This past year our son celebrated his First Communion. His initial reaction was that it tasted pretty good! He does have a discerning palate, so we are fortunate that he liked the taste of the blessed host. I hope it tastes good to him every time he goes to Mass, but more than that I hope he begins to reflect that in receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, he is called to BE Jesus to others, probably beginning with his little sister.
I took the lead in his sacramental preparation and noticed that there was heavy emphasis on the doctrinal and devotional formation, and virtually nothing on the implications that receiving the Eucharist has in loving our neighbor. Do I want our children to understand the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist? Of course, and I hope he can grow in his devotion to this particular Sacrament over the course of his life; this is truly a life-long endeavor for all of us. However, if this formation comes at the expense of his learning what receiving the Eucharist demands of us, something fundamental is lacking in that formation.
You may have heard that this June the United States Bishop’s began a three year long Eucharistic Revival. What exactly is a Eucharistic Revival? I like this line for the website: “The Revival is a grassroots movement of Catholics, each responding to the gift of the Eucharist in their own way.” I appreciate this definition because it seems to be an invitation to each of us to reflect and respond, and gives space for people to respond in a variety of ways. I think it is also a particularly poignant time to reflect on this, as we have come out of a pandemic time when we were not able to celebrate the Mass and come together as the Body of Christ in this most important way.
What might the reflection look like? Perhaps some of us may review and reflect on the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, or perhaps how we might grow in our own devotion to the Eucharist. I know for myself sometimes the sacraments can grow a bit stale, especially if I have received them many times. Perhaps we might go beyond reflection and “into the concrete practice of love” that Pope Benedict called us to in one of his early writings as Pope.
I remember years ago in an RCIA presentation here (folks discerning if they want to join our Catholic Community), that in an older Rite the Mass was to begin “when the priest was ready.” In our newer Rite we begin “when the people have gathered.” I want our priests to be ready when we begin Mass, but what a beautiful reminder to all of us that the celebration of the Eucharist cannot even begin without us gathered as community!
We are in the midst of another busy fall here at the Basilica, and there is much that you can enter into. Faith formation classes have begun, RCIA continues to meet, small groups are gathering, and we have a great lineup of speakers coming over the next few months. All of these offerings are great, but our gatherings make most sense when they flow into and out of our Eucharistic celebration. Hopefully we can take advantage of this time and grow in our understanding and love of the Eucharist as individuals and as a community.