When the Pew Report of August 2019 announced that only one third of Catholics believed in the Eucharist, I must admit, as a priest I felt defeated. There are so many teachings that have come under scrutiny and doubt, but I never expected that there would be so much confusion regarding the Eucharist.
SATURDAY, JUNE 18, 2022 NATIONAL EUCHARISTIC REVIVAL KICK-OFF PROCESSION AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL. PHOTO BY CHUCK BENNETT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
When I was a child in Catholic grade school, I remember being taught the word “transubstantiation”. It was a ponderous word and to think that we had to memorize it was alarming! However, when Sister broke down the word: “…trans means change and substantia means substance…” it became easy to understand and to remember: the substance changes. So, the substance of the bread and wine at Mass changes into the real Body and Blood of Christ!
St. Francis says, “What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation.”
Even with the theology and saints of the Church to help us, we recognize that the Eucharist is something beyond our understanding, a mystery. We must rely on faith as we listen to the words of Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:53-54). St John relates in his Gospel that many of His disciples, correctly reading the intent of the Lord, abandoned Him. Pointedly, Christ seeing their response did not stop them from leaving. In other words, they understood Him correctly.
For the next few years culminating with a Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, in 2024, the Church in the United States will be deeply reflecting on the Eucharist. It will be a time for learning and education. It will be a time to affirm again that through the work of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine at Mass are indeed transformed into the real Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The goal will be to reclaim and reaffirm over twenty centuries of doctrine, tradition and Scripture, theology, papal teaching and councils of the Church that Christ is really, truly, present in the Eucharist.
The Diocese and your local parish will provide opportunities for learning, classes, and education. Special focus will be on increasing love for Christ in the Holy Eucharist through Mass, adoration, processions and other devotions. Parishes will examine how they live as Eucharistic communities and find new ways to enhance Christian life. Greater love for the Eucharist will translate into outreach to the poor, the suffering and neglected.
The Eucharist will restore the spiritual losses caused by sin and our own defects, building up virtue and moving us along the path of holiness. The soul will recognize how beautiful friendship is with Jesus and desire more the things of heaven.
May this be a time of grace and opportunity. May our hearts be open to this work of the Church and the Holy Spirit! Together, let us fall in love again with the bread of angels, the bread come down from heaven: the Holy Eucharist!