Remembering Cardinal Dolan’s SEEK24 homily in St. Louis on Eucharist, Incarnation, and power of friendship


CLICK HERE to see a video excerpt of Cardinal Dolan’s homily.

“Nothing brings us closer to Jesus and one another than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York was speaking to several thousand Catholic young adults this past January at the SEEK24 conference in St. Louis.

The annual event, organized by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), included elements such as Eucharistic Adoration on a grand scale, that will help shape the experience of the National Eucharistic Congress set to take place next month in Indianapolis.

Cardinal Dolan, a Missouri native, relished speaking of the Eucharist during Mass in the St. Louis stadium where Pope St. John Paul II had offered he same Sacrifice in January 1999.

“What really brings us joy this morning, as it does every single day, is Jesus, who is alive and present in the Holy Eucharist!” Cardinal Dolan thundered.

“It is here where we listen again to his holy Word,” the cardinal stated. “It is here at Mass that we savor his company. It is here that we really and truly receive him in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

The cardinal spoke of the great mystery of the Incarnation: that the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity — the Son of God, God’s Eternal Word, having existed as one with the Father without beginning or end —  chose to enter human history, take on human nature while remaining fully divine, and be born of a woman.

“The Incarnation is not some flimsy, cerebral, nothing-to-do-with-reality doctrine,” Cardinal Dolan noted. “It has very real and practical implications.”

One of these is that God can never be seen as aloof or distant; he understands firsthand what people go through.

Second, God became human so that humans could become divine “through the gift of his life and sanctifying grace.”

But doubt can get in the way.

People had trouble believing that Jesus was the Son of God while he was still walking among them. How much more difficult is it to believe now that he has ascended to the right hand of the Father?

“Oh, what a leap of faith it is!” the Cardinal acknowledged. “And yet, our faith still reveals abundant ways that the Incarnation continues, as Jesus is still alive and present with us.”

One of the most powerful ways this happens is through the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Most Holy Eucharist.

“Jesus is as alive and present to us NOW in the Holy Eucharist as he was to Joseph and Mary in the crib at Bethlehem, as he was to the shepherds and wise men who visited him, as he was to John and Andrew on the Sea of Galilee,” the cardinal proclaimed.

The making of a saint

Cardinal Dolan spoke of the raw evangelical power of reverence for Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

He told the story of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, and the first native-born American to be declared a saint by the Church. 

Raised in another Christian faith tradition in the late 1700s, she entered into a happy marriage with a wealthy entrepreneur. The had five children.

Her husband died while they were in Italy attending to one of his business interests.

Some of friends took her in and showed her great kindness.

“She was particularly, powerfully moved by the depth of their Catholic faith,” Cardinal Dolan noted. “Especially as she accompanied them every morning to Mass.”

She watched them genuflect, pray humbly and sincerely, and go forward reverently to receive the Lord in Holy Communion.

“And gradually, she became hungry for that Holy Eucharist,” said Cardinal Dolan. “Whatever they saw in the Eucharist, she wanted.”

Then, on what is now known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, she joined her friends and everyone in the village of Livorno, Italy, in observing a Eucharistic procession through town.

A pastor of another Christian faith tradition stood behind her and snickered that “those silly peasants believe that piece of bread is really and truly Jesus Christ.”

“And deep in her heart,” said Cardinal Dolan, “Elizabeth Ann Seton said, ‘Uh-oh. So ... do ... I!”

Back in New York, she began going to Mass in St. Peter Church on Berkley Street and in 1805 received Sacraments of Initiation into the Catholic Church.

She went on to answer a new calling to help the poor, teach girls and eventually enter religious life.

Cardinal Dolan was present in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Sept. 14, 1975, when Pope St. Paul VI proclaimed, “Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton is a saint!”

“Elizabeth Seton is a Catholic and a saint because she believed in the Most Holy Eucharist,” the cardinal stated.

“She believed that the Incarnation keeps going in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.”

May it never be forgotten that the seeds of that belief were sown through the kindness and witness of true friends.