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Let the Eucharistic Revival begin!

Archbishop Wenski's column for the May 2022 edition of the Florida Catholic

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In “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s novel of an imperfect priest caught in the violence of the anti-Catholic Mexican Revolution of the 1920s, the protagonist runs from village to village a wanted man: His parishioners want him for the sacraments; his persecutors for death in front of a firing squad.

Such is the power and the glory of the Most Blessed Sacrament – evoking both love and contempt. And this is not only the stuff of novels; for real life is more dramatic than fiction. Since the time of Nero, when Christians in Rome retreated to the catacombs to celebrate the Mass, enemies of the Church knew that to prevail in the fight against her they had to separate the people from the Mass.

Mass attendance is the primary indicator of “Catholic identity” – in other words, going to Mass is what makes us Catholic – or in the more erudite words of the Second Vatican Council, the Eucharist “is the source and the summit of Christian life.” For this reason, pastors of the Church continually insist on the obligation of the faithful to attend Mass on the Lord’s Day. This is a grave obligation that binds all Catholics – and this obligation is easy to understand if we remember how vital Sunday is for the Christian life.

Yet for some time now, a major concern of bishops and many others has been the declining belief in and lack of understanding of the Eucharist among Catholics. For this reason, the Church in the United States is about to embark on a three-year-long “Eucharistic Revival.”

“The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” a pastoral letter approved by the full body of bishops in November 2021, will serve as a foundation for this Eucharistic Revival which hopefully will engage Catholics throughout the country in deepening their faith in the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Revival will culminate in a national Eucharistic Congress in July 2024 in Indianapolis.

The Holy Eucharist – the Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Most Blessed Sacrament – is God’s gift for the life of the world. As God once fed the Hebrews who wandered in the desert in search of the Promised Land, God gives us the Body and Blood of Christ, “manna” of the New Covenant, and the “indispensable food that sustains us as we cross the desert of this world, dried by ideological and economic systems that do not promote life, but repress it; a world in which the logic of power and possession dominates, instead of the logic of service and love; a world in which the culture of violence and death often triumphs.” (Pope Benedict)

This miracle was anticipated on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper and was realized on Good Friday in Jesus’ sacrificial gift: the gift of his Body broken for us and the gift of his Blood shed for us and for the salvation of the world. This miracle is continued through all time – until he comes – by the work of the Holy Spirit in every Mass in which Jesus’ gift of self is always newly present.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 AD to 430 AD) composed this Eucharistic hymn that sums up why the Blessed Sacrament is so important for us Catholics. Let the revival begin!

O sacrament of devotion!
O sign of unity!
O bond of charity!
Most sweet Jesus, how happy is the one who is full of you,
how happy who is drunk with you.
That person wants nothing, but the love of Jesus.
Pierce, sweet Lord Jesus,
Pierce the inmost parts
of my most sweet soul
with the joyous and healthful wound of Thy love;
So that it adores only you, only desires you,
and may always adhere to you
and may possess you forever.