Welcome all to my blog!
The main theme of this week�s blog is the presbyteral ordination that took place at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross last Saturday. Seven fine men were ordained to the priesthood and, by now, they all have been notified of their first assignments. It is always a very moving experience to ordain new priests.
Also this week I sent a letter to all priests in the archdiocese explaining the recent decision to sell most of our Brighton Chancery Campus to Boston College. The letter can be read in this week�s edition of The Pilot.
A view of the new Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Braintree
- – -
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, certainly one of the strongest proponents of human rights in China, visited Boston to receive an honorary doctorate � Doctor of Humane Letters � from Amherst College last Monday.
Cardinal Zen and I were both elevated to cardinal at the same time. He came to see me with his secretary and Peter Chan, co-chair of the Outreach and Welcoming Committee of the Boston Chinese Catholic Community at St. James the Greater Parish in Boston.
We had a wonderful conversation and he shared with me many things that are happening in Hong Kong. I was amazed to hear that there are 300 Catholic schools in Hong Kong. IN fact, one-fourth of the children there attend Catholic school. As you may know, Catholic schools are being threatened by the government but the cardinal is very courageous and a good leader of the Church. He formerly taught in many of the seminaries in mainland China and he is a member of the Salesian Society, a religious order founded by St. John Bosco in the 1800s.
Peter Chan composed a welcoming poem for Cardinal Zen that he shared with me. The poem was presented to the cardinal at a Mass which took place at St. James the Greater Church. It was presided by Cardinal Zen, with the following concelebrating priests: Father Lucas Chan, SJ, Father Joseph Li, Father Peter Shen and Father John Bai.
For those of you who, like me, do not read Chinese, Peter has been kind enough to provide an English translation:
Chan, Li, Shen and Bai Surround the Altar
In Communion and Love we are present at the Eucharistic Celebration
What a blessing that we are all witnesses for the Lord
What a joy that Your Eminence is again with us.
You pay a visit to Boston
In Christ we are Brothers and Sisters
Traversing across communities in North America
Fearlessly you speak the Righteous Truth
Chinese Catholics are valued in Boston
Our critical mission is to serve the Lord and spread the Good News
So honored that You are here to officiate the Opening Ceremony
Marking our 40th Anniversary: for the Greater Glory of God
- – -
On Saturday seven men were ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston.
Fathers Robert Blaney and Andreas Davison
Father Charles Madi Okin
The ordination was a magnificent celebration and the cathedral was filled with family members and friends of the new priests. It was a very happy occasion and the music was lovely. The Congolese community sang a beautiful song at Communion. There was a little problem with the organ, but Leo Abbott managed to negotiate that.
Father Christopher Casey
Father Martin Dzengeleski
Father Matthew Westcott
Father Daniel Kennedy
At the end of the ordination, I asked the people to pray for and work to promote vocations.
The ordination was such a joyous event because the Eucharist brings joy and the priesthood brings us the Eucharist. In order to continue to have this joy, we must all work and pray for vocations.
You can listen to my homily in an audio-slide show by clicking on this button:
- – -
On the vigil of Pentecost I had Mass for the Sisters of Notre Dame in Ipswich. They have a retirement facility there which houses a large community. They carry out a number of other ministries there as well. It is also the location of some of their provincial and international offices. They also have a retreat house, which is often used for the Spanish Cursillo.
Sr. Eileen Burns and Sr. Anne Stevenson,
of the Sisters of Notre Dame Leadership Team
They have a beautiful chapel there with wonderful stained-glass windows and stations � all designed by members of their community. It is a magnificent property that Cardinal Cushing helped them to acquire 50-60 years ago.
A magnificent stained glass window named “Revelation”
located behind the altar
I was happy to celebrate the Church�s birthday � Pentecost � with these extraordinary women. Many of them had been missionaries to Kenya and Japan. The members have had long and wonderful ministries in the archdiocese and throughout the world in the service of the Church.
Sister Eileen Burns, who is one of the Notre Dame Sisters� coordinators, has been a member of our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. She is going on a sabbatical and finishing her term of office. We thank her for her service and wish her well.
