Papal Support for the Congress

Wisdom & Encouragement

This week, members of the National Eucharistic Congress team had the privilege of an audience with Pope Francis in Rome. The Holy Father expressed his support for the rebirth of the Congress legacy in the United States and the Revival movement as a whole.

Pope Francis affirmed the critical need for Eucharistic Revival, and share his hope for the future of the Church in the United States. He says the Congress will be an occasion for the faithful to 'commit themselves with even greater zeal to being missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus in the world."

This connection between the Eucharist and mission cannot be ignored. The Holy Father reminded us that “the love we celebrate in this sacrament cannot be kept to ourselves but demands to be shared with all. This is the sense of a missionary spirit.” The pope went on to say, “Two groups of people come to mind whom we must always seek out: the elderly, who are the wisdom of a people, and the sick, who are the image of the suffering Jesus.”

He especially stressed the importance of fostering vocations to the priesthood, as “There can be no Eucharist without the priesthood” (Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2004). 

Read the full address below:

Your Excellencies,
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

I am pleased to offer a cordial welcome to all of you, the members of the Committee preparing for the forthcoming National Eucharistic Congress in the United States of America.  I thank you for the work you have already undertaken and I encourage you to continue your efforts to contribute to a revival of faith in, and love for, the Holy Eucharist, the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11).

All of us are familiar with the account of the multiplication of the loaves recorded in the Gospel of John.  The people who witnessed this miracle came back to the Lord on the following day in hopes of seeing him perform another sign.  Yet Christ desired to transform their hunger for material bread into a hunger for the bread of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:26-27).  For this reason, Jesus spoke of himself as the living bread which came down from heaven, the true bread that gives life to the world (cf. Jn 6:51).  I thought a great deal about this while I was celebrating Mass this morning because it is this bread that gives us life.  Indeed, the Eucharist is God’s response to the deepest hunger of the human heart, the hunger for authentic life, for in the Eucharist Christ himself is truly in our midst, to nourish, console and sustain us on our journey.  Sadly nowadays, there are those among the Catholic faithful who believe that the Eucharist is more a symbol than the reality of the Lord’s presence and love.  It is more than a symbol; it is the real and loving presence of the Lord.  It is my hope, then, that the Eucharistic Congress will inspire Catholics throughout the country to discover anew the sense of wonder and awe at the Lord’s great gift of himself and to spend time with him in the celebration of the Holy Mass and in personal prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  I believe that we have lost the sense of adoration in our day.  We must rediscover the sense of adoration in silence.  It is a form of prayer that we have lost.  Too few people know what it is.  It is up to the Bishops to catechize the faithful about praying through adoration.  The Eucharist requires it of us. In this regard, I cannot fail to mention the need for fostering vocations to the priesthood, for as Saint John Paul II said, “There can be no Eucharist without the priesthood” (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2004).  We need priests to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. 

I likewise trust that the Congress will be an occasion for the faithful to commit themselves with ever greater zeal to being missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus in the world.  In the Eucharist, we encounter the One who gave everything for us, who sacrificed himself in order to give us life, who loved us to the end.  We become credible witnesses to the joy and transforming beauty of the Gospel only when we recognize that the love we celebrate in this sacrament cannot be kept to ourselves but demands to be shared with all.  This is the sense of a missionary spirit.  You go to the celebration of Mass, receive communion, adore the Lord and then what do you do after?  You go out and evangelize.  Jesus asks this of us.  The Eucharist, then, impels us to a strong and committed love of neighbor.  For we cannot truly understand or live the meaning of the Eucharist if our hearts are closed to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor, suffering, weary or who may have gone astray in life.  Two groups of people come to mind whom we must always seek out: the elderly, who are the wisdom of a people, and the sick, who are the image of the suffering Jesus. 

Dear friends, the National Eucharistic Congress marks a significant moment in the life of the Church in the United States.  May all that you are doing be an occasion of grace for each of you and may it bear fruit in guiding men and women throughout your nation to the Lord who, by his presence among us, rekindles hope and renews life.  Entrusting you to the maternal intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of your country, I assure you of my prayers for you, your families and your local Churches.  To all of you, I impart my blessing, and I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me.  Thank you.

[01008-EN.02] [Original text: Italian]

Jesus Showed Me the Way – A Revival Story

Jesus Showed Me the Way

February 16, 2023

Growing up in a large Catholic family, the story of Jesus’ birth was always an integral part of our family’s many traditions. I vividly recall the story of young Mary and Joseph journeying by donkey to the town of Joseph’s ancestors, only to be sent on their way because “there was no room at the inn.” A bit later in their saga, the Holy Family found themselves once again on the road, cradling their young son, whose life was being threatened by King Herod and the Roman occupation forces. This time, they fled not to a distant city, but to a completely different country, seeking shelter and safety in Egypt.

