The annual Ministries Morning of Formation and Reflection was held via Zoom at 09.30 on Saturday 23 January 2021 and livestreamed to the Centre for Pastoral Development Facebook page. For those who missed it, here is a video link to the morning’s presentation on Facebook: https://fb.watch/3fxD6P2vBO/
We include below the text of Archbishop Stephen Brislin’s welcome, opening prayer and introductory remarks on Ministry – as well as that of the keynote speaker and Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Development, Fr Zane Godwin, which present some beautiful teachings on the Eucharist (which, of course, is particularly relevant during this year of the Eucharist).
Both documents are highly recommended to all.
WELCOME, OPENING PRAYER AND INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY ARCHBISHOP BRISLIN
MINISTRIES MORNING OF FORMATION AND REFLECTION: 23 JANUARY 2021
Thank you to all of you for joining this “Ministries morning of formation and reflection”. Despite the many hardships and obstacles of this present time, we persevere in the tasks that have been entrusted to us and we continue to try and find new ways to reach out to people and to continue to proclaim the Gospel and to give pastoral solace and care. We recall the words of St Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (4:1) Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We are not among those who lose heart, give up or abandon what we are meant to be doing. In the words from the Book of Hebrews (10:39), But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ, and so even as we live in the insecurity of these times, as we are anxious about those we know who are infected with the virus, anxious about the future, our jobs, our livelihoods, or we mourn the loss of a loved one, we look to the future with the confidence that arises from our hope in Christ’s victory over sin, evil and death. So, once again, welcome and thank you for joining this reflection on ministry.
Let us now open with a prayer, and I will use a prayer for those who are suffering from the Corona Virus:
You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,
nor the plague that ravages at noon.
Merciful God, hear our fervent prayer for all who suffer from the coronavirus.
May those who are infected receive the proper treatment
and the comfort of your healing presence.
May their caregivers, families and neighbors be shielded
from the onslaught of the virus.
Give solace to those who grieve the loss of loved ones,
and grant eternal rest to those who have died.
Protect and guide those who strive to find a cure,
that their work may conquer the disease and restore communities to wholeness and health.
Help us to rise above fear and to face with courage the uncertainty and anxieties of the future.
We ask all this through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes,
and in the name of your Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
Ministries is a broad term which we use in everyday language and within the Church. It is often translated as “service”, which it certainly is, but is much deeper than the simple understanding of service. In can be used in various contexts and has the underlying implication of “sacrifice”, of putting the needs of others first and foremost in one’s mind. We know that the foundational vocation of a Christian is found in baptism, when we are dedicated to Christ and give ourselves over to him, belonging to him and no longer our own property. In baptism we are called to follow Christ who came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28) and who taught us in his preaching and by his example that whoever will be first among you must be the slave of all (Luke 22:26). Thus, ministry, which we so often associate with liturgical ministry or ministry in the Church, is, in fact, meant to be part and parcel of our Christian living in all aspects of our lives. Especially in our families, we are meant to, and do, minister to each other: husband to wife, wife to husband, parents to children, children to parents, each according to their status and their role.
In society we are meant to minister to others. Our secular work is not meant to merely be a source of income but is our contribution to society, a way of serving people, working together in harmony with others who have their roles, in ensuring that the world is an organized and liveable place. But it goes beyond our secular jobs. We have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, as St Paul says, And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). Our task is to break down the barriers and walls between people, to resolve conflicts, to promote unity, justice and peace, to enhance understanding, tolerance and acceptance. This is part of Christian ministry, of the service we offer to society and to the world.
We also speak about prophetic ministry, of reading the “signs of the times”, of challenging prevailing culture that is not in harmony with Gospel values, of challenging those who abuse others for their own purpose and see others as commodities, to uphold the dignity of the poor, infirm, elderly, the challenged. It is about calling people back to the love of God, to accept his love and to learn to love him in return. To give people hope with the words of the prophet, as by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; (Baruch 4:28), and so witness to the values of God’s Kingdom
And then there is ministry that we are more accustomed to talk about in our context, liturgical ministries and other Church ministries. We speak of the ordained ministries – that of bishop, priest and deacon, and the non-ordained ministries such as Proclaimers of the Word, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, ushers, choirs, altar servers, liturgical dancers and so on. There is ministry to young people, catechetics, to particular groups such as refugees. In short, there is a great variety of ministries and gifts, all meant to work in harmony for the building up of God’s Kingdom. We are privileged – and it is a privilege – to have the opportunity to participate in the ministries of the Church, because they are life-giving, filled with hope giving those we serve purpose, strength and courage. But it is important to reflect on what is necessary to worthily exercise ministry and I would like to mention some important pointers.
