By Deacon Frank Agnoli
For The Catholic Messenger
The Eucharist, Jesus Christ’s gift of his very self and revelation of God’s love for every person, lies at the heart of our Catholic faith. Celebrating Eucharist makes us who we are, graces us to live Eucharistic lives. After more than two years under the shadow of a pandemic, the bishops of the United States have invited the Church to join together in a multi-year “Eucharistic Revival.” The bishops hope that, “by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist” the Church in the U.S. will be renewed and Catholics across the country will be “healed, converted, formed and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist — and sent out in mission ‘for the life of the world.’” The diocesan phase, or first year, of the revival begins on June 19 this year, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
In his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that the Eucharist is a mystery to be believed, celebrated and lived. These three ways of looking at the Eucharist are interconnected; you can’t split them apart from each other.
A mystery to be believed
As Catholics, we are heirs to a deep and rich theology of the Eucharist. So part of the revival is to help all of us come to a greater knowledge and appreciation of what it is that we believe about the Eucharist. When we speak of the Real Presence of Christ, what does that mean? When we celebrate Eucharist, what is it that we are doing? How is our belief related to how we pray and how we live? To that end, this is the first in a series of monthly articles that will share that richness with all of us. The authors of the series — Ella Johnson from St. Ambrose University in Davenport and David Pitt from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, are theologians with expertise in the areas of liturgy, spirituality and the sacraments.
A mystery to be celebrated
“Eucharist” is not only a noun, it is a verb; it is what we do. As this revival unfolds, we will explore what it means to celebrate and express our faith through the Mass, through eucharistic adoration and in our own devotional lives. For example, the revival in our diocese will open with the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, followed by a eucharistic procession to St. Anthony Church in Davenport. The clergy of the diocese will be invited to take part and each parish will have the opportunity to send a certain number of representatives. Liturgy celebrated well can deepen faith; the opposite is also true. So part of the challenge of the revival to all of us who exercise liturgical ministries — laity and clergy alike — is how to proclaim our faith more clearly by celebrating with deeper care and devotion.
A mystery to be lived
Living the Eucharist takes us beyond the walls of the church building. Having encountered Christ in and through the Eucharist — including through the word proclaimed and the community gathered — we are, hopefully, transformed. Transformed, we are sent to live eucharistic lives of self-sacrificial love for the sake of the other — where we will also encounter Christ. That’s the proof that we have really celebrated Eucharist: the witness of our lives through the works of charity and justice; our sharing of the Good News in word and deed. For example, we will explicitly link the celebration of the Eucharist with social outreach by asking participants in this summer’s eucharistic procession to bring loaves of bread to share with local ministries that serve those who are poor or experiencing homelessness.
Proclaiming the truth of our faith. Celebrating that faith through the beauty of our liturgies. Living the faith through the good that we do by our works of charity and justice, of accompaniment and advocacy. Truth, beauty, goodness. These attract; these evangelize. Over the next few months, we will be sharing more information with you through new webpages, social media posts and, of course, the Messenger. From our largest city parishes to our smallest country churches, from our homes to our schools, we are all being invited on this journey of eucharistic renewal and revival. Please do come along!