Byrne, the bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts, spoke on the importance of the upcoming National Eucharistic Congress and the need for greater participation in the Christian life, most especially through the sacraments of Communion and penance.
Quoting former National Institutes of Health director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently said that the Catholic faith is “almost like a pro forma thing that I don’t really need to do,” Byrne said that this belief “succinctly articulates the voice of a majority of Americans who identify as Catholic but do not recognize the beauty and the power of their baptism.”
“From that gift of the incorporation into the body of Christ comes a duty to live in right relationship with our creator and redeemer,” he explained. “Living in right relationship with God, as we all know, is the only way to joy. ‘Be it done to me according to your word’ — these seven words began to untie and unravel the knot that was tied at Eden, the knot of self-sufficiency that imprisons us.”
Byrne said that the “ecstatic joy” with which the Blessed Virgin Mary accepted and received Christ at the Incarnation is a model for Christians to follow today.
“Our Lady’s response to the request of the angel Gabriel reversed the course of human history. Obedience, trust, docility — these became the force that foiled and foils the ancient foe.”
Faith and sacrifice
Bishop Wilfred Anagbe, whose Nigerian Makurdi Diocese has been the target of almost daily attacks, shared with the crowd a testimony of the faith and sacrifice of the persecuted Church in his country, where 4,998 Christians were killed for their faith in 2023 alone.
Highlighting the worsening bloodshed in his country, Anagbe mentioned the recent Christmas terrorist attacks that left more than 200 Nigerian Christians dead.
“Nigeria has become a killing field, a field that is sadly fettered with the blood of the martyrs,” Anagbe said.
“I share this with you so that the world may know that in spite of all of this, Nigerian seminaries and churches are full,” Anagbe went on.
“Christian faith is growing in spite of the terrorists, or maybe because of them,” he said.
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Anagbe asked the U.S. faithful to “never forget your brothers and sisters in Nigeria” and to “pray for us as we pray for you.” Moved by his testimony, the crowd gave the Nigerian bishop a standing ovation for his courageous witness to the faith.
Joy and wonder of the faith
Several Catholic groups also had booths open at the breakfast to share their missions and apostolates with those gathered. Groups present included The Pontifical Missions Society, the Faithful Citizenship Institute, and The Heritage Foundation as well as a few Catholic schools, including Belmont Abbey College and Benedictine College.
Also present were several members of the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit, who held a press conference after the breakfast in which they announced plans to open a new permanent exhibit soon in Washington, D.C.
Nora Creech, an expert on the Shroud of Turin, explained that their efforts to bring renewed attention to the Shroud of Turin are based on a desire to debunk a controversial radiocarbon study by the British Museum that alleged the relic was a medieval fraud. Creech said that by educating others on the authenticity of the shroud they hope to help people encounter Christ and the joy and wonder of the faith.