Catholics must examine their "lackadaisical" approach to the Eucharist, and recognize that in the mass "we share in the feast that the Lord Himself has prepared for us," said Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo.
"A great crisis today around the Eucharist is not just a crisis of faith, but a crisis of love - of a love rooted in obedience to the love revealed to us by our God," wrote the bishop in a letter to be published in the Oct. 15 issue of the diocesan newspaper, New Earth.
The bishop noted that October is the last month of the Year of the Eucharist, inaugurated by Pope John Paul II in October 2004, and dedicated to the rediscovery of the importance of the Eucharist for Catholics. The Year of the Eucharist will officially close with the mass of the Synod of Bishops in Rome Oct. 23.
"Some people want to have the Eucharist without conversion; yet that is not the way of the Lord," he continued. The bishop noted that some people receive Communion in a state of grave sin.
"They may miss mass on Sunday, they may be taking money illegitimately, they may be engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage, they may vocally support abortion, euthanasia, homosexual activity and homosexual unions, they may fail in the just treatment of their neighbor by gossip or prejudice, or they may commit some other serious sin and go to Communion," he said.
Others perceive that they "do not get anything out of mass" and simply view it as one more event in a busy weekend, sometimes leaving it as the last thing to fit into a full schedule of activities. Others complain that mass is too long or simply do not come.
"This is a tragedy," he said, "because the Eucharist is about Jesus Christ and his saving works on our behalf."
The archbishop addressed apathy about mass attendance, a lack of knowledge about the Eucharist, and visible signs of irreverence for the Eucharist. He also expressed dismay over the use of cell phones by the laity and ordained ministers alike during mass. Inappropriate dress, gum chewing, cell phones and pagers do not express reverence for the Eucharist, the bishop said. People must dress modestly for church, he said, adding that shorts for adults and mini-skirts for women are not appropriate.
"Each of us must examine how lackadaisical we have become with the celebration of the Eucharist," he said. "While we may have no ill intention in our hearts, we need to look at how we dress for the banquet."
As the Year of the Eucharist concludes, the bishop said he hopes Catholics have come to discover more fully the sacrifice in which they participate and the gift of salvation offered in Jesus.