There is a familiar adage “fathers love your wives” in order to lead children. It is through the witness of the father loving his wife, and by extension his children, that love is learned within a family. The same is true for spiritual fathers and the Church. With all of the grand plans for Eucharistic revival underway, we can miss the much simpler and necessary path to Eucharistic revival. Spiritual fathers, teach us how to love Our Eucharistic Lord by simply letting us see you loving Him.
One of the most powerful scenes that I have witnessed was a priest kneeling before the Tabernacle in prayer before Mass. He was quiet and unassuming. He did not want to draw attention to Himself. Rather, he wanted each one of us who entered the nave in preparation for Mass to fix our gaze on Jesus. The priest quietly praying and preparing his soul and his spiritual children for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a powerful witness to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
This same powerful witness is at work through all of the priests who come to Eucharistic Adoration each week with their spiritual children. Those spiritual fathers who deep down know that they cannot expect their spiritual children to love the Lord if they are not leading by example. Bold and powerful preaching is a great gift and enflames hearts, but the silent witness of a priest kneeling before the Lord speaks volumes that words cannot express. This prayer before the Eucharistic Lord shows spiritual children that their priest is madly in love with Jesus and he wants to show us how to love and adore him.
As a mother, my daughter frequently reminds me that my actions matter considerably more than my words. If I say one thing, but do another, she will point it out to me. It teaches her that she does not need to match her words and actions. It tells her that intellectual knowledge is enough and putting a teaching into action matters less. This is the same danger for priests with preaching and living their Eucharistic identity.
There are countless dedicated and holy priests who arise early in the morning or stay up late at night to pray a holy hour with the Lord every single day, as they must in order to protect and fully live their priestly vocation, but there have also been too many hurried Masses, improvising, and cult of personality in the Mass in the last few decades. This shows in the abysmal belief in the Real Presence the Church in the United States is facing. The spiritual children have not absorbed their spiritual fathers’ love of the Holy Eucharist. Has the focus truly been on loving Our Eucharistic Lord in rushed Masses or improv hour at Mass? The answer is pretty clearly no.
Spiritual children, like natural children, learn from their spiritual fathers. If the priest is rushed in the Eucharistic sacrifice, then no one can be particularly surprised when the lay faithful clamor for the exit. They have learned that Mass is something they simply need to check off of their weekly list. It is quite another matter when a priest enters deeply into the Mass and surrenders Himself in love with Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit. A priest who gazes upon Our Eucharistic Lord with love, tenderness, and profound adoration, demonstrates to the people present that the Church truly means what she teaches.
St. Padre Pio’s Masses lasted a long time because of the great care that he took in loving and reverencing Our Lord. I’m not arguing that Masses should be extremely long given the priest shortage and tight time frames between Masses at many parishes. What witnessed most to the Real Presence of Jesus was St. Padre Pio’s countenance. He was a man in love with Jesus. Everyone who attended one of His Masses saw it. This did not draw attention to St. Padre Pio, instead, it led those present into an intimate and deep encounter of love with Jesus. They came seeking Jesus. St. Padre Pio was simply a sign of Jesus to them by his love for the Lord.
The priest silently adoring and loving Jesus is a conduit that opens up souls to an encounter with Jesus. The priest who visibly loves Jesus will lead more souls to Christ than any committee meeting or gathering. Those are short-lived and illusory. They are good in their own right, but much the way families live the simplicity of their vocation each day, priests loving Jesus and witnessing to that love will save more souls than a one-time gathering.
St. Manuel Gonzalez Garcia received this simple answer to love and be with Jesus in the Eucharist through countless hours before the Tabernacle. In The Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle he says:
Priests, go to the tabernacle! Let us draw power from the tabernacle! Nobody goes to the Father except through His Son, Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! We do not journey along by speculative, intellectual studies of Jesus, but by living faith in him, by constant contact with him in his present state on earth which is his sacramental state: the Real Presence.
Is there a disorientated piety, coldness in charity, an absence of justice? That means that the Eucharist is unknown and untasted. Are there errors, darkness, doubts, ignorance, lack of knowledge? That means that people are not being guided by the sanctuary light of the tabernacle. It is the most clear and illuminating light of all the lights on earth! Is there spiritual anemia, agony, death, and souls who are wasting away? That means that they are poorly fed or poorly “digesting” the Eucharist!”
The answer is to go to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and to show spiritual children how to go to Him. More than anything, spiritual children need to see the loving witness of their spiritual fathers in adoration before Our Lord. It should be a regular experience for spiritual children to see their priest praying before the Tabernacle or at Eucharistic Adoration. To see the radiant loving countenance upon priestly faces as they elevate Our Lord in the Mass. Priestly vocations can be awakened by such love. Cold or indifferent hearts can become raging infernos of Eucharistic love. We doubt because we do not see as Christ sees. Priests simply loving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist saves souls and ushers in renewal.
We often want big shows, plans, and events, but this is not primarily how the Lord works. He chooses hidden places like Assisi, Ars, and Pietrelcina to usher in renewal. St. Francis, St. John Vianney, and St. Padio Pio had the most important thing in common: they loved the Eucharistic Lord with their whole hearts as priests, and for St. Francis, as a deacon. It is this love that will lead to Eucharistic revival.
The Lord renews in silent, hidden, and ordinary ways. He arrives in utter poverty and obscurity into the loving arms of His Mother. The first two people to ever adore the Lord are Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. May they both intercede for our priests in their Eucharistic identity, so that torrents of love will pour forth through their holy and prayerful witness. May the witness of priests in love with Jesus engulf the Church with numerous graces and pave the way for Eucharistic revival.