Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Hundreds Bring Central Celebration of the Faith to State Capitol with Solemn Mass and Eucharistic Procession

The Diocese’s 8 Days of Eucharistic Joy culminated with a public display of belief in, and love for, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – right in the heart of Pennsylvania’s capital.

In a Diocesan-wide celebration in conjunction with the National Eucharistic Revival, hundreds of Catholics gathered June 8 for Holy Mass atop the steps of the State Capitol followed by a Eucharistic Procession around the Capitol Complex.

“It is important that we publicly acknowledge our faith and express it, because the democracy which this state capitol behind us represents is founded on the belief that God has created us in His image and likeness, and has endowed each one of us with inalienable rights,” said Bishop Timothy Senior, who was joined by a number of clergy for the celebration of Mass.

“Our faith, lived well, brings people together with a sense of social responsibility and care for one another and for the common good. Our system of government depends upon citizens who take that responsibility very seriously,” he said. “It is significant that we take this central celebration of our faith, honoring the Eucharist, to the center of our Commonwealth here on the steps of the State Capitol.”

The peal of bells from St. Patrick Cathedral echoing along State Street signaled the start of the Mass, as those on the Capitol steps watched as the Entrance Procession, escorted by a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard, approached from the sidewalks below.

The Vietnamese Choir from St. Anne and Our Lady of La Vang Parish in Lancaster and the Diocesan Schola sang hymns and led the congregation in songs of worship and praise. The Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, prayers and responses resounded around the complex, amplified over loudspeakers.

In his homily, Bishop Senior reflected on the 8 Days of Eucharistic Joy, which began June 1 with the ordination of four priests and included gatherings with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, a Eucharistic celebration in Danville, and the Consecration of the Diocese to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“It has been a great gift to come together to participate in our National Eucharistic Revival in these moments of prayer, to honor our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to rekindle our faith and our love for Him there, as well as our belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and to allow it to touch our hearts ever more deeply so we can be ever more faithful,” he said.

Observing the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bishop Senior reflected on the Blessed Mother’s humanity even as she brought the Savior into the world.

“When we bring our experiences, our petitions, our struggles and place them before the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she takes them to her heart and she invites us, challenges us, to trust in God with her, to have that same sense of surrender, to remain faithful to her son Jesus in all circumstances,” he said. “Even when we don’t see where it’s all going, God does indeed have a plan we can trust, and that is a plan for our good.”

“On this beautiful morning, then, as we celebrate the Eucharist together, call to mind the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us all take those things we hold in our hearts – particularly our struggles or challenges with our families, or perhaps our worries for our community or our country, our world – to her…trusting in the abiding presence of Jesus always with us in the Eucharist, never leaving us, giving us the nourishment that enables us to continue to follow as faithful disciples of Jesus, to live our Christian faith more vibrantly,” the bishop said.

As the celebration of Mass continued, many of the faithful dropped to their knees and looked upward during the Consecration, an impressive witness of faith as pedestrians and traffic passed by. For the distribution of Holy Communion, several priests were stationed at various spots on the Capitol steps, positioned underneath Diocesan umbrellas for Communicants to locate them.

At the conclusion, the Blessed Sacrament was placed in a monstrance, and the bishop led the congregation in a period of Adoration before leading them in a Eucharistic Procession around the Capitol Complex.

Escorted by the Knights of Columbus and with a thurifer, cross bearer, candle bearers and Diocesan Schola, the assembly chanted the Litany of the Blessed Sacrament and sang Eucharistic hymns. After rounding the block and returning to the Capitol steps, the congregation of men, women, children and infants in carriages moved to St. Patrick Cathedral, where the bishop led them in Benediction.

Tim and Kelly Lawrence of St. James Parish in Lititz were among the hundreds who participated in the Mass, procession and festival of ethnic foods that followed at City Island. The couple also joined in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage when it traveled through the Hanover area earlier in the week.

Celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary this year, the Lawrences will be commemorating the occasion by attending the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July.

“We wanted to do something special to celebrate it, and I couldn’t think of anything better to do than to be part of the Eucharistic Congress and celebrate our faith,” said Kelly.

“I’ve been so inspired by the public witness to our faith throughout this week, and I think it’s something we particularly need to do, especially of late in our world,” she said of the Masses and pilgrimages.

“Seeing several hundred people along the ten-mile route in Hanover on Tuesday, and the numbers here today around the Capital Complex gives us hope, and is an incredible testament to our belief in the Real Presence,” Tim said. “What better way to celebrate the Lord than to be here in His presence and across our journeys.”

(Mass photos by Chris Heisey; procession, Benediction and festival photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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