Cardinal Cathal Daly recently launched a new book of biblical reflections on the Eucharist which he hopes will contribute to what Pope John Paul termed “eucharistic amazement”

Address by Cardinal Cahal B. Daly at the launch of “The Breaking of Bread: Biblical Reflections”

Linenhall Library, Belfast, Friday 20th June 2008

Cardinal Cahal Daly

I first wish to thank the Linenhall Library for welcoming us into its space for this launch. The Library has unique historical and cultural associations and has a special place among the buildings of Belfast. For a variety of reasons, it is at any time a building well worth visiting. For me personally it is a building pervaded by nostalgia. As a postgraduate university student, and later as a young priest and teacher of philosophy at Queens University, I regularly visited the reading room in this building to browse among the newspaper files and the books assembled here. Money to buy either newspapers or books was in short supply then and the free service offered by the Linenhall Library room was greatly appreciated.

Of intense interest and value is, of course, the Linenhall Library collection of writings and memorabilia concerning the 30 years of conflict and the peace process, covering the whole period of what we have come to call the Troubles. Because of the importance of this particular section of the Library, I recently donated to it eight bound volumes of my articles and addresses on violence and peace, covering the years 1968 2001. In doing so, I wished also to make some return to the Linenhall Library for the many happy hours I spent here some sixty years ago.

A duplicate collection of these writings, indeed my entire library, is donated in my will to Queens University, where I spent three years as a student and twenty one years as teacher.

Second Vatican Council

The Second Vatican Council insists on the centrality of the Bible in the Churchs life and prayer and on the unity between the Old Testament and the New. The Councils Constitution on Divine Revelation has the celebrated words:

God, the inspirer and author of both testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New
(op. cit. no. 16)

In its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Council expressed the hope that, through reform of the Liturgy, Christs faithful

should be instructed by Gods word and be refreshed at the table of the Lords body (and so should) be drawn day by day into closer union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all
(op. cit. Roman 2 47-48).

Two tables

We note also in the Councils documents references to two tables for our spiritual nourishment through the eucharist: first the table of Gods word and second the table of the body of Christ. These two are in principle inseparable and the two together are necessary food for the Christian way of life. The table of the word is enriched by the Councils reform of the liturgy. This opened up the treasures of the Bible more lavishly, so that richer fare be provided for the faithful at the table of Gods word. The bible is to be made better known through a wider selection of readings and, as an aid to the understanding of the Bible readings, the homily is to be highly esteemed.

The Council gives equal importance to the table of the Lords word and the table of the Lords body. The two are necessary ways of arriving at union with God through Jesus Christ, who longs to share his divine life with us so that God may be all in us all. Becoming familiar with Jesus through the gospels and the writings of his apostles is essential if we are to know him and through him to know God, his Father. It is essential if we are to know who it is whom we receive in Holy Communion. To know Jesus we need also to know the scriptures of the Old Testament, for they too speak of Jesus, though in a more veiled and indirect way, as we find in the books of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, passages from which are now read in every Mass. Our Lord often referred to these books when explaining to the people who he was and why he had come into the world. In St. Lukes gospel we read of Jesus as explaining to two disciples on the way to Emmaus the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself (Luke 24:27).

Active participation

The book we are launching today tries to be a help towards achieving the aims of the Second Vatican Council, namely the full, conscious and active participation of the faithful in the liturgy, which is their right and their duty by reason of their baptism (Constitution on the Liturgy, 14). The eucharist is, as the Council declares, The summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed (and also) the fountain from which all our power flows (op. cit. 9).

Consequently it is obvious that it is through the eucharist above all that true renewal of the Church is achieved and through the eucharist above all that our own Christian life as individuals and as communities in parishes or in religious communities is to be lived.

The Church has taken many steps recently to keep us mindful of the Vatican Councils teaching on the eucharist. Pope John Paul II wrote two documents on the eucharist in the closing years of his Pontificate: the encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and the Apostolic letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine. In the first of these encyclical, issued in 2003, he stated that: The most holy Eucharist contains the Churchs entire spiritual wealth. He calls the Eucharist truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on earth (op. cit. 19). He declares finally that:

Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Churchs mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination
(op. cit. 60)

He proclaimed the year October 2004 to October 2005 as the Year of the Eucharist.

In Mane Nobiscum Domine, issued in 2004, Pope John Paul II said:

The Eucharist is a mode of being which passes from Jesus into each Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and culture. For this to happen, each member of the faithful must assimilate, through personal and communal meditation, the values which the Eucharist expresses, the attitudes it inspires, the resolutions to which it gives rise. Can we not see here a special charge which could emerge from this Year of the Eucharist?
(op. cit. 25).


These two papal documents and the Eucharistic Year were among the challenges which motivated me to begin writing this book. I started it at the beginning of 2005, while the Year of the Eucharist was still being celebrated. Several false publication dates were promised, beginning with Christmas 2005. in each case my optimism outran my work rate; but Maura Hyland was very patient about all of these. I expressed my thanks to Maura and her staff yesterday at the launch in Dublin and I renew it here today. I give special thanks also to Alice Warde and Nancy McGarry who patiently and efficiently typed and retyped the text through multiple revisions until it reached its present form.

The research and the effort of writing the book certainly enriched my own eucharistic devotion. I wished and I continue to wish that it might help its readers to

assimilate, through personal and communal meditation, the values which the Eucharist expresses, the attitudes it inspires, the resolutions to which it gives rise.
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia: 6)

I saw this, as what Pope John Paul II called a special charge emerging from the Year of the Eucharist.

Karl Rahner wrote of the need in todays Church for theology on its knees. This book might be called an effort at doing theology on ones knees, namely through prayer. Whatever value the book has comes from the Bible, not from me. It should be read with the Bible in one hand. It is something in between a book of theology and a prayer book. It could perhaps serve some as a kind of springboard to contemplative prayer. The term springboard is apt, for one can jump off the text and plunge into the boundless ocean of the mystery of love which is God, letting oneself be submerged in the infinity of Gods merciful love and that is one form of contemplative prayer. May this book contribute in some way towards engendering in those who pray with it that eucharistic amazement of which Pope John Paul II spoke.