For some time now, an International Eucharistic Congress has been held every four years. Canada had the honor of hosting this congress in Quebec City, June 2008.
The 50th International Eucharistic Congress we attended in Dublin this June coincided with the eightieth anniversary of the 1932 Dublin Congress and with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. This Congress’s theme “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and between ourselves” was derived from the Vatican II document, “Lumen Gentium”. Cardinal and Papal Legate Marc Ouellet presided. (Below.)
The program for this Dublin congress continued with a format similar to Quebec city 2008 with the first day being dedicated to an opening celebration. An especially poignant part of this opening was when the Master of Ceremonies called the name of each diocese, which would then enter with eight or ten members from each of its parishes. This included many youth! Then, in a symbol of friendship and solidarity, the Irish Catholic Church encircled the visitors from abroad. Then, the Master of Ceremonies called a representative of every nation present at the Congress, who then entered carrying their national flag.
From Monday to Saturday, each afternoon together we would rotate through a triad of activities: catechism lessons with one of the Bishops; a personal testimony sharing from a member of the laity; and Eucharistic celebration led by a Cardinal. On Monday, there was no Mass but an ecumenical celebration around the sacrament of Babtism conducted with the participation the Anglican archbishop from Dublin and a Russian Orthodox bishop. Since there was no Mass on that day, the Canadian delegation had its own masses. The Mass for the French Canadians was presided by Cardinal Ouellet.
Each morning after praying the morning Liturgy of the Hours, and again each evening, people could participate in more than one hundred workshops on numerous interesting subjects relating to the life of the Church and we were free to browse the more than one hundred and fifty booths and displays. These booths were sponsored by groups selling religious and local souvenirs or promoting charitable causes. There were many interesting conversations at the Pilgrims of St. Michael booth.
During both the morning and evening free time periods there were many special attractions oriented to the many youth attending this Congress. Quiet spaces for prayer, with Eucharistic Adoration and Confessional were always available during these times. Outside the official site were scattered fifty four Dublin Catholic Churches also offering many interesting activities.
Seventy thousand people gathered together a one for the closing Mass of this 50th Eucharistic Congress. As in Quebec City in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to us directly from Rome during this Mass.
A Great Personal Grace
I want to emphasize right at the beginning that this great personal grace or consolation I am about to describe was NOT something I had been praying to God for. As it happened, I wanted to offer my services as an additional confessor in one of the Prayer zones, when I was approached and asked to carry the Sacred ciborium with the Consecrated Hosts. I said “fine, I will, if you think that is more important or a greater service than hearing confession and granting absolution for a few hours. A little to my surprise, they said yes, so I also said Yes. I then began to reverently carry the Holy Eucharist. Almost immediately this very real presence of Jesus Christ physically surged throughout me with an intimacy and light that defies sensory descriptions; a presence, a togetherness that again is beyond my human experiences. THANKYOU LORD!
We prolonged our tour of Ireland after the closing of the Congress. Our first visit was to Ireland’s national Marian shrine in Knock. We also visited many former monasteries, some dating from the fourth and fifth centuries. We were reminded of the importance of the monastic life in fueling the growth of faith. This is different from our experience in North America where the monasteries are recent. Perhaps this bodes well for our future?
Canon Gerald Ouellette
Father Ouellette is in charge of the four parishes of Marieville, Richelieu, Rougemont and Ste-Angele, and chaplain of the Pilgrims of St. Michael.