Every fall, Italian Day with Bishop Pernicone at the North American Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville was a highly anticipated event during my youth. My Aunt Sarah and Uncle Louie would always attend, and they would bring me with them. The day was filled with devotions, Holy Mass and a Eucharistic procession with Benediction would conclude the day. I recall one particular year when I wore my brand-new school pants. We all lined up along the path to watch the procession pass by. I noticed that everyone began to kneel on the ground as the Blessed Sacrament passed by. It had rained the night before and I had my new pants on! What was I going to do? I began to imagine arriving home and having my parents upset with me because I had ruined my new pants. Then again, how could I not kneel when everyone else was? I was paralyzed with indecision.
As the Bishop approached with the monstrance, I could hear the voice of my Aunt Sarah behind me: “Young man, that is your Lord passing by, kneel down.” Whenever she called me “young man” I knew that I was in trouble! Then to my great surprise, a karate chop to the back of my knee landed me in the mud! Surprised, embarrassed, and yet in awe, I saw the bishop pass by with Our Eucharistic Lord Jesus. It was that moment, kneeling in the mud, prompted by the example of my aunt and uncle and surrounded by a large number of faithful Catholics, that I recall thinking to myself, “This must really be Jesus!” It was then that my belief in the Real Presence was confirmed and has remained strong to this very day.
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is soon upon us. On that feast we will begin a three-year Eucharistic Revival throughout our nation. A Eucharistic procession will take place around every Cathedral in America, as well as in most parishes. The Bishops of the United States have called the faithful to immerse ourselves in prayer, devotion, study and witness of this defining truth of our Catholic Faith: that Jesus Christ is truly and really present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
In 2019 the Pew Research Survey reported that only one-third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence. This of course caused great alarm and concern among many in our Church. However, it has been my personal experience that there has been a wonderful resurgence in our parishes of Eucharistic Adoration, 40 Hours Devotion, Processions and Holy Hours on First Fridays and for special occasions. I believe that faith in the Real Presence is strong, thriving and growing.
If you would like to learn more about the Eucharistic Revival, please visit the website: usccb.org/eucharisticrevival; also, a National Eucharistic Congress will be held July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis. In 2023 we will participate in a New York State Pilgrimage to the North American Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville; when this date is finalized, we will make sure everyone in our parishes knows about it. I hope it doesn’t rain the night before!
By the way, my Aunt Sarah and Uncle Louie were both exceptional tailors who also ran a dry-cleaning shop. Not only did they help form my faith, but they cleaned my new pants too! Pray for the success of our efforts to strengthen the belief in Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Our Lady of Guadalupe and Blessed Carlo Acutis, pray for us!