The Eucharist: A source of hope and strength
In these weeks, I have been reflecting on the fact that shortly I will mark the 50th anniversary of my ordination to priesthood. It was on July 14, 1973, that Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, then-Archbishop of Boston, ordained me at Sacred Heart Church in Watertown, Massachusetts, my family’s church, the place of my baptism, first Communion and confirmation, and the place where I felt called to the vocation of priesthood through the example and encouragement of the wonderful priests and sisters who served in that parish. I am grateful for all of them and for all the faithful people of that parish who showed me such an example of being a Christian community.
As I prepared for this anniversary, I retrieved a folder from my battered file cabinet that has been moved around a fair bit in the last 50 years. The folder contains some yellowing documents I kept from various points in my priesthood, marking special priestly moments. Among these typed things, there’s a copy of the homily Msgr. John Keilty gave at my Mass of Thanksgiving the day after my ordination and the homily I gave a year later at a similar Mass celebrated by my brother, Father Kevin, after his ordination.
It is striking to me that most of the things in the file are connected to the celebration of Mass on various occasions. That, of course, should not be too surprising as one of the most important roles of the priest is to lead the people in prayer, particularly in the prayer of the Eucharist. It is the privilege of priesthood to be able to gather the faithful people for this celebration in all kinds of circumstances, from the daily Mass to times of catastrophe and danger such as September 11, 2001. The Mass is the moment when we are the closest to the Lord. He becomes present through our prayer just as He promised at the Last Supper. He gives us hope in challenging circumstances. He gives our lives direction and mission as He guides us in His way, the way of love. This moment in my life calls me to remind all of you of the importance of the Eucharist in our lives and to encourage you to pay attention to the activities of the Eucharistic Revival now unfolding in your parishes.
On Corpus Christi Sunday (June 11), the Diocese of Portland initiated its participation in the National Eucharistic Revival’s Parish Year, which will run through June 2024. During the year, your parish will be offering opportunities for you to be renewed in appreciation for the Eucharist as we place holy Communion in its rightful place at the center of parish life.
There were beautiful displays of community and celebration on the Feast of Corpus Christi at the many Maine parishes that hosted eucharistic processions. How beautiful to see the Blessed Sacrament carried through our churches and through the streets of Yarmouth, Old Town, Portland, and other communities. These solemn processions brought grace to those who observed them. They provided participants with the encouragement to unite themselves to Jesus’ prayer to His father that all people find salvation in Him. An outdoor Mass was celebrated in Winslow, special times were allotted for eucharistic adoration and holy hours, and parish-wide novenas were prayed. In so doing, all who participated had the opportunity to increase their understanding of what the Eucharist really means.
Over the course of this year and beyond, you will be encouraged to learn about how the Eucharist can be more fully celebrated, received, adored, and lived in your own life. Give some time to deepening your own appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist. Remember that questions do not mean the absence of faith but are often the way to arrive at deeper faith and that Christ gave the Church answers to your questions. Take the time to find out what those answers are. You can find many resources on the Diocese of Portland's Eucharistic Revival website, helpfully separated into each of the four sections (Celebrated, Received, Adored, and Lived), at www.portlanddiocese.org/Eucharist.
The year will culminate in a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July 2024. It will be an opportunity to gather people from parishes throughout the country and unite us around the source and summit of our faith, the celebration of the Eucharist. We will renew ourselves in our faith that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, and there, He renews and unifies our Church and our world with His healing mercy. There is still time to register for this extraordinary gathering of faith and mission. Information is available on the diocesan website.
Week after week, all over the globe, priest and people together faithfully take bread and wine as Jesus told us to do at the Last Supper. In prayer, it becomes the body and blood of Jesus. His presence in the Eucharist now is the same as His presence in the Eucharist then. Every Eucharist is a source of hope, encouragement, and strength for us in living as Jesus called us to do. He shows us His love and asks us to bring that love to the world. In Him, we find the joyful grace to live that message. It has been my privilege to lead the people in the celebration of the Eucharist for 50 years. It has been a true grace. Through the Eucharist and with each other, let us continue to live in joy as we strive to love as He commanded us.
Bishop Robert P. Deeley, JCD