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The inventive love of the Eucharistic revival

A monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament is displayed on the altar during a Holy Hour at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City July 13, 2023. The liturgy was hosted by the Sisters of Life during the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

By Ben Akers

“Love is inventive to infinity.”

These words were spoken by the patron saint of the parish my family attends: St. Vincent de Paul. The saint was reminding a brother priest who was on his deathbed that divine charity is always creative in making God’s presence known.

In no way is this more evident than in Jesus’ gift of love to his church, the Eucharist.

The truth of this phrase, uttered almost 400 years ago, has manifested itself at our parish during the National Eucharistic Revival. Both the pastor and the parish community have been “inventive” in increasing Eucharistic devotion over the last several years. These simple additions can be implemented in any parish to the same effect.

Upon his arrival, the pastor’s love for our Lord in the Eucharist was evident through his words and deeds. We regularly received faith-filled catechesis on topics related to the worship of God at Mass. He instructed us on the significance of the church’s design, the meaning behind the holy vessels used in the liturgy and the formative nature of the music we sing. He accompanied these teachings with stories from the heroic lives of the saints who displayed their belief in the Real Presence.

His witness continued through his deep reverence during the celebration of the Mass. For example, even his pause for a brief personal thanksgiving after distributing holy Communion and purifying the sacred vessels has been imitated by the altar servers and parishioners. In evidence of his own love for our Lord and the mercy he offers, Father exposes the Blessed Sacrament in between two of the Sunday morning Masses while he hears confession during that same time — and there is always a line! There has been a noticeable increase in attendance at Mass, especially from young adults and from families with young children.

When my pastor first arrived at the parish, one of his first initiatives was to open an adoration chapel. Through generous donors, a parish meeting room was repurposed into a beautiful space. The intimate setting is conducive to prayer and quickly became a peaceful refuge for parishioners and other local Catholics. I recently heard the story of a young agnostic man who was encouraged to sit in the adoration chapel and “pray like a Catholic.” This challenge, along with God’s grace, led to his conversion to the Catholic faith this past Easter Vigil.

Knowing that parents with young (and playful!) children might feel unwelcome in the small adoration chapel, on a parishioner’s suggestion, Father dedicated Sundays in the chapel to families with young children — stocking the back of the chapel with crayons, coloring pages with images from that week’s Gospel readings, and kids’ Bible books.

One of the great fruits of this past year was the establishment of Family Adoration Night through the initiative of three married couples in the parish. Once a month at 5 p.m., Father exposes the Blessed Sacrament and then heads into the confessional. Over the next 30 minutes there is silent time, a Gospel reading, short meditation, a decade of the rosary and singing — all accompanied with many additional kids’ noises. After Benediction, the evening continues with dinner and fellowship.

If I had to lay out the key ingredients which mark the event’s success, I would include the prayerful atmosphere, a regularly scheduled event (pick the same Sunday each month), the clear time limit on adoration, a supportive priest, and, of course, the free dinner. This is all structured around worshiping Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Personal invitation and word of mouth also drive the fruitfulness of the event to bring in new families — some who have never attended adoration, some that have fallen away from the faith, and some that are looking for a faith-based community.

From my own witness in my parish’s revival, I’m drawn to ask what parish community would not benefit from these simple yet creative ideas, born of love for Christ’s presence in the Eucharist? For, “love is inventive to infinity.”

Ben Akers is the chief content officer at the Augustine Institute and has represented the same organization on the National Eucharistic Revival Executive Team.

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