Why Eucharistic Adoration is Important

When I was about 10 years old, I began to serve Holy Mass. I was very proud and happy to become an altar server but also just a little nervous about the distinct possibility that I would make some pretty serious mistakes. By and by I got over that nervousness and, if I may say so, I became a seasoned altar server. I was among those who were always called upon for complicated liturgies such as the Holy Saturday Vigil.

At one point, my home parish had its annual Forty Hours celebration, a period of time set aside each year for Eucharistic devotions. Parishioners were invited to come and spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, placed in a monstrance on the altar. As one of the altar servers, I was expected to take a turn kneeling at a prie dieu in the sanctuary for about an hour. To a boy of 12, an hour can seem like an awfully long time and I was no exception. But something happened during that hour. What my parents and teachers had taught me about the Most Blessed Sacrament began to sink in. I realized that I really was in the Presence of Jesus and that He loved me. It was as simple as that. It was a watershed moment in my young life.

Pope Benedict XVI once said that “…being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament so long ago, I could not have said it so eloquently – but that’s what happened to me.  I truly encountered the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I realized that he loved me and that made all the difference. It’s why I strive, in spite of all my faults and failings, to be a Christian, a follower of Christ and a member of Christ’s Body, the Church. This is why I am a priest.

In this month of June, the Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood. This great feast is an invitation for us to encounter the Lord more deeply in the Eucharist, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. It is also a grace-filled opportunity for us to renew our understanding and love of this Sacrament, for it is the most powerful and effective way to encounter Jesus, to enter into his Presence, and to realize that he loves us.

At the heart of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist is a wonderful and consoling truth. The Son of God who became one of us, who preached the good news, died and rose to save us, and is now exalted at God’s right hand – this Lord Jesus remains with us in the Sacrament of his most holy Body and Blood. By the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the words of consecration uttered by the priest, bread and wine are completely changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Although the appearances of bread and wine remain after the consecration, in fact, they are no longer such, but rather the living personal Presence of Christ, crucified, risen and exalted.

We call this miracle that takes place on our altars “transubstantiation”. This is how Jesus becomes our spiritual food and drink so as nourish our souls. This is how it happens that Jesus’ heart truly speaks to our hearts. This is how Jesus remains with us, even after Mass is ended, in the tabernacles of our churches. And for this reason the Church lovingly invites us not only to attend Mass but also to take part in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and to take time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle.

Once we have welcomed the Eucharistic Lord into the depths of our hearts, nothing really remains the same. Christianity becomes, not a sideline, but a way of life. What we say and what we do, the choices we make, the way we treat others, most especially the poor and the troubled, all are shaped by our repeated encounters with the Eucharistic Lord. United deeply to Christ our life, we commit ourselves to the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel. We see the Church not merely as an institution but as the Body of Christ of which we are living members. We want everyone to know Jesus and to welcome him into their hearts. We want the Church to be strong and unified so that others may believe.

40th Anniversary of Priesthood Homily

“Tonight I’m honored to celebrate Holy Mass with my brother priests ordained forty years ago, in 1977. It so happens that I too was ordained forty years ago but not for the Archdiocese of Baltimore but for another Archdiocese, just to the south of here. But now that I’ve served as Archbishop of Baltimore for five years, I hope I qualify as a true classmate with the class of ’77 gathered here tonight.

“We’re here to give thanks to the Lord for the blessings of these past forty years. I think I can safely speak for my classmates in saying that these forty years of priesthood have passed by very quickly. I think I can also safely say that a happy priesthood is like a happy marriage. There are ups and downs but most there is happiness in living this vocation. And the priests who join me on the altar tonight truly love and live their vocation. I wonder if you would offer them your warmest congratulations.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Confirmation at Holy Family Parish Homily

“First, my warmest congratulations to all of you who are receiving Confirmation today here at Holy Family. I know you have been preparing for this important day. You’ve studied your faith; you’ve practiced your faith; you’ve prayed; and you’ve served those in need.

