All-schools Mass and community Christmas tree to connect students spiritually

Laura Keener, Editor.

The safety protocols necessitated to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are challenging families, schools and churches to find new and safe ways to carry on not just daily activities but also celebrate holidays this year. This Christmas will be no different. While abandoning established traditions can be disappointing, sometimes the challenge begins what is hoped will become a new tradition. Such is the case this Advent as Bishop Roger Foys contemplated how to connect with students in preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

This year, every student in the diocese will be invited to participate virtually as Bishop Foys celebrates Mass Monday, Dec. 14 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. This will be the first time during his episcopacy where every student will have the opportunity to participate at a single Mass. There is no facility in the Northern Kentucky that could accommodate the diocese’s 8,500 students along with the sacred space necessary for Mass. And while there is no replacing in-person celebration of the Mass and receiving the Eucharist, a virtual Mass with spiritual Communion does offer its own graces.

Additionally, passersby of St. Mary’s Park, Covington, may have noticed the most recent addition of 20-foot Christmas tree. The tree was erected and lighted Saturday, Dec. 5 and now stands waiting for decorations. Bishop Foys is inviting every student in the diocese to create an ornament suitable for the outdoors to be placed on the St. Mary’s Park Christmas tree.

Bishop Foys will bless and dedicate the Christmas tree during a live-streamed event Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. Covington Mayor Joseph Meyer and Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Schools, will join in the virtual community event.

“These are ways of bringing our Catholic School community together during these challenging times when our students are not able to be together in their respective schools,” said Bishop Foys.

Through virtual Seminary Ball, Bishop Foys and seminarians express gratitude for support

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

The virtual Seminary Ball, this year’s slightly different approach to the annual gala, premiered Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. Participants and sponsors streamed it online from their homes through the Diocese of Covington website, accompanied by gift boxes containing keepsakes such as wine glasses, T-shirts, icons, coasters and medals of St. Charles Borromeo.

The annual event, last year drawing over 560 people, usually takes place at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. This year, due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held virtually with access granted to those who purchased advance tickets. Though the total number of registrants was lower than in past years, the total gross amount raised was $81,585 — significantly more than in the past. All funds go to the Seminarian Education Fund, which provides the support necessary for the formation of the Diocese of Covington’s eleven seminarians.

The video featured a message from Bishop Roger Foys, accompanied by footage of the Rite of Ordination. Bishop Foys said, “I am here to thank all of you for your support … The priesthood, as you know, is essential. It is the life of the Church, the life of our diocese. … I ask you to continue your prayers for them as they discern God’s will in their life. Now, more than ever, the Church is need of good priests, holy priests, well-formed and well-educated priests. The generosity of the people in our diocese enables us to provide priests who are indeed good and holy, well-educated and well-formed.”

Viewers also saw personal messages from each of the seminarians about their experience receiving the call to and preparing for the priesthood, and a heartfelt thank you for the monetary and spiritual support.

Deacon Joseph Rielage, in his final year at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, expressed a special message as well. “Thank you so much to the people of the Diocese of Covington on behalf of myself and the seminarians,” he said. “This coming spring, I will be ordained a priest of the Diocese of Covington, and that brings so much joy and gladness to my heart, so that I can be a shepherd. I can help guard and protect you, the people of the Diocese of Covington, and to walk along your journeys with you, the good times and the bad, and to bring Christ to you and to let you know that Christ is with you at all times.”

In the week before the ball, members of the Office of Stewardship and Mission hand-delivered gift boxes to registrants. Mike Murray, director, said this was important so that guests could use their wine glasses to participate in a toast led by Father Daniel Schomaker, vicar general and assistant director of seminarians, ending the Ball.

Mr. Murray said he’s already heard from many people about how much they enjoyed the event. “I would say the video was incredibly well-received,” he said. “People really enjoyed viewing the video on Sunday night, and I had a lot of strong compliments; it was a very well-drafted and well-received video about our seminarians.”

