By: Laura Worhacz
“He came to earth to manifest His goodness, Let us dwell on it at length when we are at His feet.” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Volume 7, page 120)
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
Tomorrow is Passion Sunday. Let’s take a moment to enter deeply into Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. At every celebration of the Eucharist we proclaim, “Hosanna… blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). During this moment in our Liturgy, for years I have received a grace to close my eyes and see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on an animal, riding into His Passion and Death. Palms waving over Jesus, those present are making a pathway to His Crucifixion. People crying out, begging from the depths of their being to find hope, trust, and the love of God. Holy Week is before us; Jesus weeps, cries out to Our Father, sweats blood. He agonizes looking to see if anyone is awake. He is scourged MERCILESSLY, crowned with thorns, carries the Cross, and dies for the sanctification of our lives. We are called to be made HOLY, “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…” Now let’s take a moment to enter into our own passion with Jesus.
We are in darkness now, a time in history when the unknown is before us, unprecedented, with the threat of the Corona-virus in our midst. Anxiety and fear have entered so many people’s hearts. Jesus entered Jerusalem knowing it would bring death. Jesus united to Heaven’s love and went through His Passion with His eyes fixed on His Father. Our prayer will keep us affixed to the security of God’s love. As our faith rises through the Cross, let us imagine ourselves standing next to Our Lady and Saint John as the blood and water pour out of our Savior. The RESURRECTION is with us now and forever. The Eucharist is the FLESH of the Son of God and we are His MYSTICAL BODY. As we look at our loved ones and all those whom we encounter, we are in the Eucharist. Our longing to receive the Sacramental species will be nourished by keeping our senses awake through our love for each other. The heart wells up with intense longing to be together again in our Churches. The Holy Spirit pours out the life-giving water we have received at our baptism as we die and rise in God’s will for our eternal salvation.
The deaths and suffering we are witnessing in all of humanity due to the Covid-19 virus are beyond our comprehension and the mystery is in the unknown. It is through our communion of love that we carry the Cross with the joy of the Gospel. A joy that lives in the HOPE of those who BELIEVE that we are blessed to come in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, we adore you O Christ and we Praise You, for by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world!
“What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?” (John 11:45-56)
“I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.” (Ezekiel: 37:21-28)
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
“What has God been doing this past month?” – This is how my Spiritual Director opens our time together each month. The first time he asked me that, I literally felt a shift in my mind. I had made a list in my mind of things I wanted to discuss, but none of those would answer that question. I realized that my mind had been occupied with things that I was struggling with; I was paying more attention to the things that I had been doing, and to things the devil had been doing, than to God himself. I began to ask myself this question often, sometimes more than once a day. What I discovered was that the more I sought, the more I saw.
And what did I see? What do I see? I see that every time I struggle with something, it is an opportunity God is giving me to set me free. That every time I allow (fill in the blank) to take away my peace, to gain access to my mind and heart, God is right there showing me that I am free to choose Him instead. That when I hold to the things that eternally endure, I am holding on to Him. And, when I am holding on to Him, there is nothing I shall want, nothing I shall fear. (Ps 23)
“For you have given your children a sacred time
for the renewing and purifying of their hearts,
that, freed from disordered affections,
they may so deal with the things of this passing world
as to hold rather to the things that eternally endure.” (Preface II of Lent)
“My tears have been my bread day and night, as they ask me every day, ‘Where is your God?’” (Ps 42:4). This process of renewing and purifying of our hearts is not painless, but it is a good kind of pain. It is like when a tight muscle gets massaged by a skilled therapist…it hurts, but in a way that leads to healing, not to brokenness. God is the same today as He was yesterday, and He is loving us through every circumstance. His love and mercy are everlasting, and that is where we place our trust.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8). When the world clamors for your attention, and the enemy thinks he’s winning, just look up and see the one who is beholding you and ask yourself: What has God been doing? “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is 43:19)
By: Rick Hernandez
“…any superior to whom God has given authority over you stands in the place of God: “Whoever listens to you listens to me” (cf. Lk 10:16). Whenever you perform any deed out of obedience, you are fulfilling God’s will. Direct your obedience to God himself, who is listening. Since you cannot see him, you act out of faith in the authority that he has given; and this makes your obedience meritorious. Your obedience is not merely to the person who commands, who is nothing more than an instrument, but to the very authority this person wields.” - St. Peter Julian Eymard
Once a cherub of God, Lucifer, the “bearer of light”, was himself “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). More perfect that any other created being, Lucifer thought himself wiser than all, and that pride corrupted his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:17). From that corruption, Lucifer rebelled against God, his creator and the one that had his best interest at heart. Lucifer was disobedient to God, thus becoming Satan (a name that means “Adversary”). Lucifer’s disobedience cost him Heaven.
