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Last Word - March 2013

Our One Great Act of Fidelity

Father Ronald Rohlheiser, O.M.I., had already been among my favorite spiritual writers when, about a year ago, I read his book on the Eucharist: Our One Great Act of Fidelity. With that, he immediately moved to the top of the class.

It is a short book, less than 140 pages of actual text. It is full of his own experience of the Eucharist and its importance in his life. Equally important to me was his copious use of St. Augustine’s sermons which have also been a major influence on my own understanding of the Eucharist. Indeed, I have found St. Augustine’s explanations of the Eucharist to the newly baptized to be most helpful and easily comprehensible for today’s Catholics. But what I found most exciting in the book was the theme hinted at in the title and then developed only at the very end of the book: the Eucharist as “our one great act of fidelity.”

As I worked my way through the book, I kept wondering what that title meant. As it turns out, it is an extremely important theme in today’s Church where so many Catholics do not go to Mass each week.

Father Rohlheiser points out something we all know is true, even if we are reluctant to admit it. To a very great extent we are not now and truly never have been very good at keeping the commands and living up to the teachings of Jesus. Let’s be honest. We do not always turn the other cheek. We do not freely and consistently offer forgiveness to those who have offended us. We have a very hard time loving our enemies. And then there are all those passages in the Gospels about sharing our wealth with the poor. I could go on, but you can complete the list, I am sure.

But, and here is the good news in Father Rohlheiser’s own words: “We have, for the most part, been faithful and consistent throughout all the years to one of Jesus’ commands, to celebrate the Eucharist, to meet together in every circumstance and share his word and break bread and drink wine in his memory.” He concludes: “This is the one place where I can be faithful, where I can essentially measure up. I can’t always control how I feel or think, and I can’t always measure up morally and spiritually, but inside of my perpetual inadequacy and occasional doubt and confusion, I can be faithful in this one deep way. I can go to the Eucharist regularly.”

The whole book is great but this is simple and yet so profound.

Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Henchal