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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Holy Communion must lead to holiness, says Bishop in pastoral letter for Divine Mercy Sunday


Reception of Holy Communion constitutes “the most radical call to holiness” that any person can encounter, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has told the Catholics of his Diocese in a pastoral letter.

The Rt Rev. Mark Davies warned them of the danger of viewing access to the Eucharist in terms of “secular inclusiveness” because this diminished the true significance of the Blessed Sacrament to little more than “a token of our hospitality”.

Instead, Catholics must fully always recognise that the gift of Christ’s holy Body and Blood is the means to become the saint each is called to be, the Bishop said in the letter read out at Masses across the Diocese of Shrewsbury over the weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Quoting the Catechism, Bishop Davies explained that Holy Communion restoreed the strength of the faithful, separated them from daily sin, broke disordered attachments and rooted the whole of their lives in Christ.

The Bishop also reminded Catholics that they must not approach Holy Communion casually but must first have repented of any mortal sin or of a lifestyle which contradicted their calling as Christians.

“We may face the danger today of seeing the reception of Holy Communion in terms of secular inclusiveness.  It would then become a token of our hospitality, rather than as the gift of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ which constitutes the most radical call to holiness and the means to becoming the saint we are each called to be,” Bishop Davies said.

“We see why we can never approach Holy Communion casually, still less if we have not confessed and repented of any mortal sin or of a lifestyle in contradiction with our Christian calling.

“The Apostle Paul urged the first Christians to examine themselves carefully before receiving Holy Communion because anyone who did so in an unworthy state would, he said, be ‘guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord’.

“The Church calls us to frequent Holy Communion, prepared by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation so that we might become holy, might become saints.  The Second Vatican Council urged us to ‘frequent’ both these two Sacraments eagerly and devoutly as the path to holiness.

Bishop Davies said: “Let us ask ourselves how we seek to receive Him with the deepest reverence and love, and how we spend the precious moments after receiving Holy Communion.”

The pastoral letter marks the latest in a series by Bishop Davies in which he reflects upon the Eucharist in the 2018 diocesan “Year of the Eucharist”.

Less than two weeks earlier, Bishop Davies had spoken during the Mass of Sacred Chrism of how Holy Communion and recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation were vital in the quest for holiness.

In a homily preached at Shrewsbury Cathedral, he said that regular reception of the Eucharist was the means of “becoming the saint God calls us to be” because it gave Catholics the graces they needed to answer the call to holiness.

The Bishop recalled how it was amid the “gathering clouds” of the First World War and “grave trials” of the 20th century that Pope St Pius X began to urgently insist upon the regular reception of the Sacrament and instructed that children should make their First Holy Communion from the “earliest possible age”.

“No liturgical change of the 20th Century was greater or more significant than this one,” the Bishop said, adding that it was the intention of St Pius X that there was to be no mediocrity in the spiritual lives of Christians – “that they would either strive to become saints or cease to be Christian at all”.

Frequent reception of Holy Communion, Bishop Davies stressed, does not represent a casual attitude toward the Eucharist but rather acknowledged its significance in assisting the faithful to fully live Christian lives and to strive for the perfection of charity.