By Fr Mark Vickers
It was my first time on Liverpool’s impressive waterfront. We had definitely left summer behind in London; it was a blustery, autumnal day by the Mersey. Yet immediately it felt like home. So many familiar faces, fellow clergy, parishioners past and present, among the 2,500 or so delegates present. The whole of the English and Welsh Church was showcased by the various exhibitors with stalls: Walsingham and Maryvale, ACN, Mary’s Meals and CAFOD, CTS and the Catholic Press, Catholic charities and organisations, and church suppliers. There was quite a buzz by the time the doors of the ACC Convention Centre opened at 9.30 am.
The delegates spent the morning together in the Echo Arena. After prayer and welcomes extended by Bishop Robert Byrne and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, we listened to our three keynote speakers.
Canon Mervyn Tower, the Scripture scholar and Oxford parish priest, commenced proceedings with his talk on ‘The Holy Eucharist and the Holy Scriptures.’ Paraphrasing St Jerome, he suggested that ‘ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ and of the Holy Eucharist.’ The Eucharist fulfils every human need, but to understand this fully we must start with the great questions posed by the Old Testament as to the meaning of human existence. It is Adoration which provides for human growth, ensuring that we do not remain closed on self, but rather open ourselves to the other, to God.
Canon David Oakley, Rector of Oscott Seminary, then gave a powerful address on ‘The Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life.’ He provided us with a timely reminder that the Church is not dying, because she is an essential part of God’s plan. She is the Body of Christ, which people will treat as they treated him. We must recover a sense of Eucharistic worship as the primary theology where we come to know God with the heart rather than simply as academic knowledge. Confronted by spiritual forces, we must turn again to Jesus in the Eucharist. We should fast, for a spiritual purpose, and accompany it with Adoration. For it is there that despondency will be overcome by joy. The problems of the Church and the world do not all rest on our shoulders: He is our Saviour.
The Augustinian Sr Margaret Atkins concluded the morning’s proceedings with a talk on ‘Teaching the Eucharist.’ She invited us to reflect on the fact that grace builds on nature and culture. We must be aware of the environment if we are to pass on effectively the content of our faith to children and catechumens. When we live in a fast food society, we must recover a deeper meaning of meal in terms of time, creation, gift of self, relationship to God and others.
The afternoon was different. We divided for the three workshops for which we had opted. I attended presentations on preparing children for the sacraments of initiation, teaching children to pray before the Eucharist, and the ministry and practice of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Others attended sessions on the historical, liturgical, musical and ecumenical dimensions of the Eucharist.
Then we had to move pretty smartly up the hill to the Metropolitan Cathedral. Again, a first for me. I find myself surprisingly captivated by the colour and the space, the glass and the light of this iconic building. Following Sung Vespers, Bishop Byrne presided and preached at Mass.
It was 8.15pm by the time we left the cathedral. It had been a full day. Tucking into tapas, we were looking forward with eager anticipation to what lay ahead.
Copies of the Adoremus presentations can be found at catholicnews.org.uk/Home/Special-Events/Adoremus-National-Eucharistic-Pilgrimage Or you can listen to the talks at http://www.shalomworldtv.org/adoremus#latest-episodes
This is the first in a series of three articles. Fr Mark will continue his reflection on the Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress in the next two editions.
For the second article of this three part series, click here.