About the virtual event, Bishop Foys said, “I am so grateful to everyone who made the Virtual Seminary Ball such a positive experience. During these difficult days of COVID-19 we need uplifting events and experiences to remind us that all is not lost and that this pandemic will indeed pass. In the meantime, we do what is necessary on our part to stay healthy and safe and to ensure the same for all those around us. We’ve had to learn to do things differently but this does not dampen our enthusiasm for those things in life that are really important and that really matter.”

St. Vincent de Paul coat drive will continue, will be drop-off and pick up only

Messenger Staff Report

For the 20th year, St. Vincent de Paul will brighten the winter cold with its annual coat drive. With the help of WLWT, Warm98 and Gold Star Chili, St. Vincent de Paul began collecting coats in early October and will continue collecting coats through the end of January.

A family is all smiles after receiving coats, hats and gloves at the St. Vincent de Paul Store. Donated coats will be distributed through the Society’s network of stores through the end of February. To donate a coat, visit svdpnky.org for a list of drop-off points.

This year, coat collection sites are limited to drop-offs at St. Vincent de Paul stores throughout Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. In Northern Kentucky, select community fire departments and local businesses — Arlinghaus Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning and Payroll Partners — have also joined the effort. A list of drop-off points can be found at svdpnky.org. Monetary donations are also appreciated to supplement material donations and can be made on the Gold Star and St. Vincent de Paul websites.

Additionally, Scarf It Up For Those In Need has donated hats, gloves and scarves again this year. Thanks to the generosity of the local community, St. Vincent de Paul Northern Kentucky distributed 2,000 donated coats to children and adults during distribution days last winter. This year’s goal is to distribute 2,200 in Northern Kentucky communities.

Typically, St. Vincent de Paul would host several events to distribute the coats. This year, due to the pandemic, individuals in need of a coat can contact the St. Vincent de Paul helpline at (859) 341-3219 to request a voucher to redeem for a coat in the Erlanger, Florence or Falmouth locations. Coats will be distributed through the network of stores through the end of February.

St. Vincent de Paul NKY is being joined by the Northern Kentucky Safety Net Alliance to provide more places to donate and to distribute to those in need. The Safety Net Alliance is expanding collection efforts to also include blankets, Hot Hands, gloves, scarves and hats to ensure that those who cannot make it to a store, such as the homeless, will be able to get the warm gear they need to be safe and healthy this winter.

This Advent, wait with Mary for the coming of Christ

By David Cooley.

The Immaculate Conception is a beautiful solemnity that the Church celebrates each year on December 8. On this day we commemorate the fact that Mary was graced with sinless perfection from the first instant of her existence, in view of the merits of her son Jesus Christ, in light of her predestination to be his Mother. It’s rather fitting that this feast day takes place in the season of Advent, because during that season the mind and heart of the Church are drawing us in to ponder the Blessed Mother.

We first meet Mary not as the Queen of Heaven that she was destined to become, but as a young, meek virgin in the early chapters of the Gospel of Luke. While Scripture doesn’t say it explicitly, it’s fair to assume that she was a very young girl with hopes and dreams of her own. But, one thing we do know for sure is that she was completely devoted to God and her faith was her most prized possession. When it was made clear to her that God’s will was different from her own plans, she doesn’t hesitate. Mary has nothing to offer the Lord but herself; he asks for nothing else, and she holds nothing back.

This year we can all relate to having to let go of our plans. I remember at this time last year, and even earlier, I was making lots of grand plans for 2020. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time. But, of course, looking back now, it’s hard not to laugh a very non-humorous laugh at that. Now, right before the big holiday season, things are getting grim again and even more plans will be falling through. Perhaps we are on the verge of a long, dark winter. In some ways the early sunsets and the frigid air seem more painful this year than ever before.

Yet, this can be a moment of grace for us, too. We must realize that we are not in control and that we are anxiously waiting. We are waiting for this pandemic to be over. We are waiting to hug our family and friends again. We are waiting for the spring of new life. We are waiting for things to just be better. But, most importantly, we are waiting for our Lord. You see, we are not much different than ancient Israel. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that there will be signs, and that God is with us.

