Coming just before the Ad Limina visit to Rome and my meeting with the Holy Father, the experience of Adoremus in Liverpool last September was shunted into a lower slot in the memory banks! So I would just like to offer a few thoughts of reflection on that once-in-a-lifetime event. I say once-in-a-lifetime, not because it can’t or won’t be re-enacted again in the future, but if it takes 110 years (the previous congress in England took place in 1908) then all of us will be long gone!
I had been to the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin a few years ago and was very impressed and inspired by it, despite the fact that most of it took place under a plastic poncho, which was the most practical and important thing that was provided as part of the “pilgrim-pack”. Having lived in Spain for many years, Eucharistic processions and public devotion to the Blessed Sacrament were common and well accepted. However, when I first heard of the idea of a Eucharistic Congress in our own country my reaction was that it would not work so well here. We are not that sort of people; public demonstrations of devotion are not our thing. You might have thought I would have learned my lesson with the coming of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux!
However, once again, I was to be proved wrong. According to the statistics published after the event, over the three days of the congress, and including the youth events and the final Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, more than 20,000 people attended altogether.
There is no doubt that Bishop Robert Barron, the main speaker, was very inspiring and charismatic. He really focused us on the wonderful gift we have been given in the Blessed Sacrament. The other speakers too, in different ways, were so informative and uplifting. Together with the dramatic presentation of the presence of Jesus among us, alive and active in our lives, performed by a youth group, the second day rightly and fittingly finished with a period of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The final events of the Mass and the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the Sunday took place under grey skies which eventually rained down their cleansing waters as a sign of our need to repent and be converted – which had been the main theme of the Cardinal’s reflection the evening before. Despite the rain and the cool wind, the hearts of the participants were warmed by the strengthening sound of the singing as we processed from the cathedral and then, by a circular route, back again.
There can be no doubt about the public demonstration of faith in the presence of the Lord among us in the Most Holy Eucharist. There can be no playing down of the fervour and ardour pouring from the hearts of all present. As we knelt before the Lord of life, earth, sea and sky, the King of love on Calvary, I was filled with a truly awesome joy. And the prayer of the hymn was very much my prayer at the time:
Shepherd-king, o’er mountains steep
homeward bring the wandering sheep;
shelter in one royal fold
states and kingdoms, new and old.
Yours in Blessed hope – and have a fruitful Advent and a Happy and joyful Christmas!