By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published June 18, 2009
Each one of our physical senses is a blessing from God, and they work in perfectly balanced harmony for most of us. We all depend upon those senses to encounter the world about us.
While some human senses are more highly developed than others, members of the animal kingdom often have superior senses of smell; some have eyes that are far better quality than ours; and some are equipped with a sense of hearing that is phenomenal compared with human ears.
Our human senses are balanced so that we see, hear, smell and touch in ways that allow us to survive in our environment. Last Saturday, as I sat in the darkened reservation chapel for the Blessed Sacrament at the Georgia International Convention Center as the Eucharistic Procession filed past into the gathering space, I could only hear the sounds of this local Church—and those sounds were indeed wonderful.
I could hear the voices of the little ones making their way along the corridors. I heard the rhythmic beat of the Vietnamese drum as it solemnly signaled the presence of the Eucharistic Lord. I heard the sounds of Spanish songs of praise and festive honor to Christ and His Blessed Mother. I heard Creole prayers being offered. I heard the chatter of people who were filled with excitement at this special time for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. All I did was to listen to those sounds without seeing the faces or the colorful banners or the costumes of the people. But hearing was stimulus enough to give my heart reason to praise God for His goodness in helping this event to occur once more here in Atlanta.
The Eucharistic Congress is a big undertaking each year for the people of the archdiocese. It takes countless hours of preparation and planning, an army of volunteers and staff personnel to accomplish the many tasks that accompany the congress. It involves the thousands of people who journey from throughout these 69 counties and well beyond to spend time together with the Lord of the Eucharist and with one another. Yet I have come to believe that all of the efforts and costs are well worth the price that it takes to make this an annual festival of Faith for the people who so eagerly participate each year.
We have now completed 14 Eucharistic Congresses, and I trust that the respect and honor that Catholics in our archdiocese have for the Blessed Sacrament has increased and deepened. The people who provided the workshops and the presentations all said that they were edified and strengthened in their own faith because of the great outpouring of devotion that they experienced in the midst of our people. I could not have been prouder for the witness of Catholic Faith that was so obvious over this past weekend. And I thank everyone who played a part in making the Congress so successful and Spirit-filled.
In a few days on June 19, we shall begin “The Year for Priests” at Pope Benedict XVI’s request. During this time, the Holy Father has asked us to pray for our priests and to reflect with them upon the great gift that Christ’s sacramental Priesthood is for the Church.
Without priests we have no Eucharist—no priest can even hope to be successful in his ministry without the Eucharist as nourishment and strength for him and for the people that he strives to serve.
I have combined the theme of the Priesthood and our Eucharistic Congress for 2010 into the title of “To Sanctify the Christian People,” taken from the Rite of Ordination of Priests. That is what priests are called to do for the Church and what the Church expects of us.
Throughout the next year, you will probably hear that phrase many times over in our archdiocesan communications and publications. Each time you hear that theme, please pray for our priests and ask the Lord of the Eucharist to provide all of us with holy, joyful, zealous and healthy priests to accomplish the mission that Christ has entrusted to the Church that He loves with all of His Sacred Heart.