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Thousands receive blessing from Jesus, up close and personal

Dominican Fr. Lawrence Lew holds monstrance in Atlanta cathedral

Courtesy of Tim Durski

John Burger - published on 03/15/24

Dominican parish missions bring Christ to people across the US, reminiscent of woman healed by hem of his garment.

Thirteen certainly has a bad reputation, but for one priest, the number has not been an unlucky one.

Fr. Benedict Croell, a Dominican friar, and several of his clerical confreres recently concluded their 13th and final parish mission in the United States this year. They’re focusing on a different number, though, but they say that they really can’t count it: Hordes of people lining up for confession and coming forward for a special blessing with the Blessed Sacrament.

That was the scene pretty much in every church where they preached “The Presence of God Parish Mission” – from Colorado Springs to St. Augustine, Florida.

Each mission was conducted by three priests, from an international group hailing from Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Bolivia, France, Singapore, Spain, Poland, Canada, Scotland, India, Philippines, England and the USA. All of them were priests affiliated with the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, known as the Angelicum, in Rome – either as teachers or alumni.

Helping people see God

The aim of the mission was to help families see God in their lives and provide healing. Fr. Croell, a Colorado native who now works for the Angelicum, and Fr. James Brent, who teaches philosophy at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., developed the mission after their experience working with college students in the past. They found a lot of “brokenness” among young people and determined that that brokenness could be healed primarily by addressing problems that the American family is going through these days. 

Fr. Croell and Fr. Brent also had the Eucharistic Revival in mind.  As Dominicans, they focus on a Eucharistic spirituality that is derived from the best known member of their Order of Preachers, St. Thomas Aquinas. 

“It’s basically Aquinas made simple,” said Fr. Croell, who pointed out that many of the Eucharistic hymns used by the Church were composed by the philosopher-saint, who died 750 years ago: among them, Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris, and O Sacrum Convivium

During each of the three nights of the mission, as one priest preaches, the other two hear confessions. The theme of the first day is “Divine Providence.” On the second day, the preacher talks about the “Divine Indwelling,” or, as Fr. Croell explained, “how God dwells in the tabernacle of our soul.”

The third day is about the “Real Presence,” the belief that Christ is actually present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – in the Blessed Sacrament. 

A special blessing

But it’s not only a talk that drives that message home. After reading the Gospel passage about a woman who was healed merely by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment as he passed through a crowd, members of the congregation are invited to come forward and kneel before a priest holding the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. People are invited to touch the “humeral veil,” a liturgical vestment that a priest wears when displaying the Eucharist in this way.

Meanwhile, other priests are blessing those who come forward with blessed oil from the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal.

People line up for Eucharistic blessing in Atlanta Cathedral of Christ the King
Dominican Fr. Lawrence Lew, general promoter of the Rosary for the Dominicans worldwide, blesses congregants at Atlanta’s Cathedral of Christ the King.

“Joseph is the patron of the family. He is a protector of the family,” Fr. Croell told Aleteia. “So we bring people up around the base of the sanctuary, and we anoint them with the oil of St. Joseph, and say a prayer over them.”

The prayer was written by Fr. Brent:

“Through the intercession of St. Joseph, may you be delivered from all evil, visible and invisible. Through the intercession of St. Joseph, may you be healed of every wound and affliction of body, soul and spirit. Through the powerful intercession of St. Joseph and the precious Blood of Jesus, may you be granted the most profound knowledge of God the Father.”

Meanwhile, a lector recites a litany for families, which contains petitions such as, “From cold relationships between husband and wife, we pray, Lord Jesus, deliver us.”

Huge turnouts

Fr. Croell believes from what he’s seen during these Eucharistic healing services that there is “real Eucharistic renewal taking place in the US. And we’ve seen it in the huge response that we’ve had from these missions.” 

He cited the numbers from the places where the mission has been held: 1,400 people at St. Pius X Church in Dallas; over 1,000 people in Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Florida; over 900 in the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta; 700 at St. Michael the Archangel in Houston; and 800 at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in in Woodstock, Georgia.

The three priests regularly heard “anywhere from three to eight hours of confessions per day,” he attested. “In Ocala, Florida, we had seven extra priests hearing confessions during the evening service, and they were busy the whole time. And that lasted about three hours.”

Why so many?

“I attribute it to the power of Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist and the grace of the Eucharistic Renewal that we’ve been praying for in the United States,” Croell said. “Everyone needs to be healed.”

Thirst for peace

Having been a priest for 25 years, he said that he’s convinced that the renewal of the Church is going to happen through a renewed understanding and realization of the Real Presence of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Eucharist.

Mike Bloom, an Atlanta investment banker who has been a longtime parishioner at the cathedral, spoke of the importance of people being able to have this close encounter with the Eucharistic Christ.

“You could tell when people were going back to the pews – they were in tears,” Bloom, 79, told Aleteia later. “You saw people smiling, people carrying pictures of their loved ones. It indicates to me that there is a real thirst for the peace that comes with being in the presence of God and being able to pray face to face.”

It’s an opportunity, though, that doesn’t require a special mission, Fr. Croell pointed out.

Said the priest, “I couldn’t imagine the experience of Jesus’ presence and the gift of the Eucharist to be more powerful, and to be more wonderful than in the very place where you worship every Sunday and to know that he’s there, to know that he loves you, to know that his grace and mercy are more powerful than your sins.”

DominicansEucharistParish lifePrayerSpiritual Life
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