Catholics in England and Wales are already preparing for the National Eucharistic Congress, entitled Adoremus, which is to take place in Liverpool this coming September.
Eucharistic Congresses are a feature of Catholic life, and they are designed to foster devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The last one to take place in this country was in 1908, so a Eucharistic Congress here is long overdue. On that occasion the authorities refused to give permission for a Blessed Sacrament procession through the streets of Westminster.
Since then times have changed. The authorities today, one assumes, will view the congress as just another mass event (it is hoped some 10,000 people will take part), and plan accordingly. For Catholics, this is a great opportunity to reverse a historic drift away from a Church that is centred on Eucharistic devotion. The congress will include a six-hour stage show at the Liverpool Echo Arena culminating in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There will also be several keynote speakers, including Bishop Robert Barron from America, as well as our own Cardinal Nichols.
But the success of the congress will depend on just how many parishes revive and strengthen the practice of Eucharistic Adoration after the congress is over. That is the aim: to have more Eucharistic Adoration outside Mass, and to have greater respect, love and devotion to the Eucharist inside Mass; in other words, to re-enchant the central act of Catholic worship.
It is surely right to see the congress as one step in a long process. On Holy Thursday 2003, St John Paul II published his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, which begins with the sentence: “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist.” In it he warned Catholics against obscuring the beauty of the Church’s Eucharistic heritage and urged the practice of Eucharistic Adoration. The saint uses the phrase “Eucharistic amazement” in the letter, an eloquent way of expressing what our feelings should be when we find ourselves in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
One bishop who clearly feels that we need to proclaim and experience Eucharistic amazement is Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, who has declared 2018 a Year of the Eucharist in his diocese. The bishop makes some very basic recommendations: the faithful should take time to genuflect properly before the Tabernacle; people should visit the Blessed Sacrament more often; and they should cross themselves when passing a church, even if it is shut.
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