Latin America

Corrado Maggioni: "Mary leads us to the Eucharist."

The next International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Quito, Ecuador, September 8-15, 2024.

Giovanni Tridente-May 4, 2023-Reading time: 6 minutes
Pope Francis Eucharist

Pope Francis blessing with the Eucharist ©CNS photo/Paul Haring

Preparations for the next Eucharistic Congress have already begun and, beginning in September of this year, registrations will be open through the official website. Omnes has interviewed the president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, Fr. Corrado Maggioni, a priest of the Montfortian Missionaries congregation. The cleric also offers some ideas for rekindling love for the Eucharist and devotion to the Virgin Mary, in view of the upcoming 2025 Jubilee dedicated to hope.

The next International Eucharistic Congress will be held in September 2024 in Quito (Ecuador), taking advantage of the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the country to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How are the preparations going?

The complex organizational work required for an International Congress has been going on for some time and now we are preparing to face the most difficult part of the last year.

The Local Committee of the Congress is managing the preparatory phase under the responsibility of the Archbishop of Quito, with the collaboration of different commissions (liturgical, theological, logistic, economic, communication, cultural, pastoral). The event naturally involves all the bishops and dioceses of Ecuador, whose delegates are already operational. We are at the point where, after collecting possible ideas and initiatives, we must examine them and begin to implement them concretely.

The showcase of the Congress is the website, where you can find information and news, constantly updated, and from next September it will be possible to register to participate in the Congress from September 8 to 15, 2024. From my recent trip to Quito I can attest to the enthusiasm that animates those who are already involved in the organization of the Congress, aware that for the churches of Ecuador this important ecclesial event has already begun and is showing its first fruits.

What will be the theme of this next edition?

The motto of this Congress, approved by Pope Francis, reads: "Fraternity for the healing of the world", illuminated by the words of Jesus: "You are all brothers and sisters" (Mt 23:8). The Basic Text, which is being elaborated, will take up this motto of evident Eucharistic significance, and which, translated into the different languages, will be the reference for the catechetical and reflection meetings in the different countries. We will delve into the theme in particular at the Theological Symposium to be held in Quito immediately before the Congress, and then it will be the object of reflection, dialogue, confrontation and experience during the days of the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress, in which delegations from Ecuador and several other countries will participate.

Of course, along with reflection, the reason for the Congress is the celebration of the Eucharist, in a special way of closing, called statio orbis, because there the representation of the people of God - bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity - from all over the world is summoned.

How do you think love for the Eucharist can be rekindled in a world characterized by individualism and ephemerality?

There are no ready-made recipes capable of kindling in hearts the holy fire that "Eucharistically" consumes life. Moreover, the world in which the early Christian communities flourished was also marked by individualism and ephemerality, as well as by other anti-evangelical logics. One needs a reason to attend Mass. It presupposes faith in Christ, that is, having centered in one's own experience the decisiveness of the encounter with Him, Lord and Master. As long as God remains a nameless ghost and Jesus something ideal, a figure of the past, perhaps a reference among others according to "I like it - I don't like it", I do not see fertile ground for the sacramental economy to take root, at the center of which is the Sunday Eucharist.

In the past, people went to Mass out of duty, out of habit, although we should not generalize, since we are the children of generations of men and women who lived the Christian faith. However, the change of epoch that we are going through shows that in our countries of ancient evangelization, a general belief that is awakened only on the occasion of baptisms, first communions and funerals no longer works. A religiosity made up of acts of worship dictated by obligation or guilt, inspired by the idea of a God to be duped or defended against or to demand material well-being, does not help.

The challenge to rekindle love for the Eucharist is to become aware that the Gospel is truly revolutionary, first and foremost for me. Until I feel in my heart the fire of the divine Presence that loves me gratuitously and thus changes my life, I will not be able to feel the need to participate in the Mass, which is the action through which Christ today continues to speak to us truly and to nourish us with his Body so that those of us who commune with him become his living Body in the world. The Gospel provokes faith in Christ and we find Christ in the sacraments of the Church. If I appreciate Christ, I will also appreciate the Mass.

How much can devotion to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord, help in this renewed apostolate?

To whom should we look to resemble Christ if not first of all to Mary? She is the first believer, the first who says in the Gospel "here I am, let it be done to me", the first Christian because she let Christ live in her, opening her whole person, spirit, soul and body to him. Yes, even the body, for it is in our flesh that Christ wants to dwell.

The Virgin Mary is decisive for our salvation, because through her we have received the Savior. But she is also decisive because of her exemplary response of faith, which teaches us to be disciples of her Son. Marian devotion is not optional for Jesus' disciples; it is part of their baptismal DNA. Mary is our mother and we are her children by the testamentary will of Jesus who, before giving his last breath on the cross, called Mary to be the mother of all his disciples and these heirs of his same love for his Mother.

In this light, well described in the Gospel of John 19:25-27, in the disciples of Jesus Mary continues to love her Son maternally. And we, loving her with filial affection, cultivate towards her the same love that Jesus professed to her. Devotion to Mary does not distance us from Christ, but rather it conforms us more easily to Christ. Otherwise, it would not be true devotion, but false.

In fact, the "Marian" dimension permeates the Eucharistic celebration. The historical body of Christ, born of the Virgin, is the foundation of the Eucharistic Mystery. Without the coming of Mary there would be no Incarnation and without the Incarnation we would have no sacraments. The signs change, but the reality is identical: the body and blood that we receive on the altar are of the same Christ who took flesh and blood from the Virgin, by virtue of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, Mary guides us towards the Eucharist, just as she helps us to celebrate it worthily: in communion with her and following her example, we listen to and keep the Word of God and become one Body with Christ. It is not forcing things if we say that true Marian devotion increases true Eucharistic devotion.

In 2025 we will celebrate a new Jubilee centered on hope. How can we show a tired world the hope that comes from Jesus incarnate in history?

There are not many answers to this question. The authentic way to show in whom we have placed our hope is the credible witness that we are able to offer. Certainly not an aggressive witness, that is, one that reproaches others for not being like us, for not thinking like us, nor the Pharisaic witness satisfied with our own good works and despising those of others. I believe that credible witness is only that which is "evangelical", that is, similar to salt, leaven, light, which is paid in the first person. For to give flavor, the salt must dissolve, to ferment the dough the yeast must disappear, to illuminate, the flame must consume the oil.

This is the "paschal" logic that sealed the entire existence of Jesus Christ. It is well illustrated by the simile of the seed that "must" die in the earth so that the ear full of grain can sprout. The very elements of the Eucharistic banquet, the bread and wine, speak to us of gratuitous gifts, of effective conversions. In fact, bread does not grow in nature, but is the fruit of a series of oblations: the grains of wheat are ground to become flour, which is then kneaded and finally baked on the fire.

Wine also tells a story of offerings: from the grapes martyred in the vat we obtain a wine that rejoices family ties and forges friendships. This Paschal logic, made of death for the life of others, is also the message that Pope Francis never tires of reminding us of when he speaks of the Church going forth, concerned not with herself but with others, poor in means but rich in the power of the Gospel, close to wounded humanity, compassionate and merciful towards mortal flesh that needs to be saved.

Only in this way can the Church resemble Christ and bear witness to the hope that comes from God-with-us and for-us. The hope of the Jubilee will be that which we are able to draw from the "paschal" experience of our persons, made of fragile clay but pregnant with the power of re-creation. Encouraged by this original Christian awareness, we will be able to cross the desert knowing that we will not be disappointed. Following the example of the One who "by dying destroyed death," as is sung in a preface to the Easter season we are living.

The authorGiovanni Tridente

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