Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

College Park

Speakers See Eucharist As Key To Full Life

By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published June 17, 2004

The six speakers highlighting the general track of the 2004 Eucharistic Congress, who hail from places across the country and hold varying ministries and roles within the church and in society, each provided different nuances and insights into the big question of what it means to be Catholic and what the Eucharist means. Woven within each talk was a personal witness of each speaker’s faith journey and a testimony of the paramount importance of the Eucharist in the lives of the faithful. Most importantly, each speaker challenged the audience to act on their faith and to act with urgency.

The general track, which was attended by thousands throughout the day, ran continuously from 11 a.m. to

5:30 p.m. Russ Spencer, FOX-5 news anchor and a parishioner at St. Brigid Church, Alpharetta, ably emceed this part of the program with humor and enthusiasm, keeping the momentum of the talks going.

Jeff Cavins, Catholic apologist and author of “My Life on the Rock” and the “Amazing Grace” series of books, was the first speaker, and he quickly focused the audience’s attention on the Eucharist. His talk was centered on the tremendous spiritual hunger that people have. So many people who have left the church, he said, have left because they haven’t been fed, a statement in which he finds painful irony. Cavins himself left the Catholic Church and became a Protestant minister for 12 years, but then he returned. “I wasn’t being fed,” he said. And this yearning—this need to be fed—was the center of his talk. Cavins said, “We will find a place to be fed because we’re hungry and we’re searching.” He shared the scriptural evidence from the Bible that established the Catholic Church as the right path, Jesus as the shepherd who feeds us, and the Eucharist as the food of life. In the Mass, said Cavins, we are “fed the word of God and fed our Lord . . . we bring our gifts and they are changed into his body and blood.” At the end, Cavins exhorted the crowd, “Don’t ever leave the Catholic Church and give up the Eucharist” to a roar of approval. Cavins is co-author with Scott Hahn, Ph.D., of “Our Father’s Plan,” a 13-week series on historical periods of the Bible shown on the Eternal Word Television Network.

Raymond Arroyo, news director and lead anchor of the Eternal Word Television Network, brought a little “Hollywood” to the day and a challenge to use culture to change the world. The challenge, he said, is to “change the world, engaging the culture, without falling in.” Using references to Mother Teresa, Flannery O’Connor, Mother Angelica, Mel Gibson, Pope John Paul II and (Arroyo’s personal idol) Dean Martin, Arroyo entertained and informed the crowd with quips, stories and song. “We must make use of culture . . . with TV, music, art, films, books . . . it is the hope of mankind,” he said. We are “cultural warriors . . . all of humanity hangs in the balance.” And if we don’t win this “war,” he said, “the family will falter, and civilization as we know it will be over.” Using Dean Martin songs to illustrate each point, Arroyo shared his principles for life: love the Eucharist as “the source of life,” use the media and the arts to change the world, and don’t forget the Blessed Mother. He ended with the advice to “be excellent, be subtle, and the Lord will be at your side.”

Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., a weekly columnist for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newspaper, and co-founder of Crossroads Productions, an apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization, reminisced about growing up Catholic as he mulled the question of “Why be Catholic?” in his talk. The Catholic Church is the sign of the reunion that happened at Pentecost, “the family coming back together.” He also said that our faith reflects a “living tradition” that is passed on through Scripture. “God talks to us with body language in the sacraments, which are moments of grace,” he said. And in what Thomas Aquinas called the “sacrament of sacraments,” he said, “He gives us his entire self . . . We have the power to become new people . . . in the wholeness, fullness of the Eucharist.” In the spirit of having “life and life more abundantly,” D’Ambrosio said, “don’t settle for less.”

Deal Hudson, Ph.D., publisher and editor of Crisis magazine, a Catholic monthly journal published in Washington, D.C., brought some local flavor to the day. A convert to Catholicism, he spent his early adulthood as a Southern Baptist, even founding the Baptist Student Union at Princeton. Hudson moved to Atlanta in 1974 as a Southern Baptist minister, received his doctorate at Emory and taught for nine years as a philosophy professor at Mercer University, Atlanta. At some point in his faith journey, he discovered the truths in Catholicism, and in 1989, after 15 years in Atlanta, he left as a Catholic. His compelling story of conversion is detailed in his new book, “An American Conversion.” He was confirmed by Father Richard Lopez (now Msgr. Lopez, teacher at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta) in 1984. During his talk, Hudson told amusing stories about his introduction to Catholic traditions, but he was quite serious about the fact that he had become a Catholic because “of the Eucharist.” He said that God knew He had to “become a material thing—by physical presence and beauty, they’ll notice me.” And God “gave us the Eucharist so we wouldn’t have to remember.” In the Eucharist, Hudson said, “we keep falling in love over and over and over in a fresh way” with God. The Eucharist is “a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice . . . All of us are called to make the same sacrifice . . . called to live a life of sacrifice.” Hudson concluded by reminding the audience that “each time we take Communion, we are making a promise to renew” our lives.

Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body was the main focus of speaker Christopher West, who teaches on the subject at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Australia. In his talk, West immediately asserted that the “Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith . . . the sacrament of the bridegroom and the bride, which serves to illuminate the relationship of man and woman.” West emphasized that the Eucharist holds the full truth of married love, which “gives us an earthly image to help us understand the Eucharist.” The pope’s theology of the body consists of 129 short talks he made between 1979 and 1984, which focused on sexual love and provided a radical description of maleness and femaleness and the “meaning of life itself.” West, who has written two explanatory books on this theology, said that “God reveals His mystery to us through human flesh.” Like Arroyo, West touched on the subject of culture, mentioning the themes of hunger, craving and restlessness in the human heart that flow through popular songs and stories. “Because of our culture, our world is starved for love, for food,” he said. “And the banquet of life is the Eucharist.” West called on attendees to study the theology of the body and to “recognize in masculinity and femininity the call to be holy.”

Alan Keyes, Ph.D., who rounded out the talks at the end of the day, firmly told the audience that as “Catholic Christians we have something to give to this world.” Keyes holds a doctorate in government from Harvard University and has spent 11 years in government service in the U.S. State Department and as a presidential appointee to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. He called the United States a “nation blessed beyond all imagination.” His talk focused on the idea that Americans “have it good, and we take it for granted . . . we take for granted our ability to live the faith.” Keyes said, “That time of freedom, easy-going belief, is already over. We just don’t know it yet.” Mentioning the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion, Keyes eloquently argued that the country is in the “final stages of the legitimization of sin” and sin now has the “status of respectability.” Alternately speaking in hushed tones and proclaiming in full voice, Keyes reminded those in the big convention hall of their responsibility to answer the call of our faith. “We are in for a bad time,” he said, “and it has already begun . . . If we want a reason to hope, then we had better find that hope from the only reliable hope in this life . . . It’s about time we remember what our Lord went through.” Keyes said that the Eucharist means “we are joining with the Lord to offer ourselves to be broken for the sake of his will, his love.” The Eucharist, he said, is “not just what he does for us, but what he calls us to do.” Keyes asked the crowd to “take on the challenge . . . to do something” about the evil in this world and the culture of death. “The Eucharist,” he continued, “has the strength of God, so that we can rely on the power of his truth.” Keyes asked the people, “Are we going to answer this call?”

As he wrapped up his call to fight for freedom and a culture of life, he said, “Relying on the strength of the Eucharist, we can fight.”