Mary was waiting for the Messiah long before the annunciation. But after the angel visited her she actually carried Jesus in her womb for nine months. That’s hard to imagine. Ask any first-time mother what those nine months are like and they’ll tell you it’s nerve-racking. Yes there is excitement, but it’s hindered by anxieties and an almost unbearable anticipation of an uncertain future. You wait and you wait for someone you can’t see but you know is there. And yet this waiting is not idle; there is a lot to be done.

Those nine months for Mary were not idle either. On par with her character, she doesn’t focus on her own needs at all, but goes with haste to the hill country because her elderly cousin is pregnant and might be in need of help. In many ways this symbolizes the idea that while we are all waiting for something great — the kingdom of God — it is, at the same time, already here.

For us, Advent is a season of contemplation, humility, silence and growth. If we practice these virtues in the way that was shown to us by Our Lady, our experience will be like hers. If Christ is growing in us and we pray without ceasing, we will be at peace because we know that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it Jesus is forming himself. We must align our will with his and go “in haste” to wherever our circumstances compel us. Why? Because that’s where he wants us to be; more to the point, that’s where he wants to be.

The ancient Israelites were God’s people, called to be intimate with God and obedient to his law. Mary, the daughter of Zion — the Immaculate Conception — is the fullest expression of intimacy with the Lord. When we prepare ourselves properly and unite our will with God’s will, we, too, share an intimate union with the Lord — even as we await his coming. Advent is our graced time of preparation. This year, no matter how dark things get or how alone we feel, let us stand firm contemplating the coming of the Lord; let us remain meek and humble; let us search for answers in the silence of prayer; and let the love of Christ grow within us so much so that when we go out into the world others will be stirred by his presence.

Bishop Roger Foys will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. The Mass will be live-streamed for those viewing at home, and can be found at covcathedral.com.

Thomas Aquinas’ Mystical Experience

By David Cooley.

I hope that the brief theological insights in these pages bring comfort and a greater awareness of the fact that, as Cardinal Robert Sarah wrote in his recent letter to the Church, “God never abandons the humanity He has created, and that even the hardest trials can bear fruits of grace.” In this difficult year in which we have all suffered the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and have all experienced at least some time of Eucharistic fasting, we can renew our appreciation of the vital importance, beauty and immeasurable preciousness of the Eucharist and the Mass. Remember, as the name of this series reminds us, the Second Vatican Council said that the Eucharist is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed,” and “at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10). Before you move on to the final pages there is one last reflection on the Eucharist and on a particular saint that I’d like to share.

If you are anything like me, there is one saint that sometimes comes across as more than a little intimidating. His name is Thomas Aquinas. Now, I’ll admit that I turn to an explanation of his now and again to help me better understand a difficult concept, but reading him thoroughly and following him down his thought processes doesn’t usually make me feel smart — just the opposite, actually. After all, he is not only a Doctor of the Church, but the “Angelic Doctor,” as the Dominicans like to say. His works are vast and overwhelming and he can be a little difficult to relate to.

However, there is a story about Thomas Aquinas that changed my perspective on him forever and really sparked my imagination. In the Thurston and Attwater revision of Alban Butler’s “Lives of the Saints,” the event is described this way:

“On the feast of St. Nicholas [in 1273], St. Thomas Aquinas was celebrating Mass when he received a revelation that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the ‘Summa Theologiae’ unfinished. To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) expostulations he replied, ‘The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.’ When later asked by Reginald to return to writing, Aquinas said, ‘I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.’ … Aquinas died three months later while on his way to the ecumenical council of Lyons.”

Thomas’ reaction to his experience is quite extraordinary. It is interesting to note that, traditionally, it is believed that Thomas Aquinas had his mystical experience at the moment he lifted the consecrated Host during Mass. But whether it was at that exact moment or not is beside the point.

