INDIANAPOLIS (OSV News) — Nina Kruer was amazed when she looked around the room filled with more than 1,100 teens from all corners of central and southern Indiana.
When asked if she’d ever been to Mass with so many of her peers, “That’s an easy no,” said the member of Holy Family Parish in New Albany.
The youths filled a section of the Indiana Convention Center’s 500 Ballroom for a special Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson on the opening day of the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 16.
At least 20 archdiocesan priests processed in with the archbishop; 32 seminarians studying to be priests for the archdiocese also were there. Among them were three transitional deacons to be ordained priests next year, Archbishop Thompson noted at the beginning of his homily.
“I expect a few of you to be thinking about that and praying about that, about how we might add to those numbers very soon,” he told the assembled youths. “So, keep open to how the Holy Spirit moves you throughout these couple of days.”
Keep Christ at the center
The special Mass just for the NCYC participants of central and southern Indiana was celebrated “to keep Christ at the center” of the three-day conference, the archbishop said.
“Remember that we are called to be Eucharistic people, people with grateful hearts, people who live, who embody Christ in service to others and so it’s important for us to understand the Eucharist not as a mere symbol but as the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.”
He cautioned the youths that any concerns, struggles or issues they left at home will still be there after the conference.
“For the time being, however, we take solace in the joy, the wisdom, the beauty and spirit of this sacred time in prayer, fellowship, adoration and celebration of our faith in Jesus Christ. … Let us keep before us the wisdom of his words, namely that the kingdom of God is among you.”
Embracing divine wisdom
We live in a world of idolatry, Archbishop Thompson said, where some believers “attempt to create God in their own image, picking and choosing what to believe about Jesus. Maybe that’s why so many think it’s a mere symbol, the Eucharist.
“It is only by seeking and embracing divine wisdom … that we are able to rise above the idolatry, keeping before us the beauty, truth and goodness of God, in whose image we have been created to love and to serve.”
It is important to understand the Eucharist as the true presence of Christ, he said, “because we are created in God’s image.”
National Eucharistic Congress
Archbishop Thompson mentioned the upcoming National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis July 17-21.
The congress and the current three-year National Eucharistic Revival “are meant to have the same effect of NCYC,” he said. “Namely, to renew our faith, to inspire us to live more fully that faith as missionary disciples, fully alive in Christ.
“The source and summit of our identity and mission, of course, is the real presence of Jesus Christ, body and blood, in the most holy Eucharist.
“We are not saved by trying to conform Jesus to our image, but through his passion, death and resurrection we are saved. It is for this reason that we celebrate and adore Jesus in the Sacrament of the most holy Eucharist throughout this weekend, revival, congress and beyond.”
Natalie Hoefer is a staff writer at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.