The Eucharist: Source and summit of the faith

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrates Mass Dec. 3, 2011, during the Honor Your Mother celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

From its earliest days, the Church has taught that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” containing “the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”

So fundamental is this teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that it is referred to as one of the dogmas of the faith. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said that the Church refers to the Eucharist as the summit of the Church’s life because it constitutes the fullest liturgical celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ.

“It is the way that we, in union with Christ, give highest glory and praise to God,” the bishop said. “We speak of the Sacred Liturgy as also being the source of the Church’s life since it is from the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist that the richest graces of God flow out upon the Church and the world. It is the heart of the Church’s life and of the faith of each member.”

Fourteen parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix have perpetual adoration chapels where the faithful can adore the Real Presence of Christ outside the sacrifice of the Mass. Perpetual adoration chapels peppered across the diocese are available to the faithful 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Organizers ensure that at least one or two people are present each of the hours of the week to adore Christ’s Real Presence.

Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, which is hosting a Eucharistic Congress Oct. 29-Nov. 2, instituted perpetual adoration in June on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Fr. John Lankeit, rector of the cathedral, said within the first three weeks of the establishment of perpetual adoration, parishioners told him of the spiritual fruits already being harvested.

“One woman told me that just by spending three holy hours — one hour a week, three different times — she said, ‘I am more patient with my children, I have more peace,’ and she attributed it directly to her holy hour,” Fr. Lankeit said.

He told another parishioner at Ss. Simon and Jude that he thought perpetual adoration would revolutionize the parish. “No, Father,” the woman told him. “It already has.”

So how important is spending time before the Eucharist in adoration?

Fr. Lankeit believes it is crucial. He said that it’s one thing to read about Christ or to pray, but it’s another thing to actually encounter Him. The cathedral’s rector spends one holy hour each day in adoration of the Eucharist.

“My priesthood would collapse without it,” Fr. Lankeit said of daily adoration. “My priesthood is me standing in the Person of Christ and if I don’t know Him intimately and allow myself to be known intimately by Him in His Real Presence, then priesthood is social work.”

Loretta Winn, a St. Joseph parishioner, has been helping parishes in the diocese establish perpetual adoration for the last 10 years. She said the time invested in adoration bears tremendous fruits.

“I think it’s healing for families,” Winn said. “It will bring your children back to the Church and it will bring you closer to the Real Presence which is the Eucharist.”

Over the years, people have told her that spending time before the Blessed Sacrament has brought their marriage back from the brink of divorce. “It’s amazing,” Winn said. “Having that close relationship with Jesus in adoration — He can change many more people’s hearts than you know.”

Sharon Phelan, a mother of six young children, said the hour she and her husband Mike spend before the Blessed Sacrament is the highlight of her week.

“The busier life gets, the more I desire stillness and peace. My heart craves this time each week,” Sharon said. “It is indescribable the quiet, stillness and peace I feel. Just being with Jesus, next to my husband who is Christ to me in my home… is beautiful.”

The five Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, who reside in the convent at St. Thomas the Apostle Church and teach in local Catholic schools, said the Eucharist is central in their lives as well.

“The Eucharist is what sustains me throughout each day,” said Sr. Michael Vincent Krestyn, OP. “The graces received go beyond our imagining.”

Sr. Mary Magdalene Quinn, OP, said that she “cannot imagine a life without receiving Jesus daily in Mass and spending at least one hour a day with Him in eucharistic adoration. It is the closest I can be to Him this side of heaven,” she said.

Theresa Serrano, who helped organize the upcoming Eucharistic Congress at Ss. Simon and Jude, said she hopes the week-long event will help increase devotion to and adoration of the Eucharist. Too many Catholics, she said, don’t believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Belief in the Real Presence, she said, is what anchors believers in their faith.

“If we believe that when we receive Communion we are truly receiving our Lord, then everything else falls in place,” Serrano said.  “We yearn to go to Mass, we yearn to receive Him in Communion, and we realize the importance of adoration. Our faith becomes stronger.”

Fr. Lankeit said that if people don’t believe in the Real Presence, attending the Eucharistic Congress may be just what’s needed.

“Since it’s a Year of Faith,” Fr. Lankeit said, “why not take a leap of faith?”

The congress will feature a Vatican exhibit of eucharistic miracles, a holy hour led by Catholic recording artist Michael John Poirier, a eucharistic procession Oct. 31 and 24-hour confessions beginning Nov. 1.

Each day of the congress features a different keynote speaker. Among those slated to present talks are Sr. John Mary Corbett, OP who will speak about the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary; Dr. Edward Sri, a professor at Augustine Institute; and Fr. Mark Baron, MIC, superior of the house of formation in Washington, D.C and minister to the Pentagon, who will speak about healing the family through the Eucharist. Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares will speak Nov. 1. The congress will also feature talks geared for teens given by Fr. John Parks and Fr. John Muir.

For more information about the Eucharistic Congress, visit Friendsofthecathedral.org or call (602) 242-1300.