Fr Preca, being a man of God, directed all his faculties, energies and love to him. Naturally he had a great love for the Eucharist, which is the body, soul and divinity of Christ.
He used to spend long hours before the Blessed Sacrament, praying and adoring Christ. In fact he clearly states "The man of God and of Jesus Christ finds his supreme joy in the Eucharist." 1 This statement stemmed from a great love of Christ himself.
Rediscovering the Eucharist
Sometimes, due to routine and other work, without doubting the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we are not totally aware that the Eucharist is Jesus himself. But Fr Preca had this truth impressed not only in his mind but also in his heart. Accordingly he states that one can tell who has really understood the meaning of the Eucharist "His delight is to meditate and adore it for he is fully convinced that the same Christ who is in the glory of the Father, is really, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist." 2 Our Founder teaches us how to adore the Blessed Sacrament, not only in a devotional way but also in a way of perfection of love.
Eucharistic adoration was a joy for Fr Preca. He felt at home praying to Jesus in a very familiar tone full of joy. "Indeed, this is the enjoyment of such a man! He talks to Jesus, and meditates on Him, especially about his life on earth, his death, resurrection and ascension." 3 Naturally, as he reveals later in the Sanctuary of Christ's Spirit, he is talking from experience.
In fact in his book The Sanctuary of Christ's Spirit he lists his personal experience under the name of Fr Franco, which is the name taken by him as a Carmelite Tertiary. He clearly states: "What a rewarding and sweet joy would Father Franco experience in front of the Blessed Sacrament." 4
All these quotations are taken from Chapter 68 of The Sanctuary of Christ's Spirit. Although they are short and brief quotations, they sound so striking that they seem as the best Treatise on the Eucharist.
This great love of Fr Preca for the Eucharist had its roots in the conviction that in adoring the Blessed Sacrament, he was meeting Jesus in a personal and friendly way.
Our Founder is a teacher of how Eucharistic adoration is to be held. This devotion sprang in the Middle Ages when liturgically there was a barrier between the people and the priests celebrating the Mass. Besides during the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the people used to say the Rosary and other prayers. Although these prayers are in a constant agreement with Church Tradition, in the common people there lacked the friendly encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is worth noting that Fr Preca used the Scripture to encounter Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. In fact in the same chapter he states "The following is an example of the prayer of the Carmelite Father Franco who had a great devotion for the Blessed Sacrament and for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is an exercise which links together like a chain Christ's life from birth to his ascension."
His prayers had a deep content of faith based on the Holy Scripture, which is also God's word. And also in this regard he is a master of teaching us how to pray to the Blessed Sacrament by using Scripture. In Scripture there is the life of Jesus Christ and so when we read it by faith we are encountering Jesus.
Fr Preca used to pray for long hours before the Blessed Sacrament. In fact he celebrated Mass slowly in a devotional way, with a great faith in the Eucharist. But he was also a practical guide, for others. He knew by experience that the members are very actively involved by going to work daily and in active apostolate. So he, as a practical spiritual guide demanded from the members that they attend Mass and in the Watch he included a visit before the Blessed Sacrament. In fact he always wrote how Christians ought to pray after communion.
Prayers of Petition
In a short prayer named "What the servant of God prays after Communion" there is a supplication for eight types of graces we ought to ask for ourselves from the Blessed Sacrament:
1. A total surrender
2. To prefer Christ
3. To help others
4. To see all things as coming from God's hands.
5. To cultivate God's presence.
6. To practice mortification
7. To work in the apostolate for others.
8. Begging God's grace.
This short prayer shows that Fr Preca understood quite clearly that the Eucharist is not only adoration but a way of life and an orientation towards God. For many, the Eucharist is only adoration, Mass and communion. Although these are indispensable and the beginning of our spiritual life, we ought to be aware that the Eucharist impels us to conduct a saintly love, orientated to God and others. In fact, St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians shows us clearly that the Eucharist is not only to be received well but also to be lived by its spirit. "When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's Supper." (1 Cor 11:20)
Modern theology being less scholastic and more biblically and patristically orientated, emphasizes the fact that the Eucharist is a way of life. In this respect, Fr Preca's short prayer is quite like a bridge between the traditional adoration and the modern view of seeing the Eucharist as a way of living.
For the members, he devised the Coram Domino (In the presence of the Lord) which is another short prayer of adoration in front of The Blessed Sacrament. In this short prayer we also perceive his clear thought that the Eucharist is a call and a vocation and a way of living. In fact the member prays for the sick, for sinners, for those in purgatory, for the afflicted, for the dying, and to instill Christ's spirit in every Christian.
This suggests what modern theology says about Eucharist... That as Christ gave himself for us in his passion and death, so we too are to give ourselves to others, by praying for those in need.
In the Coram Domino and in the Sanctuary of Christ's Spirit, he also addresses a prayer to the Virgin Mary. And this is also theologically correct and instills in us a devotion to the mother of God. She was the first tabernacle for Jesus Christ. If we have a true devotion to the Eucharist, we should have a devotion to his mother.
So we can conclude by saying that our Founder Fr George Preca was so simple but a profound writer at the same time that it is possible from his writing to construct a modern theology with new insights already underlined by him.
1 Sanctuary of Christ's Spirit p. 92
Angelo Xuereb sdc
Qala - Gozo
Preca Calling - Issue 47 (July 2000)