By Tony DeGol
The Very Reverend Alan Thomas, VG, admitted something to the hundreds of faithful gathered in Loretto for the diocesan launch of the Eucharistic Revival.
He – like most people – loves to eat!
But there is a big difference, he pointed out, between eating and dining.
“Eating eases a physiological need,” he explained. “It offers a release from the often unpleasant feeling of hunger. But dining is different. Dining reaches much deeper levels. Eating is something we can do alone. Dining, on the other hand, cannot be done unless we have real communion with others.”
Father Thomas continued: “If we are having physiological problems because of the way we eat, we are having even graver spiritual problems because of the way we dine, or, perhaps better, don’t dine. We are pretty good in our society at having full bellies, but I wish we could work on having full spirits.”
Father Thomas’ analogy, of course, prompted the faithful to consider their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Eucharist.
His thought-provoking homily message came during a special outdoor Mass at the scenic Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine on a chilly, but beautiful late spring evening on June 19 – the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
Following the liturgy, a solemn Eucharistic procession wound its way around the grounds with Father Thomas, sheltered under a processional canopy, carrying the monstrance containing the Holy Eucharist.
Included in the lengthy procession were priests, deacons, and seminarians, along with representatives from the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. Children sprinkled rose petals along the way, while the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel choir led the singing. Mass attendees who were physically able also joined the procession.
The Mass and Eucharistic procession capped off a special afternoon and evening of festivities in Loretto as the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown joined other dioceses around the country in beginning the three year Eucharistic Revival.
That afternoon, Eucharistic Adoration was offered inside the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel and various priests were available to hear Confessions.
The Eucharistic Revival is the creation of bishops around the United States who seek to promote healing and unity in the Church after years of scandal and a pandemic. Their desire is to reconnect the faithful around the source and summit of the Catholic faith: the Holy Eucharist.
The bishops define the mission as renewing the Church by enkindling a living relationship with Jesus through the Eucharist. Over the three years, they envision a movement of Catholics around the country who are healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and who are then sent out on mission for the life of the world.
“We want to start a fire, not a program,” noted Bishop Andrew Cozzens, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
This first year of the movement, from the June 19 launch until June 11, 2023, will focus on diocesan revival. The second phase, from June 11, 2023, through July 17, 2024, will foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening liturgical life.
A national Eucharistic Congress will convene July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis. At this historic event, Catholics will gather to reconsecrate their hearts to the source and summit of the faith. At the conclusion of the Congress on July 21, 2024, through the Solemnity of Pentecost 2025, the year will be dedicated to going out in mission to share the gift of our Eucharistic Lord.
Father Thomas, Pastor of Saint Michael Parish in Hollidaysburg, Administrator of Saint Mary Parish in Hollidaysburg, and Vicar General for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, led the June 19 diocesan launch observances in place of Bishop Mark, who was quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19.
He reminded the faithful of the unique opportunity these upcoming years of Eucharistic Revival present for all Catholics in America, especially here in the Church of Altoona-Johnstown.
“We become what we receive,” Father Thomas insisted. “We become the Body of Christ. Therefore, to discern the Body means to understand that we are part of a Church. We are connected together, and we need to make sure that our reception of Holy Communion is building up the Church, that we are working together – not separately in individual parishes, but working together as a diocesan Church to understand this food and drink that has been given to us as the Lord’s greatest gift.”
[Photo: (Top) Under a processional canopy, the Very Reverend Alan Thomas, VG, carries the monstrance in the Eucharistic procession around the Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine in Loretto on June 25, capping off an afternoon and evening of spiritual festivities marking the diocesan launch of the Eucharistic Revival. (Inset) the procession stretches around the grounds.]