National Eucharistic Congress at Knock next weekend will provide spiritual refreshment

Will also prepare pilgrims for the International Congress in the Philippines next year

 

Many years ago, Percy French wrote a song about the West Clare Railway which, though it may not have been fast or comfortable, seems to have been a kind of community on the move. Neighbours were on a journey together and strangers did not remain strangers for long. Nobody was just a passenger. At times, everybody had to get out and push.

The Second Vatican Council describes the Catholic Church as a “pilgrim people”. We are on a journey that begins with Baptism. The destination is eternal life. Nobody is just a passenger.

Towards the end of the 19th century, when the practice of holding eucharistic congresses began, they were seen as stopping places or gathering points on the journey. The pilgrim people could be spiritually refreshed and energised for the next stage of the journey.

The international eucharistic congress came to be described as a “statio orbis”; a kind of spiritual rail hub, where the world could gather.

In March the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced that a national eucharistic congress would be celebrated in Knock on the last weekend of September.

“Didn’t we just have a eucharistic congress a few years ago? Why are we having another one now?” It all has to do with the journey. One might say that the national congress is one of those smaller stations along the way, where people can get on board.

International congress

CongressPhilippines

At parish level, adult faith formation can be very intimate but it can also be challenging because of the relatively small numbers. When there is critical mass, as at IEC2012, there is an added energy and a richness of participation.

Since 2012 many dioceses have held local festivals of faith at which the faith formation model of IEC2012 has been replicated on a smaller scale.

Given that the synod of bishops on the vocation and mission of the family in the church and in the world is taking place next month in Rome, the pastoral care of marriage and the family will also be the key focus of the national congress in Knock next weekend.

Our common home

The newly renovated basilica in Knock will host pilgrims each day for prayer at 10am and the congress will feature a concert of praise on Saturday evening presented by Elation Ministries.

Meanwhile, the church in Cebu continues preparation for the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will be celebrated from January 24th to 31st.

Cebu is a large coastal city in the central Visayas region of the Philippines. Like many cities in Asia it is growing very quickly. Poverty and wealth exist side by side. While only 3 per cent of the four billion people in Asia are Catholics, they account for 10 per cent of the church worldwide.

Uniquely in Asia, 80 per cent of the population of the Philippines is Catholic.

The theme for the international congress, taken from St Paul, is “Christ in You, Our Hope of Glory”. It gives the congress a missionary focus, reminding Christians that, because they carry Christ in them through Baptism, they carry hope for all their brothers and sisters in Asia. This hope is reflected in the warmth and resilience of the Filipino people, in the face of poverty and natural disaster.

Pilgrims from Ireland can look forward to a very lively experience of church.

For more information on both the national and international eucharistic congresses please see nec2015.ie.

Bishop Kevin Doran is Bishop of Elphin and the Irish Episcopal Conference’s national delegate for eucharistic congresses

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