LAST SUNDAY we heard a pastoral letter from our archbishop about the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress, entitled Adoremus, taking place in Liverpool at the beginning of September. He asked every parish and school in the diocese to reflect and pray about the themes of the congress in the months leading up to it; we’ll be sharing something about the themes in the next few weeks. This week, in the days after the feast of Corpus Christi last weekend, I simply want to introduce what Adoremus is all about.

International Eucharistic congresses are regular events – you may remember the big one in Dublin in 2012. There was one in England back in 1908. Historically it was a remarkable event because it showed that, although Catholics were beginning to come out of hiding, so to speak, in British society, there were limits to how far others were prepared to tolerate expressions of Catholic devotion. It was intended to have an outdoor Procession of the Blessed Sacrament in the streets outside Westminster Cathedral but as this fell foul of the provisions of the Catholic Emancipation Act forbidding public Catholic processions. Asquith’s government, under pressure from extreme Protestant groups, asked Archbishop Bourne simply to have the procession inside the cathedral (although he did give Benediction to the crowds from the loggia, which probably broke the law). Even now outdoor processions of the Host through the street (as opposed to being on ‘Catholic land’) are not that common and have only recently become a tradition in some places (e.g. central London and Westerham – perhaps we should do it here?).

The congress in Liverpool will be a chance for the whole Catholic community in this country to celebrate what we believe about the Eucharist, so it’s good to think about it in the weeks after Corpus Christi, when about a hundred children from our parish will be making their First Holy Communion. It’s easy, particularly in June when the Eucharist defines our culture in lots of ways, for us to take our beliefs about the Mass for granted; it is such a natural part of our lives. The ways in which we try to get ready for what will happen in Liverpool should help all of us think a bit about the Mass and what we believe.

Every parish in the country is being asked to send one or two representatives to Liverpool. Some months ago Alicja Krivicky and Ruth McConkey agreed to go to the congress on our behalf and at some point in the next few weeks they will be publicly commissioned for this role. While I will be writing about the congress themes you can find out about it HERE.

One good way to begin to reflect about the Eucharist here is perhaps to consider some distinctive things about this parish’s way of celebrating the Eucharist and showing love to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

The church is, as we reflected a few weeks ago, open all day, every day. Anyone can come in during the day and pray before the Tabernacle (the ‘beating heart of our churches’, as Blessed Paul VI put it).

We have a lot of celebrations of Mass, more than most parishes – six on Saturday/Sunday, and at least two every other day, including at least weekly celebrations of Mass in both our schools.

We have daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour after Mass, plus additional opportunities in our two convents. This is a great gift, largely thanks to the previous role of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart.

We have a lot of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (about 75 I think). They carry out an invaluable role with great reverence and care, enabling us to give people Holy Communion under both kinds at virtually every Mass (including Masses in St Mary’s School). Some also take Holy  Communion regularly to the sick and housebound, alongside the clergy.

We have a lot of altar servers (again I think 50-60). They take their role seriously, are very well trained and enhance the dignity and reverence of our celebrations of Mass.

Some parishes don’t do or have any of these things (indeed a lot of parishes aren’t sending anyone to Liverpool). I realise that the second characteristic is only possible because we have three priests, but that’s not true of the other things which I have mentioned. I draw attention to all this because part of how we can prepare for Adoremus ought to be an awareness of our strengths (as well as our weaknesses) and how we can perhaps share these with other parishes and communities.

Please pray for those organising the congress and for Alicja and Ruth.