The King Passes By

When Jesus passes by, lives change. Even people who don’t realize who he is will change because Jesus can do all things. Some people who spotted him during the Eucharistic procession last month probably thought, “There go those crazy Catholics again,” but in some way they’ll be changed by the encounter, too.

At the end of the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Eucharistic Renewal, Bishop Frank Caggiano carried the Eucharistic King down the aisles of the arena at Fairfield University, filled with several thousand faithful.

As Jesus passed them in a magnificent monstrance, old men fell to their knees, women wept, children waved, people made the Sign of the Cross and raised their hands in praise or pointed their cellphones to capture a photo. Some blew kisses, others bowed their heads or held their hands over their heart.

With the eyes of faith they saw a king. The King. Imagine for a moment, how happy Jesus must have been to see so many people giving him their hearts and homage.

I’ve watched a video of that procession dozens of times, and each time I’m moved because I see something new in the many faces looking at Jesus with adoration. I sent the video to my friends and family members, some of whom aren’t Catholic. Many didn’t respond, some opened it and others seemed to say, “That’s nice, so?”

It must have been the same when Jesus walked the Earth. Some recognized him immediately for who he is. Do you remember that annoying Canaanite woman, who kept wailing “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!” because her daughter was possessed. Jesus ignored her and then rebuffed her and then gave her what she wanted—which he’d always intended to do—and told her she had great faith.

The Mass was a reminder that we’ve been given a gift of immeasurable value, that pearl of great price Jesus talked about. It’s a gift the rest of the world doesn’t understand, so it’s our job to help them.

At the Mass, many people shared stories of their faith journeys with me. God touched their lives in a profound way, and they had a personal encounter with Christ, which is where faith begins—in the heart. From there, it spreads and becomes such a powerful force it can’t be stopped. It has to be shared, or you’ll burst because of the joy it generates.

People told me about their love of the Eucharist, their love of the Church, their love for the priests, deacons and religious who made a difference in their lives.

Barbara Scioscia Reed, who belongs to St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport, shared memories of her mother, Betty, whom she drove to Mass at Holy Rosary Church with her friends in their 90s. When that parish closed, Barbara took the group of seniors to St. Margaret Shrine because Deacon Don Foust was so welcoming.

“I felt empty after my mother passed,” Barbara said, but her new faith community sustained her.

Gina Fleming of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston recalled her mother, Maria Grazia, who planted the seed of faith in her but tragically died when her daughter was six.

“Today I am very devoted to the Sacred Heart,” she said. “I am here because Jesus is my brother, my friend, my everything, and I want everyone to know about him.”

Tuck Colangelo, who has been a parishioner at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford for 42 years, praised the many priests who kept him on the straight and narrow, especially Father Nick Pavia and the current pastor, Father Peter Towsley.

“Every priest has taught me something,” he said. “I need all the help I can get… and I’m getting it.”

Michael Shea said he was leaving the celebration a different person. “I walked in with doubt but I’m leaving with hope and connectedness.”

Think about this. That same Jesus who went up and down the aisles, knew the stories, the sorrows and the hopes of every person in that arena. They looked at him with longing, and he looked back at them with love.

One last note: A special person in my video is a little boy in a red shirt no more than six years old, who fell to his knees as soon as Bishop Caggiano brought Jesus out to the crowd. And at the end of the procession, the boy was still on his knees when Jesus finally reached him. Jesus saw that, too.