We will begin this Eucharistic Revival with our celebration of Masses on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – more commonly called Corpus Christi – which this year falls on Sunday, June 19.
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
This has been an exciting time in the Diocese of Alexandria. Over the past three months, I celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation in 28 churches – sealing 284 young people from 34 parishes and missions with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I ordained a transitional deacon who will continue his formation for his ordination to the priesthood next year, and on Saturday, June 4th, I ordained 13 new permanent deacons to serve throughout our diocese. Yes, it has been an exciting time, but what kind of a church will these deacons serve? Will these newly confirmed disciples of Jesus Christ find welcome and encouragement in their parishes? Do we gather eagerly for Mass each Sunday? Are we hungry for the Word of God and for the gift of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist?
A year ago, we invited you to “Come to the Table.” After months of isolation and social distance, we encouraged those who were physically healthy to return to the celebration of Mass, to the source and summit of our Catholic faith, to the privileged encounter with the Lord which is present when we worship Christ in the Eucharist. Thankfully, many of you have responded. Our crowds have now almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, but that is not the whole story. Even before the pandemic, many of our parishioners only came to Mass every once in a while. Over the years, many people have drifted away from their religious heritage – some were too engaged in the demands of the world, others did not experience the presence of the living God in our liturgical celebrations. In the Eucharist, we hold in our frail hands the Incarnate Word of God – but he remains hidden from our sight in the form of ordinary bread and wine. For too many, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is only a doctrine contained in a catechism, not a lived experience, not a personal encounter with the Lord.
For the next three years, the bishops of the United States are calling us to aNational Eucharistic Revival. In this time, we are invited to walk with the Lord as did two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Easter Sunday afternoon. Though the Lord joined them, these disciples did not recognize the risen Christ. Instead, this stranger began to explain the Scriptures to them and eventually joined them at table. Finally, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. As they reflected upon their encounter after the Lord had disappeared, they could not believe that they had not recognized Jesus when he instructed them along the road. “Were not our hearts burning within us?” they said. Brothers and sisters, in this National Eucharistic Revival, we are seeking to start a fire, not a program. Yes, there will be events, gatherings, online learning opportunities, prayers and devotions, but those are only means to a more important end – the goal of this revival is to enkindle in the hearts of the faithful the fire of God’s love which is most perfectly nourished and nurtured in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in an encounter with the real presence of Jesus Christ.
Here in the Diocese of Alexandria, we will begin this Eucharistic Revival with our celebration of Masses on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – more commonly called Corpus Christi – which this year falls on Sunday, June 19. I will celebrate the 11:00am Mass at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. At the conclusion of Mass, we will have a period of exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral as we prepare for a procession of the Blessed Sacrament which will begin at approximately 12:30pm. Our route will take us through the streets of downtown Alexandria and will conclude at St. James Memorial Catholic Church at the corner of Winn and 8th Streets. You are invited to join us for Mass at the Cathedral, to join us for the procession from beginning to end, to join us anywhere along the route, or to meet us at St. James. This is an opportunity for the Catholic community to give visible witness to our faith in the Eucharist and our desire to share that faith with the world that surrounds us. Yes, this year Corpus Christi Sunday falls on Fathers’ Day, but Fathers, do you need another neck tie or another sleeve of golf balls? Is there any better way of celebrating as a family than by encouraging your children to walk with the Lord?
Visit our website diocesealex.org for the times and the exact route of the procession, and for more information about the National Eucharistic Revival and how you can become involved. May our celebration of this Eucharistic Revival fill our hearts with the love of God and fill our churches with disciples whose hearts burn for the Lord.
Most Reverend Robert W. Marshall
Bishop of Alexandria