- Firstly, our motivation must arise from our relationship with God. St Paul says in his Second letter to the Corinthians (5:14), For Christ’s love compels us. This is most basic and essential motivation for ministry – we are not motivated by a desire for status or dominance, it is Christ love that compels us to offer what we have and the gifts we have been given in the service of others.
- Our ministry in Church must be rooted in our baptismal vocation, our commitment to be disciples of Jesus and our understanding and practice of faith in our families and in society. There must not be a dichotomy between what we do in Church and how we express and witness to Christ in our everyday life. We need to appreciate that we are ministers in our families, and in our role in society, as well as the Church.
- Ministry must always have, at its end goal, to witness and proclaim Christ – in the words of St John the Baptist, He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
- While we are ministers as individuals, and each individual has been blessed with particular gifts, ministry is not individualistic. It is communal, at the service of the community and in harmony with the ministries and gifts of others. This demands respect for the ministry of others, respecting boundaries, not domineering (1 Peter 3:15), rejoicing in the gifts of others without envy or obstruction.
- A worthy practice of ministry requires nurturing our spiritual life. A lively, consistent and disciplined prayer life is essential, for this is our communion with God, the openness to his grace and life within us. It is only by grace and his power that we can exercise ministry in a way that leads people to God. It is not simply a matter of going through the motions, of doing things ritualistically properly. It is our communion with God that gives depth and authenticity to what we do.
- Our belief in and appreciation of the Eucharist as Christ’s sacrificial gift, his passion, death, resurrection and ascension is both the perfect example of generous, sacrificial ministry, as well as the source our ministry. In short, we must learn to love the Eucharist more and more. In the Eucharist we, as the priestly people, offer and celebrate Christ’s perfect sacrifice and join our own self-offering to his. St Paul says in his letter to the Romans (12:1-2), Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The Eucharist is indeed the source and summit of Christian life. It enables us to joyfully offer service to God and others, it fills us with hope in the abiding presence of God, it gives meaning to life even in the midst of great suffering, and it fills us with the love and strength to persevere in all circumstances.
Thank you once again.
FOUNDATIONS FOR MINISTRY PRESENTATION on 23 January 2021 by Fr Zane Godwin
Firstly, thank you to all of you who are joining us this morning via Zoom or Facebook Live. Your presence is an act of faith in these challenging times.
The tradition has been that at the beginning of each year, this meeting would gather all those involved in ministries in their home parish for a morning of discussion, prayer and teaching, culminating in a commissioning for ministry in home parishes for the coming year. This year not only does the meeting have to be virtual, but parish churches are closed for public worship and ministries are essentially dormant. Taking this into account, it would be reasonable to ask about the purpose of this meeting.
Purpose of this meeting
The short answer is that we look forward in hope to the reopening of our parish churches in the near future, and when that happens those who exercise ministry in the Church will be needed even more, to rebuild, to start again. Your presence today is a sign of hope of better times, and a sign of your love for the Church.
Year of the Eucharist – relationship between ministry and Eucharist
This year we celebrate the Year of the Eucharist, and this theme will be incorporated into all our celebrations. Today, as a broad theme, we will consider the relationship between our ministries and the Eucharist.
Acknowledgement of the situation for the past 10 months
But first, we have to take into account the situation over the past 10 months and the likely scenario for a few months to come. It would be naïve to understate the impact the lockdown and the pandemic has had on parish life. This time last year we could not have imagined that churches would be closed, that gathering for the Eucharist and the other sacraments would be rare, and in some cases and for some of the time, not at all.
We have to acknowledge the suffering and loss that this pandemic has caused. So many have died suddenly, leaving shocked and grieving families; so many have lost their jobs and cannot buy food and pay rent and school fees. Let’s not overlook that the Church has to a large extent responded in concrete ways to these needs.
This is appropriate because the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World says, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” (GS 1) The Third Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs, prays that we as Church may look into the signs of the times by the light of faith, and constantly devote ourselves to the service of the Gospel. Certainly, we are called to look into this time of pandemic with the light of faith, and be especially attentive to the needs of others, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope.
In these last months, priests and laity will have had flashbacks to previous years, of packed churches for the Triduum and Christmas Masses, of pews bustling with families for Sunday Mass, and catechism classes and parish activities. How stark the contrast has been since Easter last year! How strange that this time will be remembered for livestreamed Masses, a term that would have been foreign and incomprehensible 10 months ago.
For many it has felt that the Church and all of us have been paralysed in the face of the challenge of the lockdown. I mean paralysis in the sense of hanging in there and just waiting for better times.