Sister Burns accompanied me to greet the sisters
- – -
On Pentecost Sunday we had a wonderful celebration for couples celebrating their wedding anniversaries, particularly the silver and golden jubilarians. I was very pleased that the cathedral was filled. I had been a little concerned because so many people spend Memorial Day weekend out of town, but obviously, it did not dampen the celebration at all. It was a very joyful occasion and each of the blushing brides was given a red rose. After the prayers of the faithful, the couples renewed their vows. At the end of Mass, we took photographs with all those celebrating anniversaries.
A snapshot of all the anniversary couples
from this week’s edition of The Pilot
The anniversary Mass is an opportunity for us to hold up the importance of the vocation of marriage and to thank the couples for their witness. I pointed out to them that every year fewer people in Western Europe and the United States are getting married, and fewer people are having children. We need to witness the importance of this vocation. We are very grateful to Joanne Curry, Kari Colella and the others who helped to bring this celebration together.
- – -
On Tuesday I met Father Kevin White, who teaches religion at Boston College High School, he is going to India. He is a very faith-filled man who has made a great contribution, spiritually, to the community at BC High. He will be sorely missed. We pray that this year will be a time of blessing and grace for him as he deepens his Jesuit vocation.
- – -
On Wednesday we had a meeting with the heads of agencies and offices to give them the opportunity to hear about the Renew Program. We hope that they will be able to support the effort, which will promote evangelization and outreach. The program is part of our observance of the bicentennial in the archdiocese.
Archdiocesan heads of agencies and offices
attended a presentation on RENEW
Dominican Sister Honora Nolty presenting the program
- – -
Each year we have a custom of gathering the newly ordained and their families together with seminary staff and the archbishop for a lunch a few days after their ordination. It is a chance to congratulate them and to get to meet their families. The day of the ordination is something of a mob scene and you do not really have an opportunity to be with the families. It also gave us the opportunity to hear about the priests� first Masses and the experiences they have had so far. The luncheon is always a wonderful occasion.
- – -
Later on Wednesday I participated in an event at Laboure College in which the president of the college, Dr. Joseph McNabb presented the Laboure award to the three past local chairs of the Order of Malta in New England: John McCabe, John McManmon and James O�Connor. It was a nice recognition of the work of the Order of Malta.
The Order of Malta, which is committed to ministering to the sick, has had a close relationship with Laboure College in Dorchester. The small, Catholic college has a Caritas agency and grants an associate of science degree in nursing and allied health. There has always been a great synergy between the Order and the ministry of Laboure College. Every year, students from Laboure accompany the Order of Malta in taking the sick on pilgrimage to Lourdes.
- – -
On May 24, I spoke to a full house at the Old State House for the last session of our �Christ Speaks in the City� lecture series. I also spoke at the first lecture of the series in the fall. The lunchtime series aims to draw young professionals, and the Old State House is a beautiful venue for that. Attendees are very grateful that the Church is doing this outreach to office workers and to people in the downtown. It was well received, so I presume that we will continue to do this in the future. I am very grateful to the Vocations Office and all of the others involved in organizing the event, including Fathers Dan Henesssey and Michael Harrington, Scot Landry, Anne Marie Marrone, Stephen Colella and Anastacia Stornetta.
This last talk was very well attended and I spoke on �The Power of the Eucharist.� I’d like to share the text of my comments with you here:
The Eucharist the Source of Life for the Church
In 1963 I was in Ireland at the very time of Pope Paul VI�s coronation and when President John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic President of the United States, was visiting Ireland. It was a grand celebration. The Papal Flag, the American Flag and the Irish Tri-Colors were flying from every telephone pole. In the village where I was staying, they organized a solemn Te Deum. The whole village assembled in the parish church; men on one side, women on the other. After the prayers, the pastor and chief magistrate made speeches during which they proclaimed an amnesty for all the prisoners in the local jail in honor of the Pope�s coronation and the President�s visit. We were told that as the bells rang out, the doors of the jail would be opened. I was very impressed. Only afterwards did I learn that there had been no prisoners in that jail for the last 40 years. The mayor had the local constable round up a few town drunks and lock them up so that there would be prisoners for the amnesty.
