An End and a Beginning

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June 21, 2008
Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Official End of my Service as Chaplain
to the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, O.S.B.
Branford, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Luigi: A Eucharistic Saint

Saint Aloysius, Luigi to call him by his proper name, may well be the most loved Jesuit in history. Luigi contracted the plague from those whom he was nursing. He foresaw his own death and asked Our Lord that he might die within the Octave of Corpus Christi. He died, in fact, on the Octave Day of Corpus Christi with the name of Jesus on his lips. Luigi was twenty-three years old. The liturgy commemorates the Eucharistic glow surrounding Luigi’s death in today’s Communion Antiphon:

He gave them the bread of heaven:
men ate the bread of angels (Ps 77:24–35).

Into the Radiance of the Eucharist

I should like to think that this my last “official Mass” as chaplain of the Monastery of the Glorious Cross might also leave us in a kind of Eucharistic glow. Every Holy Mass does this, certainly, but I see this particular celebration, after seven years of service as chaplain to the Sisters, as marking a movement in my own life and, I would hope, in yours too, from the radiance of the Eucharist into the radiance of the Eucharist.

With Faces Unveiled

The high point of my seven years here was, without any doubt, the Year of the Eucharist proclaimed by Pope John Paul II in 2004–2005. The Year of the Eucharist was that of his death, followed by the election of Pope Benedict XVI. It was also, for all of us, I think, in one way or another, a year marked by very special graces flowing, all of them, from the adorable mystery of the Eucharist, and carrying us as on a great surging wave, back into it, again and again. Does not the psalmist say, “In Thy light we shall see light” (Ps 35:10)? And does not Saint Paul describe the Christian journey as a movement from brightness to brightness? “It is given to us,” he says, “all alike, to catch the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, with faces unveiled; and so we become transfigured into the same likeness, borrowing glory from that glory, as the Spirit of the Lord enables us” (2 Cor 3:18).

The Eucharistic Face of Christ

The contemplation of the Eucharistic Face of Christ, the adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Christ is something that, for me at least, came into focus very clearly over the past three years. I had meditated, it is true, the invocation that the Congregation [of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified] taught me thirty-three years ago — “Most Holy Face of Jesus, sub Sacramento abscondita, hidden in the Host, look upon us, and have mercy” — but I needed, as we all do, those thirty-three years of sufferings, weaknesses, sorrows, blessings, and joys, for that invocation to pass from my head into the very fibres of my heart.

My New Mission

The wonderful Providence of God has so arranged things that I find myself now preparing to enter upon a new mission, one that is explicitly Eucharistic and priestly, one that will be marked by adoration, reparation, and a full-time dedication to the spiritual needs of priests and deacons.

In the June, 8, 2008 edition of his diocesan newspaper, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery, presented something of his vision for the Eucharistic renewal of his diocese, beginning with the Eucharistic renewal of his clergy. Rather than explain this to you in my own words, allow me to share with you what Bishop Slattery wrote.

“As a living organism, the Diocese must be assessed not at the level of measurable material things, but at the level of spiritual health, that is, the level of our ever-growing intimacy with Jesus Christ. Since the spiritual life is based on love, not to advance in this dynamic relationship with God in Christ is to retreat. One either grows in Divine intimacy or retreats from it; but the spiritual life is never static.”

Spiritual Health of the Clergy

Bishop Slattery has called me to the Diocese of Tulsa to be an agent of the spiritual health of his clergy, to foster and facilitate the ever-growing intimacy of his priests and deacons with Jesus Christ. His Excellency goes on to say:

“Let me introduce an idea, which is evidently a strongly felt part of the Pope’s vision. . . . The pontiff expressed his desires . . . through the Congregation for the Clergy in a circular letter from the Prefect of that Congregation, Cláudio Cardinal Hummes. That idea, briefly put, is this: Since there is an undeniable link between - on the one hand - the holiness of our clergy, the effectiveness of their pastoral ministry and the depth of their personal commitment and – on the other hand - the centrality of prayer and Eucharistic adoration in their lives, then of all the things which are necessary for the good of the Church, nothing can be considered more important, more necessary or more vital than helping our priests and deacons grow in Divine intimacy.”

It is that last line — nothing can be considered more important, more necessary or more vital than helping our priests and deacons grow in Divine intimacy — that explains Bishop Slattery’s mandate to me. He explains:

First and Foremost An Adorer of the Eucharist

“After their ordination, priests and deacons step to the altar of sacrifice and kiss it. They embrace a life of sacrifice which opens them up and makes them vulnerable to their Master’s redeeming love and allows His Eucharistic love to flow through them to sanctify the communities they serve. As Pope Benedict said “The secret of (priestly) holiness lies precisely in the Eucharist. The priest must be first and foremost an adorer who contemplates the Eucharist.”(Sept. 18, 2005).”

