By Bishop James Conley
In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, St. Pope John Paul II wrote: “The Church constantly draws her life from the redeeming sacrifice; she approaches it not only through faith-filled remembrance, but also through real contact, since this sacrifice is made present ever anew, sacramentally perpetuated, in every community which offers it at the hands of the consecrated minister. The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age.”
The Eucharist gives us real contact with the love of Jesus Christ. As we celebrated Holy Week last week, we entered into the mystery of Christ’s redeeming love, which was a humbling of himself, a humbling that, at times, took place through humiliation.
Jesus endured the mockery and embarrassment of those around him. Jesus suffered the physical anguish of the Scourging at the Pillar and a painful death of crucifixion—a death sentence that was usually reserved for the worst of criminals.
He experienced the emotional distress of knowing that his dear friends had betrayed him; and also, the sins of all of us in the future.
Jesus poured everything out for us, but that outpouring of love is not just a matter of the past. He continues to give us contact with himself and his saving mysteries through the Eucharist. He allows us to receive him as food.
Our Lord desires for us to have a close, intimate relationship with him for all eternity, and that relationship begins now. Eucharistic adoration is an invitation to deepen our relationship with Jesus, who is Love Made Visible, to praise, adore and glorify him, and to listen to him speak to the depths of our own hearts.
We can never underestimate the importance of coming before the Lord in Eucharistic adoration — to be united with him who calls us to eternal life — so that we do not become distracted from the reality of God’s infinite love for us.
In September 2017, I visited with Father James Kelleher of the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity, who has helped organize Rosary Crusades across the country. I knew that a Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade could be a great opportunity of grace for the Diocese of Lincoln.
The sacred scriptures tell us that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the one who crushes the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). In order to fight this spiritual battle for the good of the family and for the good of our diocese, Father Kelleher helped us form a committee of laypersons to lead a Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade in order to promote the family Rosary and increase Eucharistic Adoration in our diocese.
Over this past year, the Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade has visited many of our schools, CCD programs and parishes. Father Kelleher has traveled throughout the diocese, preaching the importance of praying a daily family rosary to school children, to bring about peace in the world.
In addition to the lesson on the rosary, every Catholic school and CCD student was given a Miraculous Medal. Father Kelleher explained the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Catherine Labouré, from which the Miraculous Medal came.
In addition, members of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist have assisted Father Kelleher with many of his presentations. The religious brothers gave presentations about Marian devotion at diocesan schools outside the city of Lincoln that Father Kelleher was not able to visit.
On April 29, 2018, an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 faithful surrounded the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to pray the Most Holy Rosary, consecrating the youth—and, therefore, our future—to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
On Nov. 4, 2018, thousands of adorers gave public witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist by processing in adoration around Nebraska’s State Capitol, pausing at three altars—as though at the three falls of our Lord on his via dolorosa—publically to adore the Lord in the Eucharist.
On Sunday evening, May 5, the crusade will culminate in a Global Living Rosary at Haymarket Park in Lincoln with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction —where I will consecrate the whole diocese, once again, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is my prayer that priests, religious and lay faithful across the diocese will join me on that evening for this public witness of faith and hope.
I wish to thank all who have worked hard to make the Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade a success. In particular, I am grateful to Father Kelleher, Msgr. Mark Huber, the priest representative for the rosary crusade, and the entire executive committee of lay members.
On a concluding note, I ask all the people of the Diocese of Lincoln to pray the rosary for healing and recovery for the people of Sri Lanka as they grieve after the senseless bombing of churches and hotels by terrorists.
The Diocese of Lincoln has a special connection to Sri Lanka. Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz, my predecessor, a longtime friend with Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the request of the archbishop, sponsored the formation of four seminarians to study in the United States. In 2013 and 2014, I had the privilege of ordaining all four of the “Sri Lincolns” to the diaconate at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ. They were ordained priests in their home Archdiocese of Columbo and are now serving as priests in Sri Lanka. Fathers Asitha, Eranga, Gerald and Shanaka, became good friends with our seminarians and endeared themselves to many of the faithful here in Lincoln during their summer seminarian assignments in the Diocese of Lincoln.
This week I spoke by phone to all four priests. Thanks be to God, they have survived these gruesome attacks but are shocked and saddened by these tragic acts of evil and violence. I assured them of our fervent prayers. While Cardinal Ranjith has called upon the government to demand that justice be served, he has urged his people to remain calm and to pray for peace. Let us turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace, to bring about peace and healing to our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and the world.