Eucharist must create culture that welcomes all, says Manila cardinal

IMAGE: CNS/Katarzyna Artymiak

By Simone Orendain

CEBU, Philippines (CNS) — The
Eucharist is supposed to create a new culture, one that is welcoming and only sees
the flaws and failures of others as a reminder of one’s own need for God’s
mercy, said Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

The Eucharist is the Lord’s meal
and “when the Lord hosts the meal, be prepared to be with surprising ‘others,'”
Cardinal Tagle told participants at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress
Jan. 24-31.

“In the meal hosted by the
Lord, persons recognize a close neighbor, a fellow sinner, a sister, a brother
with a place at the table,” he said. “In each one, I see myself …
sinful but loved, undeserving but invited, shamed but embraced, lost but

Looking at culture in concrete,
simple terms — such as seating arrangements or how parish property is
organized — should help people make “individual and corporate
examinations of consciences,” he said.

The Manila cardinal pointed to
the eucharistic congress itself as an example. In a mock haughty tone, the prelate
pointed at the front rows of the pavilion, then to the faithful far in the back.

“The venerable cardinals,
bishops here. And then those there … I could not see (them) anymore,” he
said. “What culture is being lived out here?” After a moment of
uncomfortable silence, he made a peace sign and was greeted with laughter and

If a parish has a huge parking
lot and no classroom space, that says something about its culture, the cardinal
said, as does the distance from the first pew to the altar in the church.

“I see many of my brother
priests here. Look at your room. Does it reflect a celibate culture? The way
you arrange your beds and your things. You are celibate. Your bed should be
single, not double,” he exclaimed to wide applause.

He had opened his presentation
on “the Eucharist and the dialogue with cultures” by greeting the
packed pavilion with “good morning” in multiple languages, including
the Cebuano dialect, Italian, Mandarin and sign language.

For Frankie Berry of Deaf
Village Ireland in Dublin, the greeting meant a lot.

“Straight away, I warmed to
him. His use of everyday words helped,” she told Catholic New Service
through hastily written notes.

Cardinal Tagle referred to the
atmosphere of “eucharistic fervor” in the room of more than 12,000
delegates from 71 countries, calling it “climate change at its best.”

“The climate of unity of
peoples of different nations, tongues, cultures becoming one body in Jesus
Christ: what warmth, what joy, what love,” he said.

The same culture of unity should
be found in every parish, he said, insisting that Jesus created a new culture
by breaking from cultural norms. He “offered a new way of living, thinking
and acting” and used space in a way that let children come close, allowed
a woman known to have sinned to anoint him, touched a leper. While he “ate
a lot,” Jesus was always sharing those meals with people who would never
be invited to dine at anyone’s table, said Cardinal Tagle.

“Do the wounded, lost,
shamed, humiliated and despised find a family in our community?” he asked.

John Glenn Avila, a seminarian “on
regency,” a period for discerning further whether the priesthood truly is
for him, noted the cardinal’s reference to “the culture of isolation,”
which Jesus broke through by welcoming the unwanted. Avila said one of the most
memorable highlights of the cardinal’s talk was how the culture of isolation
could be broken, starting with the family.

“Restore the family meals,”
Cardinal Tagle emphasized. “The basic unit of the family meal is the
common table. Nowadays the basic unit of the meal is ‘my plate. And if I have
my plate with food on it, I can go anywhere and eat it by myself.’ But that is
not a meal. That is just eating.”

The cardinal hit on the pope’s warnings
about the “throwaway culture,” one in which people buy things for the
sake of buying them and then simply discard them.

“In the Eucharist, we
propose the culture of gift,” he said.

He pointed out that the Bible is
filled with “people who are thrown away,” including David under threat of
being discarded by King Solomon, Joseph and Mary “thrown away to the
manger,” and Jesus thrown away by jealous leaders and finally tossed aside
by friends who denied him. But God took all of them “in his gentle hands”
and gave them as gifts to the faithful.

“Gifts that are given are
not to be thrown away,” Cardinal Tagle said. “This culture of communion
and gift-sharing will make a eucharistic community, a real, a credible presence
of Christ in the cultures of the world and provide the world a reason to hope.”

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