Sunday 6 March 2011

Adoremus in aeternum

Pope Pius IX in a Eucharistic Procession in St Peter's Square
I mentioned on an earlier post that I'm going to the International Adoratio Conference in Rome later in the year. The Conference is being sponsored by Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, whose diocese I will be visiting later in the year as well. One of those responsible for getting everything in hand for the conference, Father Florian Racine, has just given an interview to Zenit, the Catholic news service.

According to Father Racine, Adoratio 2011 will seek to not only promote Eucharistic adoration, but also to underline "the central role of the Eucharist in all aspects of ecclesial life. We will see how adoration is important in the formation of priests, how it renews parishes and dioceses, how it nourishes consecrated life, without of course forgetting its direct link with charity and the explicit proclamation of the Gospel."

The three-day event will include 14 conferences, workshops, the celebration of Mass in the ordinary and extraordinary forms, all-night adoration and the divine office. It will conclude by joining with Benedict XVI in his celebration of the solemnity of Corpus Christi at the Basilica of St. John Lateran and the eucharistic procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Scheduled speakers include Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and former secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signature; Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; and Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

Here is Part 1 of this interview, where Father Racine discusses the motivations behind the Adoratio conference, as well as the importance of Eucharistic adoration in the spiritual lives of the faithful. A timely reminder to commit to spending time with the Lord this Lent. The highlights are mine.

Q: Father, you are one of the organizers of the International Conference on the Eucharist that will take place in June 2011. Why is this conference of importance to the Church at this time?

Father Racine: As we know, Pope John Paul II asked the Church to be committed to the "New Evangelization." One of the aims of this conference is to help to anchor this in the Eucharist, center, source and summit of all evangelization.

So that our evangelization will be founded upon the Eucharist, we must go and draw from the source of grace in the eucharistic mystery, which itself "must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion or in a prayerful moment of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," Pope John Paul II, No. 61). "The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself" ("Sacramentum Caritatis," Benedict XVI, No. 66).

To speak of the "New Evangelisation" has become fashionable in recent times, but we must be attentive to the risk of simply copying the "Evangelicals" in their methods of evangelization. Without calling into question a certain effectiveness of their practices, we mustn't forget that for us Catholics, the source of divine life and thus missionary fruitfulness is found in the sacrament of the Eucharist! I do not announce the Gospel in my own name, or solely by my own strengths or personal talents, but in the name of the Church and by the power of the Eucharist.

As Benedict XVI wrote: "An authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary Church. We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: 'That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us' (1 John 1:3)" ("Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 84).

Q: Numerous speakers have been announced for this international conference, and curiously, the range of topics is extremely broad, since they cover everything from the mission, to the religious life, to the commitment to the poorest of the poor. Why such a broad range of subjects in order to speak of the Eucharist?

Father Racine: The different themes were chosen with the intention of showing the central role of the Eucharist in all aspects of ecclesial life. The speakers will help us to reflect on the particular role of adoration for evangelization, while situating adoration always in relation to its intrinsic connection to the Mass. We will see how adoration is important in the formation of priests, how it renews parishes and dioceses, how it nourishes consecrated life, without of course forgetting its direct link with charity and the explicit proclamation of the Gospel.

Q: St. John in his Gospel tells us that the Lord seeks those will adore Him in "spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). What, in your opinion, is it to adore in spirit and in truth?

Father Racine: It seems to me that in order to adore in "spirit and in truth," we must approach the Blessed Sacrament from two complementary angles:

First of all, I must enter into the Trinitarian dynamic. In the Holy Eucharist I adore first of all Jesus who is present before me. He is the Incarnate Word, who prolongs his incarnation for his Church. Then following on from this personal and consoling encounter with the Christ, I take another interior step: Jesus leads me to the Father. I enter into the Son's adoration of his Father. Jesus purifies my spiritual life, detaching me from sensible consolations in order to attach me to God himself. I encounter the Father, source of all mercy. I allow myself to be loved just as I am. Jesus carries me as the Good Shepherd who carries the sheep upon his shoulders. Finally, in this movement of the Son toward the Father, I receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, gentle and discreet, but which permits me to live intensely the Christian life. In receiving the Holy Spirit I can then commit myself to the mission of the Church, toward others.

