A very active day at the International Eucharistic Congress Tuesday with pilgrims settling into the familiar confines of the Royal Dublin Society Congress Centre (RDS). Today's theme? Communion in Marriage & Family.
Plenty of workshops for pilgrims to enjoy Tuesday morning including: "Where is the Young Adult Church Today?", "The Abuse of Chidren, Accepting Responsibility, Bringing Healing", "Strengthening Marriage & Family Life" to name just a few. There's a real diverse range of options for pilgrims including a special Youth Zone where special content geared for a younger crowd has been carefully prepared. School children from throughout Ireland as well as young people from around the world are enjoying this space, with bands and comfy pillows to enjoy workshops and other presentations.
This afternoon's Catechesis was presented by the retired Archbishop of Perth, Australia, Barry Hickey who gave a rousing defense of the church's teaching on sexuality and spoke of the need for the church to remain true to its teachings over the years, despite the secular influences that we see in today's world.
As the Archbishop stated to enthusiastic applause: "The church can compromise and face irrelevance or speak the truth and pray that the world is touched by God."
Witness talks were given by Carl Anderson, Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight (based in the USA) who reminded us that "Every vocation has a unique role and as a family we remind one another that we're on a common journey." He also reflected on the opportunity to celebrate daily Mass at the KOC offices and stepping out from the chapel into a world that often sets religion to the periphery. Our challenge is to be re-energized by the Eucharist, allowing us to inspire us to be that public witness to all those we encounter.
Breda O'Brien, columnist and journalist (Irish Times) spoke of the vocation of mothers and gave a particularly vivid image of a mom protecting her children in busy traffic, willing to put herself first and have her body broken for the sake of her little ones. Jesus also made a similar sacrifice for each one of us. She also spoke of her experience around the kitchen table where, for many, we learn for the first time to listen, to forgive, to love. In that way, it may be important for us to not only come to appreciate the value of the Eucharist but, also, the kitchen table ministry that has the ability to infuse every family, every day.
Following catechesis and the witness talks, Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop of Paris, France, Andre Armand Cardinal Vingt-Trois. Rain managed to hold off until late afternoon when ponchos came out in full force and many pilgrims retreated to the safety of the covered seating area (the RDS is usually utilized for equestrian events and rugby matches). Not to worry, just a small bit of mist - the prayers of organizers and pilgrims must have been answered to date as two straight days forecast for rain held off for all the main events. We'll see if that holds true for the rest of the week and Wednesday's Eucharistic Procession.
Some beautiful petitions were offered for the family today. They're worth repeating to demonstrate how simple, thoughtful prayers can bring our faith community together:
For spouses, For those who are widowed, For those who are separated.
For parents and children, for those who long to be parents. For parents who have lost a child.
For Grandparents, for foster parents, for adoptive parents, for Godparents.
For those preparing for marriage, for those who marriage is in difficulty, for families who struggle financially.
For single parents, for those who care for other family members, for the extended family.
For children with special needs, for adult children living with their parents. For single people.
For those who are living apart from their family, for the bereaved, for our family members who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
So simple, yet powerful, proclaimed in english, french, italian, spanish, gaelic, filipino, and malayalam, they represent the many realities that our global family of faith face each day.
Today's events also seemed to be the most well attended to date with the appearance of many more local pilgrims looking to take in a day or two at the congress. The Irish are a joyful people and despite some of the recent challenges in the local church, there has been no sign of protest, only welcome, humble hospitality by our hosts.
It seems not a day goes by where one of the Toronto delegation connects with someone who has a link to the Greater Toronto Area for some particular reason. My own experience Tuesday was sitting in the grandstand for Mass next to a local, an elderly gentleman probably 80 years old. As most of the Irish have done, he leaned over to welcome me to his country and city asking where I came from. When I replied "Toronto", he mentioned that about 10 years ago, he hosted a Toronto based politician in his home, married to an Irish woman who had a cousin related to a cousin...and making his way through Dublin. We deciphered who the politician was and exchanged warm words before assuring one another of each other's prayers. You travel across the ocean to find someone sitting beside you at Mass with a Toronto connection. These are the many unscripted "moments" at the Eucharistic Congress.
Marriage and the family. Essential pillars that, for many, serve as a rock for our faith community. We pray for married couples and all families. May they inspire us in their example. Young, old, from every corner of the world - we pray for them and support them in all that they do.
Today the church came out in full force and gave married couples and families a big group hug. Now it's time for us to pass it on...
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