The countdown to the Diocese of Knoxville’s first ever Eucharistic Congress has begun in earnest, because by the time this post is published, we will be speaking of the Congress as something that will be upon us not in a matter of months, weeks, or days. The biggest event in the 25-year history of the Diocese of Knoxville is now a matter of hours away from beginning. The Eucharistic Congress and Family Weekend only marks the beginning of the 25th Anniversary Jubilee of this local Church, but it signals the end of many months and even years of preparation on the part of some people, from Bishop Stika and Chancellor Deacon Sean Smith to all of the diocesan and parish personnel helping to plan this very special event.
It will be an event the likes of which East Tennessee has never seen before. Yes, there will be special speakers. Cardinals Dolan and Rigali, Bishop Stika, Father Robert Barron and Dr. Scott Hahn will all be there. We will have wonderful musicians and youth events. There will be nearly 5,000 people in attendance, but that won’t be what makes this event a special one, what will make it special-what should make it special-is that Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament will be there.
As of last weekend, the Diocese of Knoxville is officially 25 years old, and tomorrow we will begin our jubilee celebration. As has oft been repeated in these pages, that jubilee does not end at the conclusion of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Saturday night, but will be celebrated in various ways throughout the year, including by ordinations, special liturgical celebrations, one one very important Rite of Candidacy a month from now in which this writer, will, God willing, be one of those elevated to candidacy for ordination to the permanent diaconate.
All of us should feel encouraged by the attention that the Eucharistic Congress has drawn, but beyond this, it is my personal prayer that the Congress will cause all of us to leave it with a zeal to spread the Gospel and, yes, to bring people into the Catholic Church, the pillar and foundation of truth.
We should remember that the Gospel as Holy Mother Church has consistently proclaimed it is counter-cultural. As I have pointed out in this space, the day will come soon enough when that message proves not only to be unpopular but unwelcome, even in a part of the country such as our own where many people share a moral outlook similar to our own. Let us come away from this very special weekend with a commitment to bring Jesus to others. Some are already doing that in our diocese through projects like the St. Mary’s Legacy Mobile Clinic, but may all of us leave this Eucharistic Congress not only on fire for the faith, but ready to spread that “Word On Fire” throughout East Tennessee.