When the Bishops of the United States put together the Eucharistic Revival it was in response to the many questions of the Faithful that became apparent with the spread of Covid and the closing of many Churches. These issues had existed before the epidemic, but were not as apparent in the general context of the Catholic Community. Yet with the closing of Churches and the cancellation of the communal celebration of the Sunday Liturgy these issues and struggles in the Catholic Faith now became more noticeable to our whole Catholic Community. Added to this issue over the past twenty years we have had to deal with the Scandal of the abuse situations which is still alive for many Catholics, the more disruptive divisions among Catholics in what is authentically Catholic, and again the Covid-19 disease, and simple doubt of the relevance of faith in the present world based on social values. The Church has withstood each of these throughout our very human history. But today we confront all of them, all at once. Our response in this moment is pivotal.
What are the issues that were raised by the faithful which even though they had been there for many years as a struggle for the Church since its founding under the Apostles, now were even more visible? The first two are mingled together like the water and wine in the precious chalice. They are the belief that it is not necessary to gather together on Sundays as a physically present and responding community to grow in our love and understanding of God. Followed by the importance of the reception of so significant and central a gift as the Body and Blood of Christ to transform and nourish us. Profusely fathom that these two special actions have grounded and stabilized the Catholic family from the days of the Apostles. Yet these two choices: lack of attendance, and the power of transformation by Christ Body and Blood, were made easier because of the absence of belief that in the Mass Jesus made himself present through the consecration of the Bread and Wine into the “Real Presence” of Christ. Statements and arguments such as: I can pray at home, it is God and me, what good does such a boring thing as Mass do for me took on more credence! Put all of this in the context of the abuse situations that demoralized many of the faithful, also of the two sides of the church fighting with each other as shown in an example published recently on the internet “A Roman Catholic Nun was shown a vision by God that Pope Benedict XVI was the last of the true Popes” and coming off Covid, people said I’m not going back. Hence the Power of belief in “Real Presence” now becomes everything! What once was one of many important binding forces for the average Catholic has now become the only.
<With that the Bishops set up years for three different ways to advance this sacred Revival of the Blessed Eucharist of the Body and Blood of Jesus and his “Real Presence” in the consecrated bread and wine. The starting date of June 19, 2022, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, was chosen for our three years of Revival because of the centrality of the “Body and Blood of Jesus” on this special Sunday.
Then they picked three different areas of concentration for each year.
There is a Fourth Celebration to begin the third Year. An Activity that will happen at the end of the second year and hopefully for many it may be a wonderful and empowering journey to help to go on mission as the Bishops foresee. As we get closer we will let our parishioners know more of this activity both at the Archdiocese level for Milwaukee and the National Level. St. Francis de Sales Parishes plans on being participator in this event.
NATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS
July 17 – 21, 2024
At this historic event, more than 80,000 Catholics of all ages will gather in Indianapolis to reconsecrate their hearts to the source and summit of our faith.
Get ready for the Catholic event of a generation! Exactly one year from today (July 17), Catholics from all over the U.S. will gather in Indianapolis for a transformative encounter with Jesus Christ and his Church. Together, we will ask him to revive our hearts, our Church, and our world, launching us into a new chapter of missionary faith. The National Eucharistic Congress promises to be a defining moment for the Church in America. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity for grace!
Join the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on a 5-day Pilgrimage to this historic event, July 17-21, 2024 at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee will travel as a group by coach bus for the full schedule of events. The cost of the trip, which varies based on your choice of accommodation, includes transportation, lodging, Congress Pass, and all event fees (meals not included).
Learn more about how the Lord would bless you through these five powerful days by visiting these links:
In his article “Separate Challenges” (September 2021), Peter Steinfels, who writes that we need to get rid of the terms of conservative and liberal Catholics which pits the two sides against each other for power within the church and instead believes that like the early Catholic Community, we need to see how as in the Church of the first seven hundred years there are many ways to truly be authentically Catholic, in which we differ in what we concentrate or love of particular Catholic Doctrine and Theology which are all orthodox teachings and theologies. In his article he argues that the U.S. bishops do not need another document on the Eucharist but rather a strategy on the Eucharist. Many bishops agree, and have therefore proposed developing a strategy designed to lead to a Eucharistic revival in our Church. The essential starting point must be the needs of our people as they live in this present moment and culture. Context is key. Every effort should be made to avoid an ahistorical presentation of the Eucharist that is abstracted from daily life. It may be great to go back to 1200 and look how a ritual was done at that period in time, but would be out of place in the present world for various reasons. With that in mind, I borrowed five themes which I have read in various articles that might be considered in shaping a process that invites dialogue with the people we serve and reflects the pastoral, catechetical, and formational challenges that are specific to the U.S. context today:
The first is the imperative to worship; the second is the necessity of the Eucharist in our lives; the third and one too many neglect which is the Eucharist as call to participation; the fourth based on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: The Eucharist as model of self-giving; and finally the most essential following the apostolic tradition: The Eucharist as the sacrament of the Lord’s abiding presence.
