By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published July 12, 2022
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” ~Jn 6:51
As many Catholics are aware, a recent Pew Research Center survey found that nearly seven in 10 Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that the bread and wine used in Communion “are only symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.”
This sad and shocking finding caused the U.S. bishops to establish a National Eucharistic Revival. The revival is be a three-year initiative with the mission of renewing the church by enkindling a living relationship with the Christ in the holy Eucharist, so that all Catholics across the United States may become true disciples of Jesus in the Eucharist and spread this mission to the world.
The vision calls for a movement of Catholics across the United States—healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist—and sent out in mission “for the life of the world.”
For details about the initiatives visit: archatl.com/revival.
The early stages of the revival coincided with the 25th Eucharistic Congress of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. For those who may not have attended the Congress in past years, it has evolved into a huge celebration attended by thousands. One of the highlights is the procession led by the archbishop carrying the monstrance containing the Eucharist followed by the clergy, parishioners carrying their banners, organizations and dancers. It is a powerful display of devotion and unity for the Blessed Sacrament.
After reading the Pew report, I wondered how so many Catholics got off track about the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I recalled my first holy Communion and the preparation and the dedication of the teachers who instilled in us the reality of the Eucharist. If we could only remember our preparation and reverence, the memory of this precious gift would last a lifetime.
Let us remember that the Eucharist is the cornerstone belief for all Catholics. God gave us this gift to help us deal more effectively with life’s many challenges. Think about those in the extended Body of Christ who are suffering with painful conditions, including those in hospice care. This redemptive suffering provides hope that at the end of the suffering there is the vision of eternal life.
For many years I was a eucharistic minister to the homebound. I would take the Eucharist to hospitals, nursing homes and private homes. The singular most significant memory of these visits was the joy and excitement of the recipients when I arrived with the Eucharist. For many of the recipients, it is the highlight of their week.
Many older Catholics attend Mass regularly during the week. As we seniors age, the reception of the Eucharist becomes highly desirable because each day brings the reality that we are closer to the end than the beginning. The frequent reception of the Eucharist helps us maintain the true purpose of this life on earth. It provides the opportunity for us to have Jesus Christ live inside our body and soul…to be present to help us cope with challenges and to thank Jesus.
The next time you receive the Eucharist, stop and think about the significance of this gift and allow this reality to impact and transform your life. I assure you that you will grow in your relationship with Christ and spread this love and reverence for the Eucharist to everyone you touch.
As I write this column, my memories are still fresh from the day I spent at the Eucharistic Congress on June 18. I helped to facilitate the family program. Several hundred parents, grandparents and children participated in the event, including one segment that provided the families with the opportunity to pray and worship during exposition of the Eucharist in a chapel-like setting.
As I watched the families kneel and pray, I was reminded of the expression of Venerable Patrick Peyton, “Families that pray together stay together.”
It took me back to the nightly rosaries my family prayed while kneeling next to my mother’s bed. My family prayed together, and we stayed together.
I could not help but think that the families kneeling before the Eucharist were the fruit of the last 25 years of Eucharistic Congresses in the archdiocese. These parents had a strong devotion and love for Jesus in the Eucharist, and they brought their children to experience and worship our Lord. It gave me hope for the future of our church and the potential benefits we will receive from the National Eucharistic Revival over the coming years.
I also reminisced about my own first Holy Communion … the excitement, the reverence, the joy of experiencing the beautiful miracle of the first Eucharist. I pray that all seniors will maintain the same love and reverence for reception of the Eucharist as experienced at our first holy Communions. We can serve as powerful role models for children and grandchildren about the presence of our Lord and savior in the Eucharist.
Every time we receive the Eucharist, the priest says, “Body of Christ. We respond “Amen” and thank God for the greatest gift we will ever receive.
Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Discipleship. Email Bill at email@example.com.