LIMA, Peru — After controversial remarks last week, the Archbishop of Lima said Thursday that he did not intend to undermine the importance of prayer in the presence of the Eucharist.
“It is essential for us to maintain a level of entering and contemplating the mystery of the Lord made bread for us, the mystery of the transubstantiation as we call it more technically, which means the real presence of the Lord,” Archbishop Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio said Jan. 7.
Archbishop Castillo’s remarks came after he told Lima’s synodal assembly Jan. 7 that “no one is converted with the tabernacle.” At that meeting, Archbishop Castillo said that while Pope Francis has mentioned contemplation of the Eucharist as a source of spiritual growth, “no one is converted with the tabernacle. We are all converted from meeting people who ask us questions and who are human dramas where the possibility of encountering the Lord arises.”
“I can later sit before the tabernacle and pray and all that, and surely; but it is very rare that I have illumination in a passive state...Contemplation is extremely important but to the extent the faith has been transmitted, somebody communicated the faith to me,” Archbishop Castillo added.
“We are all believers because someone announced the Gospel to us, from our mother who made the sign of the cross, the grandma. the dad, the aunt, classmates at school, the Christian community or the singing group...It's in human relationships where the Lord is hidden, that his presence appears and we welcome him,” Castillo added.
The archbishop’s remarks, posted on YouTube, became a source of controversy in Peru, where they were seen by some Catholics to downplay the importance of the Eucharist, or the power of prayer.
After his comments were published, Archbishop Castillo offered a “clarification,” explaining that “some people were a bit surprised by a point I made in the morning. What I said was, let's say, before the tabernacle you don't find your vocation, a vocation is found in life. And the tabernacle, as you know, is the place to visit where the permanent presence of the Lord is under the forms of bread and wine, and there the Real Presence.”
“Pope Francis said here in Trujillo that when one has a vocation, the vocation is always received in life,” Archbishop Castillo added.
Archbishop Castillo, who was a theology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, became Lima’s archbishop March 2, 2019.
Archbishop Castillo’s remarks were intended as a commentary on a Jan. 20, 2018 discourse from Pope Francis to priests and consecrated religious in Trujillo, Peru. In that speech, the pope discussed the importance of prayer before the Eucharist.
“Sit down a while and allow him to look at you and remember those times he looked at you and looks at you. Allow yourselves to receive his gaze. This is the most precious possession of a consecrated person: the Lord’s gaze,” Francis said in his remarks.
The pope added that the Lord finds and heals believers in the difficult circumstances of their own life, and from those circumstances, brings them to contemplate him in the presence of the Eucharist.
That, Archbishop Castillo claimed Jan. 7 in his clarification, is the point he had been trying to make.
The “first encounter with the vocation and the successive kerygmatic encounters are in life and in often terrible situations and sometimes also very beautiful situations, but they aren't, let's say, in a moment where I'm alone and there's a kind of look from the Host at me and me at the Host.”
The archbishop’s clarification, however, also raised a concern about the role of contemplation in life.
“And we have to take into account something that is very important: all that which are sacraments are signs the Lord has left to remember life and to live life more deeply, to nourish life, but not to replace it.”
Nevertheless, Archbishop Castillo added, “I can't then say tomorrow we all go to the tabernacle and we only devote ourselves to be before the tabernacle, because that's the truest part of life. [Because] who's cooking? And who's preparing something to eat? So if we see things that way, with [contemplation] as the greatest thing there is, and the only thing that is, be careful.”
Pope Francis has referred to the importance of praying before the Eucharist.
In September 2018, speaking to the bishops in mission territories, the pope explained that a bishop, being a successor of the apostles, is called by Jesus to remain with him and therefore “before the tabernacle he learns to entrust himself to and to trust in the Lord,” because “there he finds his strength and his confidence.”
On Jan. 31, 2019, the pope recalled Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesians, and said that for the priest to look at reality “with the eyes of a man and with the eyes of God,” he has to spend “ample time before the tabernacle”
At Midnight Mass, Dec. 24, 2019, Pope Francis also spoke of the importance of contemplating Christ in the Eucharist present in the tabernacle.
“Today is the right day to draw near to the tabernacle, the crèche, the manger, and to say thank you. Let us receive the gift that is Jesus, in order then to become gift like Jesus. To become gift is to give meaning to life. And it is the best way to change the world: we change, the Church changes, history changes, once we stop trying to change others but try to change ourselves and to make of our life a gift,” the pontiff said.