While it’s true that we are not all called to be great theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas, great orators like St. John Chrysostom, brave authors like St. Catherine of Siena, world-changing missionaries like St. Teresa of Calcutta, or amazing mystics like Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, we are all called to greatness and we are all called to sainthood.

Maybe we can’t all be brilliant like Thomas Aquinas, but that moment he had with the Lord belongs to each and every one of us — it is open to all of us. That is precisely what is waiting for us in the Eucharist. What the great doctor of the Church realized, close to the end of his life, is that there is nothing in the universe to compare to our Lord. This means that no amount of brilliant ideas we have, no amount of friends we win, no amount of awards we’re given, no amount of fame we acquire will ever be enough to fulfill us. This is because we were made for more. The things that can seem so important to us right now, when seen through eyes fixed on eternity, will not seem to be much more to us than straw.

This doesn’t mean that our lives don’t matter – just the opposite! This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about the things we care about – he does! Scholars, and Catholics in general, have never understood Aquinas’s comment to be a retraction or refutation of anything he wrote. If that was the case, Pope Leo XIII would not have encouraged a renewed interest in Thomistic theology and philosophy, and Aquinas would not have been named a Doctor of the Church. No, Thomas wasn’t saying that he had been wrong about God; instead, he was given a rare glimpse of how much our words and thoughts fall short in describing and understanding the glory of God. Knowing this helps us in our worship and to keep everything in proper perspective. Still, we can’t help but take the Eucharist for granted. If we could truly see what was before us then everything else, no matter how glorious, would seem worthless. Yet we don’t decide worth — God does. His love knows no bounds and he already decided that you were worth dying for. He is waiting for you right now. Don’t walk to him, run.

The richness and beauty of the Eucharistic prayers

By Father Joseph Gallenstein.

In his exhortation at the end of the Synod on the Eucharist in March 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said, “The spiritual life of the faithful can benefit greatly from a better appreciation of the richness of the Eucharistic prayer.” My own spiritual life has been greatly blessed by the observations and insights of parishioners who, having celebrated Mass, make a comment on one or more aspects of the Eucharistic prayer.

The origins of the Eucharistic prayers are found in the table prayers of Jewish meals and the prayer of blessing known as the berekah, which praised and blessed God. At feasts such as Passover, the inclusion of the Haggadah, integrated the special meaning of the feast as one that made present God’s liberating deeds from the past and applied its power of those celebrating the feast. Similarly, during the course of the Eucharistic prayer, Christ becomes uniquely and truly present, under the forms of bread and wine. But Christ’s saving action also becomes present again for us, here and now, in this time and place.

Jesus, while using traditional Jewish meal blessing prayers, gave new dimension with his words “This is my body,” “This is my blood” and “Do this in memory of me.” However, in the earliest years of the Church there were no liturgical books and improvised prayer with themes of praise, thanksgiving and supplication were used. Justin Martyr (c. 150 AD) writes: “bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability and the people assent, saying, ‘Amen.’” By the 4th Century, the extemporaneous Eucharistic prayers gave way to written prayers.

The Preface is the part of the Eucharistic prayer that comes before the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and begins with the dialogue: “The Lord be with you.” In the name of the people, the priest praises the Father and gives him thanks for the work of salvation or for some special aspect of it in keeping with the day, feast or season. The text of the various prefaces (there are many!) is a statement of the special reason for praising God. For example, there are various prefaces for the Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in salvation history. Likewise, there are different prefaces for Apostles, pastors, martyrs, etc., as well as Sundays and weekdays of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time.

Jesus’ “Words of Institution” that is, those words echoing Jesus himself at the Last Supper are found in all the current Eucharistic prayers — “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” With very few exceptions, those words are found in all the ancient Eucharistic prayers of East and West, even if the exact wording differs slightly.

The Lord’s command to “Do this in memory of me” is the reason for “doing” the Eucharist. The earliest Christians understood the Passover invokes a special kind of remembrance of the whole saving and liberating actions of God. In Greek the word is “anamnesis.” Since God is ever faithful to the divine Covenant, the past deeds become present and efficacious to those partaking in the ritual. The Church in her Eucharistic prayers make explicit anamnesis, especially recalling the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Eucharistic Prayer for Children II says it simply: “And so, loving Father, we remember that Jesus died and rose again to save the world. He put himself into our hands to be the sacrifice we offer you.”

