While we may strive to create a layered and detailed faith, an occasional return to basics can serve us wonders. Such was the powerful message Rev. Louis Monica delivered in his homily on Sunday, May 7 as St. Monica Parish in South Philadelphia celebrated the beginning of its annual 40 Hours Devotion experience.

Stressing our need to use simple yet profound language in proclaiming the Most Blessed Sacrament as the “true presence” of Jesus, he encouraged roughly 75 attendees to enhance their connection with Christ.

“When God speaks, things happen and the same, to a lesser extent, occurs for us,” Rev. Monica, nearing the third anniversary of his ordination, said to the South Philly-situated worshippers.

“We must aim for truthful and precise speaking when referring to what we see before us. By doing so, we can help to reclaim the hearts that deny its significance.”

Following the recitation of three antiphons and a reading from the Book of Genesis, the homilist, who serves as a theology teacher and school minister at Archbishop Ryan High School in Northeast Philadelphia, drew unwavering interest by opening his homily with a story about the 1961 Green Bay Packers.

Noting that the previous season’s club had made Philadelphians happy by losing the NFL Championship game to the Eagles, Father Monica discussed how the Wisconsin-based athletes opened training camp by witnessing coach Vince Lombardi hold aloft a pigskin and declare, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

That statement, instead of serving to patronize his players, inspired a committed campaign that bred a championship. According to Father Monica, Catholics, like those 1961 Packers, often need to strip away pretension from their identities to truly see that the Most Blessed Sacrament betters our lives as believers.

Rev. Louis Monica delivering the homily May 7 at St. Monica Parish in South Philadelphia for the first day of its annual 40 Hours Devotion. (Photo: Joseph Myers)

Having commenced their involvement in St. Monica’s Forty Hours Devotion only hours before at the 11:30 a.m. Mass, the congregants received a reminder of the greatest example of faith we can know when pastor Rev. Joseph Kelley and the visiting priests sang the Virgin Mary’s acceptance of God’s will, the Magnificat.

The Blessed Mother’s trust in the divine plan counters the doubt that plagues today’s Catholics, as Father Monica cited a 2019 Pew survey that revealed 69 percent of followers think that the bread and wine are only symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

After intercessions and benediction, celebrant Rev. Kenneth Cavara socialized with parishioners and other attendees, including Rosemarie Ciliberti.

“I never miss this devotion,” she said of not only having the chance to attend St. Monica’s for it, but also to offer an indirect “thank you” to Saint John Neumann for popularizing the practice in the United States.

“There’s so much to get from it because you never know what you’re going to learn about becoming a better Catholic.”

“We have to decide to be present,” Father Cavara, whose parish continued its devotion Monday and Tuesday evenings with prayer services involving select members of its student body, said of seeing the inherent meaning of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

“We have to consider how much we have in this world because of God and make time to offer thanks.”