"Pride is the commencement of all sin… and the beginning of pride is when a man departs from God." (Saint Augustine’s commentary on Ecclesiastes 12).
How many times do we think that we “know better” when figures of authority (bosses, leaders, parents, priests) tell us to do something? Or when we receive advice? Or when we are admonished? As with Lucifer, we think we know better but really, how often do we end up with peace from our own machinations and planning? Yet, our worldly wisdom feeds our pride and our pride feeds our rebelliousness. But God is not asking us for rebelliousness, he is asking us for faithfulness and obedience…
“Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
Our leaders are to be just, for they are responsible for us. We have to pray for an increase in humility, so that as we grow in wisdom, we can also fend off the arrogance of pride and be good, faithful followers. When we do this, we surrender to our Lord’s Divine Will, and His perfect plan for our good.
“The more we see that any action springs not from the motive of obedience, the more evident is it that it is a temptation of the enemy; for when God sends an inspiration, the very first effect of it is to infuse a spirit of docility.” - Teresa of Avila
Today, as the world is embroiled with the coronavirus pandemic, our leaders, both civil and Ecclesial, are asking us to make sacrifices, to let go of most of our comforts for the good of the whole. We may be tempted to criticize and vent our frustrations instead of lifting up our brethren trough our actions and words.
Let’s take a little time today to look inwards towards our intentions and identify all our prideful and selfish matters. Let’s pray that we can, with the help of God, remove those imperfections. As Saint Teresa of Avila said, let’s pray for humility and docility. Let’s also pray for our Church, our lay people, our brothers and sisters in religious orders, our deacons, our priests, our bishops and our Pope. For all of us, in that order, have increasing responsibility for the rest of us. Let’s surrender our will to our Father’s Divine Will, which only desires what is best for us; for in that obedience that we owe Him and his Church, our Lord takes full responsibility for us. For “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Romans 6:8). Remember always that “If God is for us, then who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). Praying for all of us. May our ever-loving Lord grant us peace.
By: Laura Worhacz
Genuine progress: You say that you are not improving? Know that genuine progress consists in doing God’s holy will, in forever plucking up one’s courage, in rising after every fall, and in always saying, “I’ll do better.” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Eymard Library, Volume 6, page 239)
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) Here again we find an invitation from Jesus to enter into His holy life, “be perfect”. In opposition to these words lives a force that is constantly trying to vacuum us into winds of destruction, yet there is a mounting reality that comes from the Altar of God, a place to secure our souls in the Holy Eucharist.
This Lenten season I asked Jesus to refresh my love for Him. Jesus prayed; He prayed to transmit LIFE from Our Father’s creative love. Jesus’ perfection was formed in His Triune existence. Mary, our mother, was incarnated into this holy place. She lived in the Trinity and espoused herself to the Holy Spirit; her perfections were enabled by this gift. The interior consent to Our Father’s love enfolds us into His gracious will. Our choices to freely love flow out of our reception of Communion. Our trust and security in God’s love will be nourished in our prayer time.
In my younger years I remember a time in life when I felt very far from perfect. God seemed far away. I knew He was in existence yet could not touch Him. The pure gift we have in the Blessed Sacrament and our grace to know Jesus in this intimate way brings God’s love to us. My imperfections are made ever more present to me now, yet the gift embraced in the Eucharist enables us to take courage.
Saint Peter Julian was proclaimed at his canonization to be “An Outstanding Apostle of the Eucharist”. He lived in the gift of God’s perfections, God’s life, love, and gift of His Son in the Blessed Sacrament. Saint Peter Julian’s counsel to remain in God’s holy will, to take courage and rise when we fall seem like a perfect reminder during this holy season of Lent. May Jesus make us His holy people, those who strive to be perfect by loving Him ever more -- PERFECT by serving Jesus and thanking Him for His Passionate death that has granted us eternal life.
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
“Love makes burdens lighter, because you divide them. It makes joys more intense, because you share them.” - Anonymous
“Love makes burdens lighter…” I recall a time when my husband had received an abnormal test result, and we were facing the possibility that he had cancer. As we prayed and waited for a series of follow-up tests, we shared the news with some close friends, so they could pray for us too. We were with our friends the day we received the good news that there was no cancer after all, and the wife immediately praised God and started to cry. The relief they were expressing was bigger than even our own. They proceeded to share how they prayed every night as a family for Rick’s health, and how they cried sometimes at night when they thought of what we were going through. What was amazing to me was that, during the whole ordeal, Rick and I had experienced a peace we could not explain. We both had a sense of trust and resignation, knowing that whatever the outcome, we would be ok. When our friends shared their story with us we realized what had happened. They had literally carried our burden for us. “Love makes burdens lighter, because you divide them.”