An acclamation in the middle of the Eucharistic prayer is relatively new in the Roman liturgy. In the East, there are some old Eucharistic prayers were the people acclaimed “Amen!” after the words of institution over the bread and then again over the cup. The priest gives the invitation “The Mystery of Faith” to which the assembly has three options of response: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again;” “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again;” or “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.” What is the mystery? Jesus’ Eucharistic presence captures the larger “mystery” of Christ’s living, dying, rising and presence among his people and the whole plan of God realized in Christ’s saving love.

Although the language varies, there is a statement of “offering the bread and wine” in all the Eucharistic prayers. For example, Eucharistic Prayer II speaks of offering “the bread of life and the chalice of salvation.” Eucharistic Prayer III says, “We offer you this holy and living sacrifice.” The intention here is that the whole Church, but especially the particular assembly, is offering to the Father the spotless victim (Jesus) and also attempting to learn how to offer ourselves and daily be drawn into more perfect union with Christ.

There are also intercessory prayers in the body of the Eucharistic prayers. These include mentioning the pope and local bishop by name, invoke the saints and martyrs, prayer the community and for the dead. These intercessions make it clear that the Eucharist is being celebrated “in communion” with the whole Church of heaven and earth, and that the offering is made for the Church and all its members living and deceased.

The traditional conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer is a (sung) statement of praise and thanksgiving in the form of a Trinitarian doxology. The assembly responds, “Amen.” Justin Martyr attests to the significance of the “amen,” writing: “When the prayer of thanksgiving ended, all the people present give their assent with an ‘Amen.’” The assembly assents to the Eucharistic prayer and make it their own in the Great Amen.

 Father Joseph Gallenstein is pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Alexandria.

Eucharistic hymns and Catholic theology

By Father Stef Bankemper.

In this installment of our series on the Eucharist we turn to Eucharistic hymns. It is a vast topic, so must be severely limited in a short article. One sub-topic that has interested me for years is the question of how adequately the hymns we use express our Catholic theology. The shortness of space allows me only to begin to broach this subject, and so this article will be limited to a very brief discussion of how well a few of our commonly-used hymns express one aspect of our Eucharistic theology. I have chosen hymns from Breaking Bread; it is not the only worship aid/hymnal in use in the diocese, but it is often used.

Before I begin this exploration, let me note that people are often surprised when I raise this question. We commonly assume that the prayers we pray at Mass, for instance, and the songs we sing, accurately express what we believe. And we should assume that. One of the maxims of Catholic theology is the phrase “lex orandi, lex credendi” (“the law of praying, the law of believing”), which means, basically, that the words we pray shape what we believe. Knowing that, the Church takes great care that her official prayers are theologically correct. Surprisingly, she does not show the same care in the hymns that she allows to be used, and so the quality of the theology in our hymns, and its expression, ranges from excellent to questionable to poor to heretical; thankfully, there are few of the last, but they do exist.

Let us look at the song “Bread of Life,” by Rory Cooney. The first words we sing are the words of the refrain:

 

I myself am the bread of life.

                                    You and I are the bread of life,

                                    taken and blessed, broken and shared by Christ

                                    that the world might live.

 

On the most immediate level — what the words actually say — this is one of the worst hymns we could sing in the liturgy. I can assure you that I am not the bread of life, and — no offense — you also are not. There is one Bread of Life, and we know who it is.

But Cooney does not capitalize the words “bread” and “life”; what is he trying to express? I think he is trying to express something that Paul VI, taking his cue from St. Augustine, wrote about in his encyclical “Mysterium Fidei”:

 

From this it follows that the worship paid to the Divine Eucharist

strongly impels the soul to cultivate a “social” love, by which … we make the

interests of the community … our own and extend our charity to the whole

world because we know that everywhere there are members of Christ.

