Eucharistic Year Ends With a Bang

OJAI, Calif. — A couple were so impressed with Pope John Paul II's dedication of a year to the Eucharist that they dedicated their own wedding to it as well.

“Since Nick and I were married at the beginning of the Year of the Eucharist, we made the connection between the Eucharist and marriage the ‘theme’ of our wedding,” said Wendy-Irene Zepeda of Ojai, Calif. “We picked readings which reflected the connection,” she said.

Those included the Song of Songs 1:2-4, which reads, “Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth! More delightful is your love than wine”; Revelation 19:5-10 & 21:1-5 “Happy are they who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb,” and John 2:1-11 — the wedding feast at Cana.

“We and the congregation sang Adoro Te Devote together at Communion time,” Zepeda said. “Our wedding favors were cards with icons of the Last Supper, the wedding feast at Cana, the breaking of bread at Emmaus, and the icon of the Trinity where it's represented as three angels sitting at Abraham's table.”

They even found a quote from Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien to put on the back of the cards: “I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. … There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, that every man's heart desires.’”

“The Eucharistic Year had a sort of gala air for me — a chance to focus specially on the stupendous gift of God's intimate presence among us,” Zepeda said. “A chance to rejoice in the presence of our Joy.”

Dozens of American dioceses are marking the close of the Year of the Eucharist with Eucharistic congresses, solemn Masses and other special events.

The Year of the Eucharist, which Pope John Paul II proclaimed in his 2004 apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine (Stay With Us, Lord), began last October with the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, and ends with the closing of the Synod of Bishops in Rome Oct. 23. In his apostolic letter, the Pope asked the world's bishops “to emphasize the Eucharistic dimension which is part of the whole Christian life.”

America's bishops have responded by teaching about the Eucharist, by urging their priests to offer opportunities for adoration, and by holding events that have reached their crescendo in the last month:

— In Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali led a holy hour attended by 25,000 people.

— In Brooklyn, N.Y., 9,000 were expected to take part in a Eucharistic procession, a talk by Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Benedict Groeschel, and Mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.

— In St. Paul, Minn., 8,000 attended a Eucharistic congress Mass celebrated by Archbishop Harry Flynn.

— In Phoenix, 6,000 people attended the Mass, procession, and Rosary Sunday closing the Year of the Eucharist — with “a great showing of young families [and] youth,” according to Father Fred Adamson, vicar general of the Diocese of Phoenix.

— In an area where only 3% of the population is Catholic, Charlotte, N.C., Bishop Peter Jugis held a Eucharistic congress and led a procession of 3,500.

— The Archdiocese of St. Louis closed the celebration with a six-week “Stay With Us, Lord” observance that featured weekly holy hours and Eucharistic homilies in every parish.

Among the other events closing the Year of the Eucharist were conferences or Eucharistic congresses in Chicago, Salina, Kan., Salt Lake City, and Wilmington, Del.; processions in Green Bay, Wis., Harrisburg, Pa., New Ulm, Minn., Paterson, N.J., and Springfield, Mass.; adoration in Bridgeport, Conn., Peoria, Ill., and Wichita, Kan.; and special Masses in Altoona-Johnstown, Pa., Buffalo, N.Y., Dallas, Denver, Dodge City, Kan., Lafayette, Ind., Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Providence, R.I., and Tucson, Ariz.

Several bishops told the Register that the Year of the Eucharist led to a rekindling of Eucharistic devotion and an increased sense of generous Christian service among the faithful of their dioceses.

In Detroit, a series of parish and regional Eucharistic days and Forty Hours devotions culminated in an Archdiocesan Eucharistic Day of Mass, adoration and vespers. Cardinal Adam Maida, who wrote monthly catechetical newspaper columns throughout the year, told the Register that one-third of Detroit parishes now have 24-hour adoration.

Salina Bishop Paul Coakley has observed “an encouraging growth” in various forms of Eucharistic adoration.

“The more we are touched by the love of God in the Eucharist, the more we need to respond to this love,” he said. “Adoration leads to mission. The connection with [priestly] vocations is clear, but there is also an impulse toward a more generous stewardship of all of our gifts.”

Likewise, Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington has noticed “a rekindling of ‘Eucharistic amazement.’”

“When we rekindle our Eucharistic amazement and devotion,” he said, “then our marriages in turn are rekindled. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are rekindled. A missionary spirit and evangelization are rekindled. … I see parents and religious educators really going the extra mile in their efforts to lead our young people to a life-changing understanding and lived experience of the Eucharist.”

In central Pennsylvania, where Forty Hours devotions took place in many parishes, Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Joseph Adamec has emphasized the connection between the Eucharist and charity.

“I have been reminding our faithful of the importance of not only believing in and receiving the Eucharist but also of living out the Eucharist,” he told the Register. “That involves presenting Christ to the world through our being, as does the Eucharist, nurturing God's people in their spiritual lives, as does the Eucharist, and allowing ourselves to be consumed in the process, as does the Eucharist.”

This dual emphasis upon service and worship has affected laity and priests alike. Phil Sutton, a psychologist and school counselor in Michigan and Indiana, has found Eucharistic adoration to be “a comforting and challenging time to offer up myself and my day, as well as my future work” so as to find the “time and energy with which to serve the Lord and whomever my life will touch.”

Bishop Saltarelli observed that the year “has helped to uplift me and so many priests I know to live their priestly consecration and mission more deeply, more vibrantly.”

Theologian Scott Hahn told the Register that the Year of the Eucharist has helped him to see “the liturgical content and context of Scripture with much greater clarity.” The Bible, he pointed out, “begins and ends with liturgy, from the Sabbath rest of Genesis to the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation. The story of Scripture is the story of mankind's journey to worship in spirit and truth in the presence of God.

“This true worship,” said Hahn, “is the very purpose of God's creation in the beginning.”

Jeff Ziegler is based in Ellenboro, North Carolina