Adoration in the Diocese of Tulsa

His Excellency wants to express this concretely in the life of his Diocese:

“Cardinal Hummes asked that Eucharistic adoration be fostered in every parish and Catholic institution, with priests, chaplains and directors encouraged to strengthen the practice of adoration where it is already firmly established and introduce this devotion in places where it has not been known or where it has been allowed to disappear. Cardinal Hummes would be pleased to know that the kind of Eucharistic renewal he envisions has been quietly but steadily growing in our Diocese. Already eight parishes (plus St. John Hospital – a ninth site!) offer continuous (daily or even 24-hour) adoration, and a further 32 offer weekly periods of adoration. In fact, fully 72 out of our 78 parishes and missions have some form of Eucharistic Adoration during the course of the year!”

The Eucharistic Cenacle

Bishop Slattery intends to do still more. Listen to the description of his project:

“Cardinal Hummes asked that wherever possible, specific churches or oratories be set aside by the Bishop to serve the diocese as Eucharistic shrines, similar to Marian shrines. In these shrines of adoration, the Church’s special love for the Holy Eucharist, worthily celebrated and continuously adored, can be fostered and nourished until the light of Our Eucharistic Lord transfigures the whole Diocese. I have already decided to do this, but have prayed much that Our Lord direct me to the best location of our first such Eucharistic Cenacle of Prayer.”

For the Holiness of the Clergy

His Excellency has decided then, to set aside a place, and to designate it a Cenacle of Eucharistic Adoration for Priests. Then he describes what my mission will be.

“A second recommendation made by Cardinal Hummes was that in each Diocese a priest be appointed to the specific priestly ministry of promoting Eucharistic adoration. In some ways, the ministry of this priest-servant of the Eucharist would be to coordinate this important movement throughout the Diocese; but his ministry would be much more than simply coordination and management. Dedicating himself generously to making Our Eucharistic Lord better known and more loved, this priest would live a life of personal reparation and sacrifice offered for the holiness of the clergy. I am taking Cardinal Hummes’ recommendation very seriously; but I think that in this Diocese, it would be very beneficial to add to this priest’s ministry of sacrifice, a further responsibility, that of serving as spiritual director and confessor to our priests and deacons.”

Spiritual and Material Support

I took the time — your time — today to quote Bishop Slattery at length because I want to ask you to adopt this new mission of mine, first of all spiritually, by carrying it in the secret of your own prayer, but also materially if you are able to do so. I appeal to the Sisters, and to all the women here; I ask you to respond generously to the Holy See’s request that you accept the challenge and responsibility of spiritual motherhood for priests. This means offering your prayer, your sufferings, your sacrifices for the sake of priests, for the healing of those who are spiritually wounded, and for their growth in Divine Intimacy.

Thursdays of Adoration and Reparation for Priests

I invite all of you to commit yourselves to an hour of Eucharistic adoration in a spirit of reparation and supplication for priests every Thursday. Thursday is, as you know, the beginning of the weekly rememoration of the Paschal Mystery, it recalls the “Birthday of the Chalice,” that is, the institution of the Priesthood and of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Thanksgiving

It is time now to go to the altar of the Holy Sacrifice. Today, I carry to the altar and place upon the corporal, together with the bread that will become the Body of Christ, and the wine mixed with water that will become His Precious Blood, all that has happened in the Monastery of the Glorious Cross over the past seven years and — because God is eternal — all that the future holds in store for you and for me. For all things willed and permitted by God, I will sing, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” To that, there can be but one suitable response: “It is right and just.”

I gratefully acknowledge Rorate Caeli as the source of the above image of Saint Luigi Gonzaga.

6 Comments

I rejoice in your new mission. How wonderful that your service will be to promote Eucharistic adoration.

What a beautiful obedience!

United to you in prayer.

It sounds wonderful. Your bishop picked the right priest for this, I think.

How beautiful! I hope this becomes a model for other dioceses as well.

Caro amico,

May God who has begun this good work bring it to fulfillment!

How much this ministry is needed is known to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and our Lady of Sorrows who share in the suffering of priests, that priests may share in their suffering and from it healing may come. It is the fruit of Calvary, the sweet blessing that gushed forth from the Heart of Christ and bathed the world with grace. It is the cords of love that bind us to Christ that by His stripes we might be healed. It is the sweetness of tears shed in a Mother's bitter sorrow that wash away the pain and hurt and soothe as the sweetest balm.

Fear nothing. You are carried in the arms and protected with the mantle of our Mother of Perpetual Help.

I am with you in prayer and support as you have been with me.

Fr. Mark,
I pray that HE will continue to allow you to 'feed' us in your most holy lessons. You have my prayers as you begin this next journey and my heartfelt gratitude for all that you have shared with me. And you can count on me to continue to pray for all priests...my prayers go with you.

May Our Blessed Mother keep you always.
God's Speed,

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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