Meeting with a priest friend the other day, he let me read some of the documents emerging from the committees organising next year's Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. One of them which lays down the rules for the journey of a Eucharistic Congress bell through the country (pretty rigid rules) reads more like something out of "Have I Got News For You?" or the script of a Monty Python sketch. But then again, the documents online are just as bad.
Reading through the Pastoral Preparation Programme, available online here, I see a lot of problems, the main one being a disordered emphasis on the individual rather than on the mystery of the Eucharist. The theme of the congress is The Eucharist, Communion with Christ and One Another, it seems to me most of the emphasis is on the latter end of the theme.
Have a read of the document and see for yourself, it will remind you of those awful paraliturgies we have had to endure for the last thirty years, where we focus on "our" gathering, "our" story, "our" experience - the sort of stuff that has led a couple of generations of Catholics away from worshipping God to worshipping themselves. In reality this is where the Church is in Ireland at the moment, and has been for some time - certainly my generation got nothing else. The sort of stuff which reduces the mystery of the Eucharist to the subjective celebration of a community turned in on itself, rather than a community turning to God worshiping him and celebrating the Mystery of Salvation. As a priest trying to prepare his parish for the Congress and foster a genuine Eucharistic faith this stuff is no help at all, more of a hindrance actually.
I know from a number of sources that there is a serious dispute going on behind the scenes. Orthodox faithful who want to make the Eucharistic Congress a real celebration of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist against the old guard who seem most uncomfortable with Catholic Eucharistic piety - looking at these documents it seems the old guard won.
The Holy Father has already said that he sees the Congress as part of the Church's renewal in Ireland, I'm afraid if it turns out as the documents here intend, it will do the opposite. One good thing though, with Eucharistic devotees from around the world in Ireland witnessing this stuff it will become apparent to the powers that be in Rome that serious doctrinal reform is needed in Ireland and that the Visitation must go far beyond the issue of child abuse and seminaries.
As for the Eucharistic Congress Dublin 2012, another priest said to me last night: "It seems like its going to be another wasted opportunity for Ireland - as were the Years in preparation for the Jubilee 2000, the Jubilee itself, the Year of the Rosary, the Year of the Eucharist, the Pauline Year, the Year of the Priest....all of which were virtually ignored in Ireland." I hope not, there is still time to turn the thing around.