The story of the wandering, homeless Holy Family became such a part of our many Christmas traditions that it lost its heartbreaking poignancy for much of my childhood. In fact, I wonder if as a child I was ever able to truly grasp the harsh reality of that seemingly sweet and sentimental Christmas story.

Yet, I was drawn in by the joy. That joy was confirmed by the witness of the military chaplain who celebrated Mass every Sunday. This priest was so full of the joy of the Lord, his witness of joy celebrating the Mass drew me into my own faith as a young girl. As I entered my teen years, I had such a strong love for Jesus that I tried to attend Mass even daily. Yet, there came a moment when my faith was shaken, and I began to struggle along a path that led me away from my home in the Church.

‍Learning to Trust

At the age of nineteen, as an unwed mother, I was pregnant with my first child. The Jesus story took on a new meaning. I often thought of Mary and her own teenage pregnancy: she was betrothed but not married, navigating circumstances quite beyond socially acceptable norms. Yet she trusted the message of an angel with a firm faith in God.

Mary with Baby Jesus

The touchpoints of Jesus’ life story and my own continued. Several years later, after a difficult marriage, I found myself a single mother yet again, now with six young children. By the grace of God, our little family became the recipients of generous donations of clothing and food from complete strangers! To this day, I do not know who left bags and boxes of items at my doorstep; but I do know that, through the help of others, Jesus was caring “for the widows and the orphans” (James 1:27). Jesus had come to show us the way home—back to his Church—and I was witnessing the love of God in action. I vowed that someday I, too, might be able “to repay the Lord for all the good he has done for me” (Ps 116:12). I experienced a deep gratitude for the help given freely to my young family, and my heart began to soften. As I participated in Mass with renewed fervor, I heard the same familiar words with new ears and saw the same familiar things with new eyes. When I received the Eucharist, I knew Jesus was with me and in me, and believed he was working around me! I came to realize that the love of God, shown to me by complete strangers, had healed me in broken places that I didn’t even know were broken—their love had led me home! I wanted to share the blessings of my faith and my resources with others.

‍Doing Something Beautiful for God

The most recent opportunity presented itself because of the war in Ukraine. Several people in our parish felt compelled to sponsor a family under the Uniting for Ukraine program. This family was like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fleeing into Egypt. They lost everything in the bombing by occupying forces and had fled to a foreign country for safety. The members of our parish’s Welcome Circle opened our hearts and our treasuries and found housing, clothing, groceries, and transportation for this family. Uniting as Welcome Circle members has brought us all closer together as a parish family, on a mission with a shared goal. Friendships have developed as a result—both among parishioners and with the beautiful family we sponsor. And I have to say that as Christians, there is a deep satisfaction in knowing that together, we have striven to “do something beautiful for God,” as Mother Teresa would say. We are really living Eucharistic lives.

the Eucharist

I never imagined all those years ago that my wanderings would be redirected by the hands of providence not only for me to come home, but also to welcome others home, too! It has been so incredible to experience the humble satisfaction of having helped our own “holy family” from Ukraine find a new place in the world. I am grateful to have been part of something so good, true, and beautiful: to have been given the opportunity to do what Jesus would have done. Our parish family has truly put our faith into action and “our boots on the ground.” Now, each time I participate in the Eucharistic prayer as the priest celebrates Mass, I have an ever-deepening understanding of the words: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere, to give you thanks, O Lord!”

For more information on the USCCB’s Welcome Circle Program, please visit and sign up for an information session.

We Become What We Receive – A Revival Story

We Become What We Receive

In my twenties, I was a member of a Washington, D.C., parish where homeless men and women were regular guests at the Sunday liturgy.

At first, I found this distracting. As a busy working professional, a time-stretched graduate student, and an active parishioner, the Mass was a quiet and sacred refuge: a time to disconnect, to pause from the rush of life, and to find comfort in a familiar ritual. When this refuge was disturbed by a homeless woman re-arranging her belongings and chattering to herself, my first reaction was annoyance: how could I concentrate on what was happening on the altar with all that noise?

Yet, I knew this woman’s name. I had served Rita* warm meals at the parish’s dinner program. I learned some fragments of her story during those times when her mental illness allowed limited conversation.

Subjects of His Love

As I reflected on my dual desires to rest in the quiet and to be attentive to Rita’s presence, my eyes wandered to a statue in the Church: Jesus, with one hand on his heart amidst thorns, enflamed with love, and the other hand extended outward.

For whom did Jesus’ heart burn with love? Toward whom was his hand extended?

