Pope travels to Ancona, urges life centered on eucharistic spirituality

By Catholic News Service

ANCONA, Italy (CNS) — A religious life centered on and nourished by the Eucharist should lead to a life marked by gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice, a commitment to self-giving and real unity within the church and the community, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Traveling to Ancona, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, Sept. 11, the pope presided over the closing Mass of the Italian National Eucharistic Congress and held meetings with priests and married couples in Ancona’s cathedral and with engaged couples in a town square.

In between the appointments, he had lunch at the archdiocesan pastoral center with 20 people representing the unemployed, the poor and those able to find only temporary work.

With the Adriatic glistening behind the altar platform, Pope Benedict’s homily at the Mass focused on the marks of a “eucharistic spirituality.”

Eucharistic communion, he said, “draws us out of our individualism, communicates to us the spirit of Christ, who died and is risen, and conforms us to him: It unites us intimately to our brothers and sisters in the mystery of communion, which is the church.”

A eucharistic spirituality is one marked by taking responsibility for one’s role in the church community and society at large, paying special attention to those who are poor, sick or disadvantaged, he said.

“A eucharistic spirituality, then, is a real antidote to the individualism and selfishness that often characterizes daily life,” he said.

It should lead people to work to overcome divisions within the church and societies, the pope said.

Meeting with married couples and priests in the afternoon, Pope Benedict said the two categories of church members must put more energy into recognizing how both have a vocation that flows from the Eucharist, which is a clear sign that God’s love for humanity is so great that he allowed his son to sacrifice his life for the salvation of the world.

Priests and married couples must support each other in living out their vows, he said. Priests must be patient with couples experiencing difficulty, and couples must never stop asking their priests to be “exemplary ministers who speak of God and lead you to him,” the pope said.

Addressing about 500 engaged couples in the early evening, Pope Benedict encouraged them to use their engagement and marriage preparation as a time of spiritual growth and maturity.

“In some way, ours isn’t an easy time, especially for you young people. The table is set with many delicious things but, like in the Gospel story of the wedding at Cana, it seems like the wine has run out,” he said.

The difficulty young people in Italy and much of Europe have in finding a job casts a huge shadow over engagement years of many of them, he said.

And then there is the wider culture that tends not to offer people any firm moral values and, so, leaves the young adrift, he said. Sharing the same “feelings, state of mind and emotions seems more important than sharing a project for their lives.”

Pope Benedict told the young couples their engagement is a time “to discover the beauty of existing for and being precious to someone, being able to say to each other, ‘You are important to me.'”

He told couples the journey of getting to know each other was a gradual process that should be lived with intensity and truth.

“Love requires a process of maturation starting from initial attraction and feeling good with the other” to learning to give of oneself, sacrifice for and respect the other, the pope said.

“Every human love is a sign of the eternal love that created us and whose grace sanctifies the choice of a man and a woman to give themselves to each other for life in marriage,” he said.

Pope Benedict told the couples to resist the idea that living together before marriage can be “a guarantee for the future.”

Rushing into setting up house together can ruin the chances for true and lasting love, which needs time to grow solid, he said. Time and space before marriage must be given to Christ, “who is able to make human love faithful, happy and indissoluble.”