By ARCHBISHOP GREGORY J. HARTMAYER, OFM Conv., Commentary | Published July 8, 2022 | En Español
The weekend of June 17-18, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, saw the return of the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Eucharistic Congress at the Georgia International Convention Center. After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the 25th congress.
Having begun in 1996 by the late Archbishop John Francis Donoghue at Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta, the Congress has grown throughout the years to be a celebration of eucharistic faith not only for Catholics throughout the archdiocese, but also for many throughout the United States who travel long distances to be with us.
The 25th Congress was a beautiful expression of our faith in the real presence of Christ in the blessed Eucharist and a tangible reminder of Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always!” From the healing service on Friday evening to the various tracks on Saturday and from the morning procession on Saturday to the closing Mass of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Congress was truly a celebration that reflected the richness and diversity of this local church.
The speakers and the music, as well as the many exhibits were memorable. As an added inspiration, there was an opportunity to venerate the relics of two men who lived out a love for the Eucharist, Blessed Carlo Acutis and St. Manuel Gonzalez Garcia.
It is no easy task to organize and present such an endeavor without the tireless work of countless individuals, mostly volunteers over a very long period of time. My sincere thanks to Deacon Dennis Dorner, the chairman of the Eucharistic Congress Committee and the committee members for their great work. Thank you to the more than 300 volunteers from the Catholic Center and from our parishes and missions who worked behind the scenes.
This year, an archdiocesan choir from numerous parishes, led by Dónal Noonan, director of music at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, brought such beauty to our liturgies. I am very grateful to Dónal and the choir. To the clergy and religious, speakers, musicians, eucharistic guardians, parish representatives, exhibitors, sponsors—to everyone–thank you, and if I have forgotten anyone, a double thank you.
At the closing Mass, 95 representatives from all of the parishes and missions of the archdiocese were commissioned as Eucharistic Revival Missionaries as we launch a program of eucharistic renewal. Their task is to work with their pastors in developing programs of catechesis and renewal in their respective parishes.
Starting a fire
The renewal is part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative sponsored by the Bishops of the United States, that will culminate in a National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis from July 17-21, 2024. The mission of the revival is “to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.” Its vision is “to inspire a movement of Catholics across the United States who are healed, converted, formed and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and who are then sent out on mission for the life of the world.”
In the words of Bishop Andrew Cozzens: “we want to start a fire, not a program.” The initiative is a response to Pope Francis’ call for all of us to become missionary disciples: “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,” but rather we are always ‘missionary disciples.’” (Evangelium Gaudium, no. 120) And the message that we are to proclaim as “missionary disciples” is the love that we encounter in the Blessed Eucharist—“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) Not only did God give us his Son, but Jesus left us with the great gift of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (Jn 6:53-56) How blessed we are to have the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of our Catholic faith.
The great challenge of the Eucharistic Congress is to bring to our parishes and missions the same devotion and joy that we witnessed during those blessed days. Several resources are available for the eucharistic renewal underway, and I recommend the following as good starting points:
The United States Bishops have launched a special website for the National Eucharistic Revival; this can be accessed at EucharisticRevival.org. I encourage you to read the Pastoral Letter of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” that was issued in November 2021 (www.usccb.org/resources/mystery-eucharist-life-church).
Nothing substitutes for personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the reception of holy Communion and in our prayer before the Lord in the tabernacle and in eucharistic adoration. And once we encounter the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we must put our faith into action by responding to the needs of our neighbor.
Miracle of loaves and fishes
In his Angelus Address for Corpus Christi, our Holy Father commented on the miracles of the loaves and fish.
“Sometimes there is the risk of confining the Eucharist to a vague, distant dimension, perhaps bright and perfumed with incense, but rather distant from the straits of everyday life,” said the pope. “In reality, the Lord takes all our needs to heart, beginning with the most basic. And he wants to give an example to his disciples, saying, ‘You give them something to eat,’ to those people whom he had listened to during the day. We can evaluate our Eucharistic adoration when we take care of our neighbor like Jesus does. There is hunger for food around us, but also of companionship; there is hunger for consolation, friendship, good humor; there is hunger for attention, there is hunger to be evangelized. We find this in the Eucharistic Bread–the attention of Christ to our needs and the invitation to do the same toward those who are beside us. We need to eat and feed others.”
May these words inspire and challenge us as we begin our Eucharistic renewal. Let us pray:
source of all life!
Send us your Holy Spirit,
that we may recognize
and grow in the love of Christ
present in the Eucharist,
who handed himself over for us!
He is our Lord and our Master,
our friend and our food,
our healer and our peace.
Give us the courage to take his strength
and his joy to every person!
Through Christ our Lord, Amen!