I was giving a talk at a Catholic parish in rural Ohio a few
years ago about the topic of this book.When I had concluded my presentation someone asked,“Why do people care so little about
their faith today?”
I told them of a man, a non-Catholic, I
had known who cared little about his faith but attended Mass every week with
his Catholic wife because he wanted to make her happy. He did this for years,
to the point that several priests tried to convince him that he should convert
to the Catholic faith since he had been attending the Eucharist for so many
years. He refused.
Then he was diagnosed with bone cancer.
His condition deteriorated rapidly. In a few months he went from being robust
and strong to bedridden and totally dependent upon others.He called for a
priest, who heard his first confession and then offered the Eucharist at his
bedside, where he received his First Holy Communion. In the last months of his
life, his Catholic faith was all that mattered to him.
This led a woman in the group to recall
an incident when a tornado had wiped out her family’s farm and the family had
sat huddled together in the storm cellar, praying the Rosary. At that moment
their faith had mattered more than anything else in the world to them.
Someone else mentioned that in the weeks
following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on this country he had noticed more people
in the Church and more fervency in the way people seemed to pray.
Our faith is a matter of life and death
and our faith is totally centered on Jesus Christ.The Scriptures reveal that
Jesus did not leave us as orphans but founded a Church. He made the very human
apostle Peter the first leader of this Church. He left a memorial of his saving
death in the Eucharist and commanded his disciples to perform it.
Getting the most out of the Eucharist is
an urgent task, then, because our very life depends upon Christ, and Jesus
comes to us in the celebration of his passion, death, and resurrection at every
Eucharist. Jesus said that he is the vine and that we are the
branches. In the
Eucharist we receive the very life that connects us to Christ the Vine.
Jesus told a
parable about what happens when a storm comes that lashes out against our very
lives (see Matthew 7:24–27). He said that the wise person builds his house (his
life) on solid ground,on rock (the image that he used to speak about his church
and Peter). The foolish person builds on sand and is destroyed by the storms of
The work of
building the foundation on which our lives depend takes place every time we
participate in the Eucharist. While I was putting the finishing touches on this
book I traveled to Florida, right after Hurricane Frances had made a direct hit
near Stuart, Florida. I had been scheduled to give a talk in nearby Palm Beach
Gardens two days after the storm had hit.The talk was canceled because the
church, St. Patrick’s, was without power, but I had the opportunity to meet
with the pastor of the parish, Father Brian Flanagan, and some of the parish
staff. In the midst of much devastation what remains vivid in my mind is how
peaceful everyone there was. I know Father Brian to be a man whose deep faith
is rooted in the Eucharist, and what I experienced in those days immediately
following Hurricane Frances was a literal exposition of Jesus’s parable — the
storm had come,but because the lives of the people I met were built on solid
rock, they were not destroyed.
what we all want, a joy that the world cannot take away, no matter what might
happen? Our Lord offers it to us at every Eucharist. It is my hope that this
small book will help you to better experience this joy, and to discover the
richness the Lord’s Eucharistic presence can add to your life.