By ANDREW W. LICHTENWALNER, Ph.D. | Published September 20, 2021
At a time when programs and initiatives come and go, when our lives seem to be endlessly busy, and when various difficulties and sufferings abound, the question why another initiative is an understandable one. Why do we need a eucharistic renewal?
There are many good reasons why Archbishop Hartmayer has called for a eucharistic renewal in this archdiocese, including the challenges of COVID-19, decreasing faith in the Eucharist, and, more positively, the national Eucharistic Revival called by the bishops of the U.S. to begin next year. Our Eucharistic Congress on June 17-18, 2022, will serve as the formal beginning of our archdiocesan participation in the national revival.
Here, let’s look at some of the deep and enduring reasons for such renewal by examining the words themselves: first “renewal” and then “Eucharist.”
“Renewal” is basic to the church and to Christian life. The church, and all of us as individual disciples bound together in the Body of Christ, are called to ongoing renewal and conversion (metanoia, turning again and again to Jesus, being transformed by him). While the Catholic Church is divinely founded and instituted by Jesus Christ, she is a pilgrim in this world who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], no. 1428, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s Lumen Gentium, no. 8.).
So, renewal and ongoing reform (understood properly) is part and parcel of the church, and the church throughout her history has called for specific times of renewal and celebration (for example, the Great Jubilee of 2000 or, locally, the Archdiocesan Eucharistic Renewal begun in 1996).
The “Eucharist,” while one of the Seven Sacraments instituted by Christ, is also the Sacrament of Sacraments. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches from the Second Vatican Council:
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (LG, no. 11). “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch” (PO, no. 5).
A eucharistic renewal is a time for the church to be renewed at her core—for all of us to be renewed in and through the Eucharist and thereby in and through Jesus himself. Authentic renewal in the church “passes through the Eucharist” (St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 60).
So what does this mean practically?
There will be more information and opportunities to come that will help us engage this period of renewal and revival over the next few years. The Eucharistic Congress next year will be a great opportunity, encouraging us to live our faith and serve others as missionary disciples.
However, to fellow Catholics now, I encourage us to start with what matters most: How is my relationship with the Lord Jesus (and with those closest to me)? Do I spend time with Jesus in prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament and with his word in Sacred Scripture? Is Sunday Mass and regular confession a priority in my (family) life?
As important and necessary as outward words and deeds will always be, our interior life has a primacy, because God’s grace and action is always first. Efforts of renewal will be fruitful to the degree they are grounded in prayer and the renewal of our interior life. So, a good starting place? Let’s spend time with the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, asking him to renew us and his church.