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THE REAL PRESENCE The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST

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His Presence That Is … Real

(Eucharist is the heart of the parish)

By Fr. P.J. McHugh
Pastor, Nativity Parish

Religion becomes real when God becomes Someone whereas up until then God, and all that relates to Him has been SomeThing: a ritual . . . a code . . . an ideology . . . a program, a cultural projection - SomeThing.

A parish becomes real when it is centered on a Presence we call Real. The ideal – the glorious paradigm – is that parishioners feel that their church is where the Lord is "at home." They come to speak to Him on all that is in their minds. They pour out their hearts in His Presence. Phyllis McGinley put it well:

Nativity Parish, Torrance CaliforniaThey come, tired children of the town,
In this hushed place to bow them down.
From student life a moment free,
A broker says his rosary
Next to the finger-crippled sire,
Unknown, who tends his office fire.
Prays a sad Magdalen beside
A woman in mourning and a bride.
A dancer quietly kneels; by her,
Comrade to God, a carpenter.
Bringing their burdens of distress
They come as to the wilderness.
Ah, Christ, with what tremendous food
Again Thou feedest the multitude!

Phyllis McGinley

The Parish, because it takes shape and structure around humans (we are not angels), has all kinds of needs and wants. We spend much effort, money and time in trying to meet these requirements. We have to organize, to plan, to educate, to do all the duties and tasks that serving one another asks for and demands. All of this is necessary and good, provided that always and everywhere we look to the Lord as One Who is here: the Lord is "at home." There is, therefore, one ultimate test of a parish; it is simple, even rudimentary –

How real is this Presence that the Church calls Real?

For, let us face it, this Presence may not be "real" at all. The secular smog we live in and inhale does strange and terrible things to our spiritual lungs. The Body of Christ, the Church, can become deeply, terribly ill and go into convulsions, even seem to die.

We began Perpetual Adoration in Nativity Parish (Torrance, CA) in November, 1986, using the main body of the Church. Very soon we came to realize that, even with the best will, adorers were too often distracted. There were so many things going on - there is no need to list how any and every parish church is used every day. We began to dream of a new Perpetual Adoration Chapel in which the Blessed Sacrament would be exposed in a monstrance night and day and in which there would be one inflexible rule: SILENCE. We made our announcement accordingly, "We have a dream... " There was a rider – the chapel will be built completely and entirely from gifts given for this holy purpose; no parish funds will be used. A miracle (I use the word loosely; never mind) happened. The money poured in as I have never seen money come before. The project would be expensive because a new "cry room" had to be built; the new chapel was to be built on part of what had been the room for families with small children. And we were determined to give the Lord the best we had in everything in order to make our chapel "something beautiful for God."

The actual cost to build the chapel was $81,000, but we received over $86,000 in gifts!

On February 17,1991, Bishop Fisher, may he rest in peace (we miss you, dear and glorious Carl) opened the Chapel. The Blessed Sacrament was solemnly enthroned and the Lord has been there since.

PEA gives tone to a parish – a feeling of reverence and awe, a feeling that in this chapel, the Lord is at home. Eucharist is the heart of the parish.

But you can't have PEA unless they see you [the pastor] in the chapel. Unless parishioners see the priest in the chapel regularly, nothing will come across.

I make a Holy Hour every day from 5 am to 6 am. I do two hours on Friday. It is most important for the priest to make a Holy Hour.

I believe if people look back 300 years from now they will see that a great healing took place, but without anyone living at the time noticing it.

The Lord works in mysterious ways to cleanse and renew and heal the Church. It may well be that hundreds of years from now they will look back on our time and say:

"At the end of the Twentieth Century, when, as it seemed then, the Church would die, small groups of ordinary people in parishes across the world came to adore the Lord night and day. They did not know it then, they never suspected what a glorious thing they were doing but, in the Providence of God, the whole Church was turned around. A great healing began to take hold from within."

Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Newsletter
Volume 7, Number 1
International Apostolate
March 1994
Reprinted with Permission

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