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Pastor’s Perspective by Fr. Buersmeyer

Pastor’s Perspective is Fr. Buersmeyer’s weekly column. It appears in the parish bulletin and in this space.

July 16, 2017

*What’s Up with the Crucifix?

That is the most frequently asked question I get every week. I wish I could give an exact date for when it will finally be installed and all will be in place. The goal was to have it done by the end of the summer. That is still the goal. The architect, civil engineers, and construction manager finally completed the outside cross installation (top of the new chapel). Now they are working on the details of the interior crucifix. Due to the lack of easily-available structural beams and support, the installation is much more complex than originally thought. But it will be done.

*Vatican and Gluten-Free Hosts

Recently the Congregation for the Sacraments, an office of the Vatican, issued a letter to all the bishops, asking that they be attentive to what is used as bread and wine for Eucharist. There apparently is a concern that other than unleavened wheat bread and fermented grape wine are being used by some priests. In the process, the Vatican reiterated the rules for proper bread and wine, if they are to be suitable for Mass. I will go through those below. Unfortunately, various news organizations picked up on this letter and ran the story, as though the Vatican was issuing new guidelines (they did not). Also, a number of the news reports failed to distinguish between “gluten-free” and “low-gluten” hosts. A few people have called the parish and asked whether they can continue to receive Communion using the special low-gluten hosts that are available. Yes! Everyone who has requested a low-gluten host can continue to do so. It is perfectly valid and recognized by the Vatican as necessary for some persons. The manufacturer of the hosts has worked with the bishops to ensure both that the bread is acceptable as wheat bread for use at the Eucharist and that it has the lowest possible gluten content, so as to not cause a reaction among those whose bodies are gluten-intolerant.

“Low”-gluten hosts are really “very low”-gluten hosts. They contain less than .01% (less than 1 part in 10,000) gluten. This has proven safe for nearly everyone with gluten-intolerance, even most with celiac disease. However, if someone has been diagnosed with celiac disease, it is always important to first work with a doctor to test how your body will react. We can supply you with an unconsecrated very low-gluten host to use for testing if that is necessary. But the bottom line is that the rules stay the same. Anyone who has been receiving the special low-gluten host without a problem should continue to request that host. And the Vatican accepts it as perfectly valid.

Here are the guidelines in full:

“The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament. It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools” (n. 48, Redemptionis sacramentum, 2004).

“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread” (A. 1-2. Circular Letter July 24, 2003).

Although we don’t use any wheat bread here with ingredients other than wheat flour and water, you might be someplace that does. The guidelines call it a “grave abuse.” In everyday terms that means it shouldn’t be done but it doesn’t invalidate the Eucharist. The concern is that the bread be truly wheat bread. That is why at least a miniscule amount of gluten has to be present. In terms of low-gluten hosts, it is clear from this guideline that the Vatican is quite aware of their use and approves of their use for those who have little or no tolerance for the gluten in the usual wheat bread.

“The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances.  … Great care should be taken so that the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist is well conserved and has not soured. It is altogether forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance, for the Church requires certainty regarding the conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments. Nor are other drinks of any kind to be admitted for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter” (n. 50, Redemptionis sacramentum, 2004 ).

“Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist”. (A. 3. Circular Letter July 24, 2003).

Here the concern is that the wine be truly wine made from grapes that have at least minimally started to ferment. Just as low-gluten bread is allowed for the bread element so mustum is allowed for the wine element. It is made from grapes and the fermentation to wine has just begun but not enough to affect the alcohol content. The most common use of mustum is for priests who have an alcohol addiction. The priest-celebrant of the Mass is required to partake of the Eucharist under both forms. By consecrating mustum in a separate chalice, a priest is able to properly participate without fear of relapsing due to the alcoholic content of the wine.

Why such attention to detail on what is being used for Eucharist? It goes to the heart of Catholic sacramental theology. What we do at Eucharist (or any of the sacraments) is neither magic nor invention. The sacraments are not magic, It is not a matter of simply pronouncing the words and using the proper elements and voila, Jesus appears. There needs to be a living faith for the sacramental action to be effective. At the same time the sacraments are not human invention. They come from the risen Lord and the Spirit at work in the earliest Church. The Eucharist, then, comes from our Lord and so we take him at his word to “take and eat this bread,” “take and drink this cup (wine).” The Church does not consider it within its power to change the basic elements of bread and wine and use something else.

*New Fiscal Year

We began a new fiscal year (2017-18) on July 1st. As the parish has done in the past, a more complete breakdown of finances will be published once all bank reconciliations are complete and the Finance Council has approved the report (usually published in September). As I compare the tentative results of the 2016-17 fiscal year with the budget that was approved over a year ago, here are some things that I noticed:

1) Our Sunday income was very close to budget, ending up slightly higher than budgeted. Thank you to all who are so consistent in their Sunday giving.

2) Our Catholic Services Appeal pledges are significantly higher than last year at this time (about $40,000), though I do note we are down about 40 gifts/pledges in comparison. There is still time to make a CSA pledge. Note that all monies come back to the parish 100% for our own use.

3) School tuition did not reach what was budgeted, but that was offset by reduced expenses and greater than anticipated success at fundraising.

4) The church-side of expenses was significantly lower than budgeted, except for construction expenses. Those were significantly higher than anticipated, resulting in taking on an extra $450,000 line of credit from the Archdiocese to cover those expenses.

5) We are now at a point to do a full accounting overview of the construction expenses, our Changing Lives Together monies, and the debts incurred during construction from loans/lines of credit from the Archdiocese. I will work with Liz Kemp, our business manager, this month to get all the numbers and then publish them in the bulletin. Thank you for the generosity of this past year. All the Changing Lives Together payments on pledges that are outstanding continue to whittle down our construction debt (about $1.1 million). Thank you to all of you who have been so faithful in paying on those CLT pledges.

As we move forward into the new fiscal year, please consider some type of online giving for your Sunday offering. We have a platform available on the parish website (stregis.org) but many choose to set one up through their own bank. Such weekly (or monthly) consistent giving, whether one is in town for Mass or not, adds up to a significant help to the parish in meeting its budget on a weekly and monthly basis.

*Sunday’s Second Reading

Paul’s words to the Romans in this weekend’s second reading are, for me, some of the most powerful and inspiring of all that he wrote: Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” These words are compatible with our current understanding of cosmology and the evolution of the universe and life within the universe.

As Catholics we are not tied to an excessively fundamentalist understanding of Scripture. What Scripture reveals through its language of faith stories, covenant stories, inspired poems, prophetic words, gospels and letters is fully (Pastor’s Perspective continued)

compatible with an evolving universe that not only brings forth living cells but also living beings who are able to participate not just physically in the universe but spiritually as well in its future unfolding. The physical universe is subject to limitations and futility and such limitations cause suffering within creation. As beings who share with the universe a bodily dimension but also have a spiritual reality, humans are able to acknowledge such futility and suffering and experience a calling, a vocation, a joyful freedom, to heal and reconcile our small corner of that universe. We do so in the hope that one day all might know the harmony, which the Jewish faith calls God’s shalom and we as Christians call the reign of God.

Fr. Buersmeyer