Revival Stories

Diffusing the Divine Fragrance

In the summer of 2011, a group of priests, deacons, and seminarians were part of a trip to Ethiopia organized by Catholic Relief Services (CRS). On this trip, we visited the many amazing works of CRS in Ethiopia. One of the most startling experiences for me was our visit to the Missionaries of Charity in Addis Ababa.

In one of the sections of the compound were dying men. When we entered the room, two of the sisters were praying with one of these men. One sister held his head. Another sister held his hand. They quietly prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet with this man, whom they hardly knew. Here in his last moments on Earth, this man was genuinely loved and cared for by those sisters. It was beautiful to see the compassion and care that man received in his dying breaths.

Joining Jesus’ Mission to the Poor

Later on during the trip, we were at another convent of the Missionaries of Charity, and they invited us to pray a Eucharistic Holy Hour with them. In that little chapel, in the oppressive heat of Ethiopia, something became beautifully clear to all of us on the trip: it is from the Eucharist that the love and tenderness for the poor flows. Jesus, who was poor and abandoned, shares his love and presence with us in the Eucharist. Then, he calls and leads us forth to the poor and abandoned. To draw close to Jesus in the Eucharist is to join in his mission to the poor, to the marginalized, and to those whom society casts aside.

Reflecting on this powerful mission trip experience years ago brings me to Lent, when we draw closer to Jesus through the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. By depriving ourselves and making ourselves, in a way, poor, we become closer to Jesus. As a result, we are then more receptive to his graces and more attentive to the ways he is calling us to be his image in our families, in our friendships, at work, and in the world. As noted in Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, no. 37, “In beholding the face of Christ in the Eucharist, [Mother Teresa] learned to recognize his face in the poor and suffering.”

The Eucharist in the monstrance

When our group of National Eucharistic Preachers gathered for formation and retreat at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago last April, it struck me how different and unique each manifestation of the Eucharistic Revival will be. At the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, amid a poor and violent neighborhood, the religious community there gives literal drink to the thirsty and food to the hungry. It is no coincidence that their religious community is called the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago. Daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration are essential for them. It is from these regular encounters with Jesus in the Eucharist that they are able to see him and serve him in others, especially the most poor and vulnerable.

Giving Drink to the Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually Thirsty

As the pastor of a Newman Center, I reflected upon how the thirst of the people I serve is just as real, though it is more spiritual and emotional than physical. Our Eucharistic Revival will certainly include service to those on the margins and the materially impoverished, but we are also called to give drink to those who are thirsting for meaning and purpose in their lives, those who are thirsting for justice, and those who long for the freedom and peace that only come from the Precious Blood of Christ.

Priest embracing a parishoner

In the first reading for this Sunday, we hear, “In their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses.” How easy it is for us—in our thirst for water and in our desire to bring water to those who thirst—to grumble, to grow disheartened and discouraged, or to seek a radical sign.

Just as God provided water for the Israelites in the desert, Jesus offers what we need each Sunday when simple bread and wine become his Body and Blood. From the Eucharist, we are given the graces and the strength to go out to the world, to the poor, and to the margins, bringing the Good News of Jesus.

As Mother Teresa so beautifully said, “We must pray to Jesus to give us that tenderness of the Eucharist. Unless we believe and see Jesus in the appearance of bread on the altar, we will not be able to see him in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

Reflection Question: How do my encounters with Jesus in the Eucharist—at Mass and/or in adoration—compel me to bring the Good News of Jesus to those in my community who are thirsty?

Action Point: Reach out to someone in your community or among your friends and family this week who needs someone to love them.

Short Prayer: Fragrance Prayer

Mother Teresa took this well-loved prayer poem by Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), changed the singular to plural, and prayed it every day after Communion with her Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity.

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly, that our lives may only be a radiance of yours.

Shine through us, and be so in us, that every person we should come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus.

Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be ours. It will be you shining on others through us.

Let us thus praise you in the way you love best, by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching: not by words, but by our example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for you.