 

As I wrote, Paul VI received his idea from Augustine. I have heard people quote a line from one of Augustine’s sermons in support of Cooney’s words: “become what you see.” The trouble is that they do not quote more of Augustine’s words. He continues in that same sermon by claiming that we say “Amen” to what we are. But Augustine does not say bread of life; he says body of Christ: “Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your ‘Amen’ may ring true.”

What is the difference between saying “we are the bread of life” and “we are the body of Christ”? The biggest difference is that the second is scriptural and accurate (1 Cor 12; Rom 12), while the first is analogous and tenuous at best. And two things make these words even worse: first, they are the first words we sing and there is no preparation, no context for them; second, that Cooney does not just write “I am the bread of life,” but “I myself am the bread of life.” Without any preparation, it could be interpreted that I am not just forgetting God but consciously excluding God. What is the problem? The problem is that the liturgy is not the place for theological speculation, but for clear and direct expression of what is true. If the maxim lex orandi, lex credenda is valid, then when the Church is praying — especially in a time when the faithful are so inadequately catechized — she should be praying words that strengthen our faith, not weaken or confuse it.

Another hymn, “Bread For The World,” by Bernadette Farrell, comes a little closer to a more adequate expression of the idea that the Eucharist begets in us a “social” love. The refrain of her hymn reads:

 

Bread for the world; a world of hunger.

Wine for all peoples: people who thirst.

May we who eat be bread for others.

May we who drink pour out our love.

 

There is much that is still problematic in this hymn: for instance, there remains the idea, slightly less overt, that somehow we are ourselves what the world needs and longs for; Farrell does not mention Jesus Christ anywhere in the refrain. At least, though, she hints in the third and fourth lines at the need for us first to receive something before we can give to others.

In his hymn “Gift Of Finest Wheat,” Omer Westendorf comes closest in this group of three composers to expressing well the idea that the Eucharist impels us to go out to others. First, there is no ambiguity in the refrain as to the source of the bread of life:

 

Come give to us, O saving Lord,

the bread of life to eat.

 

Then, in the fifth verse, he writes,

 

You give yourself to us, O Lord;

then selfless let us be,

to serve each other in your name

in truth and charity.

 

While there is more that Westendorf could have written to express how the Eucharist impels us to others, he at least is on the right track. There is no suggestion that when we go to others we bring only ourselves. Indeed, we hope to be “selfless;” and if we are selfless, then we must be bringing something else to others — who else but Jesus, who has given himself to us in the Eucharist?

 

Let us end with a look at a hymn that, while not trying overtly to express the idea we have been discussing, might actually bring us to it in a more substantial way. The hymn is “Adoro Te Devote” by St. Thomas Aquinas, but the words at which we will look are from Gerard Manly Hopkins’ well-known translation of the hymn into English. The fifth verse reads:

 

O thou [the Host], our reminder of the Crucified,

Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,

Lend this life to me, then; feed and feast my mind,

There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

 

There is no ambiguity here, and no questionable theology. The host reminds us of the crucified Jesus, the living Bread of Life. He is our life; we beg it from him. The last line recalls the verse and response of benediction: “You have given them Bread from heaven/Having within it all sweetness.” Even if we do need hymns that remind us of the social responsibility the Eucharist imposes on us, they should begin with the true Bread of Life and work outwards, so to speak.

It was not the purpose of this article to look at every aspect of the hymns mentioned, but hopefully our brief exploration has awakened an interest in looking more closely at the hymns we use. Perhaps one day someone in Rome or our bishops in this country will require more care in the creation of the hymnals that shape in some way the beliefs of our Catholic people.

 

Father Stef Bankemper is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Ft. Thomas.

‘O Come Let Us Adore Him’

By Deacon Peter Freeman.

The Eucharist is Jesus truly present – body, blood, soul and divinity. At the moment of consecration during Mass, the “gifts” of bread and wine are transformed (transubstantiated) into the actual Body and Blood of Christ, at the altar. This is what is meant by the real presence: the actual, physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

After Communion, the Eucharistic Body of Christ is reserved in the tabernacle. A votive light is kept burning to remind us that Jesus is present.

