VATICAN CITY — In the first week of September, Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics to pray and reflect on next month's Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in Rome.
The synod will conclude the Year of the Eucharist and will follow on the heels of World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, celebrated under the theme “We Have Come to Worship Him.”
Young people lucky enough to be in Rome during the synod's first week will have a distinct opportunity to carry out the Pope's wishes. Youth Eucharistic adoration groups from around the globe will gather Oct. 2-9 for a week of adoration, formation, evangelization and dialogue.
The event, formally called the Second International Meeting of Eucharistic Adoration Youth Groups and known as Adoremus 2005 for short, will be held under the theme, “The Eucharist and Man's Identity.” Centered on the Eucharist and adoration, the conference will be made up of prayer, a series of challenging talks by expert speakers, processions and dinners.
Event organizers within the Vicariate of Rome say the meetings are intended “to stimulate a reflection on the consequences of the encounter between Christ and man, and how the contemplation of His face reveals man to himself.”
The talks, meanwhile, have been chosen “to reflect the all-encompassing importance of the Eucharist in the everyday life of man.”
Subjects include Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, his encyclical Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of Man), Our Lady of the Eucharist, Christianity in politics, and the role of the Eucharist in the workplace. The latter talk will be delivered by Francois Michelin, head of the Michelin Group.
Mass celebrants include Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Antidote to Relativism
But the most important element of the weeklong activities is the Eucharist and adoration.
“It's important that many young people take part in Eucharistic adoration at a time when the Church is facing difficulties in a society suffering from relativism,” said Stefano Cascio, who first had the idea for the meeting of adoration groups during the Jubilee Year. “Meditating in front of the Blessed Sacrament is a good way of confronting these problems.”
Cascio was inspired to spread the importance of Eucharistic adoration among youth after hearing Pope John Paul II's words during World Youth Day in 2000.
“Dear friends,” the Holy Father said at Tor Vergata in Rome, “when you go back home, set the Eucharist at the center of your personal life and community life: Love the Eucharist, adore the Eucharist and celebrate it!”
Soon after, a weekly adoration group began meeting at the Church of Sant'Agnese Agone located in the famed Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome. The church soon became a center for youthful dynamism and today about a hundred international youth, including students, seminarians, young professionals and families, gather there every Thursday evening to attend Mass and join Eucharistic adoration until midnight.
Some of them also go out on to Piazza Navona and evangelize. Known as “Lights in the Night,” they invite bystanders to enter the candle-lit church and take part in prayer.
Now they are staging the second meeting of Eucharistic Adoration Youth Groups, the first having taken place in October 2004. But this year's event will have a larger international element: Three groups from Africa are expected to attend, along with others from Eastern Europe and the United States.
In total, organizers anticipate approximately 250 participants. Registration is still open for other groups wishing to take part.
“It's important to have relations with other groups,” explained Cascio, a 26-year-old seminarian from Nice, France. “A lot of people don't know what adoration is and why we are doing it, so I see these meeting as important for formation — we have to know what we are doing [during adoration] and why we are doing it. Then comes evangelization.”
Cascio also sees Eucharistic adoration as vital to discernment, especially when discerning a vocation.
“Without adoration I couldn't have taken the decision to enter the seminary,” he said. “It's most important to have this relationship with God in adoration. … You understand who you are when you have God in front of you.”
For Gabriel Olearnik, a 25-year-old member of the British adoration group Youth 2000, Adoration is an opportunity to reflect and grow.
“I like the way time is swallowed up in eternity,” he explained. “It allows you to step outside of life, to see where you're going and to do so in serenity and in the light of eternity.”
He sees the upcoming Adoremus gathering as important because of its profoundly focus on the Eucharist.
“You cannot have adoration without the Mass, and Adoremus has the Mass, adoration and procession all together,” said Olearnik, a London lawyer of Polish descent. “That's what makes Adoremus so good — it combines all three elements and they dovetail well.” And, he adds, the sacrament of reconciliation is always offered too.
The hope now is to spread the concept of Adoremus abroad.
“We hope to open it in different cities all around the world,” said Marthe-Marie Casey, an American Catholic working at the Vicariate of Rome's Pastoral Youth Service. “We're hoping to extend it every year.”
Cascio also has plans to make the event available through the Internet.
“I want to build a website where all these groups which, say, hold adorations at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, will be able to link up and find each other on a map,” he said.
Added Cascio, “The website would be a forum, a point of reference, after which we could perhaps all meet in the United States or France. It needn't always be in Rome.”
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.