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The new Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine (above), used for the first time on Divine Mercy weekend, 2008, provides a suitable and safe place for the King of Mercy. In previous years, the Blessed Sacrament had minimal shelter from the elements.
Elizabeth Rose Thatcher at her First Holy Communion.
The incorrupt body of Blessed Imelda Lambertini lays in the church of Saint Sigismond at Bologna, Italy.
I had a recent discussion with Marie Romagnano, R.N., of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, and she mentioned how glad she was that the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine is being built at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. She said that we need a place "to safely protect the Eucharist" during Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations and other activities.
That struck a chord with me as I vividly recalled the torrential rains and winds experienced in previous years by pilgrims on Divine Mercy Sunday. It made me realize that, as director of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, (EADM) I must do a better job of making people aware of this project and the many memorial opportunities available for individuals and EADM groups.
As Eucharistic Apostles, we aim to spread the message of mercy, as well as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. So it is only fitting that we help build a suitable and safe place for the King of Mercy!
This point hit home for me even more in light of the fact that my daughter, Elizabeth Rose, recently made her First Holy Communion. My wife and I were filled with joy as we watched our beautiful little girl receive Jesus in Holy Communion for the first time. I recalled my own First Communion, and I felt the need to share with readers about the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, the gift of the Holy Eucharist and the Real Presence.
First of all, any discussion on The Divine Mercy Incarnate must include the Eucharist, for they are one and the same. That is, The Divine Mercy Incarnate is Jesus, and Jesus is the Eucharist.
Just as blood carries life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our body, the Eucharist is our spiritual food and transfuses us with life-saving grace and power, and provides us with nourishment and grace for our travels on the spiritual road of life.
The Church teaches that at the moment of Consecration during the Mass, the bread and wine on the altar become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Council of Trent in 1551 condemned the opinion that Christ is only symbolically present or that Christ is received only spiritually.
When discussing the Real Presence, one can see from Gospel of John, Chapter 6, that even at the time of Christ, there was disagreement and discussion, and many did not understand what He was saying. In verses 48-56, He speaks of being "the living bread which came down from Heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever," and He added, "for My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed." However, in verse 60, it is written that many of His disciples, when they heard this, remarked, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" And in verse 66, "After this, many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him."
The early Christians who believed in the Real Presence suffered greatly. There was much persecution, and there were many who were martyred. People met and prayed in secret and could not openly discuss their faith. As a result, a community of secrecy developed as reflected in the signs and symbols of the early church, ones that could not be deciphered by the pagans due to their complexity. In the 1920s, when the catacombs were discovered and excavated, several symbols were found in far greater frequency than others. They reflected on the meaning of life and the "Great Secret," the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Interestingly, it was not Christ's Resurrection, His numerous healings, the Sermon on the Mount, or the Passion that predominated the symbolic artwork of the catacombs. Rather, it was the symbol of the Eucharist that was the focus throughout and was even on Peter's tomb.
Perhaps some of you have heard of the story about the Eucharistic miracle of Bologna, Italy. This took place in 1333 and occurred because a pious girl of 11 years of age had a burning desire to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. Little Imelda Lambertini was born of wealth, entered the Dominican convent at age nine, and was loved by the older nuns. She wanted to receive Holy Communion, but was unable to because she was not the required 12 years of age. On the Feast of the Ascension in 1333, the Lord gave her a special gift. While staying after Mass to pray, a Host appeared, suspended in mid-air in front of her. A priest was called and he gave her First Holy Communion. She went into ecstasy and never awakened. She died after receiving her First Holy Communion; her First Communion was her last Communion! Her body remains incorrupt.
Several years ago, someone came up to me at a conference and asked, "What does Divine Mercy have to do with the Eucharist?" I replied without hesitation, "Everything!" You see, the Jesus we see in the Divine Mercy image is the same Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. In the image, the veil has been lifted. Saint Faustina wrote, "O great and Divine Sacrament that veils my God! Jesus, be with me each moment, and no fear will enter my heart" (Diary of St. Faustina, 4).
On another occasion, someone said to me, "Isn't the name of the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy redundant?" I knew this was an inspired comment, and that this person understood the Eucharist, because my answer was, "You are right! The same Jesus in the image is the same Jesus in the Consecrated Host." And the name Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy is redundant!
The Eucharist is Jesus, and when we receive Him we enter into communion with Him. Imagine that! Jesus told St. Faustina, "I desire to unite Myself with human souls; My great delight is to unite myself with souls. Know, My daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things" (Diary, 1385).
When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Trinity! Jesus is present as the second person, but you can't separate God. Christ is present in the Eucharist as He is in Heaven. If you are united with one Person in the Trinity, you are united with all Three! And we know that where Jesus is, His Mother is there as well. So, reflect now on what is happening spiritually at each Mass. We have God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, and all the angels singing "Holy, Holy, Holy!" Saint Faustina wrote, "I see the angelic choirs giving You honor without cease ... and without cease they are saying: Holy, Holy, Holy" (Diary, 80).
Do you remember the prayer called the "Act of Spiritual Communion"? In it, we know we cannot receive Him sacramentally, but we ask Jesus to come into our hearts spiritually. Saint Faustina was in a state of constant spiritual communion. She wrote, "Today, I have come to understand many of God's mysteries. I have come to know that Holy Communion remains in me until the next Holy Communion. A vivid and clearly felt presence of God continues in my soul. ... My heart is a living tabernacle in which the living Host is reserved" (Diary, 1302).
Let us ask Jesus to come into our hearts and never let us be separated from Him. May the rays of Blood and Water cover and protect you, and may the mercy of God flood your soul. And may the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus hold you and your loved ones in the palms of His Hands.
Lastly, please consider making a gift for the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine.