Veritas Dulcis Est

I know. You are thinking that the header of this post might be the title of the latest papal encyclical. I'm quite sure it's not. But Fr. Foster, if you decide to use my idea I won't hold it against you...

Actually, such a quippy phrase seemed the best way to introduce Pope Benedict XVI's recent meeting with priests at his summer get-away, Bolzano-Bressanone. The candid conversation with priests of the diocese covered many issues, some of which many of us (underlings) often discuss amongst ourselves. Topping the list—in terms of outside attention anyhow—were the topics of sacramental administration and catechesis. What I found to be most interesting was the Holy Father's reply to a question about administering Holy Communion to those who are visibly unprepared to receive:

In response to another question about what do with the children and young people who request First Communion and Conformation but do not appear to be ready to persevere in the faith, Benedict XVI confessed that “when I was younger I was stricter. I said, the sacraments are the sacraments of the faith, and therefore where there is no faith, there is no praxis of faith, and thus the sacrament cannot be conferred. And I discussed this latter with my priests when I was Archbishop of Munich. (…) As time has gone on I have come to understand that we must follow always the example of the Lord, who was very open to those on the fringes of Israel at that time as well, He was a Lord of mercy, very open—according to many official authorities—with sinners, embracing them and allowing himself to be welcomed at their dinners, attracting them to communion with Him.”

“If we can perceive even a flicker of desire for communion in the Church, a desire also of these children who want to enter into communion with Jesus, I think it is fair to be more generous. Naturally of course, one aspect of our catechesis should be to make it understood that Communion, First Communion, is not an ending event, but rather demands a continual friendship with Jesus, a journey with Jesus,” the Pope continued. (CNA, 12 Aug. 2008)

I found this little glimpse into the heart of the pontiff very telling. First of all, it does wonders in breaking apart what remnants endure of the Panzerkardinal's 'rule-with-an-iron-first' reputation. More importantly, though, it exemplifies his true desire to work for religious conversion in the hearts of the faithful and non-faithful alike. It certainly seems that with a perspective like this about the distribution of Holy Communion, the pope is promulgating the true efforts of the Church to bring all into communion with the Lord, and that in the most genuine and truly Christian sense of the word.

Nevertheless, I would suspect that some former Ratzis are probably wondering just what has happened to their Motu Proprio pushing, 'traditionalist' pope. Sure enough, such a candid disclosure of his heart will earn Benedict more than a few opponents: "How can he distribute communion on the tongue, kneeling on the one hand," they will say, "and admit to something like this on the other?"

The careful and attentive observer, however, will notice that what the Holy Father has stated in Bressanone is not at all a contradiction to the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling. Instead, it is an affirmation of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; it is evidence—it seems to me—of Christ's presence in his Church and in her mission of converting hearts and saving souls. The pope understands that regulations on the administration of the sacraments do not flow from a desire to litigate, but a desire to love. He understands that catechesis is not a matter of indoctrination, but a matter of loving instruction. Most of all, he understands that the truth is not a weapon—something we wield against enemies to see how much damage we can inflict. Rather, it is something as sweet as honey, and something toward which we must continue to attract others' hearts by our own deeds of service, charity and mercy.

  1. gravatar

    # by Anonymous - August 12, 2008 at 3:26 PM

    Fr Foster would never use this. It should be dulcis not dolce.

  2. gravatar

    # by Anonymous - August 12, 2008 at 8:32 PM

    Now,now...was that kind?

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    # by Andrew Haines - August 12, 2008 at 11:05 PM

    Oops. I even thought of that before I typed it. I guess that silly Italian is getting in the way. E se vuoi correggere il mio italiano, sei 'piĆ¹ di benvenuto...'

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    # by annina - August 13, 2008 at 4:06 AM

    Hi! sure I speak English, even if I'm out of exercize because I've not studied it for 3 years, while studiyng German and Russian! So, sorry if my English is not so good! Your Italian is not bad, believe me! It's not so common to find an American who speaks Italian on the web: when did you learn it?
    My blog is every day more international! How did you find it?

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    # by Anonymous - August 13, 2008 at 10:42 AM

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights of our beloved
    What a tremendous example he is
    for all of us.