Bishop Slattery on Eucharistic Conversion

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I am happy to share with the readers of Vultus Christi, the remarkable message that His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa published on June 22, 2008 in his diocesan newspaper, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic.

A Request Addressed to the Bishops of the World

Since the Vatican asked every bishop in the world to consider this request, you can imagine the importance it has in the mind of His Holiness. Such a world-wide effort is not easily achieved and would only be attempted for the most important of reasons!

Recovery of a Eucharistic Consciousness

The pope's request, delivered through the Congregation of the Clergy, has three interconnected aspects; but when considered as a single whole, these three aspects have a single end or purpose - the recovery of a Eucharistic consciousness in the Church.

Turning Toward the Eucharist

Pope John Paul II called this consciousness of the Eucharist our "Eucharistic imagination," and I have seen the process of recovering it referred to as a "Eucharistic
conversion of life." In spiritual theology, when we speak of a conversion of life, we generally mean a daily effort to turn toward the Lord, that is, a conscious effort made every day to orient our lives to fulfilling God's will, so that little by little, by placing God's love at the center of our lives, our senses, minds and hearts, our hands and our labor, our family life and the love which illuminates it, can all slowly begin to reflect that Divine Love.

A Eucharistic conversion of life would be much the same. It would entail a daily effort to turn toward our Eucharistic Lord, a conscious effort to place the Eucharist at the center of our lives so that little by little everything we do and think and say will reflect the sacrificial love of Jesus which we receive in Communion. Only in this way will we be able to "live and move and have our very being" in Christ's Eucharistic Heart. (cf. Acts

Why Adoration?

I think that there may be some people for whom Adoration may be considered a salutary devotion, but still on the periphery of Church life. I fear there may even be priests for whom things like Holy Hours and extended periods of Eucharistic Adoration
are nothing more than quaint relics of a past piety or something which ought to take second place to the pursuit of social justice and the search to find the face of Jesus in the poor. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth!

Being with the Lord

Pope Benedict reminds us that "Eucharistic Adoration is an essential way of being with the Lord." When someone spends time with Our Lord in the Eucharist, he or she makes a conscious and deliberate choice to belong to Christ entirely for that period, since the believer cannot be present to Christ through the mind alone or through the senses alone. Since the believer has put aside every other activity, sacrificed every lesser good which might have been accomplished in that hour for the greater good of lingering
a time with Jesus, that person has made a very clear accounting of what in his or her life belongs by right to Christ. It is everything.

Understood in this sense, Adoration is not a "dispensable" devotion. Rather, it captures within itself the full essence of the Church's response to God's initiative in grace and expresses in a very real sense that the baptismal vocation of each Christian is to live in, with and through Christ.

Priests and Deacons as Adorers

But I should add immediately that Eucharistic Adoration expresses in a very personal way the particular vocation of those whom Christ has called to a deeper
union with Him through their ordination. Priests should find themselves drawn to Eucharistic Adoration so that they might be ever more deeply identified with
Christ the High Priest, Who lives forever before the Father that He might intercede for us.

Deacons should find themselves drawn to Adoration so that they might pattern their leadership and charity after the love of Christ, the Suffering Servant. I am convinced that those priests and deacons who begin by contemplating the love of Our Lord's Eucharistic Heart must eventually end by recalling the days of their youth, not their biological youth, but rather the youthful energy with which they first responded with
their heart's "YES!" to the invitation whispered by the Heart of Jesus.

Restoration of the Church's Ordained Priests and Servants

In this way, through Adoration, priests and deacons will be constantly rejuvenated and never grow old or weary or stiff-necked in their service of God's people.
This is why when I read the recent instruction on Eucharistic Adoration from the Holy See, I also sensed that while the Vatican talks about the recovery of the
Church's Eucharistic imagination as the end or purpose of this initiative, there is also a very real sense that this whole effort is directed in love toward the spiritual,
psychological, moral and physical restoration of the Church's ordained priests and servants.

The Eucharistic Shrine

This explains, I think, the third request made by Cardinal Hummes. The first two: that each diocese set aside specific churches or oratories to serve as Eucharistic
shrines, similar to Marian shrines; and that in each diocese a priest be appointed to the specific priestly ministry of promoting Eucharistic Adoration, are each
connected to the larger theme of Eucharistic Adoration in the Church as a whole and can be understood as steps to be taken for our recovery of that Eucharistic
imagination of which I have spoken.

Spiritual Motherhood of Priests

But the third request is different. The third request can only be understood as pertaining to the life and holiness of our priests. Becoming the spiritual mother of a priest Cardinal Hummes' third request was that bishops across the world encourage the women of their diocese to discern whether or not they have received the vocation of serving the priestly Heart of Jesus by offering themselves, their prayers and sacrifices, to be the spiritual mothers of those priests who are configured through Holy Orders to the one and eternal Priest, Jesus Christ.

A Feminine Vocation

Of that vocation, Cardinal Hummes writes: "The vocation to be a spiritual mother for priests is largely unknown, scarcely understood and consequently rarely lived,
notwithstanding its fundamental importance. It is a vocation that is frequently hidden, invisible to the naked eye, but meant to transmit spiritual life." Independent of one's age or social status, any woman who has been called by Christ can become a mother for
his priests. It would be just as possible for an unmarried woman or a widow to spiritually adopt a priest-son as it would be for the mother of a family to love another
son, spiritually given her to adopt and nurture. Nor would there be any barriers to prevent the elderly or the handicapped from fully embracing this vocation,
which is at the same time, Marian (since Our Lady is the perfect model of what it means to be united in spiritual motherhood with Jesus the Priest), Eucharistic (since the essence of their prayer and reparation for their spiritual sons will be offered in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), Ecclesial (since it is intimately connected with the sacramental life of the Church) and Feminine (since it is life-giving and nurturing).

Give Birth to a Movement of Prayer

As I reflect upon the Cardinal's letter, it seems to me that the vocation of spiritual motherhood is so intimately linked to the Eucharistic Conversion of Life of which we have spoken, that the only proper way to put it is that the Church is asking Her women to give birth to a movement of prayer, specifically Eucharistic Adoration, so that from every home there might flow constant love, adoration, thanksgiving and reparation to God on behalf of his priests, that those men who stand before the altar, stand there holy and blameless in God's sight.

Finally, a Welcome

As you will read elsewhere in this issue of the EOC, I have invited Cistercian Father Mark Kirby to come to Tulsa and help all of us - that is, help me as the Bishop, help the priests and deacons serving in our parishes, help the lay people and the religious - to implement this program of Eucharistic conversion of life by offering the witness of his own life of Adoration and reparation, his ministry of spiritual direction to priests and
deacons, and his labors to build a Cenacle of prayer and piety from which, I hope, sufficient graces will flow until the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is enthroned in every
parish, worshiped in every home and loved in every heart.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory