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The Universal Call to Holiness: Jubilee and Eucharist

by Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I.

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    Weekly column of Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, in which he writes of devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
  • Larger Work:
    The Catholic New World
  • Publisher & Date:
    Archdiocese of Chicago, December 12, 1999

At the beginning of the U.S. bishops’ annual meeting two weeks ago, Cardinal Hickey of Washington, D.C., dedicated a monumental marble frieze on the back wall of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It depicts the call to holiness of all the baptized and pictures some representative figures—a young couple, an elderly woman, some children, of different races and cultures—along with a few recognizable faces such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II and even Cardinal Hickey himself! All are gathered with the Blessed Virgin Mary, receiving from the Holy Spirit the grace that makes us holy.

The teaching that all are called to holiness was one of the most important truths of the faith re-stated during the Second Vatican Council. Holiness had sometimes been considered the preserve of those consecrated by religious vows or ordained; ordinary Catholics were to save their souls but not aspire to great holiness. The Council taught that holiness is the vocation of all the baptized, which is one of the reasons there have been so many beatifications and canonizations of saints since the Council. If all are called to holiness, then the Church should recognize that holy people are found in all walks of life. As I’ve often said in the parishes, one of the great joys in being Archbishop lies in meeting so many people in whom the grace of God has worked.

I think that, at times, the universal call to holiness got misinterpreted in the years right after the Council as a universal call to ecclesial ministry. Perhaps the clericalism sometimes found in the pre-Vatican II Church continues to operate among those who think one cannot be holy except through doing ministry. There were a few years when everything was called “ministry”, from preaching the homily to cutting the grass. The essential distinction between the generous service which is the natural outgrowth of a holy life and the various ministries and offices of the Church is part of the teaching of Vatican II. Dedicating a monument depicting the universal call to holiness in the National Shrine just at the beginning of the new millennium serves to remind us of how the Council was a remote but very real preparation for the great Jubilee which begins this Christmas.

All holiness, as the third Eucharistic prayer states, comes from the Father through his son, Jesus Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. To be holy is to participate in God’s life through the gift of sanctifying grace. Full and actual participation in the Eucharist is the best way of living God’s life, which is also given and shared in the other sacraments. The ordinary actions of daily life are also occasions for grace and not just occasions of sin, as they were thought to be almost exclusively by some spiritual authors. This very Conciliar vision of things is why Pope John Paul II has declared that the Jubilee is to be a Eucharistic Year in the Church. It is also why the Archdiocese will celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi in the year 2000 with a great Eucharistic assembly in Soldier Field. In the parishes, the Eucharist is to be both celebrated and adored. As we continue to deepen our understanding of the Mass and the way we participate in its celebration, I hope we will also grow in our appreciation of Eucharistic adoration as a means of grace and growth in holiness. The two are really different experiences of the same gift, but they should complement one another because both make us holy. The words and action of the Eucharistic celebration are complemented by the vision and rest of Eucharistic adoration.

Writing to young people about the Jubilee, the Holy Father tells them: “Dear young people, go to meet Jesus the Savior! Love and adore Him in the Eucharist. He is present in the Holy Mass that makes sacramentally present the sacrifice of the Cross. He comes into us in Holy Communion and remains in the tabernacles of our churches, because He is our friend, the friend of all, especially of you young people, who are so much in need of confidence and love. ...The twenty-first century will be how you young people will want it to be and will make it. After so much violence and oppression, the world needs young people capable of ‘building bridges’ to unite and reconcile. ...Only courageous young people, with minds and hearts open to high and generous ideals, will be able to restore beauty to life and to human relationships. Then this Jubilee time will truly be for all a ‘year of the Lord’s grace’.”

The custom of spending time with the Lord in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament so that He can make us holy is growing in many dioceses and also in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Over ninety parishes of the Archdiocese now have some form of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, including perpetual adoration in some cases. A Eucharistic Adoration Association has been formed (based at Marytown in Mundelein and at 7030 W. 63rd St., Chicago) with Bishop Joseph Perry as its episcopal moderator. Joan Carter McHugh of Lake Forest has just published a beautiful book on the Eucharist which explains not only our beliefs but also speaks of practices inspired by our faith and, most of all, gives the stories of saints made holy through devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament (825 S. Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest). Liguori, the Redemptorist publishing house, has put out a booklet of prayers and devotions for Eucharistic Holy Hours. All these I take as signs of a thirst for holiness, for contact with the Lord in the Eucharist. This contact makes us God’s holy people and will help make the Jubilee a time of genuine spiritual renewal. For those looking for ways to grow closer to Jesus as we begin a new millennium, time spent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a privileged way. May it be a way traveled by many more of us as we ask the Lord to make us holy in the year of Jubilee.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago

© The Catholic New World, Archdiocese of Chicago.

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