Preacher: Eucharist is God’s gift to his people - Catholic Courier
Father Stephen Dominic Hayes celebrates Mass Oct. 24 at St. Hyacinth Church in Auburn. (Photo by Glenn Gaston)

Father Stephen Dominic Hayes celebrates Mass Oct. 24 at St. Hyacinth Church in Auburn. (Photo by Glenn Gaston)

Preacher: Eucharist is God’s gift to his people

It’s impossible to overstate the magnitude of the gift God has given to his people in the form of the Eucharist, according to Dominican Father Stephen Dominic Hayes.

“The son of God … who has made all things, who has spun the world out from less than nothing, is the one who makes himself tangible and visible and now totally present in the midst of our worship and our communion with him,” Father Hayes said. “He didn’t just shape the Bible, he shaped the periodic table. He shaped the stars out of nothing, and all of this is there, on the altar. All of him is there.”

National Eucharistic Revival highlights Christ’s real presence

Father Hayes shared this message with hundreds of people in Cayuga and Tompkins counties last fall through a series of talks he gave in local parishes in late October. He will continue to share that message at parishes throughout the United States over the next two years, as Father Hayes is one of the more than 50 priests commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to travel and preach throughout the United States during the National Eucharistic Revival.

The U.S. bishops called for this revival, which opened in June 2022, to renew Catholics’ belief in and devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. During this three-year revival, Catholics will be encouraged to refocus and re-center themselves on the Eucharist. Thousands will gather in Indianapolis for a National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024. Following the Congress and through Pentecost 2025, “the entire American Church will be sent on mission to share the gift of our Eucharistic Lord with their local communities and beyond,” according to the USCCB’s official website for the National Eucharistic Revival.

The need for such an intense, nationwide focus on the Eucharist is clear, Father Hayes said, citing a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center that suggested nearly 70 percent of Catholics think the bread and wine used during Mass are simply symbols of Jesus’ body and blood. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist after consecration, but the Pew survey suggested nearly seven in 10 Catholics did not understand this teaching, Father Hayes said.

Preacher: Eucharist is medicine, manna

Father Hayes set about trying to correct this misunderstanding when he visited Cayuga and Tompkins counties in October. He led a Eucharistic Revival Pilgrimage Retreat in Cayuga County, visiting six parishes Oct. 23-25 to offer meditations on the Eucharist. After concluding the Cayuga County retreat, he traveled to neighboring Tompkins County and gave two talks in Lansing and Dryden before returning home to Columbus, Ohio, where he is the subprior of the Dominican St. Patrick Priory.

His talks took listeners on a journey through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation “and showed them how everything points back to the cross and to the Eucharist,” remarked Deacon Dennis Donahue, coordinator of new evangelization for the clustered Auburn parishes of St. Mary and Sts. Mary and Martha. Father Hayes highlighted, for example, the account in Mark’s Gospel of a woman who believed she would be healed if she touched Jesus’ robe. Father Hayes was reminded of this passage years ago when he was at Lourdes and witnessed many people seek healing by reaching out to touch the vestments of priests who walked by carrying the Blessed Sacrament in processions.

“Most of the healing happens in the eucharistic procession,” Father Hayes said.

If such healing is possible just by touching a garment as the Eucharist is passing by, “what power is available to those who actually receive the Lord into our own bodies, into our own souls?” he remarked. “He becomes a medicine and a nourishment, a new manna for this road.”

Retreat recharges Catholics’ faith, understanding of Jesus’ real presence

By the end of Father Hayes’ three-day retreat in Cayuga County, Deacon Donahue felt refreshed and “on fire about the Eucharist,” and he knows he wasn’t the only one.

“It didn’t matter where he spoke, it seemed like there was that same glow in people’s eyes,” Deacon Donahue said.

Father Hayes received a similarly positive reception in northern Tompkins County, where he first preached Oct. 25 on the topic of “Christ in the Monstrance: See How Much God Loves You!” during a holy hour at All Saints Church in Lansing. The next day, at Dryden’s Holy Cross Church, he preached on “The Mass: Worship and Sacrifice” following 9 a.m. Mass.

“People were very receptive,” said Father Jorge Ramírez, parochial administrator of All Saints, Holy Cross and St. Anthony in Groton. “It was a quick visit, but people enjoyed and learned more about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”

Father Ramírez noted that Father Hayes’ presentations remain available online by visiting https://youtu.be/HG_VpHQF4wg for his appearance at All Saints and https://youtu.be/8KzMQwRL3GM (beginning at the 47:08 mark) for the Holy Cross presentation.

Tags: Cayuga County News, Tompkins County News
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