Thursday, June 21, 2012

Communion with Christ ... Communion with one another.

Last week (June 13th - 17th) I was in Dublin, Ireland for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC). Luckily, I was able to finish my exams in a timely manner so that I could go to Ireland in time for the congress. This was my first ever International Eucharistic Congress. The last one was held in 2008 in Quebec, Canada. The next one will be in the Philippines. Basically, the IEC is time for Catholic from around the world to gather and be strengthened in their devotion in the Most Blessed Sacrament. IEC includes holy Mass everyday, time for adoration, an Eucharistic procession, various conferences and talks. The event started on Sunday, but I didn't arrive until Wednesday.

At World Youth Day last August in Madrid we went to an Irish catechesis site. There I learned about the IEC. I felt like I should go. The Catholic church in Ireland has been going through a difficult period following revelations of child sexual abuse in the past. I wanted to go to support the Irish church with my prayers and gain on-the-ground experience of Irish Catholicism because really Ireland has sent missionaries to almost every part of the world. I was able to do just that.

A wonderful husband and wife were willing to host me during my visit. I was a bit weary about traveling to such a large event alone. But, right away I began encountering various people I knew from various places. These large events are more like a giant family reunion. How beautiful is that. That when the church gathers to celebrate and proclaim her faith in the Eucharist, it is like a family reunion since it is the Eucharist which unites all of us in communion. I was also blessed to meet many new people. Especially the young, happy, full of hope Irish seminarians. It took me a day or to do find where they were hanging out, but once I did it was a blast. Were able to share stories of seminary life and such things. They all knew Bishop Hebda from his time at there seminary during the recent Apostolic Visitation.

One of the most poignant moments for me was the Eucharistic procession on Wednesday night. What a beautiful public proclamation of our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. In a time when some might be tempted to retreat, it is really a time to go out into the streets proclaiming Jesus Christ. I was also struck by the Irish people, themselves. They're really tough as nails. The major IEC Masses were held outside and sure enough it would always be raining. Yet, the men and women from the WWII generation were not effected by the terrible rain. Pretty impressive. Another important moment for me was when I was able to catch up with Danielle Rose. The last time I saw her in concert I was in high school seven years ago. Her music has been important to me throughout my discernment and time in seminary. 

A photo from the closing Mass. 
It was really a beautiful time. There were moments were I really wondered why I had come all the way to Ireland for the IEC, especially when it was raining. There were also difficult moments when I could see first-hand the state of the church which has been wounded by years of bad theology. I'll remember those experiences when I'm studying theology and I don't feel like it. Good, sound teaching of the faith is indispensable. Needless to say I'm glad I went. 

At the end of the closing Mass, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the more than 70,000 people gathered in a pre-recorded video. I'd like to leave you with a short excerpt
The Eucharist is the worship of the whole Church, but it also requires the full engagement of each individual Christian in the Church’s mission; it contains a call to be the holy people of God, but also one to individual holiness; it is to be celebrated with great joy and simplicity, but also as worthily and reverently as possible; it invites us to repent of our sins, but also to forgive our brothers and sisters; it binds us together in the Spirit, but it also commands us in the same Spirit to bring the good news of salvation to others. - Pope Benedict XVI 17-June-2012