Live the Eucharist

Fr. Adrian Burke, OSB
Thursday, February 8, 2024

Any abbot who asks to have a priest or deacon ordained should choose from his monks one who is worthy to exercise the priesthood.
Rule of Saint Benedict 62.1

Saint Benedict’s Rule says hardly a thing about the holy Eucharist and its celebration in the monastic community. He takes it for granted, I suppose, but he is certainly aware of the need to have priests to celebrate Mass, so he charges the abbot to choose worthy candidates from among the monks (RB 62).

Benedict knows that at the heart of the Church lies the Holy Eucharist, what many Catholics refer to as “the holy sacrifice of the Mass”, or just the “Mass.” Here at Saint Meinrad, on ordinary weekdays we celebrate Eucharist at 7:30 am in the Archabbey Church and on Sundays and Holy Days at 9:30 am. In our monastic infirmary, Eucharist is celebrated at 11:00 am for the members of our community who are sick or infirm, so they can participate more easily in this “high point” of our daily monastic observance.

I call the Mass the “high point” of our daily observance even though it’s celebrated early in the day, because the Church teaches that “the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it. (Vatican II – Sacrosanctum Concilium, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”, 2)

This little paragraph sums up, in my view, the mission of the monastic community to “live the Eucharist” in the concrete situation of our lives – in this place, in these times, and as members of Christ’s body made up of ordinary, but profoundly Christian men. This monastic community of the baptized, like every Christian family, is a “domestic church”, a small part of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ. So, it too, like the whole Church, receives life and meaning through the holy Eucharist.

The doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church refers to the Eucharistic sacrifice as “the font and apex of the whole Christan life” (Vatican II - Lumen Gentium, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”, 11). So, naturally, the monastic life each day centers on this crucial experience of the sacrifice of Christ by which he feeds us his word, nourishes us with his body and blood, and atones for our sins – God reconciling the world to himself through what the Eucharist signifies and makes truly present.

During this liturgical year, the Church in the United States is working to restore our understanding and devotion to the mystery of the Eucharist. Our seminary and school of theology have important roles to play to support our Church’s Eucharistic identity – this is why so much of the community’s resources and energies are put into this work of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. We pray daily for our and your success – may God bless the work of our hands!