ArticlesDiscipleship Formation

Walking the Path: January 29, 2023

I wrote about the real presence in the Eucharist last week. In that article, I talked about research that was done by Pew Research Center in 2019. In their study, they found that only one-third of U.S. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is, truly, the body and blood of Christ. They also asked whether study participants even knew the Church’s teaching on transubstantiation (the word that is used for the transformation of the bread and wine into the Sacred Species). Most of the weekly Mass attendees reported that they knew the Church’s teaching on the issue, but almost half of those affirming their understanding, say that the bread and wine are mere symbols. For those that attend Mass monthly, yearly, or seldom, the numbers are quite abysmal.

I’m not a huge fan of focusing on the negative of any topic. When we do, we can get mired in the negativity and loose focus on any possible solutions, or ways of moving forward. Instead, I choose to focus on any bright spots. The one that stood out, for me, surrounded the fact that belief in the real presence increased with the individual’s level of education. Contrary to so many of my assumptions about college leading people away from the Church and belief in its teachings, the Pew study affirmed the opposite. What does that tell me? It tells me that, often, it is the fact that people just don’t know what they don’t know. How do we fix that? By spreading the word.  

So many aspects of the faith are difficult to explain because of the words used, or their underlying principles. The Eucharist is not. Why do we believe that the bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Jesus? We believe because he said so. What’s another reason that we believe? We believe in this great leap of faith because it is the same leap of faith that the first disciples were expected to take, as recorded in the scriptures. As with so many things in life, spreading the message of the Eucharist will be simple, but not easy. How, then, can we spread the word? –Through our own witness!  Here is an example:

Joe Paprocki is a well-known leader in religious formation circles. In an article entitled, “Teaching the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” He shares the story of his mother’s first “lesson” that helped to prepare her to “see with her heart,” making her predisposed to receive the sacrament. He begins, “One of the best examples I ever heard of someone doing this effectively was the woman who introduced my mom to the Eucharist when my mom was 13 years old. Mom grew up under very difficult circumstances, and her parents never had her baptized or brought to the sacraments. Her best friend at the time, however, was a very devout Catholic, and Mom tagged along with her (Ramona) wherever she went—including church. My mom grew curious about the Communion Rite and asked Ramona’s mom, ‘What do you go up there to get?’ Ramona’s mom broke into a big smile and said, ‘Oh, Babe (my mom’s nickname), the greatest gift you can ever dream of receiving!’” 

May we all pray for the grace to have the ability to spread that message!