“Love makes joys more intense…” Those of you who have been following our blog for a while are aware that last November our dear friend Ray, Laura’s husband, received a long-awaited liver transplant. Talk about an occasion where we were carrying each other’s burdens! I can not begin to imagine the weight of the cross Ray and Laura were called to carry during this time, but it must have been really heavy, because so many of us felt the need to carry a piece of it in our hearts. We were with Laura the day she received the call that a liver had been found for Ray and God had answered our prayers. We were about to begin a day of retreat with the Associates of the Blessed Sacrament (in Florida) when she received the call and was told she had to rush to the airport to meet Ray in the hospital in New York City. She went up to the podium and shared the news with our community of Associates, who had been faithfully and relentlessly praying for a miracle… “Ray got a liver!” The burst of absolute joy that enveloped that room was the closest I have been to experiencing what I think Pentecost might have felt like for the Apostles in the Upper Room. There were tears of joy, hugs, and a love so palpable that we could not stop talking about it and praising God long after Laura left for the airport. One of the priests said later, “we will not forget this moment for a long time.” … “Love makes joys more intense, because you share them.”
Our lives are meant to be shared, lived in community with others. This is what it means to live a life centered around the Eucharist. Our whole lives become the bread that is blessed, broken and shared. It is in the sharing of the cross that we find a participation in the joy to come. It was only through walking with others in their pain and suffering that we were able to fully participate in the joy of their restoration. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Yet it is much easier to be the one helping carry the burden of another, than being the one who needs to ask for help.
I find it interesting that when we hear the phrase “be Christ to others”, we usually think of being the one serving, like Jesus did on Holy Thursday, when He washed the disciple’s feet. (Jn 13:1-20) We are happy to be the one helping others carry their cross. We make a meal for a friend who is sick; we lend a shoulder or a listening ear for someone who is lonely. And this is good, very good indeed. We are not only called, but required to performs acts of mercy like these, but for you to be able to give, someone has to be willing to receive.
Jesus was also the one who needed Simon of Cyrene to help Him carry His Cross. (Lk 23:26) He was the one crucified, vulnerable, naked, the one who cried out “I thirst”. (Jn 19:28) We can’t choose to be Jesus on Holy Thursday and say no to being Jesus on Good Friday. If we truly want to be imitators of Christ, furthermore, if we are to become what we eat, we must allow ourselves to be broken for others… For it is in when we let others walk with us that we “fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2) “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). So next time we feel tempted to be self-reliant, let us remember that to be God-reliant is to see Jesus in those around us. Let us ask for the grace to have the humility to accept that today might be our turn to have someone wash our feet, to allow someone to share their love.
By: Rick Hernandez
“Everyday, let us make a visit of charity to Purgatory, and this act of charity will make us more vigilant and faithful in the service of God." - St. Peter Julian Eymard
For many years, I've heard people try to explain charity. The concept of charity, in modern society, has come to mean giving to the less fortunate, as in, giving money to help the needy. It is important to give monetary support to the poor, but we are called to more. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines "charity" as "the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God". To love as God loves is more than just giving money to the needy.
Let me share a little story.
Not too long ago I was working for a big bank in Jersey City, NJ. Jersey City is that kind of place where the old and the new clash on a daily basis. There are the new, big, hip apartments buildings soaring 40 floors high next to simple and humble brownstone houses from the last two centuries. The rich and the poor mixing, but not always in perfect harmony...
Often, my coworkers and I would go out to lunch in the area, to modern and convenient restaurants available to us. It was easy and fun to do that. Every day I would walk by the little park and the ABC store that were right next to the office and see this man, sitting outside in temperatures around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and bundled up in an old trench coat. The brown bag in his hand hinted at why he was always there, and his "thousand yard" stare gave me pause whenever I saw him. I would always say "Good Morning" to this man, same as I did everyone else I met, almost in automatic mode with no real thought behind it, and I would receive no reaction whatsoever from him. Yet this one day, for some reason I really looked into this man eyes when I said my greeting and I saw him react to me for the first time. He answered back with a greeting of his own; I stopped and asked him his name, "George. George is my name". "Nice to meet you George", and I told him my name. I asked him to make sure to say Hi whenever he saw me around and then I left.
