The three-year National Eucharistic Revival launched here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and in dioceses throughout the United States June 19 is intended to be a time of spiritual renewal with a particular focus on the holy Eucharist.
For decades now, Mass attendance on Sundays and holy days of obligation in the U.S. has been declining. Thanks to the recent pandemic, which closed churches for a significant period of time, Masses had to be livestreamed and participation in the holy Eucharist was limited to making a “spiritual communion” rather than actually receiving the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine that has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Added to this undisputed reality of a decline in physical participation in the Mass is the fact that studies show that many Catholics in the U.S. do not understand the most fundamental teaching about the Eucharist.
To make matters worse, the reception of holy Communion has become a political issue. Should political figures or celebrities who identify as Catholics but who defy church teaching in ways that are considered scandalous be denied holy Communion? Or does using the Blessed Sacrament in this way further diminish the reverence and respect due to the body and blood of Christ who came to save sinners and righteous people alike?
Confronted with these overwhelming issues, the bishops of the United States have decided that what we need now is a eucharistic revival. The stated purpose of this revival is to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.”
To accomplish this, the bishops said the revival seeks “to inspire a movement of Catholics across the United States who are healed, converted, formed and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist — and who are then sent out on mission for the life of the world.”
To heal, convert, form and unify people who are deeply divided on fundamental issues of social, economic and political life will require nothing less than a miracle: the grace of God acting through the minds, hearts and actions of people. These are the same people who are being challenged to return to a church that seems increasingly irrelevant to their daily lives, so God’s grace is essential.
This is not the first time that we have faced these kinds of challenges. God’s grace is sufficient to overcome every obstacle we face yesterday, today and always. Thank God, in the midst of these troubled times, Jesus is present, reminding us that he is more powerful than any storm. He desires to heal, renew and unify the church and the world, and he has given us two irreplaceable gifts to help us open our hearts and cooperate with him. These two priceless gifts are the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit.
By means of increased spiritual interest and renewal in our devotion to the holy Eucharist, we can allow Christ to draw close to us in the most intimate way imaginable. We can welcome him into our souls by receiving him with reverence and joy into our bodies during holy Communion. And we can adore him in the Blessed Sacrament, the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ available to us always in the tabernacle.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit accomplished in us if we allow it. By uniting us around the source and summit of our faith – the holy Eucharist, the Holy Spirit achieves the unthinkable. God’s grace experienced in and through the Eucharist brings us the healing and hope that seem so far removed from our daily lives when we have lapsed in our observance of this great mystery of our faith.
The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the National Eucharistic Congress, which will be held July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis. The American bishops hope that this revival will occasion a joyful, expectant, grassroots response from the entire Catholic community in the U.S. to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to overcome the sins of doubt, despair and indifference that have caused the current decline in participation in the life of our church.
The question is: Will we be open to the working of the Holy Spirit, who seeks to enkindle a missionary fire in the heart of our nation as we reconsecrate ourselves to the holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith? And will we cooperate fully with God’s grace so that this eucharistic revival can really take place among divided, disinterested and actively resistant people?
Daniel Conway is a member of the editorial board for The Criterion of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.