In Catholic tradition, the Eucharist is the central act of worship that sustains the life of faith. Worship itself, however, is often marginalized in a culture that is driven by deep-seated commitments to individual freedom, self-fulfillment, and self-expression. In practice, Americans, including many Catholics, view worship as one choice among many, something one does if one so desires, or has time.
Cardinal Francis George, OMI of Chicago suggested that many people, again including Catholics, put Sunday worship on par with other recreational choices or tasks to complete. If one has the time and inclination, one will go to church—or, if not, choose to go shopping, do laundry, or watch football. If Eucharistic formation, catechesis, and revival are to happen, then the Church and its leaders must address this fundamental question of worship: Is it, in fact, optional or is it necessary?
The words of the Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer come to mind. He said, in effect, that if we don’t worship God, we will worship something else, and perhaps, tragically, we will worship ourselves. In Catholic catechesis, the Sunday obligation has traditionally had its roots in the Third Commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.” Of course, keeping holy the Lord’s Day entails worship. But perhaps the obligation and, even more, the necessity of Sunday worship is more tied to the First Commandment: “You shall not have false gods before me.” We will inevitably worship because there is something in our nature that moves us to awe and surrender before something greater than ourselves. The question, however, is what or whom will we worship? In a self-referential age plagued by all kinds of addictions and a (not unrelated) thick culture of consumerism, our worship can easily steer us away from God. The ever-present danger in this moment is idolatry. Consequently, if we are to spare ourselves the entrapments of the many idols that mark our lives, then worship of God is necessary. Indeed, there is a Eucharistic imperative. And this leads to a second and related theme of the vital importance of the Eucharist.
Americans might be able to comprehend the great importance of worship, but to characterize the Eucharist as a matter of life and death may seem to be an excessively dramatic description. In fact, the words of Jesus support this vital sense of the Eucharist and Eucharistic worship: “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day'” (John 6:53–54). We need to take Jesus at his word. Any Eucharistic formation, catechesis, and revival must have a strong biblical base in the words and actions of Jesus. This passage from John 6 illustrates the importance of staying close to the Word as a means of staying close to the Eucharist. And the words of Jesus about the bread of life clearly resonate in these trying days when death-dealing forces appear to have the upper hand. Think of the pandemic, the street violence and killing that plagues our cities, the disrespect for human life in its most vulnerable stages and conditions, and the specter of war that haunts the world. An essential catechetical task today is to draw a line from the deadly challenges we face today to the Eucharist as the bread of life. If we do so, then it is no exaggeration to say that the Eucharist is a matter of life and death.
The heart of the Eucharistic prayers we hear at Mass includes four actions that we are to perform in memory of Jesus: he took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it. The Eucharist is not fundamentally a static reality. In a primary sense, the Eucharist is action or an event, the Lord’s action in his Paschal Mystery, that summons our participation. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Pope St. Pius X identified the essential nature of liturgical participation. He said that the first and foremost source of the Christian life is active participation (actuosa participatio) in the liturgy. This summons to active participation developed across the twentieth century and culminated in the directions offered in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (SC). The Council identified the internal and external aspects of participation and its dimensions as active, conscious, full, and fruitful. Some sixty years after the promulgation of SC, many Catholics neither know their call to active participation in the Eucharistic mysteries nor have they made an intentional commitment to it. At best, active participation seems to mean having a particular role to play in the liturgy (greeter, server, lector, Communion minister).
The full and conscious participation that means internally joining ourselves to the death and resurrection of the Lord celebrated in the Eucharist seems to have eluded many Catholics. In place of active participation, some seem to view their engagement with Eucharistic worship in a number of other ways: the fulfillment of an obligation, a meditative moment in their otherwise busy lives, or as an opportunity to receive inspiration or encouragement. How many of our Catholic brothers and sisters seem to conceive of the liturgy as a spectator sport? How often do we hear, “But I don’t get anything out of it”? The passivity suggested by such an approach is the opposite of active participation. Any effective Eucharistic catechesis, formation, or revival must take into account not only the Eucharist in itself but also our response to the Eucharist. That means focusing on the understanding of active participation in the Eucharist.
Active participation must also be fruitful participation. As we join ourselves to the self-sacrificing love of Jesus manifested on the Cross, we are called to replicate his sacrifice in our daily lives. When we do that, we live out his mission through our decisions, actions, and relationships. The sacrifice of Jesus encountered in the Eucharist is both the model for our lives and what enables our self-sacrificing love.
Too few Catholics truly grasp that the Eucharist necessarily leads us out of the liturgy into ordinary life, where we enact what we have celebrated. Our context may be marriage and family, the workplace, the wider community, and even the natural world itself. More commonly, people tend to view the Eucharistic celebration as self-contained, whose lessons and imperatives can be safely left in church until next Sunday. Yet true participation in the Eucharist necessarily shapes our moral choices, orienting us to serve those in need, and guiding us to strengthen relationships. Americans tend to live largely compartmentalized lives. We feel comfortable separating realms of living—for example, the private, public, religious, civic, financial, or recreational. The Eucharist, however, calls us to an integrated life marked by the same self-sacrificing love that is celebrated as the great mystery of our faith. In effect, the challenge of Eucharistic catechesis, formation, and revival in this context is really a challenge of imagination. We are invited to reimagine our lives as oriented toward unity and integration through the Eucharist. It is for this reason that great care should be given not to make the Body and Blood of Christ into an object we control. No, active participation in Eucharistic worship is rather the primary way in which we experience our transformation in Christ.