The Cure of Ars as a seminarian was saved by a comic opera amnesty as well. In those days seminarians were drafted in the army. The young John Vianney proved to be a feckless soldier. He was separated from his company of soldiers and so was considered a deserter and was forced to live in hiding. But the marriage of Napoleon III to the Hapsburgh Archduchess was marked by an amnesty for draft dodgers and deserters, so John M. Vianney could come out of hiding and return to the seminary.
As a young priest in Washington, 80 percent of my parishioners were so called, �illegal aliens.� We all lived in the ardent hope for an amnesty. But the Greatest Amnesty is the Sacrifice of Christ who paid our debt, who stepped in front of the bullet to save us. �By His stripes we are healed.� We were under a sentence of death�but the amnesty of Calvary has spared us.
In every Eucharist, we relive the great events of this Amnesty; they are meditated to us through the priesthood of Jesus Christ, instituted as a sacrament together with the Eucharist on Holy Thursday. It is the Last Supper when Jesus pronounces His farewell address, but even as He says Goodbye, Jesus is assuring us that He will continue to be with us even to the end of time through the Eucharist and His priesthood. Jesus Christ has kept that promise for 2000 years.
As believers, we strive to contemplate with ever-new eyes the mystery of the Incarnation of God. In Jesus of Nazareth, God became a human being in order to reveal the Trinitarian mystery of the divine love and to save humanity. The mystery extends through history, and human beings in every age have asked themselves how it is possible for God to love so intensely as to give over the divinity in the supreme act of death on the cross. This even does not regard only a fact of the past, but, through the mediation of the Eucharist, is activated every day to the end of time. Indeed, it attests that Jesus is with us forever and loves us, offering us the forgiveness of reconciliation and communion of life with God. The Eucharist is the Source of the Life for the Church.
The Russian Nobel Prize Winner, Alexander Solzenitsyn says he recalls three episodes especially from his boyhood. One has being taunted by other boys as he walked with this mother to the towns only remaining church; another was having someone tear away the cross hanging from his neck. The third was hearing old people say: �Men have forgotten God, that�s why all this has happened.� All of the oppression, the hopelessness, the Gulag, the torture chamber, the despair, it all came about because people have forgotten God.
Forgetting God is very dangerous. We are here today because 2000 years ago God said to us, �Do this in memory of me. Never forget my love�I am with you always if only you will recognize me in the breaking of the bread.�
Our spiritual amnesia leads to so much heartbreak. Cervantes, in Don Quixote, gave the world a striking metaphor. Don Quixote is insane; but he is more sane than all the sane people because he sees the really real, what is good, noble, what is important. If you come to some of our nursing homes you will see the Alzheimer�s patients wandering about. On each of their doors is a glass box with photos of their families to remind the staff that these people are persons just like us. How important it is to remember that in giving care to them with love, with concern, and to know they are in God�s hands.
Sometimes I think the Alzheimer patients are a new metaphor. The world is being run by people with a spiritual amnesia � they have forgotten about God. And when we forget about God, we forget who we are, who people are. We forget what is truly important.
�Do this in memory of me!� There are many less people in church than when I was a child. Many go to church looking for entertainment. We are like sick people who do now know enough to go to the doctor. �Why go to the doctor? � It is probably boring.� It could be inconvenient, uncomfortable or demand some change in my behavior.
