Today I was privileged to be at the opening mass of the 50th Eucharistic Congress which is taking place in Dublin, Ireland. The theme of the congress is communion with Christ and with one another. I don’t think they could have chosen a better theme. What I witnessed at the opening mass was communion in the truest sense of the word.
It is no secret that the Catholic Church in Ireland has struggled in recent times, in large part to the clergy sex abuse scandals. The Church in Ireland seems to be in decline. But today I saw something amazing. Thousands of people from Ireland and their brothers and sisters from around the world came to celebrate the communion we share in the Eucharist. I was near tears as bishops called forth representatives of the dioceses of Ireland, and then those representing Catholics around the world. The presence of so many Catholics spoke loudly that we are one Church and that when one suffers, all suffer together. I sincerely hope that the Catholics of Ireland will see that they are not alone in their struggles.
Perhaps the biggest insight was what it means to be a pilgrim Church. I am currently on pilgrimage with 32 members of St. Thomas Parish. We have faced the normal struggles that come with traveling great distances for the sake of prayer. Today we gathered with other Catholics from around the world to celebrate our unity. I was struck by the fact that representatives of 120 nations came together today to celebrate our unity. It is a unity that goes beyond borders and political parties. Our Church maintains that the Christian life itself is a pilgrimage that leads to heaven. Today we were practicing for the next life as Catholics from around the world gathered in one place to celebrate the unity that only comes from Christ. Let us continue to find ways to keep this prayer for unity at the top of our prayer list.