“Taken, Blessed, Broken, and Shared”: A Report from Day 1 of the AUSCP Annual Assembly

In the exhibit area of the 13th annual assembly of the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP), the association’s Gospel Nonviolence Working Group has displayed a poster with excerpts from an article by John Heagle titled “Where is the call to peacemaking in the eucharistic revival?”

Heagle is the chair emeritus of the working group. After noting that Saint Oscar Romero “was killed while celebrating the Eucharist,” his article continues in part: “While some view this as a mere ‘accident of history,’ the Salvadoran people see this as far more than a coincidence. It is rich in sacramental symbolism and implicates us—all of us—in an unswerving call to discipleship.”

This notion of the “implication” of the sacrament served as an apt overture to the theme of this year’s assembly, “Eucharist: Sacrament of Encounter.” The assembly opened on Monday June 24 and will run through Thursday June 27. It is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Kentucky.

Monday’s events began with a two-part retreat led by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., of the Diocese of Lexington. Stowe guided participants through a series of reflections on the four dynamic stages of the Eucharist: as taken, blessed, broken, and shared (cf. Luke 22:19-20, Matt 26:26-28, and Mark 14:22-24).

Assembly attendee Fidelis Rubbo reflected later that the retreat helped her to see that the Eucharist “is not a personal, static thing” but “a call to be involved and to take God’s love to everybody.”

Rubbo was moved by Stowe’s counsel to “offer what we have, letting Jesus make up the difference,” and by the image of the Eucharist as an “act of cosmic love” that “infuses” God’s life into our actions, she said.

Stowe, a keynote speaker at the 2022 AUSCP assembly, returned later in the afternoon to formally welcome attendees to the Diocese of Lexington. He noted the long presence of Catholicism in the city, with the oldest parish dating to 1793.

Fr. Kevin Clinton of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis introduced Sr. Kathleen Storms, SSND, who is serving as the assembly’s spiritual advisor. Sr. Storms founded the Center for Earth Spirituality and Rural Ministry in Mankato, Minnesota, and remains active around issues of sustainable agriculture and integral ecology.

Sr. Storms reviewed the methods of small group dialogue that attendees will engage in after keynote presentations. She suggested that attendees “pay attention to the pause” in their conversations, adding a quote from Thomas Merton: “In silence, God ceases to be an object, and becomes an experience.”

Sr. Storms provided additional centering questions for group discussions, including “What does it mean to be in communion with all of life?” and “Where are your outstretched arms the body of Christ?”

In his report on the state of the organization, Fr. Greg Barras, chair of the Leadership Team, declared that the “AUSCP is strong, and we are spiritually healthy as we continue to listen.”

What he called this “contemplative gift of listening” is an essential principle of the organization, he said. In listening to the other, he added, “our agendas and our egos are invited to be thrown out.”

Fr. Barras emphasized the AUSCP’s efforts in shifting the church “from clericalism to collaboration” and the ways in which the working groups—focusing on such issues as mutual support for priests, women in the church, and migration—function “as a constant call to transformation.”

“We are a Eucharistic organization,” he said, called to act “always for the good of others . . . to speak up for them, to suffer with them.”

Fr. Steve Newton, AUSCP executive director, spoke of ways to continue to grow the organization, such as by reaching out to newly ordained priests and “offer[ing] something they find valuable in their ministry.”

Fr. Newton cited co-responsibility in ministry and “bridging polarities” as two areas where AUSCP members can make a positive impact on the culture of the church. He urged members to “find commonalities” among various ideological groups and “to hear the realities that words cannot capture.”

After a break for dinner, attendees returned to hear the opening keynote from Fr. Michael Driscoll. Fr. Driscoll is a professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. The subject of his presentation was “How the Eucharist Schools Us for Action.”

Fr. Driscoll structured his talk around the various approaches to liturgy as seen in the last three popes. He stressed a “continuity” between John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis that often goes undetected, he said.

Fr. Driscoll walked attendees through significant papal documents on liturgy over the past 25 years, beginning with the Missale Romanum issued by John Paul II in 2000, through Benedict’s apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis in 2007, through Francis-era documents such as Evangelii Gaudium—what Fr. Driscoll called “a platform for his papacy”—in 2013 and Desiderio Desideravi in 2022.

Linking the Eucharistic liturgy to the three-part Latin motto lex orandi, lex credenti, lex vivendi (literally, “the law of what is prayed is what is believed is what is lived”), Fr. Driscoll described it “as a mystery to be celebrated, believed, and lived.”

Liturgy is theologia prima or “first theology,” he said. He cited a passage from Sacramentum Caritatis that states: “In a particular way, the Christian laity, formed at the school of the Eucharist, are called to assume their specific political and social responsibilities” (91).

“Good liturgy fosters faith,” he added.

Fr. Driscoll distinguished between liturgy as a “performative art” where the entire assembly participates in a shared dramatic experience, and a “performance” that tends to isolate the celebrant.

Invoking French Archbishop Albert Rouet’s ideas on the relationship between liturgy and the arts, he compared the liturgy to music in its dynamics of tension and release, to dance in its embodied expressiveness, and to poetry in its elevated language.

He further characterized the liturgy as “the beauty that saves.” The beauty a well-proportioned liturgy is often what draws people to its truth and goodness, he said, citing Francis’s concept of the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis) in Evangelii Gaudium (167). ♦

Michael Centore
Editor, Today’s American Catholic

Image: Two views of the Historic St. Paul Catholic Church, Lexington, Kentucky, June 24, 2024 / Photos by Michael Centore

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.