Eucharistic adoration is a legitimate development of piety in the Western Church with many benefits for those who engage in it. Adoration highlights the abiding presence of the Lord in his sacrament. And with that sense of presence, we also grasp his availability to us. As a spiritual practice, adoration offers an opportunity for quiet and meditative prayer focused on the Lord present in his sacrament. In recent decades, this form of prayer has gained followers in the United States for whom it has become a very important dimension of their spirituality. This devotional practice is a powerful and transforming ritual of our Church, but it also needs to be understood in the context and direction of the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy of the whole community and hence to avoid a narrowness of the Eucharist and even some distorted perceptions of the sacrament itself that come from this private time of prayer and meditation.
An example, without the proper context, Eucharistic adoration can privatize one’s relationship to the sacrament and to the Lord himself. It is between God and me! Which is very comforting, but constrains the Great Commandment of Jesus to Love God and Neighbor.
We understand that Adoration is in many ways can and should be personal, it cannot be merely private and authentically Eucharistic at the same time. Many Adorational prayer books highly stress the communal aspect of what you have received in Adoration must be brought back into the family and community in which you reside and work. Similarly, adoration cannot “objectify” the Eucharist, making it a static reality. Adoration must come from and lead to the Eucharistic celebration (Sunday and Daily Mass). It is never detached or entirely separated from the liturgical celebration. These concerns about this great gift of Eucharistic adoration also apply to various forms of popular piety that have a Eucharistic dimension. Catechesis and formation must help the faithful see the link between the Eucharistic liturgy and their own devotional practices. That same catechesis and formation should also encourage these manifestations of popular religiosity to maintain and even strengthen their communal or community character. Catholic leaders, including bishops, should not be afraid to give this matter the time and attention it deserves, as our singular aim must be serving the people of God in a way that builds up the Body of Christ.
Peter Steinfels is right in some ways: we do need a strategy for celebrating and supporting a Eucharistic revival over these three years. Yet that begins with addressing the particular cultural-historical context of American culture as the early Church addressed the cultural-historical context of a Jewish Messiah and God who was grounded in a Jewish cultural-historical context as seen in the words and images presented by Jesus himself in a Greco-Roman world. Knowing our own history and the development of Church teaching and doctrine in a non-Jewish world requires that we raise questions and tech catechesis that belong to this moment in American life. But if that strategy is to be successful, it must be grounded in a robust and sound theology grounded in the Apostolic Succession which reminds us what the Eucharist means, not only for our practice of worship, but also for how we enter and interact with the world the Lord made for us.
In everyday language, we call a “symbol” something that points beyond itself to something else, often to several other realities at once. The transformed bread and wine that are the Body and Blood of Christ are not merely symbols because they truly are the Body and Blood of Christ. They do not point to something else, they are Jesus Christ present to the Community. As St. John Damascene wrote: “The bread and wine are not a foreshadowing of the body and blood of Christ—By no means! —but the actual glorified body of the Lord, because the Lord Himself said: ‘This is my body’; not ‘a foreshadowing of my body’ but ‘my body,’ and not ‘a foreshadowing of my blood’ but ‘my blood’. At the same time, however, it is important to recognize that the Body and Blood of Christ come to us in the Eucharist in a sacramental form. In other words, Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine, not in his own proper form. We cannot presume to know all the reasons behind God’s actions. God uses, however, the symbolism inherent in the eating of bread and the drinking of wine at the natural level to illuminate the deeper meaning of what is being accomplished in the Eucharist through Jesus Christ.
There are various ways in which the symbolism of eating bread and drinking wine discloses the meaning of the Eucharist. For example, just as natural food gives nourishment to the body, so the Eucharistic food gives spiritual nourishment. Furthermore, the sharing of an ordinary meal establishes a certain communion among the people who share it; in the Eucharist, the People of God share a meal that brings them into communion not only with each other but with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Similarly, as St. Paul tells us, the single loaf that is shared among many during the Eucharistic meal is an indication of the unity of those who have been called together by the Holy Spirit as one body, the Body of Christ (1 Cor 10:17).
To take another example, the individual grains of wheat and individual grapes have to be harvested and to undergo a process of grinding or crushing before they are unified as bread and as wine. Because of this, bread and wine point to both the union of the many that takes place in the Body of Christ and the suffering undergone by Christ, a suffering that must also be embraced by his disciples. Much more could be said about the many ways in which the eating of bread and drinking of wine symbolize what God does for us through Christ, since symbols carry multiple meanings and connotations. But most important the Brad and Wine, as Body and Blood may have symbolic meanings behind them, but the Body and Blood present is the “Real Presence” of Christ. Present to his people in all ways possible.