Provincial Council of Baltimore (October 27, 1833)
11. The sacraments, beloved brethren, have been instituted by the Savior as the ordinary channels through which He might convey His grace to our souls. In them He has chosen the foolish things of the world that He may confound the wise: and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong: world and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and the things that are not, that He might destroy the things that are; “that no flesh should glory in His sight.” To the simplest elements used with reference to His institution and with reliance upon His power, and the proper dispositions, He has attached effects that surpass the power of the world to produce, so that “he that glorieth may glory in the Lord.
12. Many persons who will not view the Christian institutions as they really exist, imagine that the effects expected from the sacraments are those which the laws of nature would indicate. And therefore they ask: What natural connection exists between the use of water and of oil, and the remission of sins? We answer; None whatever. The effect is not the result of any natural fitness, but the divine agency in accordance with the divine institution. When Naaman the Syrian was told by the prophet Eliseus to wash seven times in the Jordan for the cleansing of his leprosy, he was angry, and said, “II thought he would have come out to me, and standing would have invoked the name of the Lord his God, and touched with his hand the place of the leprosy, and healed me. Are not the Abana and the Pharphar rivers of Damascus better than the waters of Israel, that I may wash in them and be made clean?” Yet, when he did wash in the Jordan, he was healed, not because of any natural qualities of the waters, but by the special will of the Lord, who can cleanse without any means or by occasion any which he might choose to select. So, when the Savior gave sight to the man who was blind, in the way related by St. John in chapter nine, the effect was not produced by any natural quality of the clay or the spittle or the washing: nor of their union, but by the special will of Him who formed the eye, and poured light upon it, and fitted the soul to receive the corresponding sensation. This it is with the sacraments. They have no natural efficacy, though they are the ordinary means instituted by the Savior to produce in us supernatural effects. Water is poured on the body; it is God who cleanses the soul. But as neither Naaman nor the blind man would have been restored without having recourse to the means prescribed, so we cannot expect the extensive graces attached to the sacraments, unless we receive them. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.” And in order to prove ourselves worthy for approaching this holy sacrament, we would have recourse to that other established by our blessed Lord to take away iniquity, let it should be our ruin….
13. We refer you to the affecting invitation of your Redeemer: “Come to me all you that labor and are heavily laden, and you will find rest to your souls.” From how much torture of soul, from what excruciating anguish, from how many errors of conscience, would some of our brethren be relived, how much true peace, such as the world cannot give, such as the children of the world can never experience, would they find, if after having washed away the stains of iniquity in their penitential tears mingled with the blood of the lamb, they should, clothed in their whitened garments, accept the invitation and be seated at the great festival of the Son of God!
Hierarchy in the United States (September 26, 1919)
26. …For the truly Catholic heart, there can be no need of insisting on the duty which the Church enjoins of hearing Mass on Sundays and festivals of obligation. We have only to stir up the faith that is in us, and consider that on the altar is offered the same clean oblation whereby the world was redeemed by the Cross; and as today no Christian can stand unmoved on Calvary, or pass with indifference along the road which Jesus trod, so it is inconceivable that any who believe in the word of Christ and His Church, should allow household cares or business pursuits or the love of pleasure and ease to keep them away from Mass. Negligence in respect to this duty may often result from lack of proper instruction; and we, therefore, desire to impress upon parents, teachers, and pastors the importance and the necessity of explaining to those in their charge, the origin, nature, and the value of the Holy Sacrifice, the meaning of the sacred rites with which it is offered, and the order of the liturgy as it advances from season to season. There is so much beauty in the worship of the Church, so much power to fill the mind with great thoughts and lift up the heart to heavenly things, that one who hears the Mass with intelligent devotion cannot but feel in his soul an impulse to holier living. Such is the experience of those especially who begin each day by attending Mass, and we rejoice to know that their number is increasing. They will grow in faith and fervor, and their piety will be for all a source of edification.
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
(November 20, 1975)
10. If we lack God, it matters little what else we have. Estranged from God, we are estranged from our own destiny and fulfillment. Human life absorbed in itself is diminished and lacking in purpose. The Eucharist is a special means given to us by Jesus for overcoming our estrangement from God. It is as Christ tells us: “The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56)
14. Jesus proclaimed that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6). We see, therefore, that knowledge of truth in the act of faith means more than just an intellectual understanding of abstract concepts. It also means commitment to a Person. Our most direct and profound encounter with this Person who is Truth occurs in the statement of the Eucharist. Here grace strengthens both our acceptance of what faith teaches and our loving commitment to the Person who stands at the center of faith.
16. In an era of tension and violence, the limits of human instruments for peace are all to evident. Christ is our peace, and Christ Himself in the Eucharist provides us with both our model and best hope for peace. For it is He “who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart” (Eph 2:4). It is here, in the Eucharist, that “all education in the spirit of community must originate” (Vatican Council II, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 6).