While other sacraments point to Jesus and bring his blessings, only the Eucharist is Christ…
Hopeful stories of reverence before the Real Presence
If we truly believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, how would we change?
I’ve been pondering this question over the last couple months after the Pew Research Center released its poll about the lack of belief in the True Presence. Having grown up as a cradle Catholic with a firm foundation — including the witness of my parents and dynamic, reverent priests — the truth of the Eucharist has always been my reality.
Yet many have not been so blessed. Either their education was lacking, or this source and summit of our faith never spread from their head and settled deep in their heart. Whatever the case may be, the reality is that some people in our churches don’t truly believe they are receiving Christ on Sundays. And many have already left. So, what can we do?
In light of these revelations, I’ve been blessed and challenged by the witness of my two parish priests. Only a week or so after the Pew findings were shared, I was at a Mass for young adults in the area. My pastor was the priest assisting with adoration, confession and Mass that evening. As he began his homily, he explained how there was a group of young neighborhood kids playing outside the church; they had been there for the last hour. What my priest said and did during that homily is not an experience I will likely forget. Essentially, he told us that if we truly believed Jesus is present in the Eucharist, then we would rush to the doors and invite the children to partake in the Mass.
And that is exactly what he did.
Within moments, the back few pews were filled with half a dozen kids ranging from about 8 to 14 years old. Father gave them the brief synopsis of our Faith — that the Church was their home and that they were always welcome; that we believe Jesus died for our sins and left us his presence in the Eucharist so he would always be with us; and that if they wanted to become a part of this parish family, he would gladly walk with them and their parents on that journey.
Some of these kids had never heard about Jesus or barely knew more than his name. But they stayed for nearly the entire Mass, encountering him even if they didn’t understand.
If we truly believed Christ is waiting to be loved in the Eucharist, who would we rush to invite?
Weeks later, I noticed the reverence of our new associate pastor when giving the Eucharist to a parishioner ministering to the homebound. After bestowing the pyx containing the host in her hand, the priest genuflected, honoring Our Lord as he was brought to his people outside of the church walls. My priest knew he wasn’t just giving her a piece of bread to be delivered; he was giving her the Way, the Truth and the Life, and his actions deeply reflected this understanding.
This same priest has also helped with the young adult Mass, and after reception of Communion, he has begun this practice of singing a beloved hymn: “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.”
When we receive the Eucharist or even pass a Catholic Church, do we share this heart of reverence?
Those of us who are at Church week-in and week-out need to ask ourselves: What can we do to actively cultivate a heart of reverence, a heart of true belief?
Priests must continue to be leaders in reaffirming the deep truth of Christ’s body and blood present in the Mass and in the tabernacle, and they are. But the laity are also called to step up. Mothers and fathers have passed on the Faith to their children since the dawn of Christianity; children likewise have evangelized their parents. But a Catholic culture where faith is assumed and not made the center of one’s life is a Catholic culture that fizzles out, as we are witness to.
My prayer is that we are all transformed to have a deeper love for the Eucharist in whichever way that means for our life.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor.