Some good friends of mine have been struggling with their nine- and 11-year-olds, who do not yet grasp the point of Sunday Mass. “We know that already,” they protest.

Assuming (as children do) that their interests are best served when parents rise to their level of omniscience, the kids deem themselves to have graduated to more important and exciting escapades. Like what? Bed? Brunch? Videos? Sports? Movies, malls or theme parks (parent-chauffeured)?

With so many other alternatives, “Come meet Jesus” is not so competitive.

Parents planning a weekend visit with even a familiar person run into similar challenges. Unless a relationship of affection and of regular communication has been built over the years, “Grandma wants to see you” may not be very persuasive, either, even if she is a particularly good cook or is otherwise creatively generous. Bribery goes only so far.

“Jesus loves you” or “Jesus wants to be with you” may be similarly inadequate come-ons in the preteen or, for that matter, any other age bracket of the potential subscriber. At church, it’s often other people who get in the way. And while Jesus is offering Himself as our very bread of life at every Mass, not many of us are aware how much He is thirsting for us, so much more than we might consciously be for Him.

Like the woman at the well, He has water to give us that we don’t even know we thirst for.

God is an acquired taste, it seems. It takes time and experience for most of us to discover that our restlessness, our desires for so many persons, things and activities are but symptoms of a deeper longing for the one for whom we are made to know, love and serve on this Earth and forever in heaven.

In the “Our Father,” Jesus teaches us to pray quite openly for the harmony between heaven and Earth that God wills. We are to ask the Father to open our hearts, to see our insatiable appetites as a hint that we are hard-wired for eternity. Our hearts are only at peace when filled with God’s abiding presence. No earthly food or pleasure can really soothe the soul-ache of the human heart.

Not by accident does Jesus present Himself to us as the “bread of life,” the new manna or “bread from heaven” that will give us eternal life, unlike the old manna that just helped God’s people, the Israelites, survive their desert wanderings, this bread conquers death itself. Jesus invites us to pray for (and by inference, actually receive) our daily breads.

“Daily” is not really the best translation. The Greek word “epiousios,” which St. Jerome renders (in Latin) by the term “super-substantial,” points to a supernatural food from heaven that is more than earthly bread.

What we are praying for in the “Our Father,” then, is not just to have a good daily meal to sustain our bodies, but the soul-bread we need each day to stay spiritually alive and humanly all together. It is a reference to the Eucharist, where we really feed on the body and blood of Christ.

Jesus not only invites but also commands us to do so, that we might have the life that lasts. (Now would be a good time to re-read chapter six of St. John’s Gospel.)

To develop a deeper awareness and understanding of the importance of the Mass to our happiness on Earth and, ultimately, our eternal salvation, we are planning to celebrate an all-day diocesan Eucharistic Congress Sept. 22 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville.

Everyone is invited, free of charge. Come and see. You can find details on the diocesan website ( Look for “Hearts Aflame.” From now through September, I will be devoting a substantial number of my weekly columns to eucharistic themes, the meaning and importance of the Mass.

At the Eucharistic Congress itself, there will be many activities to engage individuals and families on all levels. It will be fun for everyone just to be at the shrine on that day. Plan on coming and on bringing friends and family.

The theme of the Eucharistic Congress — the title I noted above — is, “Hearts Aflame.” The focus is on what the Mass is really all about: gratuitous and merciful love from a God whose very essence is eternal love, who creates us out of love and for love. It is about holistic living: living our lives to the full, freely and joyfully.

So many people are searching for peace of mind, healing, relief from stress and tension, a sense of acceptance and freedom from the scourge of various addictions. We know that, these days, we are in the midst of an opioid crisis that is particularly virulent in our region. Many people are experiencing strained and even toxic relationships within families and with those with whom they are otherwise intimate.

In our busy, often crowded lives, there is often a lot of loneliness and emptiness. No one better understands the anguish and stress that are so much a part of contemporary life than our Lord, who came precisely to free us from all that enslaves us and to heal our wounded hearts with the cleansing fire of His divine love.

My prayer is that, through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to whom I have consecrated our Diocese, we will be led to the heart of her Son, Jesus, in the holy and healing sacrament of His body and blood. Please join with me as we prepare for this extraordinary and much-needed happening on our journey of faith as God’s people in Albany, our diocesan Eucharistic Congress on Sept. 22.

Give us this day, O Lord, our daily bread!

(Follow the Bishop at and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)