Sunday, June 22, 2014

Early and Often

As we encouraged people today to take part in our upcoming 40 Hours Devotions (June 29-July 1), we especially promoted the procession by sharing a story from our past...

On June 13, 1869, when the cornerstone of Notre Dame Church was blessed, a procession was held moving in the opposite direction of the one we have planned--from St. Joseph's Church to the construction site for Notre Dame (3/4 mile). The procession was so long that when the front of it reached Notre Dame, the end of it hadn't yet left St. Joseph's. 

Such was the spirit of faith--and unity--among our ancestors here. We are called to the same again!

   Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ   A 

As goes the story passed down within the Bessette family,
when our soon-to-be patron, St. André,
would come to visit his relatives here in Malone,
his first question was always the same:
What time is the earliest Mass in town tomorrow morning?
And the answer to his question
was also always the same: 6:00am at Notre Dame.
I’m so moved every time I recall that a Saint
came to Mass in this very church…
…and so relieved that we don’t still have Mass at 6:00am!
(You can be quite sure that, at some point,
he visited the old St. Joseph’s, too,
dedicated at it was his favorite saint…
…but, sadly, that venerable building was lost years ago.)
Br. André placed great faith in the power of the Mass
and in receiving Holy Communion.
He was known to ask,
“If you ate only one meal a week, would you survive? 
It is the same for your soul. 
Nourish it with the Blessed Sacrament.”
What’s ironic, of course,
is that Br. André himself ate so very, very little
due to a chronic stomach ailment.
Yet he never lacked for energy,
and I suspect that’s due to the Living Bread
which he consumed first thing every morning.

As we see in St. André Bessette,
the Eucharist has the power to get us up and get us going.
Like the miraculous manna which sustained the Israelites
while wandering forty long years in the desert,
so the Body and Blood of Christ are given to us
as food for our life’s journey.
I was so encouraged this past week
when a smiling parishioner said to me,
“Father, I’m getting so excited about the new parish!
Before, it seemed like things were getting a bit stale.
Now, it seems like people are waking up.
I have such hope!”
That’s not, in my opinion,
the result of any special program or consolidation process;
that’s the transforming power of the Son of God,
really and truly present in the Eucharist.

When we made our recent pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory,
I had one disappointment with the day:
that I didn’t have time to visit the small chapel,
tucked away among the trees near the top of Mount Royal,
which was the original oratory.
Not only is that miniature church
rather charming and beautiful in its own right,
but I love climbing the steep stairs to Br. André’s tiny apartment
and seeing again the small window
he had cut into the wall between his bedroom and the chapel,
so that at any hour, day or night,
he could open it up and see the tabernacle.
“O holy angels,” Br. André would pray,
“make me see God on the altar as you see him in heaven.”

As we see in St. André,
the Eucharist has the power to open windows for us.
The Eucharist is a uniquely Catholic sacrament,
in the original sense of that word:
as a reality that is universal, that crosses boundaries,
that takes in the big picture.
I must say, I was a bit discouraged this week
when a few parishioners stopped in the office 
to grumble about our new parish—
particularly saddened that,
just days before it is established
and after many months of preparations,
it’s the first time they decided to speak up.
My friends, I know that change is difficult.
But we must move beyond the tunnel vision
that has held us back for too long!
In another time, under different circumstances,
our pastors worked hard
to develop a distinct sense of parish identity—
whether it was French versus Irish,
village versus country, rich versus poor.
I think their motives were probably alright,
but the result has been quite regrettable:
we’ve become terribly parochial—
very closed in on ourselves and narrow-minded—
instead of truly Catholic.
At the Last Supper, Jesus told us
that he was shedding his Blood “for the many”—
not so that we would stay many,
but that all who partake of the one loaf
might be united as one Body in him.
The Eucharist broadens our vision,
not only because it cuts across divisions within our community,
not only because it spans the entire globe,
but because it goes so far as to bind earth to heaven.

Because of Br. André’s deep devotion
to the Most Blessed Sacrament,
and because of what the power of the Eucharist
can accomplish within and among us,
Forty Hours seemed like the ideal way
to mark the transition from our four former parishes
to our single new one.
Please take note of the schedule of Masses, adoration, and prayers
next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday,
and make plans to come to as much as you’re able.
It’s not only an historic moment in the life of our parish,
but one that promises to be full of grace!
Crowd gathered (with Br. André at the altar) for the blessing
(which included Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament)
 of the original chapel at St. Joseph's Oratory,
October 19, 1904
We are blessed to have had a saint walk among us,
and—as a parish—so very soon to take his name as our own.
But St. André recognized an even greater blessing:
that the Only Begotten Son of God
had not only walked the face of the earth once upon a time,
but dwells among us still—
on every altar and in every tabernacle
of all the Catholic churches of the world.
Let us come in faith to receive him!
Let us come with devotion to adore him!
Let us see on earth, as do the angels in heaven,
our God with us here!

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