by Fr. Edward Looney
The Catholic world was abuzz with the findings of a Pew Research survey released last summer pertaining to the number of Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Bishop Robert Barron made a video describing his anger over this and reiterating the Catholic teaching about the Eucharist. Lots of commentators chimed in with their thoughts. Social media was a flurry with traditionalists calling for elimination of Communion in the hand and a return to kneeling for receiving the Eucharist. While this might help to a certain extent, I believe it is necessary for us to look for more practical things that all Catholics and believers can easily do.
The reality is that many people who come to Mass do not believe in the Real Presence, or they have a misinformed belief. A change of belief and conviction of heart begins with those already in the pews.
Here are 10 simple things that you and I can do to strengthen our Eucharistic belief, and as we strengthen ours, maybe it will reach someone else, too.
1. BE MINDFUL OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE BY FOSTERING GREATER REVERENCE.
I spend a lot of time in churches, especially going back and forth from the sanctuary to the sacristy. There is a lot of work involved to set up the altar area and put out books. I hate to say it, but sometimes because it is so routine, it is easy for me to become lazy in my Eucharistic reverence. Instead of genuflecting, I might make a simple head bow. When I realize that I’m lacking in reverence, I redouble my efforts to make sure I genuflect when passing by the tabernacle.
2. REMEMBER THAT CHRIST IS PRESENT IN EVERY TABERNACLE.
How often do you drive by a Catholic church? On your commute to work, do you travel by multiple churches? Each time you pass one, make the sign of the cross. It’s a simple action, but it’s a good reminder that Jesus has made his home in the church. Even when passing by, we can demonstrate devotion and belief. When we genuflect, saying a prayer such as “Jesus I adore you” can strengthen our belief. Also, when we find ourselves at Mass, remembering that Christ is present in the church, we can hold discussions to a minimum before and after Mass, unless we’re outside of the church’s nave. work involved to set up the altar area and put out books. I hate to say it, but sometimes because it is so routine, it is easy for me to become lazy in my Eucharistic reverence. Instead of genuflecting, I might make a simple head bow. When I realize that I’m lacking in reverence, I redouble my efforts to make sure I genuflect when passing by the tabernacle.
3. PRAY BEFORE THE TABERNACLE.
As you drive by a church, if you have a few spare moments, park your car and say a prayer in the church. If you are visiting a Catholic hospital, find the chapel and pray for a few moments.
Hospital chapels are underutilized. Making an impromptu trip to a church or chapel and praying before the Blessed Sacrament reinforces our belief of Jesus’ presence in the tabernacle.
4. BE ALERT AT THE CONSECRATION.
Some churches ring bells during Mass. This is to alert us to the fact something special is happening, that the Holy Spirit has been called down, and then at the point of elevation, that Jesus is present in the host we adore.
At the consecration, make a declaration of faith: “My Lord and my God.” Or, if you struggle with belief, you might pray “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Hearing the words of consecration — “This is my body … this is the chalice of my blood” — reinforces for us who it is that we now adore at the time of elevation.
5. MEDITATE AFTER COMMUNION.
Consider making a prayerful meditation after receiving Holy Communion. This can be done in the pew during Communion or after Mass. Say a prayer thanking Jesus for the privilege of receiving him. Ask him for special graces. Talk to him about the past week or entrust the next week to him. Meditate about Our Lady or the apostles receiving Holy Communion or how the saints received the Eucharist during their lives.
This period of prayer and meditation truly allows us to have communion with the one whom we received in Holy Communion. Unite yourself to Jesus in this moment, and you will believe that he is present.
6. PRAY A HOLY HOUR.
Some parishes might have an hour of Adoration once a week or once a month while others have perpetual Adoration. This is a time for prolonged prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. Even if we struggle with Eucharistic belief, that time before the Blessed Sacrament opens us to God’s grace. Jesus is present in the doubts that we have, wanting to reveal himself to us. Simply by being present before the monstrance and beholding the Eucharist can increase our Eucharistic belief.
7. READ JOHN
The Church’s belief about the Eucharist is quite scriptural, and we have it from Jesus himself. Not only because of what he said on the night of the Last Supper, but also what he taught in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. John 6:22-59 is Jesus’ bread of life discourse.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). Read those words. And reread them until you believe them.
8. RECLAIM SUNDAY MASS.
Maybe part of the problem has been the laxity with which we approach our Sunday obligation. So many things seem to take priority over Sunday Mass. By making Sunday a priority, we assert that this is Jesus whom we receive, that nothing — including youth athletic tournaments or professional sports — takes priority over receiving the God of the Universe. The next time you want to skip Sunday Mass, remind yourself who it is that you will not receive. Then drop everything and run to Mass.
9. LEARN ABOUT EUCHARISTIC MIRACLES.
At every Mass, a miracle happens. Bread becomes Christ’s body, and wine becomes his blood. We believe this happens and wine, tastes like bread and wine, but it truly is his body and blood.
There have been a few times in the Church’s history that the bread and wine actually have become actual flesh and blood. You can even visit the churches where these events happened. One of the most popular is in Lanciano, Italy. I’m sure if you learn about the Eucharistic miracles and even go and see them with your own eyes, it will remove all doubt and assure you of Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist.
10. THE EUCHARIST.
There are books galore about the Eucharist. Some were written by saints, and some have been written by fellow Catholics today. I always recommend that if you have a question about something, you should research that topic for yourself. One of my favorite books is Vinny Flynn’s 7 Secrets of the Eucharist (MercySong/Ignatius Press, 2006).
Other books include Abbot Anscar Vonier’s A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist (Assumption Press, 2013) and Fr. James T. O’Connor’s The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist (Ignatius Press, 1988).
By studying more about the Church’s theology of the Eucharist, we will unlock its meaning and deepen our knowledge and belief in Christ’s presence.
CHRIST IS ‘OUR STRENGTH’
As you increase your belief in the Eucharist, Jesus will be truly present to you in an ever-deepening way. As St. John Paul II wrote in his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church Draws Her Life from the Eucharist):
In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body and blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope. (EE, 62)