Because we, as Catholics, believe that Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament is given the same reverence, respect and devotion that is accorded to Christ.

Eucharistic adoration is adoring or honoring the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and can take place at any time that the Blessed Sacrament is present in the tabernacle.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament occurs when a priest or deacon removes the sacred host from the tabernacle and places it in the monstrance on the altar for adoration by the faithful. The monstrance is the vessel used in the Church to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host during adoration or benediction. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare meaning “to expose”. When a consecrated host is placed in the monstrance, it is said to be in solemn exposition.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament allows for the adoration of Christ visibly present in the Eucharist for 40 Hours devotions, holy hours, adoration and benediction.

Many parishes have Eucharistic exposition and benediction for a certain number of hours each week. Some parishes have perpetual adoration in a chapel reserved for Eucharistic Exposition. Perpetual adoration is adoration in front of the exposed Eucharist twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week.

During Eucharistic adoration, we “watch and wait” and remain silent in His presence and open ourselves to the graces which flow from the Eucharist. Like a magnet, the Lord draws us to Himself and gently transforms us.

Click Here for a directory of parishes within the Diocese of Covington that hold Eucharistic exposition and adoration, with days and times, as well as parishes with perpetual adoration chapels.

Eucharist books coming to parishioners’ mailboxes for Advent

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Parishioners of the Diocese of Covington can expect an Advent gift from Bishop Foys — and it might look a little familiar. In conjunction with the Messenger and the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization, Bishop Roger Foys is sending families in the diocese each a bound copy of the previously run series, “The Eucharist: The Source and Summit.”

The series of 16 articles has recently been published during fall 2020 in a five-part series. Its origins, however, date back several more years.

According to Dave Cooley, co-director, Office of Catechesis and Evangelization, the Eucharist series began with a request from the Office of Worship around 2015 or 2016. “It was an initiative of the office to increase Eucharistic amazement in the Diocese,” he said, especially regarding Eucharistic adoration. What resulted was 13 articles, published in the Messenger once a month, spread out over a year.

This year, since the COVID-19 pandemic has limited Mass attendance and public gatherings since March, Bishop Foys became concerned that the people of the Diocese of Covington needed more support in their homes.

“The Eucharist is, as Vatican II makes clear, ‘the source and the summit of our lives as Christians,’” said Bishop Foys. “There is nothing that can replace the Eucharist. And there’s nothing that can genuinely replace God’s people coming together in community to celebrate the Eucharist. But during these days when so many people are still not able to come to Mass because of their age or existing health conditions, we wanted to provide them with something that they could use during this time, although this is something that can be used at any time, and will serve its purpose for decades to come.”

Bishop Foys decided to re-publish the series in the Messenger, in a five-part series, in hopes of enkindling that Eucharistic love once again. Then, he decided to publish the book for every family in the diocese as an Advent gift at the end of a long year.

“It became clear to me that we already had a wealth of meditations on the Eucharist that had been written over the years, some in our Messenger, some in parishes, and it seemed to me, rather than writing one pastoral letter, to gather all of these meditations together and to present them to our people for their own reflection, especially during Advent.”

What’s wonderful about the book, said Bishop Foys, is that it touches on so many aspects of the Eucharist. “No pastoral letter that I could have written would have covered as much ground as these individual meditations. I also wanted to send it to God’s people, to every household in the diocese, to give them a broader view of the Eucharist and what it means to us. Different meditations will appeal to different people — some will find one or another more beneficial — that’s the beauty of having a compilation of meditations instead of just one pastoral letter from one person’s point of view.”

“I think this book we’ve put together is so cool because of all those different aspects of the Eucharist that it looks at, and it’s just scratching the surface of each of these focuses,” said Mr. Cooley. “This kind of whets your appetite, then you can go and look more into that — it’s a great introduction to all these ways of thinking about the Eucharist.”