The hell that Solzenitsyn experienced in the horrors of the concentration camps of Siberia and the crisis in modern society is because people have forgotten God. People do not come to church because of spiritual amnesia �either they have forgotten about God or they have forgotten what the Mass is. I remember as a seminarian reading an interview with Flannery O�Connor in which she recounted an incident from her childhood in the deep South where less than 5 percent of the population was Catholic. Flannery invited a young Baptist girl to come to Mass one Sunday. The girl had never set foot in a Catholic Church and went with great curiosity. After the Mass, Flannery O�Connor was anxious to hear her friend�s reaction to the Catholic Church. The girl said how very impressed she was and went on to explain why: �You Catholics must really have something. The sermon was so boring, the music was awful and the priests mumbled in that language nobody could understand, and all those people were there. You Catholics must have something very special. What brought Catholics to Church every Sunday morning in those days was that Eucharist. People were not there to be entertained or to experience a barnburner sermon or to attend a concert, they were there because of their faith, unwavering faith in the Eucharist: Jesus Christ present on our altars. In today�s Church, religious illiteracy and secularization of the culture have undermined that faith. We have parents who send their children to CCD, like soccer practice, yet not to Mass.
I pray that God will grant us the grace to deepen our love for the Eucharist, the center of our life as Catholics. If this happens, I am sure that the identity crisis of priests will disappear and that vocations to the priesthood will increase.
We are here today to say that God has not forgotten about us. He still loves us: �Even though a mother might be capable of forgetting her child, I shall never forget you. Your face is carved in the palms of my hands.� We are here to say to the world God has not forgotten us � His cry is like the stirring lyrics of the song that says: �The only think I ask is that you remember me as loving you.�
�Do this in memory of me.� Do what? Take bread and say: �This is my body�� His love is present to feed us. Happy are we if, like those first Christians, we too can say that we recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, that we do this in memory of Him and of His love.
If Mass is a chore, a burden, a boring exercise, the problem is perhaps that we have forgotten how to pray. If we have first closed our chamber door to pray to our Father in secret, if we have knelt next to our child�s crib and taught that child to call God our Father, if each day of the week is punctuated by tame and space for God in prayer; then, and only then, will we truly be able to enter into the mystery, to be absorbed in the Eucharist. Then, it will all make sense.
We can admire the ingenuity of many human inventions. When I visit the classrooms in our schools today and see our little children in front of a computer keyboard and remember that when I was that age we were learning the �Palmer Method,� carefully dipping our pens into an inkpot, I am amazed. So many marvels of science and technology!
The Eucharist is God�s invention. It manifests the ingenuity of a wisdom that at the same time is the foolishness of love. The entire revelation of the work of salvation is astonishing, and the Eucharist constitutes a pinnacle of that mystery where in the simplest possible way the fulfillment of the divine design has far surpassed any possible expectation.
Where we can see only bread and wine, we stand before the assertion of the presence of God. How can we fail to be astonished at the fact that the One who is God offers Himself as food and drink to his very creatures? The One who is Lord places Himself entirely at our disposition, at our service. He has died for us on the cross and is risen.
Why does He will that this offering be repeated through all time in the Eucharist? Why must God invent a new presence in the Christian assembly? To all our astonishment and questions, there is but one response: Everything in the Eucharist derives from love carried to extremes. All emerges from a limitless will to give. God�s love is so inventive that He has devised a way to be close to us and to allow us to be united with Him and with our fellow disciples who share the same loaf and the same cup. For two thousand years we have experienced how the Church has developed, sprung up around the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist.
The first generations of Christians were celebrating the Lord�s Supper even before the Scriptures were written down. In other words, the Mass is older than the Books of the New Testament; and when it came time for the Church to determine which Scriptures were inspired and should be included in the Canon of the Bible, one of the criteria was to choose readings that were being read at the celebration of the Eucharist.
My message to thousands of young people whom it is my joy and privilege to confirm, �Look at the Eucharist � God is making Himself a gift to us!� The only way our life will find meaning and fulfillment is if we make ourselves a gift to God and to others. That is our mission. We are a Eucharistic people. We find our true identity when we are gathered around the altar. On the altar our God becomes a gift � a life-giving gift. St. Mark�s Gospel describes the Last Supper saying that Jesus and the disciples sang songs of praise. For Catholics it is an effort. Remember Mark�s words, Jesus sang at the first Eucharist. We, too, must sing songs of praise to a God who is so good and so loving that He makes a gift of Himself to us.
