Pictured below is Archbishop Brown meeting pilgrims from the 1932 Congress
Q and A with Archbishop Brown
Q - What were the most positive developments in the run-up to the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin?
A – On a smaller, preparatory scale, there have been several local Eucharistic Congresses all over Ireland, which have really helped people to focus on the presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. I myself participated in one in Carlow, where there were many people; in fact, it was full to capacity. All these various preparations for the Congress have also brought the memory of the1932 Eucharistic Congress alive, and that has been a good thing as well. Of course, we can’t reproduce the past, but we can reflect on the deep faith of the people of that generation, many of whom made great sacrifices to attend the 1932 Congress. This is important for us today, because when we think of the past, we automatically make a kind of examination of conscience about the present. When we recall the experience of 1932 and the priorities of the men and women of that time, it makes us question whether our current materialism is enough to satisfy the human heart and soul. It is important that people ask themselves that question.
Q - How were the Pope's hopes for Ireland made evident at the Opening Mass?
A – I had the honour of reading the Pope’s letter to Cardinal Ouellet which appointed him as the Papal Legate. In his letter, the Pope expressed his hopes for the Congress. He wrote that he hopes the faithful will attend in large numbers. On that point, it should be noted that there were even more people at the Opening Mass of this year’s Congress than there were at the last one four years ago. Secondly, the Pope linked the worship of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist with the task of intensifying ‘the forces of renewal’ in Ireland. This is a key point. Renewal in Church will come from more fervent participation in the Eucharist. The Opening Mass reflected some imprints of Pope Benedict’s liturgical insights; for example, the creed was sung in Latin, the universal language of the Church. The central point is this: if you want renewal in the Church, it begins with the liturgy; the Holy Mass celebrated reverently, attentively and devoutly.
Q - Is participating at the Congress helping you to develop a deeper love and/or understanding of the Eucharist and why?
A – The line in St Paul’s letter to the Romans comes to mind; ‘faith comes from hearing’. This means that listening to people of faith increases our own. Faith is not a solitary enterprise. One of the beautiful things for me was seeing the diverse range of people at the Opening Mass from all over the world, from Thailand and Angola as well as from my own home, the USA. Seeing all these people makes us recognize what it means to be Catholic. We are united in our Catholic faith by our shared love for Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It has been incredibly encouraging for me to witness these beautiful examples of faith. People have made big financial sacrifices so that they could travel to Dublin and deepen their faith in the Eucharist. Faith is not a zero sum game; when it is shared it increases.
Q - How might the Congress promote healing in the Irish Church?
A – Archbishop Martin mentioned in his address at the Opening Mass that the voice of victims must be heard. This is indeed important. Cardinal Ouellet and I will go to Lough Derg during the Congress to pray, as a sign of penance. Throughout the Congress thousands of people are praying for victims. The Healing Stone with the prayer inscribed on it is a way of encouraging people to do precisely this. But healing is also brought about by increasing our faith. There is no doubt that practice of the faith has declined in Ireland since 1932. The Eucharistic Congress is meant to heal that loss by helping people to recognize the real presence of Jesus with us in the Eucharist, today and always.
Many thanks to Archbishop Brown for doing this Q&A during the busy time of the Congress.
This was originally published in the 15th June edition of The Catholic Herald.