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 this 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.
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