Encounter Jesus in the Holy Eucharist!

St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee, WI

Be with Jesus at Madison’s Eucharistic Congress, 2023.

Next year, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, the Madison Diocese will hold its first Eucharistic Congress, hosted by St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Waunakee.  It will gather people from throughout our diocese to encounter Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and to celebrate His redeeming Presence.  Then, we turn to the world as witnesses of Jesus’ Eucharistic love.  You are invited!

But, exactly, what is a Eucharistic Congress, and why hold it next year?  A little history might help, starting with the Apostle of the Eucharist.

A saint inspires Emilie Tamisier.

St. Peter Eymard (1811-1868) left a legacy of religious orders,  organizations, and writings dedicated to glorifying and loving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  In 1881, his life and work inspired a French laywoman, Emilie Tamisier (1834-1910), to organize—with Pope Leo XIII’s blessing—the first International Eucharistic Congress in Lille, France, with the theme, “The Eucharist Saves the World.”  This first congress hoped to renew faith in Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist.1

From a mustard seed…..something great.

Like a mustard seed (Matt 13:32), Emilie’s idea grew into a great legacy of its own.  Future Eucharistic Congresses developed into a beautiful blend of truth, solemn Masses, adoration, procession, discussion, prayer, and worship—all to renew our relationship with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Since then, the Church celebrated 52 international congresses all over the world. 

International Eucharistic Congress, Chicago, 1926
Soldier Field

Chicago hosted America’s first congress in 1926, and the faithful responded in staggering numbers.  Its opening Mass at Soldier Field attracted 400,000 people; its closing Mass at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary (Mundelein), 800,000.  People boarded 820 trains from Chicago to Mundelein and back.  The Eucharistic Procession walked a three-mile loop and stretched 2 miles long.2

This year, on Corpus Christi, America’s bishops launched a three-year, National Eucharistic Revival.  First, it focuses on each diocese and parish, culminating locally in Eucharistic Congresses.  Then, it draws people from the entire country to a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, 2024.

But why hold a congress now?

What was true in Emilie’s time is true today: hearts need renewal through an encounter with Jesus.  Even fervent hearts can lose their intensity; they can grow cold and distracted.  So, they need an increase in grace and a deeper intimacy with Jesus.  In their revival document, the bishops wrote, ““The Lord accompanies us in many ways, but none as profound as when we encounter him in the Eucharist.”3  A eucharistic congress helps to renew hearts, to begin a conversion, and to deepen a transformation in Christ.

Our secular culture often separates us from the realities of our faith.  And the pandemic made it worse.  For some, the pandemic’s separation deepened their longing for the Mass and for Jesus in the Eucharist.4 For others, it prompted an entirely private, spiritual relationship at home. But, for still others, it formed a heart accustomed to life without the Eucharist.5

Perpetual Adoration Chapel, Holy Redeemer, Madison

Jesus is present in the Eucharist in His totality.6 All that He is…is here! How can we remain separated from our heart’s desire, from our Savior, the price of our redemption?7  We long for His intimate union and depend upon His powerful grace.  At this moment, Jesus waits for us…in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us not leave him waiting in vain!8  It’s time for renewal, for an encounter with Jesus in His Sacrament of Love.9

So, there’s our answer.  We need Jesus—all that He is—in the Eucharist…always.  But we need a renewal, now, to help peel away the scales from our eyes (Acts 9:18), in part, formed by culture and pandemic.

What will we see at our diocesan Eucharistic Congress?

Each day centers on the beauty of the Sacrifice of the Mass.  Speakers include Fr. John Riccardo of Acts XXIX and co-host of the podcast, “You were Born for This”; Fr. Craig Vasek, retreat director for the Missionaries of Charity and former chaplain at University of Mary; and Helen Alvare, a professor at George Mason University and formerly of the Office of General Counsel for the National Council of Bishops.

Lunch is available for purchase on Saturday when we also tour the Eucharistic Miracle Display and recognize the award-winners of the Proclaim Your Love Contest.  Periods for prayer, Confession, and spiritual direction, will be available, including 24/7 Adoration (signup on the website).  And a Eucharistic Procession follows the Sunday Mass.  Visit the Madison Eucharistic Revival website for more information and to volunteer: blessedbrokenandgiven.com.  We need your help!

Our congress’s purpose is to help open hearts to Jesus’ eucharistic love, to be converted and transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Then, its theme sends us out into the world as witnesses:

Answer Christ’s Call:  Proclaim His Eucharistic Love to the World!

Future articles will expand on the Congress’ purpose, theme, and parts.  Meanwhile, mark your calendars for next year: Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2023.  And start your renewal, now, within your own parishes.  Schedule the Eucharistic Miracle Display (on the website), go to Adoration, meet in small groups, read, pray, and go to Mass with a renewed desire for union with Jesus!

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