Eucharistic Congress 2018, Liverpool 7-9th September
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, and has a unique and intellectually stimulating approach to Catholic evangelisation. I was initially introduced to Fr Barron’s evangelising through Catholicism, a series of films explaining our faith in Jesus Christ the ‘Son of God’ which Fr Chris brought to St Mary’s soon after he arrived. The films were thought provoking and educational and I wanted to hear more. I now follow Bishop Barron’s work through www.wordonfire.org, his weekly sermons and daily Gospel reflections.
I immediately put my name forward to attend the Eucharistic Congress when I heard that the keynote speaker was going to be Bishop Barron. I’d not much idea about what the Congress entailed but gradually through the media discovered that this was to be a momentous occasion in the life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. I was delighted to have been selected to attend and surprised that out of 17 tickets available to the Partnership only 3 people had put their names forward.
The weekend was an amazing experience, both the main event and the fringe events which we sampled. The climax of the weekend was the procession through the streets of Liverpool where for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church of England and Wales we were allowed to openly follow the Monstrance declaring in public our belief in the presence of Jesus Christ in the consecrated host. The last time this was attempted was in 1908: the government of the day forbade this as form of public worship in the streets. Despite the lack of visible monstrance, and the priests being forbidden to wear any identifying clothing, Catholics filled the streets and processed through London to Westminster Cathedral where Benediction was held from the loggia in full view of the people crowding the piazza.
Hymns were sung as with the 1908 procession but this time with the monstrance in full view and led by the Bishops and Priests followed by the thousands of faithful. People were in full voice and the singing reverberated from front to rear along the human chain. The emotional connection experienced with my fellow Catholics was deeply moving; despite the torrential rain the procession continued undaunted and ended in a burst of sunshine for the veneration. An altar had been set up outside the front of the Cathedral for the Divine Praises and Collect:
‘Deus qui nobis sub sacramento mirabili, passionis tuae memoriam reliquist….’
‘O God, who in this wonderful sacrament has left us a memorial of your passion.…’
For us however, the highlight of Adoremus was the chance to hear Bishop Robert Barron deliver two keynote talks.
The first talk was The Mystery of the Mass – The Source and Summit of the Christian Life.
Bishop Robert Barron was forthright, challenging, inspiring and informative as he directed us to the Mass as true worship – worth-ship, placing ourselves in the right relationship with God. If we rightly order things, giving glory to God first, then other things are rightly ordered: peace on earth and goodwill to men. He described the Mass as the supreme form of play; that is something which is simply good and beautiful in itself. ‘It is wasting time with God’.
It is also a Call and response between Christ the Head of the Church and we his mystical Body (the Ecclesia). It’s a privileged encounter with Christ.
Having explained the Mass section by section, he finished by stressing the importance of the Dismissal. Having been Christified at the Mass we are sent out in order to Christify the world. To bring the light of Christ to the world.
The second talk was entitled Sainthood, Sanctity and what makes us Holy.
Bishop Barron started by defining Christianity as being not a philosophy but a way or path. To be holy we need to follow three basic paths;
1. Find the Centre
When Christ is the centre of your life your soul becomes beautiful. When we order our lives as in the great rose window of a Gothic cathedral with Christ at the centre, all our lives become harmonious and whole.
2. Know you are a sinner
Saints are people who know they are sinners. Thomas Aquinas listed four substitutes for God in our search for happiness: wealth, pleasure, power and honour. All will disappoint us. Only God can satisfy us.
3. Realise your life is not about you.
Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote about Ego drama and Theo drama. Ego drama is all about me. Theo drama is the drama that God is directing. When you find out what God wants you to do, do it with all your heart.
Bishop Barron ended his talk by asking ‘Where is God?’ Everywhere. Whatever happens to you is the will of God and when you accept what God has placed in front of you your life will make sense. Follow these three paths and you will become a saint which is the whole purpose of the Church.
The day ended with a solemn time of Adoration before the Eucharist; Cardinal Vincent Nichols preaching and speaking of penitence and prayer, and leading us in kneeling with the vast, silent crowd. The weekend was something I will remember for years to come. I came away full of joy and excitement wanting to share the experience with everyone I met.
Bishop Barron’s talks can be watched on Youtube - just search for Adoremus Liverpool 2018. There are videos of the other speakers and events as well.
Clare and Deborah