By now you may have heard about that new Pew research study. You know…the one that claims only ⅓ of Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist. Of course this is upsetting and has led many to contemplate how to fix this.
But first, let’s put things in perspective. This is a study. Presumably the sampled people represent the Church as a whole. However, we can all recognize that the statistics may not be fully accurate. Not to say we shouldn’t be concerned, but just to keep in mind this statistic is an approximation.
Now, what should we do?
I strongly believe the answer lies in catechesis in 3 main forms: religious education, through homilies, and catechesis by example. Allow me to elaborate.
Proper instruction for children preparing to receive First Holy Communion, and afterwards the education should not stop! At minimum one lesson every single year of religious education should be devoted to the Eucharist, with the teaching deepening as children grow older.
Similarly, adult faith formation opportunities that focus on the Eucharist should be available at least once a year to the entire parish. These could be in the form of weekly classes, a one day lecture series, even an online course or lectures such as those offered through Formed, Ascension Press, or Dynamic Catholic.
In person instruction is great but some people simply cannot attend classes at church or do not feel comfortable doing so. A quick blurb in the church bulletin about online videos to watch, a link on the church website or social media is a great way to reach out to more people with this theology.
I was so pleased to hear my priest mention this survey in his homily yesterday and reiterate what we believe about the Eucharist. But i know not all priests do.
I have been to Mass where the Bread of Life discourse was proclaimed and yet not talked about in the homily. Or where the homily centers on a relationship with Christ but never mentions the most intimate relationship we can have in the Eucharist.
No matter what educational opportunities are available, there will always be people who do not want to, or are not able to participate. The homily is an amazing opportunity to remind the congregation what we are about to partake in and conveniently it fits in with many many scripture readings.
Still with all the instruction in the world, sometimes faith is not knowing on an intellectually theological level, but trusting and believing in your heart even when you cannot fully understand. And in truth, none of us here on earth can ever fully comprehend the mystery of the Eucharist. So to better instill a true belief in the Eucharist, we need to teach not only at the intellectual level, but reach to the heart. And that, I believe, is best accomplished through example.
This is where people are most inclined to argue. Some insist that the only way to restore reverence for the Eucharist is to restore the Traditional Latin Mass. Others argue we must receive the Body of Christ only on the tongue. Some blame the music, the lack of altar rails, etc. Maybe some of these would work, but true reverence can be shown whether in English, Spanish, Latin, French, or any other language. We can sit, stand, kneel, or crawl but true reverence comes from the heart and may look different for different people…but when one approaches with sincerity of heart and true belief, it shows through.
Each of us needs to search within ourselves and ask…do we receive the Eucharist with true sincerity of heart and faith that it IS the Body Of Christ And does that belief shine through in our daily living?
While I believe these things will help spread belief, it is important to note that some still may struggle with this teaching. And that is ok! This simple prayer can help us through doubt, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
One final thought…
It seems to me, that if the devil really wanted to tear apart the Church, wouldn’t it be convenient that this study would come out just as we are still dealing with the abuse scandal? And wouldn’t it only make sense that he would attack Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith? Wouldn’t he delight in the many who don’t believe in the Eucharist and oh how he would love if this study plunged devout Catholics into despair and doubt? Better still, wouldn’t the devil love for this study to create arguments over how to fix it, and cause division within Christ’s Church?
Let’s not give him what he wants. Don’t give in to argument, to despair, to doubt or hopelessness. Stay strong in faith and let this information fill us with renewed love and commitment to faith. To draw us closer to Christ in the Eucharist and to bring our Church together in greater unity to serve the Lord.
The Eucharist is the greatest gift we can receive because it IS Jesus!!! Let us allow that truth to transform our lives each and every day.