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The Most Rev. David L. Ricken is the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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The Eucharist: Time given is time gained

By | December 12, 2012

“Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ” (Dies Domini #7).

Could you give God 10 percent of your time each week? It doesn’t seem a lot when you consider all of the wonderful blessings that we receive from his grace. It is a fact that everyone has exactly 168 hours in a week but the reality is that the average Christian devotes only 48 minutes per week to nurturing their relationship with Christ. Interestingly, 48 minutes is the average length of time of a Sunday service, according to research. That is only seven minutes per day! Couldn’t we all give more? Just 1 percent? During the Year of Faith let us pledge to give more of our time to Christ and his church.

Pope John Paul II reminds us that “time given to Christ is never time lost, but rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human” (Dies Domini #7). If you give to God the best of your day, everything else will work together for good (see Romans 8:28). For Christians, Sunday is, above all, an Easter celebration; a festival of the “new creation,” for Christ has redeemed all of creation. However, a survey undertaken by CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) in 2008 reports that 43 percent of Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We have the blessing of being able to celebrate Mass each week and to receive Christ in the Eucharist every day and each week all around the world. What a gift this is!

The gift that we often take lightly has been the road to martyrdom for many of our Catholic saints and involved incredible personal sacrifices by ordinary men and women. One of my favorite stories tells of how a young Chinese girl inspired Archbishop Fulton Sheen to make a daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. This 11-year-old girl had witnessed the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament by communist troops when they imprisoned her parish priest and entered the parish church destroying the tabernacle and throwing the hosts on the floor. There were 32 hosts in the tabernacle, according to the parish priest. That night, creeping past the rectory guards, the little girl entered the church where she made a holy hour for the reparation that she witnessed. After her holy hour she went to the sanctuary and kneeling down she received the Body of Christ. Each night she returned to the church and did the same thing. On the 32nd night, however, after consuming the host she accidentally made a noise that awoke the guards. The parish priest looked out of his bedroom window to see the little girl murdered.

When Archbishop Sheen heard this story he was moved to tears and pledged to make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day for the rest of his life. This daily hour was to become a source of his strength and comfort whenever he felt weak and afraid. While the name of the little girl may be lost to us, her heroic act in risking her life to receive Jesus has much to teach us about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In the pastoral letter that I wrote over a year ago entitled, “Parishes: Called to Be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive,” I asked us to “imagine if all of our parish Masses throughout the diocese were packed full every Sunday with faithful who are truly walking with Christ! Imagine if every Catholic in our diocese felt a call to get his/her life in proper order, to return to the sacraments, to attend Mass every Sunday, and to genuinely feel a deep call to grow in holiness.” We have been given a great gift that we can make a reality each day and every week. We cannot live our faith or share our faith fully in the life of the Christian community unless we go to Mass, believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and radiate that love and joy to the world.

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