These Congresses are usually held every four years in different parts of the world, and the Holy Father has often attended at least the closing liturgy in person, though for understandable reasons the Vatican will not confirm Pope Benedict’s attendance until a few months beforehand.
The aim of Eucharistic Congresses is twofold: to make us more aware of the centrality of the Eucharist in our life and mission, and to improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1324), quoting the Second Vatican Council, uses two memorable phrases to sum up the centrality of the Eucharist for Catholics: the Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life,” and "in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”
No doubt we would all nod assent to that, but as Mgr Ronald Knox reminds us at the end of his classic work, Enthusiasm, “There is danger in her [the Church’s] position; where wealth abounds, it is easy to mistake shadow for substance; the fires of spirituality may burn low, and we go on unconscious, dazzled by the glare of tinsel suns.”
The aim of a Eucharistic Congress is just that: to fan into a flame our enthusiasm for the Eucharist. Few people have spoken of this more eloquently than Bl Pope John Paul II. In writing his 2000 encyclical on the Eucharist, he stated that his aim was to “rekindle a sense of Eucharistic amazement,” that sense of awe that should fill our hearts whenever we approach the Eucharist, as we consider what is really happening in it.
The Curé of Ars, whom Pope Benedict XVI gave us as a model in the recent Year of Priests, was continually filled with this Eucharistic amazement and expressed it in surprising ways. He once said of Jesus: “Men were concocting the blackest plots against him, while He was planning nothing less than how to give them his most precious gift, himself.” The Eucharist, in other words, is Jesus’ audacious “plot” to remain with us till the end of time in physical form.
Sizeable numbers of people from England are expected to attend the Dublin Congress, which is being held from June 10-18, either for the whole week or for part of it. In Westminster diocese groups from parishes, prayer groups and other organisations will be attending, or individuals can make their own arrangements. No-one will be able to go without registering, and you will save considerably by registering in advance. Use the website http://www.iec2012.ie, where you can also book accommodation with a credit card.
Archbishop Vincent hopes that a good-sized delegation will go from Westminster diocese, and he will be there himself for some events. Nearer the time it may be possible to organise the different parish groups into a kind of diocesan pilgrimage.
For further information, visit the website, speak to your parish priest, or contact the Westminster diocesan delegate, Mgr Keith Barltrop, 020 7229 0487; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mgr Barltrop is Parish Priest at St Mary of the Angels in Bayswater, west London.