WHITEFISH, Montana, JULY 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A big priority of Benedict XVI is the restoration of the priesthood and the sacred liturgy, says Father John Corapi.
Father Corapi was once a businessman who fell into drug addiction and homelessness before undergoing a powerful spiritual conversion. After studies in the United States and at the University of Navarre in Spain, he was ordained at age 44 in 1991.
A member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, he now preaches missions, retreats, and conferences throughout North America.
Father Corapi appears regularly on EWTN. He shared with ZENIT some of his insights into the Eucharist and the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
Q: What role has the Eucharist played in your own personal conversion?
Father Corapi: The initial “conversion” wherein I returned to the practice of the Catholic faith, which I was born into, proceeded in a classic fashion.
The progression was from worldly success and well-being to loss, rejection and utter destitution; from millionaire to homelessness. It took about five years to hit bottom.
There is a pedagogical dimension to suffering, as the prodigal son of the Gospel demonstrates. Then, I went from praying one Hail Mary each day, to the rosary daily. This led me to the sacrament of penance or confession, and this to the Eucharist.
I immediately began to go to daily Eucharist. This led me to a deeper thirst for knowing God, loving God, and serving God. Eucharistic adoration began a part of my daily life. This led me to religious life novitiate, then seminary, then doctoral studies in theology in Europe.
I was ordained by Pope John Paul II on Trinity Sunday of 1991. The night before, my superior and I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament all night to prepare for ordination. I have been experiencing conversion daily as I celebrate Mass daily and pray before the Blessed Sacrament daily.
The source of any power in my preaching, which now reaches millions of people, Catholic and otherwise, comes from the holy Eucharist. The Eucharistic Lord is the Vine. We are the branches. Without him we can do nothing.
Q: Benedict XVI, at the recent Eucharistic Congress in Italy, referred to “the Eucharist as the sacrament of unity.” How can we seek union with other Christian faiths through the Eucharist?
Father Corapi: Benedict XVI, like all recent Popes, will continue to stress the Eucharist as a sacrament of unity. As the “Bread of Life” consists of many grains of wheat to make the one Bread, so the Eucharist ultimately will effect unity from the many individuals, religions, etc.
The Eucharist is the key to the realization of the “one Shepherd and one flock” that we must all pray for. However, between now and then there is a chasm that can be bridged by the Holy Spirit alone. We do our part, but it will be in God’s time.
Jesus clearly reminded us “I have come not to bring peace but division … that will separate a household of five, three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father…” What could the Prince of Peace mean by this? Precisely that the bold and clear proclamation of the truth will separate at first. We know this by common experience. Some accept it, some do not.
In order for the Eucharist to effect unity, Catholics must be Eucharistic people in fact, not merely in words. The gap between what we profess and what we live must be narrowed until the Eucharist is truly the veritable source, center and summit of each Catholic’s life.
We must teach the doctrine of the Eucharist clearly and faithfully and then live it just as forcefully and purely. Then, when the world sees how we believe, live and love they will be drawn as to a magnet.
Q: What have you noticed so far about Benedict XVI and his dedication to Eucharistic devotion, and what do you think the trend of his pontificate will be?
Father Corapi: When Cardinal Ratzinger chose the name Benedict XVI, I immediately did some research to come to some understanding of why he chose that name, which usually indicates the direction of a new pope.
I believe that I found a real clue through what Benedict XV was most interested in. Certainly he was interested in preserving and/or restoring peace in the tumultuous days surrounding World War I.
It seems to me, however, he was also very interested in the restoration of the priesthood and in the sacred liturgy. The latter, of course, has been historically of great importance to the Benedictine charism itself.
However, it may be in what is arguably Benedict XV’s most notable encyclical, “Humani Generis Redemptionem,” that we find a clue to the course Benedict XVI may be setting.
This document concerns the restoration of the priesthood and the preparation of good preachers of the Gospel. One cannot properly approach a Year of the Eucharist without considering the ministerial priesthood. Quite simply: no priest, no Eucharist. Jesus instituted the two sacraments together and they are indissolubly linked.
I believe that the proper education and holiness of priests is of paramount importance to the new Holy Father. This is, of course, very much wrapped up in his already-known interest in a “Reform of the reform” of the sacred liturgy. Not a return to the days before the Council, but a proper and authentic interpretation and praxis of what the Second Vatican Council truly said.
That, I believe, is one of the primary focuses of the new Pope’s vision for the Church: holy and well prepared priests and a reverence and love for Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.
This will automatically result in a tremendous interest and love for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Benedict XV wanted properly educated preachers — in authentic doctrine — and, most of all, holy preachers. You can’t give what you don’t have, and Jesus Christ is all we have to give.
Q: What are your plans for this year dedicated to the Eucharist to promote Eucharistic devotion?
Father Corapi: I have produced a new series entitled “The Power of the Eucharist,” which is the theme of all of my missions throughout the country this Year of the Eucharist.
I am trying to concentrate on this theme, attempting to both educate and inspire the faithful to a greater knowledge of the doctrine of the Eucharist and a practical love that engenders reverence at Mass and the practice of the Holy Hour, or a “holy minute,” as I tell people.
If you can’t make a holy hour, make a holy minute. You can’t outdo God in generosity. If we give him a little of our time, he’ll give us so very much in return.
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