Let me tell you one of my favorite parables that is from Japan. There was once a man who dwelt in a beautiful mansion on a mountaintop. Each day he would walk in his garden and enjoy the view of the ocean below. One day, as he was in his gardens, he saw a group of his neighbors on the beach below enjoying a picnic. Then he noticed a huge tidal wave rushing toward the shore. He wanted to warn his friends. He began to shout and wave his arms, but the distance was too great. The man decided to set fire to his house. When his friends on the beach saw the smoke and the flames, some said, �Let us climb the mountain and help our neighbor save his home.� The others, however, said, �No, you go. That mountain is so high, and we are having such fun here on the beach.� Those who left the picnic to climb the mountain thought they were doing a service to their neighbor. Actually, they were saving their own lives. The ones who continued having fun on the beach perished. It is as the Lord said in the Gospel: The one who loves his life loses it and the one who hates his life will save it.�
When we make a gift of ourselves to God and others, we may think we are sacrificing our lives. Actually, we are saving our lives by love. And when all is said and done, it is that faithful, generous, sacrificial love that matters. That is what saints are about. That is what the Eucharist teaches us.
One of the ways we show our gratitude to God is by sharing our gift with others. As St. Paul writes: �God has made you rich so that you might be generous.� Jesus shows us at the First Eucharist that the Mass is to be a font of charity. He begins the celebration by washing the feet of the disciples and giving them the command of mutual love. He found them fighting over first places at table and taught them to fight over the towel. And in another place in the Gospel, Jesus warns us not to bring our sacrifice to the altar if we are not reconciled to our brothers and sisters. Just last Sunday, we heard the Epistle of St. James who wants us not to discriminate against the poor at our assembly but rather see all of our brothers and sisters as united with us in one body.
In the Teachings of the Apostles, the Bishop is ordered to take great care with the Sunday Eucharist, it is a sign of the Church. The welcome shown to strangers at this Eucharist is no little part of the sign: A special welcome is to be given to the poor, even if the Bishop has to surrender his own chair and sit on the floor. This way of putting it may seem exaggerated, but clearly one function of the assembly was to challenge the divisions that run through human society.
In Rome, as priests were obliged on Sundays to celebrate Mass for their congregations in their own churches (titles) and therefore could not take part in the solemn Papal Mass, a sign was used to bring out the unity of the one Christian community. Pope Innocent I wrote on this in 416. The porter of the Papal Mass was given a fragment of the consecrated bread after the fraction, or breaking of the bread, and the priest of the titular church received it and put it into his chalice at the same point in his own Mass, a beautiful sign of unity expressed in the Eucharist. Pope Paul VI once wrote: �The Eucharist has been instituted to make us Brothers, so that instead of being strangers, divided and indifferent to one another, we might be united, be equals and friends. The Eucharist has been given to us so that instead of a selfish apathetic crowd made up of hostile individuals, we might become a people, a true people, with one heart and one soul.�
As a sacrificial meal, the Eucharist communicates the love that has inspired the sacrifice, a love that spared nothing in order to secure the happiness of others. In the Eucharist, Jesus willed to give His disciples the strength to love one another as he had loved them. He gave his disciples with the gift of His body and Blood, a power of love that knows no limits.
I once had a dear friend, an outstanding priest, Father Morty Fox. He was a talented, zealous priest with a magic personality that mesmerized everyone, even the worst enemies of religion. When Father Fox entered a room, the lights went up and the bells rang. He was a joy to be with.
One day, a remarkable thing happened. I was at my desk when the call came in saying that Father Fox died suddenly. Shortly afterwards, I went to the Post Office to pick up the mail. To my great surprise there was a letter from Father Fox waiting for me. I was stunned. My friend, who never wrote except at Christmas, was now sending me a letter from the grave. I trembled as I opened the letter. I could see his smile, here his laugh. Suddenly, he was alive and present once again.
Upon reflection on this strange incident, it occurred to me that the Eucharist is like that letter: a sign of love and friendship, a desire to communicate, to be present. But in Jesus� case, it was planned. It was intentional and the letter He sent was Himself. The Word made Flesh � made Eucharist.
