From the Pastor – July 26, 2009

Please excuse me if I have been a little unavailable over the last week. The death of my Dad came at an unexpected time, and being his only child in New Orleans (and a priest) thrust me into the center of the funeral preparations. It also placed a heavy burden of grief upon me that – while not unexpected – was more physically challenging than I would have anticipated. I couldn’t believe how exhausted I became over the time that I heard about Dad’s death on July 16 ( the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel ) and even up until two days after the funeral. Giving the homily at the funeral on Tuesday was one of the most difficult things I’ve done as a priest, but it was also a time when I experienced God’s grace working through my weakness.

The day before Dad’s funeral was probably the most difficult for me. I was the point person for all of the vigil and funeral preparations, but I was also very involved with trying to bring Dad’s body back from Alabama and to get it prepared for the burial. Adding to the things needing my attention were details of hospitality for visiting friends and family, the reception, myriads of emails and phone calls and my own tremendous state of grief. At one point, things reached a point where I knew that I was being overwhelmed. It was at that very moment that my Mom told me: “We need to go over to the funeral home and see the body.” I’m not sure how I would have been able to deal with these circumstances and still lead a vigil service and write a funeral homily had I not had the support of a number of priest-classmates from seminary. We all went into another room, and sat in quiet prayer. They asked me what I needed, and I told them I needed to spend some time with the Lord. The five of us went over to the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at St. Francis Xavier Parish and prayed a Holy Hour together. Only in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament was I able to receive the grace that gave me the strength to go forward.

I guess I’m fortunate for taking my own advice. You know how frequently I write and speak about the great gift of the Eucharist. If we truly believe what the Church teaches about the Blessed Sacrament, then how can we not go to Adoration to receive the riches of grace? If Jesus is present in the Eucharist, how can we fail to go Him when we’re overwhelmed by the burdens of life?

On this weekend, the Gospel is about the multiplication of the loaves. This miracle – the only one recounted in all four of the Gospels – is a prefigurement of the Eucharist. Jesus comes to the people in humility and poverty, and fills them with superabundance. And that same miracle takes place every time that Mass is celebrated. Small pieces of bread and minute quantities of wine are consecrated and become the Body and Blood of the Lord. May we always remember this precious gift, and work throughout our lives to grow in our understanding of the riches we have received.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty