2005 Pastoral Letter
on Reverence for the Eucharist

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last year, our deceased Holy Father John Paul II called for the Universal Church to celebrate the Year of the Eucharist to encourage a greater love for Jesus Christ present in the celebration of Holy Mass. The Year of the Eucharist concluded in Rome with the Synod of Bishops this past October. Here in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe we celebrated the Year of the Eucharist and concluded with the outdoor Mass and Eucharistic Adoration in Albuquerque at Isotopes Park at the Rosary Rally and devotion to Mary, under her title of Our Lady of the Holy Eucharist. Over 4,000 people participated.

The purpose of this letter being read at all the Masses Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4, is to teach some of the truths that were central to the Eucharistic Year and the discussion on the Eucharist during the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Our Lord gave the Church the great gift of the Holy Eucharist to feed us spiritually and give us the strength we need to follow Him faithfully. The bread and wine become His Body and Blood during the Mass. It isn’t just a symbol of Christ but, in a profound and holy transformation, the elements actually become the Lord’s Body and Blood. It is a central mystery of our faith taught by the Holy Bible and our 2000-year Catholic tradition. What a great mystery this is! We must respond with faith and reverence to this gift that Jesus gives us. What can we do to appreciate the Eucharist more?

First of all, be prepared. One should have a hunger for the Body of Christ. I invite you to think back to that day when you made your First Holy Communion. Try to have that same desire for the Lord you had when you first received Jesus in Communion.

  • It is important to be in the state of grace and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession before Mass if we are aware of mortal sin on our conscience. We must be sorry for our failings so as to prepare to receive the Lord of Lords.
  • Also, dress appropriately for Sunday Mass. I receive comments from priests and parishioners that some will come to Mass sloppily dressed or without the due modesty which indicates a lack of good judgment and respect for the Sacred Liturgy and the other participants.
  • Remember to observe the one hour fast from food and drink before receiving Communion. To appreciate the Eucharist more, let us prepare ourselves properly.

Secondly, at Mass, enter the Church with a sense of reverence and respect for the Divine Mystery.

  • Take the holy water for the sign of the cross which reminds us of the cleansing water of Baptism.
  • Genuflect reverently to the Tabernacle if it is visible within the Church to express your belief in the Lord Jesus present. Someone who has difficulty genuflecting may make profound bow instead. If the Tabernacle is not present, we reverently bow to the altar, an ancient symbol of Christ.
  • Once you are in Church spend the time before Mass in prayer. So often, I hear the complaint that people are chatting and laughing as if they were in a theater or meeting hall and that children are allowed to run up and down the aisle. There should be a reverent quiet in preparation for the Sacred Liturgy.

Thirdly, participate during Mass.

  • Sing with the congregation.
  • Listen attentively to the prayers and scripture readings.
  • Make the verbal responses and enter into the celebration appropriately.
  • As you go up to Communion, walk with faith and devotion because you are to receive the Lord of Lords. Bow reverently prior to receiving the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ, but without delaying the Communion line, and respond by saying “Amen”.
  • On your way back to your place, have a prayerful spirit and join in the singing
  • When you return to your place, make a good thanksgiving. You have a choice to kneel or sit in quiet prayer, talking to the Lord of your love for Him and asking His help in your life and pray for your loved ones. Some may wish to stand. Please do not leave early! After the final blessing is given and the priest has processed out, then the Mass is concluded. You should genuflect to the Tabernacle and leave the Church continuing to be grateful for the graces you have received.
  • Finally, live your faith as a Catholic and let it be visible in your life. You must not leave the Lord in Church, but allow Him to accompany you in the joys and challenges you and your loved ones face. To appreciate the Eucharist more I encourage visits to our churches and Perpetual Adoration Chapels to pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and receive God’s graces. Pray for priestly vocations so that we will have sufficient priests for Mass now and in the future.

Live in peace, justice and charity with others. Live a moral and decent life. May the Eucharistic Jesus be with your always!

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe