the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but the encyclical Mysterium Fidei by Pope Paul VI singles out the Eucharist as being above the others in the sense that this "presence of Christ under the species 'is called real' not in an exclusive sense, as if the other kinds of presence were not real, but par excellence." The following is taken from VATICAN COUNCIL II, VOLUME II, More Postconciliar Documents; General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P. Costello Publishing Company, Part Six, pages 109-110 on the SACRED LITURGY, Chapter 9, INSTRUCTION ON THE WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY, Articles 9 and 10.
He is always present in a body of the faithful gathered in his name (cf. Mt. 18:20). He is present, too, in his Word, for it is he who speaks when the Scriptures are read in the Church.
In the sacrifice of the Eucharist he is present both in the person of the minister, "the same now offering through the ministry of the priest who formerly offered himself on the cross," (44) and above all under the species of the Eucharist. (45) For in this sacrament Christ is present in a unique way, whole and entire, God and man, substantially and permanently. This presence of Christ under the species "is called Ďrealí not in an exclusive sense, as if the other kinds of presence were not real, but par excellence."(46)
When therefore the faithful hear the Word of God, they should realize that the wonders it proclaims culminate in the Paschal Mystery, of which the memorial is sacramentally celebrated in the Mass. In this way the faithful will be nourished by the Word of God which they have received and in a spirit of thanksgiving will be led on to a fruitful participation in the mysteries of salvation. Thus the Church is nourished by the bread of life which she finds the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of Christ. (50)
"You will not meet the peaceful and good inhabitants who populated this island at the time the first Europeans arrived," said Castro, in a clear negative reference to the arrival of Spanish Catholics in Cuba centuries ago. "The conquest cost the life of millions of Indians; a lot of blood was shed and injustices were committed," Castro added.
The Cuban dictator immediately compared the Spanish imperial conquest with the current US embargo on his country. "Today some people still attempt genocide," he charged, "by seeking to use hunger to force the submission of a people that refuses to surrender to this economic empire--which is the greatest economic, political, and military power in history, even more powerful than ancient Rome." Castro then compared the Cuban people with the Christian martyrs who suffered under the Roman empire. "Just like the Church, the revolution has many martyrs as well," he added.
In more personal words to the Holy Father, the Cuban leader praised the Pontiff for "the bravery with which you defend your ideas." He promised that he and the Pope would discuss "many questions about today's world." He promised that during his stay in Cuba the Pope would be able to speak "with all the freedom you might wish for."
However, Castro took advantage of the opportunity to lash out at the Catholic Church. He recalled his own days of education, at the hands of Jesuit teachers, and said, "I was taught that to be a Protestant, a Jewish, a Buddhist, or a member of other faith was a grave fault worth of severe punishment." He made a oblique charge of racism against the Church, saying that "more than once, in those schools for rich and privileged," he asked why there were no black children, "without receiving a convincing response." And he concluded his attack with a list of "mistakes" made by the Church, including the condemnation of Galileo, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the conquest of the Americas.
According to local analysts, Castro took this provocative line in order to emphasize the comparisons and contrasts between the Catholic Church and the Cuban socialist government. He mentioned the alleged mistakes of the Church in an indirect effort to deflect attention from the obvious mistakes made by his Communist allies, the analysts suggested.
The Pope said that he was delighted "to be among you and be able to share a journeys full of faith, hope and love." Cuba is the only nation in the Western hemisphere which he had not previously visited.
After greeting Castro, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino of Havana, and the various other bishops-- both from Cuba and from other lands-- who were on hand, the Pope said, "My heart opens with great affection to the beloved priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists, and faithful." He continued: "In all of them I see the image of this local Church, so beloved and always present in my heart, feeling myself in solidarity and close to their aspirations and legitimate desires."
"With this apostolic trip I come in the name of the Lord to confirm you in the faith, strengthen you in hope, and encourage you in charity," the Pope said. He encouraged the faithful to work boldly in the cause of evangelization: "From the first moments of my presence among you I want to say with the same strength as at the beginning of my pontificate: do not be afraid to open your hearts to Christ, you must want him to enter your lives, your families, into the society, so everything may be renovated."
In an indirect response to Castro's criticism, the Pope alluded to the difficulties the Church has faced under the Communist regime. He praised the Church in Cuba "which has always announced Jesus Christ, even if in occasions she has been forced to do so with a shortage of priests and in difficult circumstances."
And the Pope added a plea for greater freedom: "Today, as always, the Church in Cuba wants to have the space needed to keep serving to all in conformity with the mission and the teachings of Jesus Christ."
The Pope closed his message, which was significantly shorter than Castro's, by promising his prayers so "this land may offer to all the opportunity to enjoy freedom, mutual confidence, social justice by true peace. May Cuba open itself, with all its magnificent possibilities, to the world, and may the world open itself to Cuba."
Yesterday, several Cuban-Americans from Miami and New York became the center of attention among children and adults alike near the Plaza de la Revolucion, where a large altar has been set up for the Pope's last Mass in Cuba, which is scheduled for Sunday. The plaza has become a gathering place for Catholics, who express their faith by singing and praying publicly.
Several Cuban-Americans appeared yesterday morning, before the Pope's arrival, carrying bags with thousands of plastic rosaries, which they began distributing among the people. The news of the Cuban-Americans distributing rosaries was passed immediately, and suddenly great groups of local residents surrounded the donors.
"This has nothing to do with politics," said one the Cuban-Americans involved in distributing the rosaries; "we are just enjoying the opportunity to share a means to practice our faith with our brothers and sisters here."