Perhaps it could be said that rather we should have been, and should be, asking what are the opportunities that this time has offered and continues to offer us. There is no doubt, that this time, as difficult as it is, and perhaps because it has so much to teach us, is a school. So, what are the lessons that are being taught by the coronavirus school?
Lessons of the coronavirus school
Perhaps some of the most important things we have learned are the importance of the sacramental life of the Church, public worship, and the community life of the Church, which is so essential to our nature as Church.
Perhaps, it could be said that for many, this enforced retreat and isolation, has presented opportunities to read, to study, to pray, to deepen an understanding of the faith. I’m sure that this would have taken place to a certain limited degree.
On a more critical note, we may have realised that for many Catholics, the Sunday Mass may have been the only source of religious formation and practice, and with that removed, they were not prepared or disciplined enough to nourish their spiritual lives using material online and in print, or at least they haven’t persevered in this through the long months of lockdown.
Over the past decades the Church has emphasised that the family is the domestic Church. The family is an evangelising and praying unit which is basic to Church in the broader sense of the word. We have preached about it over and over again. To what extent can it be said that the lockdown has been an opportunity to enter more deeply into this reality, or should we just be blatantly honest and admit that for the most part this just has not happened, or at least it has not persevered? I wonder if this pandemic has not shown us that in the face of secularism, this is an ideal that is largely not being realised.
Related to this, I think we should be asking what has happened to the youth. I think it is reasonable to assume, and anecdotal evidence suggests that they have gone missing. What have we been trying to do concerning the youth and their faith formation in the past, which will simply not work going forward?
In many ways it could be said that the pandemic has not caused the difficulties and weaknesses in the Church; it has merely unmasked them. If we just try to respond to the pandemic, I think we will miss the boat. We need to go deeper to the root of who we are meant to be as Church and how we are meant to be Church. This crisis is presenting opportunities to us that perhaps we are just not seeing yet.
You, as those who serve in the ministries in your parishes, are the needed leaders to rebuild the Church. In this time before we are able to open up our parish churches again, we need to start thinking about what the Church will look like post-Covid and what we should be working towards.
The phrase that has been repeated over and over again during this lockdown is “the new normal.” It suggests that things will never be the same again, and while in some kind of nostalgic sense that might seem sad, there is a realism in it and we should be looking forwards rather than reminiscing over how things were in the past.
Questions that we should be asking and seeking answers together for, are: What should we try to get going again, resurrect and renew? What should be left untouched because it would not be worth reviving? What wasn’t working anyway, and we need to be creative in finding new ways to do?
This thinking applies to teaching catechism and RCIA. Perhaps it will mean new ways of expressing faith in small Christian communities. Perhaps it will mean re-formation of families as communities of prayer and faith. Given this Year of the Eucharist and the connection of ministries to the Eucharist, we need to ask what role the Eucharist can and should play in the post-Covid Church.
Let’s turn then to that theme, the topic of the Church, the Eucharist and Ministry.
The Church, the Eucharist and Ministry
Firstly, to remind us all that the Eucharist is the great prayer of thanksgiving, what we popularly call, the Mass, in which the bread and wine on the altar really and truly become the body and blood of Christ. Because Christ is really and truly present under the appearance of bread and wine, the Eucharist is a source of sanctifying grace, that is, a sacrament.
Henri de Lubac, the French Jesuit whose writings played a key role in shaping the Second Vatican Council, revived an ancient understanding of the Church in terms of the Eucharist. We see this profoundly expressed in the double principle that he used, that the Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church.1 In other words, while we, as Church produce the Eucharist, through our ministries, our ritual, and our prayer, at the same time, the Eucharist is constituting the Church. While we celebrate the Eucharist, the Eucharist is making us into Church.
So, the Eucharist and the Church which celebrates it, are intimately connected. The Eucharist is basic to the very nature and existence of the Church. Not only would there be no Eucharist without the Church to celebrate it, but correspondingly, there would be no Church without the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist and the Church mutually cause each other.
De Lubac beautifully described the intimate relationship between the Eucharist and the Church in his book, The Splendour of the Church. He writes of the relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, standing as cause to each other, and that each is entrusted to the other by Christ.2 In the same book, he calls the Eucharist, ‘The Heart of the Church.’3
This eucharistic way of understanding the Church, and associated with it, an ecclesiology of communion, was the predominant way of understanding the Church in the early centuries. An ecclesiology of communion emphasises the importance of the community of the faithful gathered together to celebrate the Eucharist. With the help of de Lubac and others, the Second Vatican Council returned to this understanding of the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church.
