The decision of a student group at Harvard University to host a "black mass" on its campus precipitated a massive response from Catholics around Boston, the United States, and even the world. I've heard of parishes all over the United States that held Holy Hours at the time of the scheduled event at Harvard. As I mentioned previously, I participated in a magnificent Eucharistic Procession from the campus of MIT to St. Paul's in Harvard Square. Hundreds of Catholics followed the Eucharistic Lord down the main street in Cambridge where thousands of onlookers witnessed the flock following the Eucharistic Good Shepherd.
I'm not always a huge fan of "big events" because I feel like those things can be used as a substitute for true faith. Sometimes, they feel as though the effort that goes into planning and executing them far outweighs the benefits. They sometimes feel designed as a publicity stunt or as a way of evoking a strong emotional reaction, but the effects seem short-lived. Last night's Eucharistic Procession had a different feel. As I looked about and saw the many young college students from area universities participating, I was touched by their love for the Eucharist and their sincere desire to follow Christ.
During the past year, one thing that has really struck me about the college students whom I encounter every day is their Eucharistic Faith. Quite often, as I am standing outside of church on a Sunday before Mass, I am asked, "Father, do you have time for a quick confession?" Similarly, for thirty minutes each day before Daily Mass, I hear confessions. It is rare for there to be a day that nobody comes. I also notice this at Mass itself. At every Sunday Mass, there are young people who come up in the communion line and ask for a blessing rather than receive the Eucharist. Presumably, having examined their conscience, they do not want to receive the Eucharist until they have received the Sacrament of Penance.
I find all of this very striking. These young people are not scrupulous or legalistic. They are not tied up in knots. Instead, they strike me as being young people who simply love the Lord and who want to approach Him and receive Him with devotion and with love. Their love for the Eucharist and the ease with which they approach the Sacrament of Penance is a beautiful witness to Christ and His Grace. I benefit from their example.
All of this comes to mind for me today as I think about the "big event" of the Eucharistic Procession and the blasphemous "satanic mass" that precipitated it. I am reminded of my own need to deepen continually my devotion to the Eucharist. These events beckon all of us to examine ourselves and to renew our love for the Blessed Sacrament. Do I love the Eucharist? Do I live a life that is coherent with the Eucharist that I receive? Do I humbly examine myself before approaching to receive the Eucharist? Do I spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and make visits to be with the Lord in the Eucharist? Do I receive the Eucharist with reverence or am I distracted, careless, or even willful?
In this instance, the "big event" ought to cause all of us who are Catholic to become more coherent in our life. While we were rightly outraged at the intended sacrilege of the Eucharist by others, we ought to make certain that we do not simply become "protesters" in our relationship to the Eucharist. Instead, we ought to become more Eucharistic in our daily life. This "big event" ought to deepen our desire to grown in Eucharistic intimacy. We want to make sure that we ourselves are not sacrilegious, blasphemous, or careless.
I think the "big event" of the Eucharistic Procession will bear the most fruit if it is followed by Catholics everywhere examining our own consciences and humbly confessing our sins and receiving absolution. For me, the Eucharist Procession was an amazing witness of people showing their love for the Eucharist. In my life, however, the far more powerful and convincing witness of Eucharistic Faith is seeing the daily procession of college students making their way to the confessional.