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BOSTON -- After being delayed due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the archdiocesan Year of the Eucharist began on June 14, the feast of Corpus Christi.
The Year of the Eucharist, a year dedicated to teaching and celebrating the Eucharistic faith, was originally intended to begin on Holy Thursday, April 9, 2020. One of the first events was to be Walking with Mary, a procession of hundreds of Catholics through the streets of Boston in April.
However, due to restrictions related to the pandemic, special Eucharistic year was launched with a socially-distanced Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at the cathedral of the Holy Cross. Rather than the Eucharistic procession that might be typical of such an occasion, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for a short period of time in a monstrance for veneration at the end of the Mass.
On June 11, a few days before the feast, the Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship held a virtual commissioning ceremony for individuals who volunteered to serve as Missionaries of the Eucharist during the yearlong celebration. These missionaries are committing to pray for the success of the Year of the Eucharist, participate in Eucharist-related activities, and promote devotion to the Eucharist.
Approximately 470 people have signed up to be missionaries, with over 260 attending the commissioning, which was held via a Zoom video conference. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley was the celebrant, and Deacon Matthew Porter of the Hingham Catholic Collaborative assisted in the Liturgy of the Word and Rite of Blessing. Archdiocesan music director Richard Clark and his children, Julianna and Anthony, provided music from their home.
In his remarks during the commissioning, Cardinal O'Malley spoke about the different ways in which Christ is present to his people: in the sacraments, in the Word, and in individuals who are suffering. Looking at the gospel reading from Luke, the cardinal pointed out that the apostles rejoiced after Christ's Ascension.
"We who are the disciples of today want to be filled with that same joy of those first disciples who were present at the Ascension of our Lord into heaven because they knew that Jesus was with us always and everywhere. And he trusted and loved us so much that he wants to involve us in his mission of helping people discover his presence," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He said that their mission is "to help people to rediscover the loving presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament."
Each missionary received a pin as a sign of the mission they are accepting. During the commissioning ceremony, the cardinal blessed the pins and the missionaries put them on to mark the beginning of their mission.
On June 14, the feast of Corpus Christi, the cardinal led the celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Attendees had registered in advance and had to sit six feet apart to maintain social distancing. In keeping with the state and archdiocesan guidelines, the total number of people present could not exceed 40 percent of the building's capacity, and there could be no processions typical of the feast of Corpus Christi.
In both the commissioning ceremony and his Corpus Christi homily, Cardinal O'Malley spoke about the history of having a Eucharistic fast, a tradition that dates back to the early Church. When he was growing up, he said, it was a strict fast from midnight until the reception of Communion at Mass. Over the years, the Church lessened this requirement, reducing the fast to three hours in order to allow afternoon Masses, and eventually making it only one hour.
"The idea was that the fast reminds us of the spiritual hunger that we have in our hearts for God," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He said that the pandemic imposed another kind of Eucharistic fast since it was impossible for many people to receive Communion due to restrictions on public gatherings.
"This has increased our hunger for God in our lives," he said.
Cardinal O'Malley called the Eucharist "the sacrament of love and of unity."
"Our Eucharistic year is an opportunity to deepen our knowledge and appreciation for this most precious gift by promoting Eucharistic devotion and spirituality and working to promote unity in the body of Christ," he said.
The Year of the Eucharist will continue until the feast of Corpus Christi 2021. More information about it can be found at www.bostoncatholic.org/yearoftheeucharist.