More than 2,000 Catholics from across the Archdiocese flocked to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown to participate in the Eucharistic Congress the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hosted on Saturday, September 30. The Congress theme was “The Gift of Finest Wheat: This is My Body Given Up for You.”
The day began with Archbishop Nelson Pérez celebrating the opening Mass in the packed main church at the shrine. The Eucharistic Congress Choir, composed of over 200 voices from many parishes and schools of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, provided uplifting music during the Mass.
Throughout the day attendees had the opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers, spend time in Eucharistic adoration, receive the sacrament of reconciliation, pray the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, and visit an exhibit that featured photos and details about Vatican-approved eucharistic miracles that have happened around the world. Different tracks were offered for children, youth, the deaf apostolate, and Spanish-speaking participants.
>>PHOTO FEATURE: See Scenes from the Archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress
Most Reverend Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington, Virginia, and former Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, gave a keynote presentation, “The Sacramental Sacrifice of Christ: His Gift to the Church and Our Response to His Gift.”
In Bishop Burbidge’s presentation, he shared how Lucy, a young girl in C.S. Lewis’ novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, discovers the magical world of Narnia through a wardrobe in a closet.
“Often we think we will see one thing, and then we see another, yet this book teaches and encourages us to search for more, to see more, to hope for more,” Bishop Burbidge said. “We are beckoned by a reality so much deeper than one that meets the eye, an awakening of wonder. Often, we think of an experience of wonder as something that happens to us, something that jumps out and grabs our attention.”
“In truth, experiences of wonder often require a change within us, a change in how we view the world and relate to it. These are important lessons for how we live our day-to-day lives, but they are all the more important to take heart as we approach the Eucharist. For in the Eucharist, we encounter not only a great wonder but the source of all wonder, the wonder of wonders, the sacrament that stands at the very center of our Church, our faith, and our lives,” he added.
Bishop Burbidge encouraged people to “receive Christ, know Christ and adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.”
“You have to see the humility of God in the Eucharist to believe it,” Bishop Burbidge said. “You have to behold Christ in the Eucharist if you want to be transformed by him. You have to see the light of the tabernacle if you want to burn with the light of Christ.”
The other main conference speakers were Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, and Edward Sri, theologian, author, speaker, and vice president of formation at FOCUS, an organization that forms Catholic missionaries rooted in Church teaching, prayer, scripture and evangelization.
The Archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress was held as part of a three-year National Eucharistic Revival called for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The goal of the Eucharistic Revival is to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
A highlight of the Congress was a presentation by Antonia Salvano Acutis, mother of Blessed Carlo Acutis, who spoke about her son’s love and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. Blessed Carlo’s life was centered on the Eucharist, and he shared eucharistic miracles through a website that he created by himself. In 2006, Carlo died at age 15 shortly after being hospitalized with leukemia. He was beatified by Pope Francis and declared Blessed on October 10, 2020.
“The most important message is we have to be aware that for each one of us there is a special place in heaven,” Acutis said. “We have to do our best because each minute that passes is a minute less we have in order to become holy. Carlo used to say, ‘Let’s live each day like it was the last day of our life.’”
She emphasized that Catholics need to understand that “there is a supernatural life, and we are all called to eternity.”
“We are on a pilgrimage of the absolute, not of this world,” she added. “It’s important to have a treasure in heaven, and the treasure is the way we love God and our neighbor like ourselves.”
Acutis believes that Carlo serves as a positive role model for young people today.
“I think Carlo can make them understand that they are all loved by God,” she said. “Each one of them is unique and special, and they are called to sainthood. Let’s think of the words of Jesus: ‘Be perfect, like I’m perfect. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.’
“Carlo can show them that it is possible to become holy. It’s possible to have this special relationship with Jesus and follow the Gospel, but he wants our free will because he doesn’t want to force anybody, she added.
Acutis credits Carlo with bringing her and her husband Andrea to the Catholic faith.
“Carlo was born with the love for the Eucharist because he was aware that Jesus is living in the church now, in the tabernacle,” she said. “Since he was three and a half years old, he always wanted to enter the church and sit in front of the tabernacle, the cross.”
Acutis explained that she was raised in a family that did not practice their Catholic faith.
“I was like a Protestant because I thought that the sacraments were nothing, just symbols,” she said. “Normally parents bring their children to the faith, but with Carlo it was the opposite. Carlo was the real savior for me, because Carlo understood that the sacraments are the sign through which God gives us grace and that the Blessed Sacrament is the real presence of God.”
Archbishop Pérez led the closing Eucharist celebration and thanked Antonia Acutis for coming to Philadelphia to take part in the Eucharistic Congress to share her son’s story.
“Antonia, thank you for sharing the heart of your son and how he became a eucharistic soul,” the Archbishop said.
“What a beautiful phrase — A eucharistic soul — may we all become that eucharistic soul.” he added.
For more information about the Eucharist Revival in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, visit https://www.phillyeucharisticrevival.org/.
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