Also, my adoration must not be a private devotion or merely a personal act of piety, it must become an ecclesial prayer. In effect, "Closeness to the Eucharistic Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries but, on the contrary, makes us open to human joy and distress, broadening our hearts on a global scale" (John Paul II to Mgr Houssiau, 1996).

Q: When a person commits himself or herself to adore for one hour per week, do you understand that to be a participation in the mission of the Church?

Father Racine: We cannot judge what happens in hearts. However, we can acknowledge the difference between the two following approaches: to come and adore when I have a bit of time, after I have done all my personal activities and if I feel like it… and to come and adore faithfully every week, choosing to consecrate a specific hour every week to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This second approach commits me to the Church. I don't go first of all to present my personal intentions, but rather I am sent on mission by the pastor, to carry the world, to intercede in the name of all the people of the world. I am interceding for the sick, for those who are making important decisions, for those at home, at work, on the road. In short, I am there, I am a presence of the Church before the Lord in the name of all the others.

Pope John Paul II once wrote these profound words: "Through adoration, the Christian mysteriously contributes to the radical transformation of the world and to the sowing of the Gospel. Anyone who prays to the eucharistic Savior draws the whole world with him and raises it to God. Those who stand before the Lord are therefore fulfilling an eminent service. They are presenting to Christ all those who do not know him or are far from him; they keep watch in his presence on their behalf" (Letter to Mgr Houssiau, June 1996).

Q: In a dream St. Don Bosco once learned that in order to face the storms which come our way we must be attached to three pillars: the Church, the Eucharist and Marian devotion. Is eucharistic adoration a lifeline for the Church in this time of storms and purification, especially in the West?

Father Racine: Jesus says: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). The more Christian communities are united to Christ the more they are purified by the Father and made fruitful by the Spirit. The Eucharist is the sacrament that brings about this communion between God and us. Eucharistic adoration renews our union with God.

We see that Christians, Catholics, want to pray, but we also observe that it is so difficult to pray at home because of all the distractions. Going before the Blessed Sacrament helps us. Being face-to-face with Jesus in the sacred Host leads us also to a heart-to-heart with him. Jesus became flesh 2,000 years ago to unite himself to us. The Eucharist prolongs his incarnation. He is there in the Eucharist so as to become one with us and in order to give us a new heart and a new spirit.

To remain silent before the Blessed Sacrament may appear difficult. But Jesus is the easiest person to encounter, to love, to visit! Also what is proper to spiritual combat is perseverance. We must not adore for our own sakes or to receive sensible consolations. We must go and meet our Creator, our God and find our joy in this encounter even if we don’t "feel" anything. In this way our adoration is more pure because it leaves everything up to God.

St. Peter-Julian Eymard once said: "You are suffering from spiritual dryness? You can at least give glory to God's grace without which you can do nothing. Open your soul toward heaven just as a flower opens its petals at sunrise to receive the refreshing dew. [...] But you are in a state of temptation and of sadness; everything rebels in you; everything induces you to leave your adoration under the pretext that you are offending God, and that you are dishonoring him rather than serving Him. Do not listen to that insidious temptation, it is the adoration of combat, of fidelity to Jesus against yourself. No, no, you are not displeasing to him: you are bringing joy to your Master who is looking at you… He expects you to honor him by remaining with him to the last minute of the time you were to devote to him."

Let us not forget that adoration is part of the first commandment, it is the first duty of the virtue of justice. We must acknowledge God our Father. In the desert the devil wanted to turn Jesus away from the true adoration, which is due to God alone. Jesus responds with a citation from Scripture: "Adore the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Matthew 4).


And to prove that Eucharistic devotion is still alive in some seminaries at least here is the
Annual Eucharistic Procession at Rome's Dominican University last year
(Nothing like this at Ushaw Seminary in the last 40 years - and now it's closing...)

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