May 30, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Vocations are special graces derived from perpetual adoration

June is a big month for our archdiocese.

On June 7, we will ordain two fine transitional deacons, Aaron Jenkins and Joseph Newton, to the priesthood.

On June 28, we will ordain 25 permanent deacons, the first to be ordained for our local Church.

Last week, we celebrated the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the sacrament of unity and charity.

It is good to reflect about the connection between the Eucharist and priesthood, and the Eucharist and the diaconate.

Christ gave us the sacrament of the priesthood at the same Last Supper at which he instituted the Holy Eucharist.

When he said, “Do this in memory of me,” he gave us the means to do so, that is, the ministerial priesthood.

Without the Eucharist, there would be no Church. Without the priesthood, there would be no Eucharist.

This underscores the importance of our praying that the Lord send workers into his vineyard. We are blessed to have good priests, and two good new priests, but we need more priests.

It is a blessing that we will have 25 permanent deacons. Their primary role in the Church is to help us carry on the ministry of charity.

Their ministry finds its touchstone in the Eucharist, which is the sacrament of charity. It is a great gift of the Lord to our archdiocese to have the helping hands of charity through the ministry of these deacons.

They are not “substitute priests,” but are ordained to assist our priests in making the ministry of charity go a little farther in our parishes and agencies. I am particularly hopeful that they can help in special ministry to the sick and the homebound, and also in prison ministry.

Not long ago, Bishop John D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese asked me how many perpetual adoration chapels we have in our archdiocese.

When I told him we have 10 at the moment, he remarked, “No wonder you have so many good vocations.”

I think he is right. Vocations to the priesthood and diaconate are one of the special graces that derive from perpetual adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in chapels around the archdiocese. I applaud the parish sponsors, and all of those who oversee and participate in this special devotion.

As Pope Benedict XVI has remarked, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a natural and logical extension of our understanding of the awesome gift of the Eucharist, which we celebrate in our communities around the archdiocese.

I want to encourage this special devotion that acknowledges our faith in the real presence of Christ, body and soul, humanity and divinity, in the Eucharist.

It is not possible to have perpetual adoration in every parish. Round-the-clock presence takes a sizeable number of ­parishioners.

I am happy that some parishes are able to expose the Blessed Sacrament weekly for adoration during the day. It is always possible to step into our churches for a short visit before the tabernacle.

In encouraging devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, I want to recommend that we pray especially for more vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. Please pray especially for our seminarians and priests, who are giving themselves in service to the Lord and to our Church.

Traditionally, an additional purpose of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament is to pray in reparation for sins, particularly sins committed against this awesome gift which Christ gave us.

We just celebrated the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which honors in a symbolic way the love of Jesus even to the point of being pierced and crucified, shedding his blood for our salvation. This feast also is an act of reparation for our sins in which we lack generous love in return for the love of Jesus, “who gave his life for his friends.”

On May 31, we celebrate the feast that commemorates the Visitation of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist in old age.

Mary made this visit after the Annunciation of her becoming the mother of Jesus. I like to see Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, as an act of charity that flows from Mary’s new and special relationship as the mother of Jesus. It could not have been an easy journey, probably on foot, in primitive Palestine.

Charity is the fundamental virtue that flows from our being nourished in the Eucharist. Living a life of charity with consistency is a formidable challenge for anyone.

Our Blessed Mother Mary is an exemplary model to encourage us to strive for this ideal.

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament place us before the source of grace and nourishment that enables us to be people of charity in the stuff of everyday life. †

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