A statue of Jesus pointing to his Sacred Heart

I knew immediately the subject of his love and his reach: Me. Those gathered to worship. Rita and the other homeless members of our community. All whose dignity is so easily forgotten.

The liturgy continued; Rita continued her “noise.” I understood that Christ, whose sacrificial act of love we celebrate on the altar, is also present in those whom he loves, especially those who suffer. With this realization, Rita’s chatter became a reminder of those towards whom Christ’s heart and hand were extended, and for whom the sacrifice on the altar was made.

The experience transformed my thinking; it also transformed my actions.

An Imitation of Christ

“In the celebration of the Mass,” the U.S. bishops write, “we are shown what love truly is, and we receive grace that enables us to imitate the love that Christ shows us” (The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, 34). For St. Augustine: “If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive” (Easter Sermon, 227).

With new eyes and a heart more open to love for Rita and her companions, I began to ask: What does it mean to become the Eucharist in a community where some members lack basic necessities? What does love mean in the face of systemic barriers like the virtual non-existence of affordable housing options in D.C. and so many other cities?

Works of Mercy

A woman giving food and drink to a homeless man

In response to these challenging questions, I joined other parishioners to discern how to better put two feet of love in action both by responding to short-term, immediate needs (charity) and by seeking long-term solutions so that all can thrive (justice).

One winter night, I joined other parishioners to assist a city-wide effort to find, encounter, and record the names and stories of those sleeping on the streets. This act of encounter helped us to better understand the many factors which lead to homelessness (such as mental illness, lack of work or healthcare, disability, addiction, and rising rents). The data gathered would help the city prioritize its assistance to the most vulnerable homeless individuals.

On other occasions, the parish joined a network of faith leaders to raise our voices in support of calls to expand the number of affordable housing units in the city. Not only was such action important to families’ ability to feed their families amidst quickly rising housing costs, but it was also an expression of love rooted in our Eucharistic mission.

Reflection Question

This season of Lent, as I reflect on these important experiences, I am asking Jesus in prayer: how am I called—at this moment in time—to imitate Christ’s love, which is present to me in the Eucharist? Towards whom must my own heart and hands be extended? How can I better become what I receive?


Lord Jesus,

You gave your life for us.

Your Sacred Heart is ablaze with love.

Your hand extends towards me, and towards all,

offering love, mercy, and healing.

Sacred Heart of Jesus,

may your love transform me.

Burn away my hesitation

that I may become your love

and radiate your mercy.


The Eucharist in Art

"Return of the Prodigal Son," Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Lent begins with the invitation of the prophet Joel, “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 2:12). This Lenten invitation begs a question — what does it mean to return to the Lord?

Jesus gives a profound answer in the parable of the prodigal son that he tells the scribes and Pharisees who complained that he welcomed sinners and ate freely with them. The return of sinners to the loving embrace of God was the divine reason for Jesus’ mission. Jesus’ entire life revealed, in one way or another, the loving mercy of his heavenly Father.

The seventeenth century Spanish Baroque painter, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, delivers an evocative visual homily to accompany our Lenten journeys through this familiar Gospel parable. In a simultaneous narrative, Murillo places in his masterpiece titled “The Return of the Prodigal Son” all the elements of the parable to inspire our Lenten return to the Lord with our whole heart, mind, and soul. 

Reading the painting from left to right, we see on the left a young boy leading a calf with a man holding an ax. They will prepare a lavish family feast to celebrate the return of their long-lost son. On the right, a steward in bright yellow holds a tray with fine clothes, sandals, and a ring, symbols of the restored dignity of the prodigal son. In the outer right doorway, the older son looks intently at the scene with displeasure. He is blind to the in-breaking of divine grace that returned his younger brother to the family.

At the center of the composition, the prodigal son and his father are locked in a tender embrace evoking the heart of Christian faith — God is love! The son kneels before his father, his eyes raised in hope and his hands begging for mercy. His clothes are torn and tattered, and his feet are smeared with mud. He symbolizes humanity, separated from God in self-seeking sin and pride.

The father stoops down to embrace his returning son with wrinkled hands, warmed by golden light, that convey his tender mercy and forgiveness as he rejoices saying, “this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Finally, jumping up to greet his returning master is the family pet, a little white dog, a symbol of fidelity and devotion.

Jesus continues to eat and drink with sinners. We who are sinners begin each Eucharist by acknowledging our sinfulness. Asking the prayers of Mary, Mother of God, the angels and the saints, and our brothers and sisters we pray, “I confess to Almighty God. ...” Then we beg humbly for God’s forgiveness as we pray, “Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.” Each time we pray these words we are welcomed back to the table of the Lord with the tender embrace of a loving father, who rejoices to see his children return to new life again.