By Marie Mischel
SANDY, Utah (OSV News) — Coming from Logan and St. George, from Tooele and Vernal, from Salt Lake and all parishes and missions between, an estimated 10,000 Utah Catholics gathered July 9 for the Diocesan Eucharistic Rally and Mass at the Mountain America Exposition Center in Sandy.
The rally culminated the diocesan phase of the three-year Eucharistic Revival of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is meant “to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States by helping us renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” according to eucharisticrevival.org.
“This is a really momentous day in the history of our diocese, and I am tremendously grateful that you are here,” Father Christopher Gray, the diocesan Eucharistic Revival point person, told those who gathered for the event’s opening prayer. He gave his comments in English and Spanish.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis led the opening prayer, assisted by Deacon George Reade, diocesan chancellor. Those attending filled all the chairs in the room and stood against the wall as they started the worship by singing “We Are the Body of Christ” in English and Spanish.
“What a beautiful day God has given us to be gathered as a faith community, filled with joy and ardor for the Eucharist, where we encounter and experience the living presence — the real presence — of Jesus Christ our Lord,” the bishop said. “It is an exciting moment for all of us Catholics in the state of Utah. Today we celebrate the importance of the Holy Eucharist as the source and summit of our Christian life and worship.
“We celebrate what it means to truly be a Eucharistic people, and we celebrate how the Eucharist makes present the relationship God has with each of us,” he continued. “As we journey together today, let us keep in mind that the Eucharist is not only something we receive, but something we become. If we do it with faith, the Eucharist helps transform our life into a gift to God and to our brothers and sisters.”
The rally included nationally known speakers, opportunities for the sacrament of confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a teen rally and a family zone with activities for children.
The day ended with a Mass at which Bishop Solis presided.
The speakers in English were Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s doctrine committee; and Timothy O’Malley, director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life and academic director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy. Bishop Flores gave his address in Spanish as well. Also addressing the Spanish-speaking community was José Antonio Medina, who teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Texas and at Loyola University in Los Angeles.
All of the presentations were standing-room only.
Bishop Flores had been scheduled to attend in person, but the doctor recommended he not travel, so his sessions were conducted by Zoom.
The Eucharist celebration “is an invitation constantly to enter into a participation in (Christ’s) life,” Bishop Flores said in his presentation, “The Eucharist as Participation in the Work of Christ.” He focused his talk on charity, he said, because that is “the key, I believe, for us to kind of appreciate what it is that the Lord gives to us when he makes himself available and present and active during the Eucharistic celebration, the Eucharistic sacrifice.”
In the church, charity is defined as a particular kind of love. Christ showed charity not only through the Eucharist but also through his teaching and in the washing of the feet of the disciples, the bishop said.
When people listen to Christ’s teaching, they should listen for “what is it the Lord is desiring to move in me? Because this is an aspect of charity,” the bishop said; charity “forms us to seek those things which Christ seeks, to desire those things which Christ desires. It is transformative message; it’s not simply a doctrine that allows us to understand certain things. … It is also a call to move; that is to say, to be moved into the desire for the kingdom and for the life of the kingdom.”
O’Malley spoke on “Becoming a Eucharistic People.” Peppering his talk with humorous anecdotes, he explored how the Eucharist shapes “the church into a way of life that is a gift to all those who encounter Christ in the church. … The task of a Eucharistic revival, I want to suggest, is to foster a Eucharistic culture, where the church becomes ever more what the church is called to be: a communion of love that keeps alive the memory of salvation offered by Christ, empowering us to live this life, this Eucharistic life, in the world.”
He encouraged his audience to make a practice of Eucharistic adoration, because it leads “us to see the everyday with new, transformed eyes. Learning to see his hidden love invites you to see his hidden love everywhere. In the hungry and the thirsty, the migrant and the prisoner, the child unborn in the womb and the mother carrying that child — there he is.”
Christ comes all the time in the Eucharist “so that we can learn to see that,” he said.
In his presentation, titled “The Eucharistic: Source of Unity in the Church,” Medina spoke about the importance of participation in the Mass, beginning with the history.
“Back in the day, the celebrant of the Mass was the father of the family, and it was celebrated in their homes,” he said, noting that as time passed the structure of the Church and its ministries grew until it became “the church that we know today, but we should never forget that the church started with the family.”
Throughout his presentation he gave some of the most important testimonies about Scripture and church tradition, and reflected on the rites, symbolism and words used in the Eucharistic celebration.
The Eucharist “unites us in a communion of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Medina said.
Also during the rally was a presentation on the USCCB’s “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities,” given by Carol Ruddell, a member of the diocesan Commission for People with Disabilities, and Maria Cruz Gray, director of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry.
An event tailored specifically for Catholic teens included talks by Bishop Solis and Benjamin Acosta, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students for the last seven years, presented two talks, both focused on the Eucharist.
Bishop Solis told the teens they are “the heart and the life of our church.”
He emphasized that it is very important for the teens to “recognize the presence of God in your lives. God is in your heart, God is in you and with you everywhere. … The love of God is so strong that it never wants to part ways from us.”
Like all Catholics, the teens have an important mission in the church, he said.
“When you received the sacrament of baptism, you also received a responsibility: to share the message of God to the world,” the bishop said. “God created us like him, as a source of joy and a source of happiness. I want you to feel that joy in your hearts.”
The family zone offered a “spiritual pilgrimage” throughout the state of Utah. The design mimicked the Camino de Santiago, with each of the 21 stops designed to teach participants about different Catholic sites in Utah or information about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The camino offered resources in Braille, presentations in English and Spanish, and other accommodations for those who needed them.
Among activities was a stop where children could have their photo taken with a cutout of Bishop Oscar A. Solis. Another stop, “Jumping James,” taught participants about how human bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and offered games such as The Word of the God (Simon Says). “The Eucharist at the Mass” station offered the opportunity to see and touch replicas of the vessels used at Mass.
Another activity was the labyrinth, where participants removed their shoes and received a pair of socks to walk through the circular path outlined on the floor; this is an ancient form of prayer.
At the station on the rosary, volunteers passed out strings and showed participants how to make knots as they talked about the history of the prayer.
The July 9 Mass began with almost an hour of worship music provided by a choir, band and orchestra composed of singers and musicians from throughout the state.
As Mass started, Bishop Solis looked across the vast hall filled with faithful, including most of the diocesan clergy, and said, “The only word I can say is ‘wow.’ It’s about time the Catholic community in the state of Utah and the Diocese of Salt Lake comes alive and shows that Catholics are still alive in the state of Utah.”
His words brought cheers and applause from the crowd.
“My brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is the greatest gift God has given to us,” the bishop continued. “It unites us with the whole Church today, with the communion of saints in heaven and with Christ himself. Our love and devotion toward the Eucharist empower and motivate us to come together to adore Christ and worship him in the most blessed sacrament. If we want the world to know and love Jesus, we must first recognize him and present him to the world in the way he reveals himself to us.”
The word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving,” he pointed out, adding, “It is the highest form of prayer we offer to God, and the source and summit of our Christian life. Yet, too many remain indifferent, do not have faith in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, or appreciate this blessing.”
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic, the newspaper for the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Contributing to this story was Laura Vallejo, an Intermountain Catholic reporter.