September 17, 2021

Evangelization & Catechesis Supplement

Revival in U.S. meant to renew Catholics’ devotion to the Eucharist

Father Aaron Jenkins, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, distributes Communion to Anne Bauer during a Jan. 30 dedication Mass at the Indianapolis East Deanery church. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Aaron Jenkins, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, distributes Communion to Anne Bauer during a Jan. 30 dedication Mass at the Indianapolis East Deanery church. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

While the Eucharist has always been at the heart of the life of the Church, that heart has undergone some trauma in the Church in the U.S. in recent years.

Sunday Mass attendance has declined. Polling data suggests a drop off in the number of Catholics who believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. And there was the closing of churches and the public suspension of the celebration of the sacraments, including the Mass, during the first part of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020.

These and other reasons are why the bishops in the U.S. launched earlier this year what they describe as a three-year “National Eucharistic Revival” that will begin on the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi) in 2022.

The initiative, which will involve events at the local, regional and national levels, is called “Eucharistic Revival: My Flesh for the Life of the World.”

The U.S. bishops’ evangelization and catechesis committee is overseeing the revival. Its chairman, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota, recently spoke with The Criterion about the initiative aimed at renewing the Eucharist as the heart of the Church in the U.S.

He likened the revival to international eucharistic congresses that have been held usually every four years since 1881 to revive devotion to the Eucharist in Catholics around the world.

“This means that the pope and the Church believe a eucharistic congress or revival can affect a person, group, parish, diocese, country and yes, even the world in profound way,” Bishop Cozzens said. “If we truly knew who waits for us, who searches for us, we would visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament frequently, attend Mass as often as we could—relishing every moment with him.”

The following is an edited version of the interview with Bishop Cozzens.

Q. How do you see the upcoming eucharistic revival in the U.S. as a way to enliven the faithful’s understanding of and devotion to the Eucharist?

A. “As more people are invited into a deeper dialogue about Jesus in the Eucharist, our hope is that more people choose to remain with him.

“With the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, dioceses and parishes will be invited to have eucharistic processions, and choose a team to form and train parish revival leaders. There will be many opportunities to guide small groups, movements, parishes, dioceses and the nation to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

“But we don’t have to wait for Corpus Christi 2022 to begin. Any priest or parish leader can begin cultivating opportunities to deepen the awareness of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist today.

“Ultimately, the desire is for the movement to reach the most basic unit: the family and every individual person. As each of us, from greatest to least, reflect on the Real Presence, it will foster a ripple effect. A catechist can invite someone to encounter our Lord; a family member can lead someone to encounter Jesus. Even a very small child can bring her parents back to the Eucharist. It an opportunity for all of us; let us not miss it.”

Q. Are there trends in our culture and society that make this an opportune time to have this eucharistic revival? How might it help Catholics in the U.S. to be better equipped to renew their own faith and share the Gospel with others in this particular cultural climate?

A. “The 2019 Pew Study was a call to mission for the bishops of the United States. [It showed that a majority of Catholics in the U.S. didn’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.]

“It led to some soul searching and a desire to respond. My predecessor chairing the Catechesis and Evangelization Committee, Bishop Robert [E.] Barron, looked for ways to deepen the dialogue with all, practicing and non-practicing. Then came the pandemic and churches were closed and communities in general stopped meeting in person.

“Parish communities were very fractured and fragmented. This led to many people hearing about making a spiritual communion for the first time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Yet, for many this was a consolation, not a replacement of receiving the Eucharist at Mass.

“When churches reopened, some people started coming back, and now we are ready and eager to engage the people who come to Mass daily, weekly or perhaps who still participate virtually to come to a deeper awareness of what the Church teaches about Communion. It is not an ‘it’ in holy Communion. It is a real person: Jesus Christ.

“One of the great goals and desires of the National Eucharistic Revival is to commission 100,000 Eucharistic Missionaries at a national event in 2024. These men and women will be sent forth to continue the movement in parishes, the Church and society at large. They will help those who are currently attending Mass frequently to deepen their faith, as well as reach those on the margins who are far from Christ. We also want to hold a special place for the family in all of this.”

Q. What hopes do you have about how the eucharistic revival will affect Catholics and the Church as a whole in the U.S. once it has come to its completion in 2024?

A. “My hope is that we are able to cultivate a movement that goes far beyond these three initial years, prompting a new springtime in the Church, which Pope St. John Paul II referred to so prophetically.

“The way this mission will become a movement is by focusing in a way very much resonant with the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, as well as with our Holy Father, Pope Francis—by focusing on each person, meeting him where he is at, helping him take the next best step toward Jesus in the Eucharist.

“For some, this will be a rediscovery of what she learned 40 years ago at her first holy Communion, for others it will be an epiphany moment: the Eucharist is really Jesus!

“John chapter 6 has both human and divine examples of how Jesus engages his believers on this topic. Eucharistic miracles show how Jesus has engaged the world for the last 1,100 years.

“If someone has never googled or studied the eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, Italy, that is a must. Your heart and mind need this information. The beautiful thing about Lanciano and many of the other eucharistic miracles is that there is scientific evidence to support what our faith reveals to us.

“Faith and reason always lead us to the good, the true and the beautiful. In all religions and faith backgrounds, the deity is able to feed their believers. Jesus is the only one who not only feeds his followers but becomes food for them, that I know.

“We are commissioning a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate to get current data on what Catholics believe about the Eucharist today, and the plan is to commission another study at the conclusion of the three years to have some measurable data.

“But ultimately, this is not a program we are promoting, it is a movement we are cultivating. We hope to see the fruits of the movement for years to come. We are also engaging marketing experts to help us determine the best way to share this incredible news: God leaves his throne in heaven to take his place in a host and wait for you and I to give him a place, hopefully a throne, in our hearts.”

Q. What response have you seen thus far to the announcement about the eucharistic revival? How can Catholics assist in making it a success?

A. “There is so much excitement and energy about this initiative. Every day, we get calls or messages from people who want to be a part of this.

“I encourage your readers to consider how they can participate in this revival. For some, it is through offering a holy hour for the initiative and interceding. For others, it is speaking to their pastor or bishop about how they can help.

“Some parts of this initiative will be new, but others are a call to enter into the mysteries of our salvation in a renewed, deeper way. How can we prepare to attend Mass and recognize our Lord in the host? It would be great if in every Catholic parish, school or entity, there is a person who makes it part of their role to bring this good news to their communities:

“Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity. We need you; Jesus needs you. The Lord transformed the world with the Apostles. If all faithful Catholics give their heart to this initiative, the potential is incredible.

“Will you become a eucharistic missionary not to the world or diocese, but to your family, neighborhood or parish?” †


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