[What follows is the Introduction to my recently released book, I Thirst for Your Love. The book includes contributions from Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B. Copies can be purchased here and here.]
The time for mincing words is over.
The most significant crisis in the Catholic Church today, from which all the other problems we are experiencing flow, is the fact that an overwhelming majority of those identifying themselves as Catholic, no longer believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is really, truly and substantially present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament!
The sad but truthful reality is that in far too many of our Catholic parishes we have lost the sense of the sacred and an appreciation for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that are both essential for fostering and maintaining a belief in the Real Presence.
How can that be?
Our Church’s teachings on the Eucharist are long standing, clear and include the following: the Eucharist must be the source and center of our daily lives; whenever possible Catholic Churches are to keep their doors open for some period of time each day to facilitate visits before the Blessed Sacrament; pastors are to encourage such visits; they are also to promote and encourage their parishioners' participation in Eucharistic Adoration, setting an example for their flock by doing so themselves; and they are to support the establishment and continuation of regional chapels of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration when their own parishes are unable to sustain such a vital devotion solely by themselves.
As someone who has spent more than a dozen years coordinating Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in a local parish and encouraging this devotion elsewhere, it has been difficult to understand at times why there is so much reluctance, if not outright opposition, to promoting Adoration - this despite our Lord's invitation for us to do so and the overwhelming evidence of the fruits that pour forth from such devotion.
The late Apostle of the Eucharist, Father John Hardon, S.J., realized 'that everything, everything, quote EVERTHING of our faith (indeed the virtue of faith itself) depends on our faith in God being really present with us today in both His human and Divine nature, united in His Divine Person in the Holy Eucharist'.
Each of us must come to that same realization if we and those around us are to be the holy people God has called us to be.
Instead of cursing this darkness, ignorance and disbelief, it’s time to do something affirmative to console Our Lord and to help rediscover a sense of the 'sacred' and of 'awe and amazement' in this gift of the Eucharist, as Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI had so frequently urged us to do.
We do not need any more study groups or committees or commissions in our Church. All lukewarmness toward or outright opposition to the promotion of Eucharistic Adoration and spirituality must cease. We need Bishops, priests, religious and laypeople to frequently get on their knees before their Eucharistic Lord. It is He, not any of us, Who will gift us with a deep, abiding, life-changing, sanctifying belief in His Real, Human and Divine Presence here among us. Everything else we need or think we need individually or as Church will flow from Him.
Stop a minute and ponder these Truths.
Our God does not need any of us, not even for a millisecond. Yet, as Jesus hung from the cross more than 2000 years ago, He let us know He was thirsty – not a physical thirst - but an unquenchable spiritual thirst as our Lord, Savior and Redeemer to be loved by those He created and for whose eternal benefit He died.
In the ensuing centuries, not enough of us have made sufficient effort to quench His thirst. For the most part, many of us ignore His plea to love Him as He loves us. He still thirsts for our love. He is still waiting for us to love Him! Has He not waited long enough? Why have so many of us been unwilling to quench His thirst?
There is only one credible and honest answer to that question - one that should make each of us uncomfortable but spur us to action:
If we really believed Jesus Christ was truly here with us, we would go visit Him. Nothing would prevent us from doing so. We would not permit anyone or anything to take precedence over Him. But we do not come as we ought because not enough of us believe He is here! We are the only ones who can quench His thirst. All we have to do is come into His Presence and tell Him we love Him! That’s it! But most of us don’t and won’t.
He remains not only thirsty but heartbroken!
Shame on us for denying Him what He deserves, what He has asked of us and that which would be so very easy to give Him!
I am a simple man and can not offer a learned and theologically profound treatise on this subject. I am not qualified to do so. Moreover, such a book is not the type of writing those Our Lord longs to see, have the time or inclination to read.
Let me be frank.
Most of us spend little or no time on spiritual reading. We are one to two minute sound bite people. We do not like to read anything of any length. It is for those reasons that I kept the essays in this book brief – short sound bites intended to catch your attention and challenge you to come into His Presence or go there more frequently.
Mine is an uncomplicated approach. I invite the reader to take a reflective look at the issues raised in these short essays that I have divided into four basic themes: Lack of belief in the Real Presence; Adoration; the Priest as alter Christus; and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Wait a minute! If Popes, theologians, saints and brilliant lay folk have been unable to convince others to reverence, love and visit our Eucharistic God, then isn’t it foolish and arrogant to think that anything a simple man may have to say on the subject will have any better results or bear any better fruit? Absolutely! It is absurd to think so. But for whatever His reason, this is the burden and passion God has placed on my heart. I must obey it.
In the end, the essays in this book are just words, observations and opinions of a simple sinful man and (thankfully) a faithful monk. But that is all we can do in response to God’s never ending promptings and nudgings to share what He has placed in our hearts. Any value these words may have rests not in the men who typed and assembled them, but in He of Whom we write. We pray that by and through His power these inadequate words may penetrate, inspire and reignite the hearts of those He loves, for whose love He continues to thirst and whom He never ceases to invite into His Presence – ALL of us!
To have such a great gift, to have a God so easily accessible and not to reverence and appreciate thatGift, is the greatest of all human failings.
Love Him! Reverence Him! Visit Him! Quench His thirst!