The Old Testament story of Namaan the Leper has always fascinated me. In it I find a parable about modern man�s search for the transcendence. In the story Naaman, the Syrian General, is suffering from leprosy and comes to the Prophet (2 Kings 5:14) seeking a cure. Elisha stayed in his house and sent a servant to tell the General to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman left in a rage � he had expected a better show�that the prophet would come and make an incantation, do a dance, go into a trance, impose hands, etc. � �The Rivers of Albana and Pharpar back in Damascus are better, he roared.� Then a servant said, �But sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it!� When he consented to follow the simple instructions of the prophet, he was cured.
In Book IV of the Imitation of Christ, �Many run to various places to visit the relics of departed saints and are full of wonder at hearing their deeds. They look with awe on the spacious church buildings, great architecture, they kiss the relics encased in silk and gold, but as Thomas a Kempis writes: �If this holy Sacrament were to be celebrated in one place only, and consecrated by only one priest in the world, with what great desire do you think men would be drawn to that place, and to such a priest of God, that they might (at least once) be witnesses of the celebration of the divine mysteries,� and Mass is celebrated every day in our churches, everywhere. We seek the grandiose, the spectacular, the �gong show�. Our God comes in humility and simplicity. As Gandhi once said: �There is so much hunger in the world that God could appear only in the form of bread.�
When people celebrate the Lord�s Supper and receive the Eucharist, it is too easy just to think no further than flesh and blood and forget that the WORD became Flesh. They forget that they are receiving a word addressed to them from God. It is the most profound word possible, a word so all-embracing, so full of meaning that it transcends our comprehension. It is a word that resembles expressions of genuine human self-giving. But it is also a word that goes beyond all human self-giving and makes the impossible possible.
This Word says, �I love you,� and proves it. Our human love is bound to come up against the boundaries that will always separate us in this world: in spite of all means of communication, each man remains an island. Each soul has its own consciousness and cannot fuse with another; bodies can only touch externally. That is how we are: we are finite. We are not gods. Only God�s Word Who Became Flesh and dwelt among us, only the infinite and limitless Word, can transcend these boundaries: �Take, eat; this is my Body. Drink, this is my blood.� �Take and eat,� it means � take into yourself what seems only to exist side by side with you and, just as I can transcend the boundaries, so let your boundaries disintegrate by taking me into yourselves. In Me, God�s Word-Made-Flesh, you are destined to be freed from your narrow confines to lead a new life, together with others and shared with them, a life of communion, a life as befits members of my body, nourished by the circulating blood of my all-embracing life.�
This is God�s gift to us in the Eucharist. Thus Augustine can say that God is more interior to us than we are to ourselves. And, as St. Paul says: �In Him we live and move and have our being.� The Eucharist is the source of life for each and every one of us. Christ is the Bread of Life, the manna that has come down from heaven.
I recall a few years ago there was a terrible airplane crash in the Andes. The plane was carrying the Uruguayan soccer team to Chile when the plane went down. They searched for weeks in the dead of winter. Finally, they gave up the hope of finding any survivors and a Requiem Mass was celebrated for the missing.
People were shocked when someone happened to be on the site of the crash and discovered that there were indeed several survivors. When the reporters arrived on the scene, they questioned the people on how they were able to survive without provisions for so many weeks. The men were reluctant to talk about it, until finally one broke the silence and said: �We were able to survive these long weeks without food here in the Andes because we consumed the flesh of our friends who died in the crash. It was a terrible decision for us, but we knew that if we did not do that we too would have died. So, we ate their flesh. We did it reverently, and what gave us the courage to take such a drastic step were Jesus� words. He said: �Unless you eat my flesh, you will not have life in you.�
Indeed the Bread of Life contains the promise of immortality. When we eat His Body with reverence and faith, we will survive more than a crash, or a cancer, or a heart attack. We will survive death itself.
