In the run up to the Eucharistic Congress, David Cleary discusses his personal experience of the Eucharist
Eucharist is very important to me. I decided years ago as a teenager learning about the Reformation that I really needed to resolve the question of transubstantiation!
Does Christ become really present or just symbolically so?
I spent a fair bit of time thinking about that, reading stuff and trying to work it out. I tried to envisage or visualise it … physically, metaphysically.
Funnily enough, it was the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that helped me to make a breakthrough.
There’s a scene towards the end where his back is against the wall and there’s a huge chasm in front of him. He knows he has to make a leap in faith and he does.
A narrow bridge almost invisible to him connects him with his heart’s desire. That somehow clicked something into place in my understanding.
Just because I cannot understand, see or feel something clearly, doesn’t mean it is not true. Often things reveal themselves gradually, we only need the patience and faith to wait.
I find my experience of and desire for Eucharist deepens the more time I give to relationship with God.
I think if you go sort of absentmindedly to Mass, not expecting anything, not bringing much of your real self to it, and without a foundational relationship, well why be surprised if you don’t get a lot out of it?
In the early days of the Christian Church when people were learning the basics of faith and hadn’t yet been baptised, they left Mass after the readings.
As their understanding and appreciation of what each part represented grew, they stayed on for more and more of the Mass. It could be that today there are too many of us taking part in something that we really have no foundational knowledge or love of. It is hard to be excited by that.
As for the upcoming International Eucharistic Congress, I am excited to be part of the wider community of Church that will take part. I’ll listen, make my contribution and be part of a big Irish turnout to welcome the many pilgrims coming from abroad.
Hospitality is a really important part of Christian tradition and its one of the things we do really well in Ireland.
I went to the Come and See mini Eucharistic congress in Navan last year. During the weekend, I found myself noticing what things I was attracted to and what things took me a bit deeper.
I struggled with a few attitudes that I experienced as being a bit unquestioning or unbending.
I felt positively challenged by those who knew more about their faith than I did.
I loved Mickey Harte’s testimony at the event in Navan. He has such condensed wisdom. He was so grounded, practical and wise in what he said.
Also, Mary Garvey one of the founding members of the L’Arche community in Belfast was powerful. She talked about all parts of society being necessary to make up the whole, and how every life makes a difference even those we can be too ready to dismiss.
I really identify with the idea of faith doing justice. My faith has to make a difference to how I live and act, my attitude toward others, my politics, my contribution to community and so on.
Many find Eucharistic Adoration a very helpful way to focus, become still and meet Christ. Gathering together for adoration carries its own power and grace.
Somehow, I personally never connected strongly with it as a way to pray, but it will be an important part of the congress for many.
That unity in diversity of experience and expression is one of the things I am most looking forward to witnessing.
I really hope the congress in June is a confident but humble expression of faith. I hope there is an enabling and inclusive focus, one that helps us all (lay and religious) to better tap into and respond to God’s call and plan for us.
I hope it helps us listen better to the Spirit of God in each other, and to put what we hear into action. I hope it can act as a huge wellspring of energy and love and help us to move more confidently outside ourselves and into more effective service to others.
The Jesuits will be among the many different religious congregations represented at the congress. I will also be involved with Magis — the Jesuit young adult ministry.
We will run a series of day-long events taking groups of young people out of the RDS space and into Dublin city, to connect creatively with the essence of Eucharist and the theme ‘Go be Church with Christ and One Another’.
Moving out will be a good reminder that we are all called to be a positive presence for Christ in the world, and a reminder that Christ is outside our subjective experience and outside any designated space or box.