We see this in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which declares that the [the Eucharist] is “the summit towards which all the Church’s activity is directed, and the source from which all her power flows”.4 Similarly, Lumen Gentium describes the Eucharistic sacrifice as “the source and summit of the whole Christian life”.5 We see that the Council was making it clear that not only is the relationship of the Church to the Eucharist fundamental, in the sense of being intimate, but it is also an essential and dependent relationship.
How does the Eucharist make the Church?
How can it be said that the Eucharist makes the Church? Well, the Eucharist makes the Church in and through the fundamental relationships that are created and nourished in its celebration. The Eucharist unites us, not only with Christ, but also with each other, and in this way it turns us into the Church.
Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, made this clear in saying that, in the Eucharist, Christ, present in the bread and the wine, builds the Church as his body, and through his resurrected body, unites us to God and to one another.6
This means that through the Eucharist, a communion between God and human beings, and human beings among themselves, is made sacramentally present. This unity which is made present, is the Church.
This Eucharistic unity is seen in St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, where he writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (10:16-17) So, we can say that it is not for nothing that, from apostolic times, the Eucharist and the Church have both been called the “Body of Christ”.
De Lubac referred continually to the Fathers of the Early Church, and specially to St Augustine, to point out this incorporation into the Church through the celebration of the Eucharist. Commenting on St Augustine’s writing in which he has Jesus say to him, “You will not change me into you, but you will be changed into me”,7 De Lubac says that while it appears that we receive Christ in the Eucharist, more profoundly, it is Christ who receives us, and transforms us into his Body, the Church. To receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist, is to be received by him into his body which is the Church.8
Lumen Gentium, quotes a similar text from St Leo the Great. St Leo says that “the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume.” In other words, we receive the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, and we become the Body of the Christ, the Church. (LG 26)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the section on the Eucharist, called “The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church”, says the same thing: Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ, and through the Eucharist, Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body, the Church. (CCC 1396)
The Catechism goes on to say that communion in the Eucharist renews, strengthens, and deepens our incorporation into the Church, which is already achieved by Baptism. The call of Baptism to form one body is fulfilled in the Eucharist. (CCC 1396) There is a powerful hint there of the unity of the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.
The Church makes the Eucharist
Let’s consider briefly in what sense the Church makes the Eucharist, which is the other important dimension to the Eucharist-Church relationship. This is, of course, where you, as people engaged in ministry in the Church, come in. De Lubac, and more especially Cardinal Ratzinger, teach that the ordained priesthood and all ministry in the Church, is at the service of the Eucharist.
So, consider, whatever ministry you engage in at your parish is oriented to, and at the service of the Eucharist, either directly or indirectly. There are ministries that are more directly tied to the actual celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but no less important are the ministries that prepare for and make the celebration of the Eucharist possible, such as catechism, RCIA, baptism preparation, pre-marriage instruction, youth ministry, and others.
When we as the community of faith gather, in obedience to the command of Jesus who said, “Do this in memory of me,” and we exercise our ministerial gifts in service of the Eucharist, we are made into that which we receive, the Body of Christ.
In closing, consider the responsibility and role you have as ministers in the Church, for the Eucharist, and the potential and power of the Eucharist to rebuild and renew the Church, in this challenging time. Use this time of lockdown as a time of getting ready, discerning, being formed for mission.
Questions for Discussion
- What are the opportunities that this time of pandemic has offered and continues to offer us, as Church?
- What practices should we try to get going again, resurrect and renew?
- How can the celebration of the Eucharist rebuild the Church post lockdown and what role do you see yourself as playing in this?
DE LUBAC, H., The Splendour of the Church, Sheed and Ward, London 1956.
McPARTLAN, P., “Eucharist and Church: The Contribution of Henri de Lubac”, The Month 21 (1988), 847-859.
RATZINGER, J., “L’ecclesiologia della Costituzione “Lumen Gentium”“, L’Osservatore Romano, 4 March 2000, Italian edition.
1 H. DE LUBAC, The Splendour of the Church, 92. Most often this double principle is rendered as ‘The Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church’.
2 H. DE LUBAC, The Splendour of the Church, 92. This edition is a translation of the original French edition entitled, Méditation sur l’Eglise which was published in 1953.
3 H. DE LUBAC, The Splendour of the Church, 87-113.
4 Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10.
5 Lumen Gentium, 11.
6 J. RATZINGER, “L’ecclesiologia della Costituzione “Lumen Gentium””, 6d.
7 ST AUGUSTINE, Confessions, 7, 10, 16 (PL 32, 743).
8 P. McPARTLAN, “Eucharist and Church: the Contribution of Henri de Lubac”, 849.