Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Eucharistic Revival Series: A Transforming Embrace for the Whole Church

Growing up in northeast New Jersey, I surrendered to the fact that I was the only “German-looking” person in my family. You see, my mother was 100% Irish. She had darn brown hair, freckles and blue eyes. My father was 75% German and 25% Irish. He also had dark brown hair, but brown eyes and a sallow complexion. He totally looked German even though he had Irish heritage. You would think that their children would look more Irish than German, right? Well, that was true for two-thirds of them. My sister had dark brown hair, green eyes and a sallow complexion. My brother had red hair, blue eyes and freckles. What did I have growing up? White-blond hair and blue eyes. My mom repeatedly said to me that she hated to see my hair in braids because I looked too German! When she would say that, I would roll my eyes and respond, “You married a German guy!”

Several years ago, I had the awesome privilege of traveling to Rome with a group of Sisters in my congregation from Germany and South America. During this trip, I found myself standing with the group in the piazza of St. John Lateran. I heard the Italian, German and Spanish languages all around me. From the corner of my eye, I spied a woman with bright red hair walking straight toward me. She asked, in English, “Where is the North American College?” In response, I turned to one of the Sisters who was from Rome and asked the same question. Sister then gave this woman the directions.

Upon their completion, I asked the woman, “I was not speaking English when you approached; how did you know that I did?” She responded, “You are Irish, correct?” I nodded. “From County Mayo?” she asked, mentioning a village unknown to me. She then retorted, “Everyone in that village looks like you!” I chuckled and said, “You are the first and only person in my entire life that said I looked Irish!”

I am reminded of this story as I continue my series on the Eucharist.

In his book, “The Blessed Sacrament,” Father Frederick William Faber writes: “… [T]he Blessed Sacrament is not only the devotional life of the Church; it is also in itself a lifegiving power. Indeed, it seems to embrace the whole Church and make itself coextensive with all the wants of redeemed by exiled humanity; and it does this in a sevenfold manner, by Mass, by Communion, By Benediction, by the Tabernacle, by Exposition, by Viaticum, and by Procession.”1

These sacramental mysteries are important for us to take one at a time. Each of these mysteries explains to us the nuances of the importance of the Eucharist. The following mysteries (in bold) are presented by Father Faber; the explanations are mine. We will cover three of these mysteries in this article; the other four will be in the next.

Mass – all of us are bound by time: yesterday, today, tomorrow. God is not like that. Everything is experienced by Him as NOW. This is truly difficult for us to grasp. However, because of the Mass, the eternal offering of Christ on the Cross as priest and victim is brought into our time. During the liturgy, we stand at the Cross with the Blessed Mother, St. John and all the other spectators. Christ offered himself once for us because he loved us, but we need to be reminded of this fact.

Communion – “Theologians truly say that the greatest action of worship which a creature on earth can pay to his Creator, is to receive Him as his food in this tremendous mystery. … One single Communion contains grace enough of its own self to make us saints, if our fervor would only drink deep enough of its exhaustible fountains.”Read that last sentence again. Don’t you strive to be a saint? Hunger after that reality the next time you receive Communion.

Benediction – The Dioceses of Pennsylvania have been blessed through the legacy of St. John Neumann, who brought us the practice of 40 Hours Eucharistic Devotions, even though many of the presbyterate at his time were opposed to it. This devotion, as well as Benediction, are a part of our life in Pennsylvania as much as the Farm Show or Peeps marshmallows. This came to me in a profound way when I was conducting a parish retreat in a neighboring state. You see, I delivered the retreat in front of the Blessed Sacrament. After some quiet time of Adoration, the parish’s deacon was asked to perform Benediction for those attending the retreat. Before the retreat, this deacon came to me and said, “I have been a deacon for ten years and have NEVER been asked to do this. How do I do it?” I thought to myself, “Geralyn, you are not in Pennsylvania anymore.” After instructing this deacon how to “do” Benediction, I realized that if this is true for the deacon, then those who were present had not seen this devotion either. So, I gave this simple impromptu catechesis:

The Blessed Sacrament that we just spent some time adoring is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ blessing US. While on earth, there were two instances that Jesus actually blessed others. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, we read about Jesus blessing the little children and inviting them to come to him. During Benediction, that same Jesus is blessing us as little children who need His protection and His guidance. This is a blessing for us to own the simplicity and humility of the child who depends utterly upon God. The second blessing that Christ bestowed was upon the Apostles before He ascended into Heaven. He raises his hands as He bids them farewell. The result? They were filled with joy as they spent their day praising God waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

These mysteries transform us to be more and more like Christ. We have been created in His image and likeness, but with His grace, we become more and more like Him.

In the village of Heaven, we will ALL look like one another because we shall see God as He is! We will be transformed from being Irish or German to Sons and Daughters of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

1Faber, Frederick William, D. D. The Blessed Sacrament. New Edition, The Peter Reilly Co., 1958. Pg. 430.

2Ibid, 431.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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