When evil appears to win, turn to the Eucharist

Archbishop Aquila

This week I want to share with you two important themes that have come to me in prayer: the need for prayer and reparation for the atrocity of abortion, and the way that Christ sustains and builds our faith through the Eucharist.

Every person of good will has been shocked by the revelations that Planned Parenthood has been selling body parts from aborted children to biotech companies. The findings are horrific, and the fact that people can speak so cavalierly about the selling of body parts of aborted children while eating lunch and sipping wine demonstrates how deadened the consciences of many people have become.

One day, everyone who has promoted or supported abortion in any way will have to answer for his or her actions before the judgment throne of God. This is where prayer comes in, as we must pray that the conscience of every person will be awakened to the evil of abortion. We must bring before the Lord those whose deadened and erroneous consciences support abortion and Planned Parenthood. We must pray that they will encounter Christ’s mercy and love, and that their consciences will be enlightened with the truth.

There will be three opportunities for prayer in the Archdiocese of Denver. The first is a weeklong prayer campaign organized by Priests for Life that runs Aug. 22-29. Details can be found at PrayerCampaign.org. On Aug. 22, a peaceful protest sponsored by 40 Days for Life and the Pro-Life Action League will be held from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. at the main Planned Parenthood of the Rockies clinic, located at 7155 E. 38th Ave. in Denver. And finally, my fellow bishops and I have called for a statewide day of fasting, prayer, and reparation on Friday, Aug. 28. I encourage you to mark all the dates on your calendar and plan now how you will pray for the conversion of those who participate in abortion.

This brings me to the second point, and that is the gift of the Eucharist, which has been a part of my prayer recently. It has been on my mind and heart because it is through the Eucharist that Jesus nourishes us and helps us engage in prayer during times of trial, when evil seems to be winning.

Every three years the Church reads from the Gospel of Mark, the shortest of the four Gospels. But for five weeks of that cycle, the Church inserts the sixth chapter of John for the Gospel reading. We are presently in the final week of hearing from John’s Eucharistic chapter before returning to Mark.

John 6 provides the deepest teaching we have from our Lord on the Eucharist, and I would like to take this opportunity to explain how God sustains and strengthens us with Scripture and the Eucharist.

I encourage you to begin by taking 20 minutes of time this week to sit down with this chapter, either by yourself or as a family. Begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking him to help you be attentive and listen to the Lord. Read the entire chapter out loud. Then take 5-7 minutes in quiet prayer to see where the Lord speaks to your heart. If you do this alone, simply enter into prayer, speaking heart-to-heart with Jesus about where the passage speaks to you personally. If you do it as a family, let each person speak about what word or passage spoke to their heart. Simply listen to one another. To close, lift up your heart in gratitude to the Lord for the Eucharist and this teaching!

John 6 begins with the invitation to faith from the Lord and concludes with a statement of faith, and it is our faith that Christ wants to strengthen with his Word. Allow me to share some of the reflections that came to me in prayer and strengthened me.

The chapter begins with the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish, after which the people want to make Jesus king, but he disappears. Then, he walks on water, which is followed by his teaching on how he is the true bread from heaven. The miracle of the loaves and fish and Jesus walking on the water demonstrate that he is true God and true man. His power and authority over the material world reveal his divinity.

The people only want earthly bread, but Jesus begins to reveal to them that it is the gift of his body and blood in the Eucharist. His teaching causes division and there are those who leave because of it. But Jesus never backs off from the reality and truth of his flesh being true food and his blood true drink. Instead, he issues an invitation to faith that he gives to us today, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Jesus invites them and us to put our faith, confidence and trust in him. He identifies himself as “the true bread” that the Father gives from heaven so that the world may have eternal life.

When the people murmur and dispute among themselves about his teaching, Jesus makes clear that the Eucharist is not a simple sign or symbol, but truly his body and blood. He invites them to a deeper faith, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes has eternal life … the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus teaches us that at every Mass his one sacrifice on the Cross is made present and we participate in it by offering our lives with Jesus to the Father.