Over the next six months, I would daily stop on the way to work to say Hi to George. We would speak for a few moments, and little by little I learned about him and his life. Often, I would buy lunch and we would break bread together in the park. George was a lawyer, graduated from a very well known and respected school of law, and the son of a very well-known and famous lawyer. George married his college sweetheart with opposition from both his and her families and moved to Jersey City to get away from all the bickering in the families. In time, George built a thriving law practice and prepared to finally start a family. After trying for a long time, they finally got pregnant! Their happiness was short-lived as his wife was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Within a couple of months, both mom and unborn child passed unto the glory of our Lord. The bickering from the two families got worse. George descended into an incredible depression and turned to alcohol to suppress his pain. Soon after, his law practice failed. George lost his business, his cars, his home, and spent all his time and money on alcohol. Soon he was homeless, sleeping behind the Government Hall, one block from where I met him. He had spent years living like this, isolated from the world that he believed was causing him pain, trying to be invisible yet unable to let it all go.
At the beginning I did not say too much in my interactions with George. What I tried to do was to be there, present for him, and I prayed. Little by little, our meetings were changing both of us. I noticed I was more aware of everyone I met. I learned the importance of looking at everyone in the eye and how dignifying it is for someone when you spend a few seconds addressing them directly, as if they are the only person in the world at that moment. I felt I was getting more patient, and more willing to listen, because I understood that people feel validated when they are heard, which acknowledges their inherent value as sons and daughters of God. On George’s side, he was drinking less frequently and started standing straighter, speaking vividly and with more clarity. He started trying to get to the shelter at night and wash his clothes. His sense of humor was returning. Eventually, as George's heart started healing, he started talking about returning home. The pain was still there, but there was a sense of longing to share his pain with the other ones that could understand it, his family.
One day, George was not at his usual spot. I did not find him that day nor any other day after that. I prayed that as his heart was healing, that he would go back to his family and heal those wounds too. After another two months, my assignment at the bank was over and I returned home to Tampa. I have never seen George again, yet this dear man will forever be in my heart. I think about him often.
Like Father Eymard said, visiting purgatory (sitting down with the ones suffering) changes us for the better. It makes us into a better likeness of Christ and helps us build on our charity, the real charity. I sometimes think that the one with the real charity in my story was George. He was the one in pain, the one that had lost everything, yet he was the one that took the time to also be with me, to emerge from his difficult position in life to engage with me, to teach me to care, to love as Christ did. He took my gift of charity and gave it back, through Christ, tenfold.
Father Eymard took care of the poor and indigent in Paris. Mother Teresa took care of the sick and dying in Calcutta. Both of them rested in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in order to increase their charity, their love. Let us take the opportunity, as we start this Lenten period, to do likewise, to increase in our love (caritas) so that we can go out into the world, share of ourselves and truly love. May you also find your George.
By: Laura Worhacz
“Mary adored the hidden state of Jesus’ Divinity and Humanity in His Sacrament, veiled that man might not attach himself to the glory and beauty of His person, but should go freely to the Divinity of the Word.” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Eymard Library, Volume 7, page 129)
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
In the above excerpt the word hidden seems to be prominent to my thoughts. Saint Peter Julian goes on that we “should go freely to the Divinity of the Word.” The letter of the law is written on the heart and we are asked to lift up our hearts at every celebration of the Eucharist. In the depths of the heart is the hidden life of God within, the place of our souls where we are in relationship with Jesus, freely. The Divinity of God reigns in this place and we are made “right and just”.
The Lenten season is almost upon us; Ash Wednesday is this coming week. What is going through our minds to offer to God? Perhaps our hearts are the place to begin our Lenten offering. Opening up to the Divine life may be an expression of deep soul searching, a place where we see our faults and failures. Releasing the negativity and embracing the positive is transformative. Lord help me to see the good in everything, I mean everything, everything! God is working in all. Jesus has shown us the way to this Divine/Human life. He was tempted; however, He did not sin. Jesus remained hidden in His Father’s love, veiled in the holy will of God. The freedom to choose the good is strengthened by our self-sacrifice. Lent offers us an opportunity to grow in grace, God’s strength.
Today we celebrate the Chair of Saint Peter. We focus not on his martyrdom, but rather on his Seat of Authority. The unity in which St. Peter was called to lead us in is exemplified in his role as Pope. St. Peter was called to build our Church on the foundation (rock) of his hidden life with Jesus. St. Peter’s relationship with Jesus, his love for Jesus, and his commitment to return charity to Jesus, all formed his leadership. May our Lenten season be blessed by the offering of our hearts and an openness to God’s life in us. Let us be receptive and consciously aware of the Divine life in us as we live in the humanity of our Eucharistic lives -- hidden and then seen!
“I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32).
We are Ivonne Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.