Written by Sr. Revelacion Castaneda
It is 10:30pm and the sun is just setting in Ireland. Last night, as we concluded the Eucharistic Procession during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, thousands of children, youth, adults and seniors (some even in wheelchairs and with canes) processed behind the Blessed Sacrament in the streets of Dublin for close to three hours. This public demonstration of our faith in the Real, True, and Substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament follows a rich tradition the Catholic Church has had for centuries.
The International Eucharistic Congress focuses on renewing our faith in the Blessed Sacrament, “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). “Apart from me you can do nothing,” says the Lord to His disciples the night of His betrayal (Jn 15:5). All our good works are empty—all our efforts in vain—unless our souls are filled with Christ. We will not be authentic witnesses—missionaries of the Good News—unless we draw all our strength and life from our communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Out of all the seven sacraments, the Holy Eucharist is the greatest of all the sacraments because it contains Christ substantially (cf. Summa Theologiae III, 65, 3). Our lives must be Eucharistic—ones which we daily unite to the offering of Christ and which we allow His grace to transform in order that we may become more like Him. Last night, as parts of the Gospels were read and petitions were made for the Church both in Ireland and around the world, I could not help but recount of the innumerable souls who have given their lives for professing Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and imitated Him until the end.
“The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father” (Ad Gentes, 1). All our missionary efforts are aimed at union of the soul with His Creator. Communion with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament allows us to enter into this intimate relationship as long as we are in a state of grace and have rid ourselves of all the barriers of mortal sin. The life of the sacraments, especially Confession and Communion, give us the opportunity to enter more deeply into this communion with God which He Himself initiates. Our heart must grow to desire these two sacraments of grace just as our bodies seek nourishment to stay alive. Our love for Christ will grow in the proportion we know Him and spend time with Him present in the Blessed Sacrament. During this Eucharistic Congress, churches throughout Dublin (and I imagine in other parts of Ireland as well) have encouraged the faithful to participate in extended hours of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Today, our youth group visited St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral where Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament continues to draw in hundreds of pilgrims.
Our communion with Christ should impel us to share Him with others. The faith we have freely received in God’s Providence through other individuals must be likewise freely given by us to those who do not know Him or have grown lukewarm in their faith. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19). Through our baptism, we have all been marked as missionaries for Christ and are called to preach the Gospel with our lives for His glory. He promised to remain with us until “the close of the age” (most particularly manifested in the Blessed Sacrament) and assures us of the aid of the Holy Spirit in order that we may do great deeds in His name (cf. Mk 16:17).We see this reality at work in the lives of countless missionaries whose footsteps have trodden Irish soil, such as Saint Patrick, Saint Charles of Mount Argus and Saint Mary MacKillop, who through a deeper conversion to Christ Crucified were able to enflame the faith in the hearts of those whom they served.
“The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord” (Note on Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). As we approach this Year of Faith and embark on a journey of evangelization and renewal of the Catholic faith, let us beg of these great Irish saints the desire of greater union with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament among all the faithful in order that, filled with His life and grace, we may be able to bring more souls to Himself.