Reverence toward the Eucharist
Young and old need to remember Christ's real presence in Eucharist
By Sam Lucero
News and Information Manager
Three years ago, the Catholic Church observed a special year-long focus on the Eucharist. The Year of the Eucharist was instituted by the late Pope John Paul II and marked a time of special grace to promote a better understanding of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist.
In a 31-page letter issued to launch the Year of the Eucharist, the pope addressed the need for Catholics to understand the Eucharist not just as a shared meal, but as a true encounter with Christ. He urged parish communities to use the observance to reexamine liturgical norms on the proper reception of Communion and reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament.
Reverence toward the Eucharist is one area of concern that most pastors and liturgical ministers today would agree needs addressing.
How often do we see Catholics at church walk past the sanctuary or eucharistic chapel, where the consecrated host is stored in a tabernacle, and not even acknowledge Christ's presence? Or how about at Communion when young and old receive the Body of Christ as if it were simply a snack?
Bringing back devotion and reverence to the Blessed Sacrament isn't a matter of church leaders rolling back church reforms introduced during Vatican II. It's a matter of re-emphasizing a basic church doctrine that has slowly been losing its significance.
By helping Catholics become aware of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, church leaders hope that Catholics come to better understand the need for being in a proper disposition to receive the Eucharist.
Some may say that this issue will only polarize the church, especially because it can be used to point fingers at certain groups such as Catholic politicians. If anything, it will make politicians, and all of us, reflect in our hearts whether we are making the right decisions in our lives. This sort of introspection will help us approach the altar with greater moral fortitude. It may also bring more people to the sacrament of penance.
Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, who Catholics in the Green Bay Diocese now know as apostolic administrator, shared a story about reverence to the Eucharist during a homily several years ago.
When he was rector of the North American College in Rome, Archbishop Dolan said that seminarians would give tours of St. Peter's Basilica, highlighting the wonderful architecture and art that is present at the basilica. The tours end at the eucharistic chapel, and people are invited to spend time in silent adoration, said the archbishop.
One day, a seminarian gave tourists from Japan the usual tour. These tourists knew nothing about Christianity, so when the tour concluded at the eucharistic chapel, the seminarian was challenged to sum up what Catholics believe about the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, said Archbishop Dolan.
"He invited people to go in and pray. They all left, but one man who stood back and said
(to the seminarian), 'Did I hear you say that you really believe that this Jesus, whom you believe is divine, is really and truly present in that piece of bread?'" Archbishop Dolan said. "He pointed to the Eucharist and said, 'That is the greatest work of art in this entire basilica.'
"It took that man, who had absolutely no understanding of Christianity, to be able to comprehend the awesome mystery of the holy Eucharist," said Archbishop Dolan.
"I propose to you ... that what our Lord is giving us is a chance to renew our faith and to say with that Japanese pilgrim, this is indeed the greatest work of art that we have. It's
time for us again to grow in our participation with child-like faith and awe in the mystery of the Lord's presence to us in the holy Eucharist. It's time for us to thank God for this tremendous work of art, this modern miracle that we have in the holy Eucharist."
Let's take the archbishop's inspiring words to heart. Let's enter our churches this weekend with a renewed faith in that mystery of Christ's presence in the Eucharist.