By Regina Linskey
QUEBEC CITY (CNS) – Catholics who rely on family members and the Eucharist can better resist secularisation, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, told pilgrims at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress.
Bishop Braxton noted that the family in the Western Hemisphere "has changed dramatically."
Citing statistics that only 25 percent of American families are made up of a mother, father and children, he said changes in the family and decreased attention on the family dinner have made the meal "merely feeding time."
"We are challenged not to imitate secular society," which can undermine the family and marriage, said the bishop.
The family "relies on the Eucharist" by praying and going to Mass together as well as having a family discussion of the homily, he said.
"There is nothing wrong with telling children" to turn off the computer and TV and "every distraction to pray," he said.
Bishop Braxton was one of several U.S. prelates who spoke to pilgrims June 16 about what the Eucharist is and how its meaning can be applied and enriched in family and church life.
He said renewed faith in the Eucharist is not a quick fix that can be used and manipulated to solve family problems.
"God is not God the way we would be God if we were God," Bishop Braxton said. Prayers and petitions are an important part of the Catholic faith but "it is important not to have a simplistic view of this," he said.
God accompanies people through troubled times but does not "remove them from us," the bishop said.
Catholics can risk thinking that receiving the Eucharist is about "Jesus and me … like a personal Jesus or an insurance policy to heaven," Bishop Braxton said. But the Eucharist "is a call to each one of us to a conversion as a community," he said.
Earlier in the day, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said the Eucharist enriches and continues Catholic identity today.
"What we are called to do is remember, remember what Christ accomplished for us," Archbishop Wuerl told the crowd of thousands gathered in Quebec City’s hockey arena as part of the June 15-22 congress. The Gospel stories are wonderful messages "but nothing has more significance" than Jesus offering himself to the world, he said.
The archbishop, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said that at the time of the Last Supper, "an age before technology," identity and history were passed on through meals as a "perpetual institution."
But the "new ceremonial setting" of the Eucharist is not just "a memory, not something we reflect on, but a reality," he said, adding that "Jesus is not a historic figure; the risen Christ is our companion today."
"The church calls us not just to recall the events of 2,000 years ago but to participate" in the Mass, he said. The Mass is unlike any other historical remembrance, he explained, because "it has the power to make present the reality it symbolizes in the context of the church."
Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit spoke of the role of the Eucharist in uniting communities.
"Given that the Eucharist is a sacrament of unity and a bond of love," it unites Christians from diverse backgrounds and invites them to become part of each other’s lives, he said. And through this unity, the Eucharist "illuminates the spirit" of migrants and refugees and highlights "what challenges and gifts they can offer to the church" in their new home, the cardinal said.
Archbishop Wuerl, Cardinal Maida and Bishop Braxton gave their talks on the second day of the congress. The more than 10,000 cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns and laypeople who participated in the international congress attended sessions throughout the day in the hockey arena and other buildings.