COLUMBIA — At St. John Neumann Church’s pre-Lenten parish mission, Father Edmund McCaffrey received the question, “Teacher, What is the Purpose of Life?” He took a cue from his friend Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, using her response, “to become holy and spend eternity with our Lord in heaven.”
Father McCaffrey, abbot, pastor, political science professor, now writer and speaker, highlighted three ways to live a holy life: the Eucharist, confession, and the angels.
“The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life,” he quoted from the Vatican II document, “Lumen Gentium.” He described how Blessed Mother Teresa centered her whole ministry on the Eucharist, calling herself a “contemplative” working in the world. She went to daily Mass and spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament. She once said, “If you cannot see Jesus in the host, you won’t be able to see the face of Jesus in your neighbors.”
Father McCaffrey said he has seen a laxity from priests and laity in the Mass and hopes for a conversion of the heart.
“We need to prepare ourselves for Mass,” he said. “When we are attentive and holy, the graces are more abundant. It is impossible to adore God in a better way than Mass.”
The priest pointed out that the Mass does not depend on the holiness of the priest because he is simply an instrument, Jesus is the main celebrant.
Joann Fallis, a parishioner, was impressed by the priests insight into the devotion to the Eucharist.
“We are taught that the Eucharist is God, but we need to be reminded of that fact and often,” she said.
Father McCaffrey reflected the gentle humor of St. Theresa of Avila, doctor of the church.
“Think of yourself as an inn, and your majesty the king is coming. Lay out the red carpet and receive him with honor and dignity. Treat him well for he is a good tipper, the tip being eternal life,” he said quoting the saint.
As another guide to how one should prepare to receive holy Communion, Father McCaffrey suggested the same countenance as the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross.
“Tell our Lord from now on, every time you receive him you will do so with greater faith, undying love as if it would be the last time,” he said repeating advice of St. Josemaria Escriva.
The priest also discussed “How Do You Spell Relief? Not R-O-L-A-I-D-S but C-O-N-F-E-S-S-I-O-N.”
He urged everyone to use this sacrament instituted by Christ. He said that if a person really wants relief from guilt and shame, the sacrament of reconciliation is the key.
And he believes it is woefully underused.
Father McCaffrey gave an overview of angels and their role in the path to holiness. He said that God assigns each person a guardian angel at the moment of conception.
The angels guide, protect and take souls to heaven.
Ruth Hetzel, another St. John Neumann parishioner who attended the mission, was inspired.
“So many things we do are rote, like the sign of the cross,” said Hetzel. “This mission was an awakening for me, a way to bring our faith alive.”