(or Sacrament of Charity), Pope Benedict XVI writes the following on the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church:
Since the Eucharist makes present Christ's redeeming sacrifice, we must start by acknowledging that "there is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church's very origins.” The Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us and continually builds us up as his body. Hence, in the striking interplay between the Eucharist which builds up the Church, and the Church herself which "makes" the Eucharist, the primary causality is expressed in the first formula: the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross. The Church's ability to "make" the Eucharist is completely rooted in Christ's self-gift to her. (par. 14)
From these words, we can begin to understand more fully the great mystery that is Christ’s gift to the Church and, thus, the Church’s gift to the world. This understanding brings us to a very pertinent question as we near the beginning of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC)
in Dublin: can the church in Ireland, wounded as it is by scandal and the ensuing civil backlash, offer Christ to the world? In other words, when the world looks to Ireland, will they find a dwelling place of Christ? If we relied on the mainstream media to provide us with information regarding the Church in Ireland, we would have given up on the Irish hosting the IEC long ago. Yet, when we listen to bishops, priests, religious, and lay people speak about the upcoming Congress, we sense a great spirit of hope; albeit a hope contextualized by the current conditions in Ireland. Take, for example, Archbishop Martin’s comments during a recent Vatican news conference about the congress, “[The Congress] will reflect and showcase the church in Ireland, a church which has faced and still faces enormous challenges, but a church which is alive and vital and anxious to set out on a path of renewal.” This spirit of hope amongst the faithful in Ireland is a tell tale sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Given all of this, what do we really see when we look at Ireland, the church in Ireland, and the hope permeating the faithful there? There is great suffering at present in Ireland; amongst those wounded by the church, and the church herself wounded by the actions and inaction of her own members. But it is precisely from this suffering that the Eucharistic Congress will come forth. In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that it is from the pierced side of Christ that the sacraments and the Church are born; so too will it be that from the pierced side of the church in Ireland will flow the Body and Blood of our Eucharistic Lord. This will be most evident at the opening and closing masses celebrated by the Papal Legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet, which are both considered statio orbis, for that is when the whole Church (even those not physically in attendance) will be present to and in communion with the church in Ireland. We are on the cusp of witnessing a great moment of God’s Providence at work, when from the suffering of a local church emerges the unifying presence of the Eucharist drawing to itself the entirety of worldwide Catholicism in a spirit of Adoration.
To find out what may follow the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, let us turn once again to our Holy Father in Sacramentum Caritatis:
Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become "bread that is broken" for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world. Keeping in mind the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we need to realize that Christ continues today to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged: "You yourselves, give them something to eat" (Mt 14:16). Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world. (par. 88)
What becomes of the church in Ireland after the International Eucharistic Congress very much depends on the lay and ecclesiastical leadership in Ireland. Those of us not living in Ireland, however, are not simply distant observers; rather, we are to become ‘personally engaged’ with our Irish brothers and sisters by praying for them and by offering to them the resources and support they need to move forward in renewal. Let our prayer in preparation for the Congress and following after it be for the Lord to fill us with His Holy Spirit so that we may become the ‘bread broken’ for Ireland and for a world in desperate need of the Eucharist.
CNS photo/David Maung