By Anthony Barich
After he travelled all the way from India last week to evangelise in several parishes about the life-changing experience of the Eucharist, it saddened Blessed Sacrament Father Erasto Fernandez that his main audience were the elderly.
Rather than flying home, with his tail between his legs after speaking at Spearwood, Glendalough, Mundaring, Greenwood, Claremont, Mirrabooka, Port Kennedy, Thornlie, Cottesloe and Whitford, he says the age of those who attended his talks served to convince him that “it only means the Church has plenty of work to do”. In other words, Australia is ripe for the harvest, but this also serves as a warning that perhaps the Church needs to think harder about how to give the message, says the Mumbai-trained priest.
However, huge numbers are not the most important thing, he says; those who did attend were “quality people” who were eager to learn with a great desire to know more about Scripture.
“It gives me the feeling that there is much that can be done,” he told The Record. Not that it’s not already being done. But, he says, perhaps living the faith as a visible witness, with love, would be a good start as opposed to taking a purely intellectual approach.
Fr Erasto, who has spoken widely on the Eucharist throughout Asia including in places such as Hong Kong and Singapore, is part of a global Catholic religious congregation of 900-plus founded in 1856 by St Peter Julian Eymard, ‘the priest of the Eucharist’ as he became known.
St Eymard was a former Marist Father who, having grown up in the early 1800 when the Church in France faced intense persecution, founded an order of priests with a special focus on the Eucharist and bringing it to those who had fallen away from the Church.
The three main tenets of the Blessed Sacrament congregation’s work is to better their own understanding of the Eucharist, to celebrate it meaningfully during the Mass, and to live this out more fully so as to evangelise more effectively.
Fr Erasto’s message, surprisingly simple, is devoid of heavy theological discourse. Basically, he says, the Eucharist is not merely for ourselves, but something we need to share with others.
By sharing, he means sharing whatever graces we receive from the Eucharist, inside the context of a liturgy including Scripture, which is the Word of God.
How do we receive these graces from receiving that wafer? Fr Erasto says that by partaking in the Eucharist, we have entered into the very presence of Jesus, who has ushered us into the new covenant, the one whereby God the Father offers us everything – all of Himself, His love and His salvation, through the offering of His own Son.
We, in turn, give everything of ourselves to Him by letting ourselves be guided by His Word. This mutual relationship is a covenant. This is what Fr Erasto calls “oneness of life”.
“So already, by living this out in the Eucharist, here on earth we are already one with God,” he says, adding that we are obligated to pass on to others any graces we receive.
This message, unfortunately, often falls on deaf ears in the western world – evidenced by the fact that his own Order is seriously dwindling in Europe, where it was founded, and the Western world.
But it flourishes in the Third World, he says, where people are more open to truth as there is less affluence and a more obvious need for God’s grace in people’s everyday struggles.
“We often turn to God when we’re beaten to our knees,” he says.