June 2, 2013
After the fall of the South of Vietnam many priests were arrested by the communists. They were accused of being "Vatican spies." One priest, Father Joe, after serving 12 years in prison told me this story.
"In prison, I received wine and bread for the Holy Eucharist from my family in the form of cough syrup and cookies. During the lecture on politics in every evening, we secretly shared these cookies with other Catholic prisoners, and they kept them until the next Sunday for the Eucharist.
There was no gathering for the liturgy. At a specific time, everyone sat at their own prison cells. There were no altar, no books, and no candles. I prayed and consecrated bread and wine in silence while the prisoners were holding the cookies in their hands, and consumed afterward. Some prisoners did not consume the Body of Christ right away but adored the Body of Christ for few hours later. And that led to the problem. When the guards saw the adoration, they knew that we had a secret Mass. They tortured and questioned us. Many of us were tortured to death as they did not say a word in order to keep the secret for the benefits of others. That was how much the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist meant to us, and how much we paid for the Eucharist?"
Fr. Joe’s case was very common at that time. Priests in prison or in re-education camp tried their best to celebrate the Eucharist and to nourish other prisoners. Some said they brought more people to God when they were imprisoned than the time they were free to exercise their priestly ministry in the parishes!
Why do we set aside a special day to honour the Body and Blood of Christ? Don't we honour Christ's Body and Blood at every Mass? Why, then, have a special day?
In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus provided an extraordinary meal for the people who followed him to a lonely place. After teaching and healing them, he nourished them. In the Eucharist, Christ, through the ministry of the Church, continues to teach, heal and nourish the people of God. But sometimes we lose our appreciation for this special gift of God, because we have Eucharist every day in every church. We do not feel our need of Eucharist as Father Joe and his prisoners did. We do not have to pay any price for the Eucharist as they did, except for one or two extra hours.
The Feast of Corpus Christi holds out to us an invitation and a challenge. This feast invites us to ask ourselves, what does Holy Communion mean to us? Do we still appreciate it as much as we did when we received it for the very first time? Does it mean as much to us as it did to Father Joe and his friends?
If our answer is "no," then we are faced with a challenge: How can we deepen our personal appreciation for the Eucharist? How can we become excited again about this gift? May I make with two suggestions?
First, during the week ahead, add a prayer of thanksgiving to our regular daily prayers for Christ's gift of his Body and Blood to us. Second, every time we walk up the altar to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, focus our thoughts, in a special way, on who it is we will receive. We will receive the living Body and Blood of Christ. We will receive the same Christ who was born in Bethlehem, who died on the cross, who rose from the dead, who sits at the right hand of God the Father. When we think about this, it is so incredible that it is hard to imagine. Yet we know by faith that is true. Only a loving God could have given us such an unimaginable gift: the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
This week and next week many children will receive the Eucharist for the first time. Then on June 16, many children will be confirmed by Bishop Henry. We have journeyed with them since last October. We hold classes twice a month. They are also obliged to attend a family fun day or a youth night. Our purposes are very clear.
- We do it this way to accommodate children who attend public schools and who are home schooling.
- We want children to feel comfortable with the congregation and with the church setting.
- We want the children get to know each other and priests, and feel comfortable to talk with priests and deacons.
- We want the parents and children to attend the Eucharist every Sunday and to build up a good habit of attending church.
- When the children are in classroom we want the parents to come inside the church building and pray.
In other words, we try to emphasise the importance of the Eucharist in the individual Catholic life and the importance of the Eucharist in the Church community.
Thanks to parents! Many of you have done just as we expect. In some particular cases, you have done even more as you volunteer to teach or help in classroom. Thanks again.
Sadly there are some parents that just drop off their children for classes and come back to pick them up after. They and their children don’t even bother to stay for the Eucharist! Then what is the point to receive any sacrament!
We pray that the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist, will touch our children and our families. We pray that we will appreciate what Jesus has left to us. We thank Jesus for the Eucharist and we continue to celebrate the Eucharist as we proclaim his death and resurrection until he comes again.