Bishop Foys also hopes to combat a growing trend of many professed Catholics who don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. “This is a way of helping them to come once again to embrace the Real Presence: that the Body and Blood of Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist,” he said. “Christ is also present within the community because Christ lives within each of us, and when Jesus gave us the sacrament of the Eucharist, he gave us that in the context of a community of believers, with his disciples. And he said, when you do this, do this in memory of me, so every time the community gathers for the Eucharist, it is gathering as and with the body of Christ.”

The book features the 16 articles, illustrations from artist Matthew Alderman, study questions and thoughts from the faithful around the diocese about the significance of the Eucharist in their lives.

“It’s a gift from all of those who wrote these meditations and it’s a gift from me, to put this together so that people can have it readily available,” said Bishop Foys. “It’s something that is not meant to be read and then tossed aside — it serves as an ongoing meditation on every aspect of the Eucharist that these (articles) cover. … It’s something I can see parents using with their children; parents and children are spending a lot more time at home, with this pandemic, and so families can use it together.”

“The point of it is to realize what a blessing and a gift the Eucharist is,” said Mr. Cooley. “No matter what happens in the world and what’s taken from us. At the very least, we have our faith and we have the Eucharist.”

After reversed ruling, schools to continue remote learning due to executive order

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Schools in the Diocese of Covington are continuing with Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) after a Thanksgiving weekend surrounded with changes in COVID-19 school policies. Despite an injunction giving private Christian schools an exception from Governor Andy Beshear’s executive order, the Sixth Circuit Court prevented the Diocese of Covington from returning students to in-person instruction any earlier than Dec. 7.

After the executive order from Governor Beshear, Nov. 18, ordering the cessation of in-person instruction beginning Nov. 23, diocesan schools spent the weekend preparing for a complete transition to NTI. According to the order, elementary schools may return to in-person instruction Dec. 7, provided their schools are not in Red Zone counties, while middle and high schools may resume in-person instruction Jan. 4, 2021. The only county not currently identified as red in the diocese is Owen County.

The schools received hope of returning to the classroom sooner when U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove filed a 22-page order granting a preliminary injunction to 17 private Christian schools that filed a lawsuit against the emergency restriction. Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined the plaintiffs in the suit, and on Nov. 25, the district court granted the motion for preliminary injunctive relief and prohibited the Governor from enforcing the order against any private, religious school in the Commonwealth.

Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Covington, sent a letter to parents Nov. 25, saying schools would resume in-person Dec. 2, with after-school extracurricular activities and winter sports suspended until the week of Dec. 14 in an exercise of caution. She clarified that as of Nov. 19, 24 out of 37 schools had zero COVID-19 cases.

“Overall, our data over the last 14 weeks has shown that COVID cases are not originating in our schools and it is not spreading in the school setting when the protocols are followed,” she wrote. “We also found that the quarantine periods for cases and close contacts were effective at mitigating spread. Therefore, despite the rising cases in our counties, we had decided our Catholic schools would remain open and we would continue monitoring each case and school community individually.”

However, over the weekend, Governor Beshear appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court with a request to stay his executive order, making it applicable to all despite the injunction. The Sixth Circuit Court granted Governor Beshear’s request Nov. 29.

Mrs. McGuire followed up with a second letter to parents Nov. 30, explaining that NTI will continue as previously planned. Expressing her sorrow over what the students will miss during the Advent season, she encouraged families to lead their children in the Advent traditions that their schools would have used to help them prepare for Christmas.

“We have just started the Advent season,” Mrs. McGuire said. “During this time our children would have attended Mass, spent time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Penance. We would have prayed and taught the lessons of Advent as a faith community to help prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. While I know firsthand that NTI adds stress to families, I do hope you will be able to help your child(ren) participate in these Advent traditions.”

Meanwhile, in-person “targeted services,” including school counseling and academic support, may continue.

December 7 remains the target date for reopening elementary schools, but only if counties are no longer in the Red Zone. Middle and high schools will continue using NTI until at least Jan. 4.