Fr. Rick Thomas Account: Sister Briege McKenna & the Eucharist
Excerpt From - The Curate's Diary
6/09 by Fr. T. Doyle
Today Sister Briege McKenna's healing ministry is totally centered on the Eucharist. During a special retreat for sisters a few years ago, she shared a remarkable story of how Jesus led her to this Eucharistic centering.
She said, "I had a big problem. After my own dramatic healing and then receiving the gift of healing others, I was worried because so many people were coming to me.”
"In less then one year, so many healings were taking place, that the people wanted to make a saint out of me, even asking for relics... cloth from an old habit, my hair trimmings, etc. I was astounded and disturbed by it... and then there was the way that some people wanted to touch me, as if they would be healed or graced by doing so.”
"I loved the people, but I did not like what was happening. There was a danger that, instead of directing people to the Lord or to the Mass, they had come just to see me.”
"I certainly knew that, of myself, I had absolutely no power, and that it was Jesus Who was doing the healing; that I was only His chosen instrument. However, even to be chosen by Him was itself an extraordinary gift. Pride could step in, and one could begin to believe that one is better than other people.”
"In a certain way, I felt that I was becoming a celebrity, and I knew that it was neither true, nor good for my soul.”
"I went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and begged Our Lady for help. I asked Her, to please keep me in the heart of the Church, and to show me how to integrate this healing ministry into the life of the Church.”
"I remember sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Exposition one day, just praying to Our Lady. Then I went down to the Grotto.”
"A pilgrimage was taking place of mentally handicapped children, and as I watched them being assisted from Mass, I remember thinking and knowing that Mary will show me the way.”
Come to El Paso
Sr. Briege came back to America, and three weeks later she got a phone call from Fr. Rick Thomas. He had a special ministry across the border in Mexico. He said to her, "I would love to have you come and visit the poor at the garbage dump and pray with them. You can help with the healings. Their need is so great."
She explained that given her existing commitments, she had only an evening and a morning available, and he responded, "That's fine. God doesn't need a long time. On your way back from California, stop off and stay over night."
She arrived in El Paso to be met by this very colorful charismatic priest, a man who witnessed to the faith in everything he did. On the one hand, he was normally wearing a Texan hat and Texan boots. On the other hand, "Alleluia" was his favorite word, which he regularly repeated with gusto.
When Sr. Briege arrived, he started jumping up and down with delight, and introduced her to his dog and his donkey. Sr. Briege did not know what to expect next!
The Unforgettable Dump
That evening, they drove directly out to the dump, and he told her, "They do not have a clue as to who you are, and it does not matter. When the time comes, I will just get you to say a prayer with them, and God will do the rest."
When they arrived at the dump, Sr. Briege witnessed scenes she will never forget. On the Texan border with Mexico, there is the Rio Grande, the river which Mexicans try to cross to get into the U.S. They are driven back by border police. These are poor Mexicans, who squat and live at the garbage dump, and their children, are born there.
As Fr. Rick showed Sr. Briege around, she was horrified by the sheer squalor. She had given retreats in South America, but she had never seen anything like this. When Fr. Rick told her that he was going to celebrate Mass there for them the next morning, she was somewhat taken aback, wondering how Mass could be celebrated with any dignity in such an environment. What would the people know or understand?
The children were running around wild like little animals. She was horrified at thinking that, in that place with those people; they will not be able to comprehend what happens during Mass.
Anyway, the next morning, she, a small group of young Mexican Americans, and Fr. Rick set out for the dump. He brought a little table and all the Mass requirements.
When they arrived, already up to 1000 people were there, and more were coming! She remembered standing there looking over this crowd of poor miserable people. Clearly visible in the distance, not even fifteen minutes away, were beautiful homes and a big Mexican Seminary. But these people had no church, and indeed, they had nothing. Fr. Rick had taken it upon himself to go out there and to begin evangelizing and ministering to them. He was trying to break down the hatred through speaking of God's love, and then seeking to get them into groups to do works toward that end.
The Mass started, and although Sr. Briege has been a daily communicant since she was 12 years old, she said that that Mass had changed her life! Before the Mass began, she watched an old woman coming in, carrying a bundle on her shoulder. At first, Sr. Briege thought that it was some form of a gift for Fr. Rick. But, when the old woman opened up the cloth, in it there was a little child, completely burned from head to foot, filthy dirty, and screaming!
