The Holocaust is a universal image of horror.
The horrors of the Holocaust took the lives of millions of people,
and among them were several thousand priests,
including those detained, d, and brutally ed
in the concentration camp at
From the survivors we hear the experiences of these men
and the amazing stories of their faith.
Some of the priests were forced to work as “human horses,”
and made to drag wagons from the camp to the nearest railway station.
While they their load through town one day
they pretended to make some of the wheels falls off the wagon
outside the home of the local parish priest.
In the commotion, the priest came out
and they were able to whisper to him in Latin that they were priests
and needed bread and wine to say
On subsequent trips the priest would smuggle some bread or sometimes grapes
from which they could squeeze the juice.
Late at night, after curfew and under penalty of instant ,
those priests would gather with small groups of the faithful
to celebrate Mass from memory and to distribute Holy Communion.
One of the survivors described the atmosphere at those Masses.
He said "we got so much out of the
It was Christ coming to them in their
They got so much out of the Mass because they brought so much to the Mass:
the labor and ingenuity and struggle of getting what they needed for Mass
the risk of if they were found
the sorrow of longing to pray the Mass and receive Christ in the Eucharist.
For those priests, whose lives were intimately united with Christ in the Eucharist,
being able to celebrate Mass – even in such crude circumstances –
meant everything to them
and was worth more than their very lives.
This and other related stories of modern-day persecution and martyrdom
are among the most touching and inspiring stories of our Catholic faith.
They remind us of the infinite value of the Mass and the priesthood –
sacramental gifts we can easily take for granted
in a time and place where we do not suffer or struggle to experience them.
On this Holy Thursday,
we recall and celebrate the institution of these two great sacraments –
Eucharist and Priesthood –
which have their common origin in the Lord’s Last Supper.
With His chosen twelve Apostles gathered around Him,
Jesus inaugurates the Eucharist.
He takes bread and wine, offers praise and thanks to God,
and gives it to them, saying:
“This is my Body…this is my …which will be given up for you.”
“Do this in memory of me.”
This first Eucharist looks forward to the Passion,
in which Christ will offer His Body and for the salvation of the world.
These chosen Apostles are the first priests of the new and eternal covenant,
united with Christ in celebrating the Eucharist,
called and set apart by Christ Himself
for the mission of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding God’s people.
Jesus does something else that is quite significant at the Last Supper as well.
He humbles Himself to wash the feet of His Apostles,
thus providing them with a living image of priestly service.
He says to them, “…as I have done for you, you also should do.”
Thus Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of Him”
applies both to the priest’s offering of the Eucharist and sacramental worship
and to his rolling up of one’s sleeves to serve the needs of others
in many unexpected and at times uncomfortable ways.
Thus Jesus establishes the sacramental priesthood
as the first priests join with Him in offering the first Eucharist
and are given a of priestly ministry in Christ’s attitude of service.
What we commemorate tonight is an incomparable mystery!
From that moment until our own day,
priests have been called by God and ordained
to stand in the person of Christ the Head of His Body, the Church
bringing His saving love and liberating truth,
His holy Word and sacramental presence,
into the lives of countless men and women.
They have offered the sacrifice of the Eucharist on the Altars of the world –
in grand cathedrals and country parish churches,
in prisons, on battlefields, in hospitals,
and, yes, indeed, while cowering in the shadows in a concentration camp.
What we are privileged to share in this Eucharist –
the banquet of Christ's faithful people
and the re-presentation of the sacrifice of
through which we are drawn into the saving mysteries of the Cross –
is more awesome than anything else this side of Heaven.
Indeed it is more precious than life itself.
On this Holy Thursday, we recall that we continue to celebrate the Year for Priests,
a special year-long observance established by our Holy Father
aimed at encouraging priests to grow in holiness
and at fostering a greater understanding of priesthood among all people.
Thus, on this Holy Thursday, we praise and thank God
for the unique gift of the priesthood in the life of the Church,
on which we depend for the celebration of the Eucharist
and for so many other spiritual needs.
There is not one of us here whose life has not been touched and changed
by the ministry of a priest.
This morning at the cathedral, as is customary today,
Bishop Murry led the priests in the renewal of our priestly promises.
We all stood together and renewed our commitment to love and serve all of you.
On my first Holy Thursday as a priest, I walked with Fr. Brad in the procession
and shared with him in my first renewal of priestly promises.
This year, he was not able to be present.
Yet, I have no doubt that, in his heart,
his commitment to the priesthood remains as strong and vibrant as ever,
despite the shackles of his physical limitations.
And as it was spoken of those prisoner-priests, Christ is with him in his
Fr. Brad has consecrated the Eucharist, forgiven your sins,
and washed your feet, as it were, for forty-one years.
He was not able to receive the accolades of the assembly
as Bishop Murry invited the people to acknowledge and thank their priests,
so tonight I invite you to bring the experience of the cathedral to him.
Tonight, we praise God for two inestimable sacramental gifts –
the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood.
They are inseparable. They are life-giving. They are worthy of our devotion.
As the members of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church,
as sharers in the priesthood of the baptized,
you share in the graces of these saving mysteries.
You have gazed upon the person of Christ, your savior.
You have received Him in Communion and become intimately one with Him.
You are sent forth, Christ living within you, to bring His love into the world
as you speak His Word in your words
and with Him wash the feet of those who need you in your daily lives.
Thus you offer a living sacrifice of praise to the Glory of God!
Together we, priests and people, continually return to this Altar
to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass,
praising and thanking God with joyful hearts
for the undying and undeserved well-spring of His divine love.