He states further, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Jesus speaks of the intimate communion we have with him when we receive his body and blood at Mass. The Eucharist nourishes us and sustains us as authentic disciples of Jesus. That is why we go to Mass every Sunday, we keep holy the Sabbath, so that with Jesus we may worship the Father and abide with him. The Eucharist strengthens us to give witness to Christ in the world, to intercede for others—including our enemies—and to invite others to encounter him.

At the conclusion of the sixth chapter we learn that many of his disciples found this a “hard teaching” and “withdrew” from him. Jesus turns to the twelve and asks an all-important question that is addressed to us today, “Will you also go away?” Peter answers for the 12 with a statement of faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

May our love for the Eucharist grow each time we attend Mass, and may we always give witness to the dignity of every human life from conception until natural death!

 

COMING UP: Catholic Baby University prepares parents for the real deal

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Heidi and Jim Knous had no idea that something like a Catholic childbirth education existed. But not long after finding out the great news that they were expecting their first child, Brady, they came across an article in the Denver Catholic introducing Catholic Baby University — a program designed to teach expecting parents the nuts and bolts of both childbirth and Catholicism.

“I think it’s special because it gives you an opportunity to step back from all the registries and baby shower… and to really take time to come together as a couple to think about this vocation, what parenthood is … and how you want that to look for your family,” Heidi said.

“I think there’s a lot of distractions when you’re about to have a child,” Jim added. “Everybody knows it’s going to be tough and you’re going through a lot. Everybody’s trying to tell you, ‘You should do this, you should do that.’ But Catholic Baby U really gives you a solid understanding of what having a child is going to be like and includes the values that we learned as a family in raising a baby in the Catholic faith.”

Jim and Heidi Knous and their son Brady, are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. (Photo provided)

 

The Catholic Baby University holistic program for parents — offered both as a weekend retreat or a six-class series — is the result of the partnership between Rose Medical Center and the Archdiocese of Denver and was inspired by the previously-founded Jewish Baby University.

The classes touch on topics dealing with childbirth instruction, postpartum experience, baby safety and the Catholic faith — and they are taught and facilitated by certified birth and safety instructors, mental health professionals, and members from the Office of Evangelization and Family Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Statistically, people become more religiously involved when they have children, so we want to respond to people’s desires to reengage their faith with the coming of their child,” said Scott Elmer, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver and also a facilitator of the program, in a previous interview. “We want to be there to welcome them, celebrate the new life, and give them the tools they need to incorporate God into their home life.”

For Jim and Heidi, who are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the experience of having both the childbirth and Catholic aspects in this preparation did not disappoint, as they learned from each one.

“It was a great opportunity to come back and think about things from a basic level again and how to bring our child into the faith — things that you haven’t necessarily thought of or how you would teach a child something, [like praying],” Heidi said.

“Something we learned [that really made me reflect] was that the bond between me and Brady and between Heidi and Brady are very different. It happens at very different times,” Jim shared. “Right away when Heidi finds out she’s pregnant, then her bonding with Brady already starts all the way until Brady’s born. As a dad, it doesn’t start until he is born and I’m actually holding him.”

Heidi assured the concept of “gatekeeping” also helped them prepare for parenting better.

“[Gatekeeping] is when, as a mom, you get really wrapped up in, ‘Only I know how to change baby diapers, only I know how to feed the baby, only I know how to do this,’” Heidi explained. “And I am someone who I could’ve seen thinking that I could be the only person that knew how to take care of [my child]. But gaining that understanding helped us co-parent a lot easier from the very beginning because I was aware of it.”

“I would tell [expecting couples] that Catholic Baby University is a great place to start, to gain community, to meet other people that are in a similar place that you are in; having people in the same room who are just as excited, just as terrified who also want to learn,” Heidi concluded. “It’s just a really awesome opportunity to take advantage of.”