The woman looked at Fr. Rick, and with great compassion, she said, "Please bless him. I found him smouldering when I was coming across the mountain." She had picked him up, put him into this cloth, and carried him to Fr. Rick.
The child was practically skinless! Fr. Rick looked at the little boy, got Sr. Briege to join with him in a prayer, and then suggested that he be placed under the table on which the Mass was to be celebrated. Sr. Briege related that once the Mass had begun, she felt and saw the presence of Jesus. When Fr. Rick said, "Let us say the Gloria," praises to God came forth from the tops of their voices.
She had come from across the border from comfort. She had everything that she needed, but they had nothing, and yet they praised God loudly and whole heartedly. She heard the Lord speaking to her, saying, "If my people do not praise Me, the stones will cry out!"
Here were the poorest of the poor and they were radiant with praise to God. When the consecration came, she had her head down. Then she looked up and saw that Fr. Rick had one of those large hosts. For a moment, everybody was prostrate on the ground. It was then that she had the most beautiful image of Jesus with His two hands out. He was smiling, and within herself, she heard the words of the Gospel, "Come to Me all you who are weary, and I will refresh you."
Just as she was seeing that, the people lifted up their faces and started shouting, "Viva Cristo Rei" ...long live Christ the king!
At that moment, she truly knew that Jesus was in the Host... that it is not just a piece of bread, but truly Jesus, Himself. For these people, in the midst of their poverty, they had the King of Kings. They clapped, cheered, and cried, "Viva Cristo Rei" ...long live Christ the king!
She found herself weeping as she saw the great faith of these people, and she asked herself, "Is my faith as strong as theirs, that I may always realize that a Consecrated Host is really Jesus.”
The Little Children
Mass ended and the burned little boy, who had been placed under the Mass table, had long since stopped crying. Sr. Briege went to look for him, and she was overwhelmed when she saw him. He had crawled out from under the table, was totally healed, and was playing in the sand!
She went over to the old woman, and said to her, "What happened to him?" With hindsight, she realized that it was a stupid question. The old woman looked at Sr. Briege, and said, " What do you mean what happened? Did not Jesus come?"
As Fr. Rick put his hands over the bread and wine and called upon the Holy Spirit, as the bread and wine were changed, the little boy was changed. He was given new skin! Not only that, before the Mass, Sr. Briege saw a mother bringing in a Down Syndrome baby. The mother was a young girl, and she had this beautiful little baby in her arms, but it had all the appearances of having Down Syndrome. She and Fr. Rick prayed over the child. At the end of the Mass, the child's mother came running up to her, saying, "Look at my baby!" Her baby was now perfect.
There were many more healings. Sr. Briege had spent eight hours with the people, and she did not remember which ones she prayed with, but it was certainly not all of those who were healed. It was as if God had put on a display of miracles. Fr. Rick usually did not pray with the people. All he did was celebrate the Mass.
Power Of The Eucharist
Sr. Briege spent eight hours on the mountain dump, and she went back to El Paso so overwhelmed that she could not sleep. Finally, at three a.m., she heard Jesus tell her, "Get up and pray."
She knelt at the side of the bed, and the Lord said, "You asked My Mother to help you, and to show and teach you, She brought you here. People come and seek signs and wonders. They go looking for healers and for something to help them, and they will go to anybody! Yet, I am on the altars of the world and in the tabernacles of the world, and they pass Me by. I brought you here because I have a mission for you. I want you to go to the world and speak on the power of the Eucharist. As you begin to lead people to the Eucharist, I will show you what I can do....”
And, He is doing just that! This occurred in 1972. Since that time, Sr. Briege has been traveling all over the world to speak about the power of the Eucharist.
In Ireland, as in many parts of the world, they have a history of men and women who knew that the Mass was worth living and dying for.
Beg the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the Eucharist. Beg Jesus to give you a Eucharistic Heart, a real love for the Eucharist, like the two disciples who said to Him, "Where do you live?" and He responded, "Come."
Come to Him in Mass and Adoration. Tell Him your needs, confide in Him, love Him, and then feel His consolation and healing. This is what He wants of us now. Sr. Briege understands that she is only an instrument through which the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus comes to us, but He tells us that we can approach Him directly by loving Him in the Eucharist. He wants to console and heal us, but first. He wants us to believe in Him, and then to come to Him. Do it!