Christ wants us to hunger after the Bread of Life. In the Gospels, the disciples implore Jesus: �Sir, give us this bread always.� To which Jesus replies: �I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.�
The Lord challenges us to believe in the Eucharist. What could be clearer: �I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.� We know that many were turned off by these assertions. Jesus never retracted anything. He doesn�t call His disciples back and apologize by saying He was only using metaphors or figures of speech. Rather, he asks those who have stayed behind with their mouths open in shock: �Well, are you going to leave me too?� Peter, the rock of faith, replies in the name of those who remain faithful to Jesus. Those who accept His words and promises: �Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.� The Eucharist is the source of life. As we have seen, the Eucharist calls us to community, to service, washing our brother�s feet, but it constantly beckons us to life and fidelity. The Eucharist is there as a constant call to live the life of grace. When we have sinned and strayed from God�s path, it is often hunger for the Eucharist that beguiles us back to God. The hunger for the bread of life has brought many a sinner back from the realm of darkness, that place where the Prodigal Son longed for the husks that were being fed to the pigs. Many a sinner who seemed content to dwell in a foreign place far from the Father�s house, have become aware of their need for conversion because of that hunger for the bread of life, the manna come down from heaven. How many people have found motivation and strength to return to the Father�s House because of Holy Communion!
The fast the Church asks of us before receiving Communion has been reduced to one hour, such a short time that people hardly even avert to the fact that they are fasting. Still, there is great symbolic value to the Communion fast. It is one more reminder of the need to be prepared for Holy Communion. The Communion fast reminds us that the Eucharist is holy. We must prepare ourselves, and we must have a true hunger for the bread of life.
The Eucharist is the source of the Church�s life and energy. It is the great treasure that our Savior has left us. Even as He says farewell, He promises to be with us always, even to the end of time. The celebration of Mass allows us to be present at the Last Supper and on Calvary. In the Eucharist the Risen Lord gives us His Flesh and Blood for food and drink. In our Tabernacles, the Eucharistic Lord, Emmanuel, God-with-us, has pitched His tent to dwell among us, to be present to us.
Faith and love for the Eucharist cannot allow Christ�s present to remain alone. Already in the Old Testament we read that God dwelt in a tent, or tabernacle, which was called a meeting tent. The tabernacles in our churches house Christ present among us so that we can have this meeting place with Him. The veils on our tabernacles are a sign of God�s meeting tent. Recently, I visited a beautiful chapel in Tegucigalpa with the marvelous inscription on the altar under the Blessed Sacrament: Magister adest et vocat te � �The Master is present and is calling you.� (From John�s Gospel, the words of Martha to her Sister, Mary.) In the Eucharist, we find the life-giving presence of a friend who is the Bread of Life and the source of life.
We recall the two instruments that God has chosen as the means of giving us this great gift of the Eucharist. The first is Mary, the Mother of our Redeemer. She said �Yes� to God allowing the Word to become Flesh. She is the wheat and flour from which the bread of the Eucharist is made. In the wonderful hymn, Ave Verum, we pray: �Hail True Body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary.� Mary�s body has given us Christ�s Body. Her self-giving prepares us to be a Eucharistic people. At the Great Marian Shrines, Mary gathers the disciples who persevere in prayer in her company, and they gather around the altar. Mary brings us Christ and leads us to Christ.
The other instrument by which the Eucharist comes to us is the ministerial priesthood. Without priests there is no Mass. All of us need to be promoters of priestly vocations in our families, our parishes, our schools and our communities.
I would encourage all our people to join our love and devotion to the Eucharist with a profound love for the priesthood and pray for vocations.
Jesus Himself enjoins us to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers.
Let me close these reflections with that appeal-
Love the Eucharist, the source of our life.
Love the Eucharist � God present on our altars.
Love the priesthood that allows the miracle to continue.
- – -
Finally, for my photo of the week I have selected this image of a stained glass window which depicts the scene at Pentecost, a feast we have just celebrated. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will work through our lives to bring Christ to the world.
Until next week, blessings to you all.
- Cardinal Se�n