In October 2015, the Church raised a new saint to her altars: St Manuel González, the “Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle”. The defining moment of grace that spurred him on to become the great Eucharistic saint that he was came at the outset of his priestly ministry. Sent to work in a rural parish, upon arrival he was greeted by the sight of a dusty, abandoned tabernacle, covered in cobwebs.
This was a clear sign of the spiritual state of the parish: rather then surround him with love, this parish had left Jesus surrounded by nothing but spiderwebs. As he knelt down to gather his thoughts about how best to proceed with the mission he had been sent there to accomplish, he felt himself overpowered by a tangible awareness of the living presence of Christ in that tabernacle. The sheer goodness and patience of the Lord to put up with such neglect and indifference flooded his soul with a wave of sadness mixed with love.
The abandoned tabernacle would from then on represent to his heart the full unfathomable extent of the love of the Lord. Love is not loved; and nothing expresses that more clearly than an abandoned tabernacle. Yet, Love does not give up on us, but remains present with us to the end.
The Spanish saint would spend the rest of his life striving to bring souls to the Eucharistic Saviour. After becoming a bishop he founded several associations and worked zealously to catechise the faithful so as to ensure that no tabernacle in his diocese would ever be deprived of the presence of loving adorers.
As his holy life was drawing to a close he made sure that even in death he would continue to bear witness to the Blessed Sacrament, saying: “I ask to be buried next to a tabernacle, so that my bones after death, like my tongue and my pen during life, can say to those who pass by: Jesus is there! There He is! Do not leave Him abandoned!”
The National Eucharistic Congress in Liverpool, England, 7-9 September, is a clarion call to rediscover the joy of Eucharistic adoration. The specific focus on adoration – implicit in the congress title, Adoremus – is important. A true Eucharistic renewal requires a rekindling of the disposition of adoration during the celebration of the Mass itself. Reverent amazement before the Lord during the liturgy awakens and deepens that Eucharistic faith which makes us desire to return to the Church for silent periods of adoration outside the Mass.
Eucharistic adoration and recollected liturgical participation complement and mutually enrich one another. In other words, the cultivation of a deeper spirit of adoration during the Mass would lead to a great increase in adoration outside the Mass which in turn would enhance the spirit with which we return to the liturgy.
The congress is the perfect opportunity to go to work in depth for a renewal of Eucharistic love in our parishes. It will afford us all an opportunity to reflect upon our attitude towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Do we prepare our hearts for Holy Mass and try to receive Christ in Holy Communion with a profound spirit of adoration? Is the tabernacle in our own church surrounded by the warmth of our love, or is it somewhat cold and abandoned? How much time are we willing to give to Jesus out of the 1,440 minutes in the day and the 168 hours in the week?
I hope that, through the gift of Adoremus, the advice given by Pope Francis at the Eucharistic congress in Genoa will become the spiritual norm for all of Christ’s faithful: “I want to encourage everyone to visit – if possible, every day – especially amid life’s difficulties, the Blessed Sacrament of the infinite love of Christ and His mercy, preserved in our churches, and often abandoned, to speak filially with Him, to listen to Him in silence, and to peacefully entrust yourself to Him.”
Adoremus in aeternum …
Fr Sean Davidson is a member of the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist (mostholyeucharist.com)
This article first appeared in the June 29 2018 issue of the Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here