“And let me share something with you. I’ve been confirming wonderful young people like you for a long time and it brings me a lot of joy to do this. I also know that a lot of people work really hard to make your Confirmation a really nice event. And it should be a truly wonderful . . . something you’ll always remember. But it’s not like a graduation when you finish your studies and leave your school returning only occasionally, say for a reunion or an alumni event. As Pope Francis says, Confirmation is not ‘the sacrament of goodbye!’ – goodbye to the Lord and to the Church, goodbye to the Mass and the sacraments. Instead, I’m confident you’re thinking of Confirmation as ‘the sacrament of hello’– a new beginning and not an end, more like a commencement than a graduation. After all, Confirmation perfects your Baptism, your initiation into the Church. It is meant to make you fully a member of the Church, not a part-time member . . . . That’s why, in a few minutes, you’ll renew your baptismal promises.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Saturday, 4th Week of Easter/Our Lady of Fatima; Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, NC; Baccalaureate Mass Homily

“Thank you Abbot Placid and President Thierfelder for your kind invitation to offer the Baccalaureate Mass for the Class of 2017 of Belmont Abbey College. And congratulations to you, our graduates – we are so proud of you! I am happy to share this day with you and with your families and your friends. It is a day of joy and gratitude, a day to celebrate achievements, a day to look back and a day to look ahead. I am confident that Belmont Abbey College has prepared you well for the future by formation in the excellence of virtues and the virtues of excellence. The truth remains, however, none of us really knows what the future holds.

“Commencement speakers (and here I include homilists) sometimes say silly things. Graduates are often told that the world is their oyster (with only a few suspecting that this phrase comes from Shakespeare). They are told that they can be anything they want – even to the point of completely reinventing their identity or that there is utterly no limit to their creativity. Sometimes people like me tell people like you that the world is just waiting for you to emerge from the walls of this college and that your generation will be the one to conquer every challenge, ranging from world peace to the common cold. I came this morning not to say such unrealistic things but rather to pray with you that you may have “a future full of hope”, not a future distorted by mirages.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Monday, 4th Week in Easter Homily

“This morning, I suspect, I have a very focused congregation that is hoping against hope that my words will be brief. Our seminarians have exams to take and papers to complete. Faculty members have exams to grade, papers to read, and meetings to attend. Administrators are busy wrapping up this academic year and Board members would like to our meeting underway. Believe it or not, I have busy day ahead of me, as well. If you’re like me, you’re hoping everything will go according to plan.

“But our plans are not always God’s plans. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter faces disruption: He is confronted by Jewish converts who were disturbed not that there were Gentile converts but rather that Peter had “entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.” This group of converts was struggling to reconcile their newfound faith with the requirements of the Mosaic Law they had practices their whole life long.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

4th Sunday of Easter, Confirmation Homily

“Dear candidates for Confirmation: Yesterday I celebrated a birthday. I turned 66. That doesn’t make me the oldest person in the world but it does mean that I have more than a few miles on my odometer – It also means that I’ve been around long enough to know something about life – and it’s a few of life’s lessons I’d like to share with you on this, the day of your Confirmation.

“So, way back when, in the late 50’s and 60’s, when I was growing up, many people thought the world was turned up-side-down. And there was a lot going on – it was a time of profound change – some changes were for the good and some have turned out to be not so good. When my generation got involved in protests against the Vietnam War and other things, people wondered how we, the baby boomers, would turn out. What kind of a world would it be with us in charge? The answer – some have led good lives and made a real contribution – and others, well, it hasn’t turned out so well.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

4th Sunday of Easter Homily

“We’ve gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of St. Francis Xavier Parish on the 4th Sunday of Easter, also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday”; on this Sunday the Gospel reading is always about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Since its founding, St. Francis Xavier has been blessed by good shepherds, beginning with your founding Pastor, Father Thomas Donnellan – Father Tom, welcome home and warmest thanks! And for these past ten years, Father Frank Brauer has served this community of faith with great dedication and love – Father Frank, please accept our deepest thanks!

“In addition to your pastors, you have been served by many other priests who offer Mass on Sunday’s and weekdays and share the Lord’s love with you – and to all of them we are grateful. This is a good day to remember in prayer all the priests who have served this parish after the mind and heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. It is also a day to pray earnestly for many vocations to the priesthood, priests who can serve in the parishes of this Archdiocese of Baltimore and work closely with the laity in fulfilling the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel.”

Read the complete homily HERE.