By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER — With the vigil Mass for the solemnity of Corpus Christi as the anchor, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., gathered with hundreds of faithful, priests and deacons to launch the National Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Fall River on June 18 at Bishop Connolly High School.
A Eucharistic procession on the campus grounds, Adoration and Benediction followed the Mass.
Similar events took place in dioceses across the country as part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ three-year grassroots initiative to increase faith and devotion to Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
In his homily, the bishop concentrated on several topics, including keeping the memory of Christ’s supreme sacrifice and gift alive. He described how the Diocese of Fall River is a beautiful example of diverse ethnicities and cultures maintaining their faith and traditions. He also focused on the faithfuls’ responsibility to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and to carry that message beyond the walls of the church at Sunday Mass.
“Lord, in this wonderful sacrament You left us a memorial of Your Passion,” the bishop opened. He told the congregation that around 2,000 years ago, Jesus gathered His disciples around the table in the Upper Room, gave them His Body and Blood and the command to “Do this in memory of Me.”
The bishop said he often thinks of what would have happened had what the Apostles heard that night faded from their memories. “But it didn’t,” the bishop said. “Not only did they not forget, but they made sure that others would learn and understand and believe. And so they went to the four corners of the world, repeating the words and actions of Jesus, ‘Do this in memory of Me.’
“Every time we do this we remember the Passion of the Lord, what He did for us. As I was reflecting on this, I thought of people who came to Southeastern Massachusetts a century ago. We had Portuguese, French, Irish, English, French Canadian, Cape Verdean, Puerto Rican and other Latino and Spanish-speaking peoples, African-Americans, Asian, and more recently Brazilians and other Latino nations. Native Americans were here. Each group came here not only to find work and feed their families, but to build a new life. But each group brought with them their memories of their faith, their culture, values and traditions.”
He said everywhere one looks in the diocese one can see the history in church buildings, monuments, architecture, art and traditions. This history contains “the story of those who came here, and they brought with them stories of who we are today. Together we all form God’s people in the diocese.”
The bishop said that 100 years ago, it wasn’t hard for people to pass on their faith and traditions, but today it is a challenge with every distraction facing young people. “We have lost something,” he said, with regards to the traditions being passed down. “The fervor for and faith in Jesus and the Eucharist has faded.”
The bishop told the faithful that each time we receive the Eucharist, “we become what we receive.”
“That’s the challenge for us,” he continued. “If we truly believe we are the Body of Christ then we care for each other, we love one another, we are there for each other, we support one another especially when we are hurting, when we are in pain and suffering.
“This particular meal of the Eucharist, where we gather around the table of the Lord, promotes and brings about our unity with Jesus and each other.
“The Church is our body, and as part of that body, we have an obligation of service to the rest of the body. We are connected to each other through Christ. The Eucharist is food for our journey.”
The bishop said that we must integrate our faith with our actions, not just professing our faith at Mass on Sundays. “We can’t go home like we didn’t believe. That’s why others don’t believe. The heart of the Eucharistic community and parish is that we live for each other 24 hours a day, and do it reverently, devoutly and fervently.
“Today we are here to say, ‘Thank You, Lord for the gift of the Eucharist.’ We sometimes take for granted this awesome and great gift. May we never receive the Eucharist without the due reverence, fervor, devotion and attention. Let the memory remain alive in you and in me and in those who come after.”
He asked what will the next generation say about how we passed on the faith, and how will they revere the Eucharist. “It depends on how we live our lives,” he reminded the congregation.