Katherine Drexel was born on Nov. 26, 1858. Many know her story. She was born into a prominent Philadelphia family. Her mother died when she was a small child. Two years later her father married again. She was raised in a loving Catholic family. Her parents were wealthy but had a great affinity for the poor and were known as great philanthropists.
Growing up Katherine developed a great love for the Eucharist. Her time in prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament helped develop a deep loving relationship with Christ. As she grew from girl to woman she sensed the call to serve the Church. The local paper at that time carried the headline “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent – Gives up Seven Million.”
Eventually she founded a community of religious women called the Sisters of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The community was established to serve and assist the Black and Indian Missions in the United States. Katherine’s life gives witness to the intense bond between eucharistic devotion and the life of service.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is one of two “devotional” feasts in the liturgical calendar, the other being “Trinity Sunday” which was celebrated last weekend. The feast celebrates the “real presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The Gospel for today’s liturgy is the account of the institution of the Eucharist from the Gospel according to Mark. We are all familiar with the events of the last supper and the institution for we “remember” it every time we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to the disciples saying “Take it; this is my body.” St. Mark continues: “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.’”
The body and blood of Christ Jesus is the sacrifice that makes us whole. Through Jesus’ offering on the cross, which the Eucharist memorializes, mankind is healed of its wounds. Jesus restores the broken relationship in this perfect act of love.
The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of this loving sacrifice in terms of “eternal redemption” saying: “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is an act of worship that recognizes this loving sacrifice and through which this loving relationship is developed.
The love celebrated in the Eucharist is an active love. While still and quiet before the Blessed Sacrament we are propelled by this worship to love each other in word and deed.
St. Katherine Drexel gives us an excellent example of the power of eucharistic devotion. In this devotion Katherine recognized God’s love for her and through this devotion she was able to express her love for God in her service to others, especially the poor, needy and outcast.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ we have the opportunity to recognize this same love and to live it out in our everyday lives.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Morrisville.