Pope John Paul II offers three specific examples of post-conciliar growth as he completes his introduction:
10. The Magisterium’s commitment to proclaiming the Eucharistic mystery has been matched by interior growth within the Christian community. Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful. In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it.
Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned.
Liturgical participation after the Council is described as “conscious, active and fruitful.” That’s a fitting affirmation, even if it may not be universally experienced.
Eucharistic adoration, where practiced, is described as of daily importance and a source of holiness. It turns out that SC also mentions the cultivation of holiness as one of the two prime aims of the liturgy.
The Corpus Christi procession is also mentioned.
Certainly, God offers spiritual fruits to those who approach him. It is part of the Catholic genius that Eucharistic aspects of our faith are things we can experience with the senses. We see, touch, and taste the Lord. It makes faith more real. It can help us to deeper connections to God, and more profound experiences of love.
The picture JP2 paints is not wholly a good one:
Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.
Certainly it is a bad thing, where these shadows, in fact, have emerged. The period of serious abuse, however, was largely over thirty to forty years ago. Pope John Paul was influenced by the flood of complaints he received, from both well-meaning believers as well as others who had agendas other than noble.
And as for clergy-centered rituals like adoration/benediction, it has been clear one needs a priest or a lay person commissioned by a priest to continue these practices.
Pope John Paul’s complaints sound sour and empty to me. Like the culture of complaoint he and his curia nurtured. Bishops and priests are obliged to lead by example. Lay ministers as well. Do leaders pray before the Blessed Sacrament? Do they drop in for the big ritual moments alone?
And “profound grief” at mistakes? Clearer example is needed. If there is a better way than “well-intentioned initiatives” gone sour, then it is incumbent on the pope and bishops to pause in the endless talking and start showing by example. It is time to substitute superior practices rather than sweep aside good intentions without offering anything in turn.
It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery.
Radiance requires a positive example. Pope John Paul II has much to offer in this regard. As we progress through the remaining fifty-two sections of this letter, we will focus more on the positive developments noted and suggested. But I will not spare my criticism when I think this letter has gone astray from the essence of post-conciliar Eucharistic Catholicism.