Monday, June 16, 2008

Day 2 - The grace of a Eucharistic Congress is an awesome encounter with the Holy Eucharist as a Person, Jesus Himself!

MONDAY THEME: The Eucharist, gift of God par excellence.
NORTH AMERICA

When I was a young man and member of a youth group in town, we went to the Oka Trappist monastery where a monk, Fr. Benedict Vanier, gave us an inspiringly simple talk about prayer as visiting with God. I later returned for a retreat with Fr. Benedict as my director. The first thing he told me that I should do on retreat was "Don't resist the urge to sleep for the first two days. Most people come here tired, and you simply have to allow your body to catch up on rest."

Well, since a Eucharistic Congress is in many ways a retreat - since there is a lot of activity all around, the only silence to be had is the silence we must make within ourselves, with the help of the adoration chapels - my need for sleep and rest has come home to me today.

I was really revved up last night, and after blogging I went up, listened for a while to the replay of part of the opening ceremonies on the little radio they gave us for simultaneous translation, wound down and prepared for sleep. The night was too short, but I went out for a walk and did my best to quickly get ready and have breakfast and then gave a lift to two priest from Burkina Faso, two ladies from Guatemala now living in Montreal, and another lady.

The main congress events at this point are a musical interlude from 7:30 which we missed, Morning Prayer at 8:30 for which we missed a few minutes, a major address called a catechesis at 9:00 which was given this morning by his Excellency Msgr. Donald William Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., U.S.A. He gave us a marvelous reflection on the significance of Jesus' gift of Himself at the Last Supper establishing with humanity the New Covenant prepared by God from all time for our salvation out of love for us. He focused on the perspective of what Jesus did in Holy Week, which we continue to experience year after year, and showed why it is so important for us to do so, as Jesus draws us to enter into the mystery of the love He came to reveal.

After a short break, Jean Vanier came to give a testimony from his experience of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and Holy Communion. He shared his and our anguish over what is happening in the world, which is so bruised, wounded, and divided. Every human wants to be of value, needs to be loved, though some ignore this in them. Jesus intends that as we receive Him into our lives we be touched by his love and changed by it to become more like Him and commit ourselves to be a real presence in the lives of others, especially those whom we find difficult to love....

After another break and some chatting and singing, we prepared to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. This Liturgy was not as "high" or solemn as yesterday. By the way, I made a mistake about the number of singers in the choir. Today we could see their chairs, as there were only 30 or so, and there seem to be some 250 or so chairs in the choir section. There were only a dozen or so musicians today as well, but what music, what singing! These people are not only talented, but they sing and play with such faith, joy, and expression....

If you haven't yet taken the time, check your TV channels and find either a live or rebroadcast glimpse of the main Congress events and Liturgy.... You will be touched by these events....

Some members of the Archdiocesan Council of the CWL found me and I joined them for lunch after Mass. We got to use the little transparent raincoats they had put in our pilgrim delegate bags as we experienced a Quebec version of Irish mist.... Part of the grace of the Congress is meeting and sharing with people we know and also with strangers, people we never met before. Another part of the grace is being immersed in a little sea of humanity, seeing and hearing people from all over the world - some 70 countries in all - and lots of clergy: 40 cardinals, some 250 bishops, and hundreds of priests.

I wasn't fast enough to get into one or other of the workshops or animated adoration sessions offered after lunch, so along with a few thousand other people I visited over a hundred kiosks presented by religious orders, new religious communities, various New Evangelization initiatives, various purveyors of religious goods, devotional articles, books and other tools of evangelization and catechesis, adoration communities and intitiatives and projects, and lots more....

All the colors, visuals, materials, and the dense press of people was a little overwhelming at one point and I went out to seek one of the adoration chapels. I soon found one, went in, knelt and adored Jesus, and sat down. I took out a devotional prayer book from my pilgrim bag, and soon found myself dozing. My body claimed some of my back ordered rest....

I was there for an hour and a half or more, and after a while, life began to come back into me. I became aware of my overdue need to seek the Lord's forgiveness and experience the joy of going to confession; so I lined up along with a dozen other penitents.... The Confessor was a happy and delightfully radiant middle aged priest from the new community of L'Émmanuel here in Quebec. He said only a few words which were what I needed, inviting me to reflect on John 15 where Jesus spoke to us as branches on Him the Vine...

He had brought out a group of youth once into the woods in early Spring for adoration, and he asked them whether they could hear or see the sap running in the trees. Of course they couldn't. Well, he said, it is like that with Jesus. We cannot hear, see, or smell the sap running from Him into us, but just as we see evidence of it in the trees as they sprout fresh new leaves, so it is in us as Jesus gives us to bud forth new shoots of vitality within us and all around us as we overflow of his love to others around us....

On leaving the adoration chapel, I wandered around the main welcome center where a number of afternoon events are also staged and where the booths are on display, and I bumped into former parishioners and friends from St. Thomas à Becket Parish in Pierrefonds. I also saw a number of other people I know, religious and laity from the Montreal area....

Two of my morning passengers and I reconnected, decided to shop for groceries, and I brought them back to the rectory where I am staying and we made and ate supper together.... That too was a blessing... So the central grace of a Eucharistic Congress is to finally slow and quiet down enough to notice one's hunger and thirst within for Jesus, and in the course of a prayerful visit with Him in adoration, to suddenly realize that He is pouring out his sap into us, into me, and in that moment I remember that He loves me personally. I remember my true name, who I am before God and in Jesus, and I find myself completely back in the present moment, having gotten off the merrygoround of business and busyness....

If and when I have any vitality at all, it all comes from Jesus, whether I am aware of it or not, and it is a great joy to remember the truth... Peace be with you.... May you allow yourself, even from a distance - distance doesn't matter for the Holy Spirit - to enter into this grace of the Eucharistic Congress!

Jesus is a living Banquet of divine Love

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