Lost in the controversies surrounding the recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was a most wonderful initiative, namely, a multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project. Whatever divisions exist among the bishops, all of us agree on the need for a comprehensive effort to revivify faith in the Eucharist in every diocese of our country. Accordingly, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, mapped out for us a way forward. It is neither a mere program nor merely a series of events.
Instead, it is an initiative, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in which Catholics all around the United States, in every diocese and parish and nationally, will bear witness to the truth, beauty and goodness of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. In the joy of the New Evangelization, our fellow Catholics – lay faithful, religious and clergy – will renew the faith of church-going Catholics and to revive the Eucharistic faith of those who have disaffiliated. You can read more about this wonderful initiative at www.usccb.org.
Here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, we may be slightly ahead of the curve. Early this year, when we were still in the grip of COVID-19, I held a series of Zoom meetings with the priests of the archdiocese and another with the deacons. In those meetings, many expressed a deep desire to strengthen Eucharistic faith here in the archdiocese. They spoke with great concern about declining belief in the Real Presence (a decline confirmed by professional polling), and by declining Mass attendance, long before the pandemic. And while the prevalence of livestreamed Masses was rightly hailed as an advancement that is here to stay, many wondered aloud whether even church-going Catholics would return to pews once the restrictions were lifted.
Reflecting on their advice and counsel, I asked Deacon Christopher Yeung, my delegate for the Western Vicariate, to put together a team to address the concerns expressed by my co-workers. The result was “The Year of the Eucharist,” which we are observing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore from Corpus Christi 2021 until Corpus Christi 2022 (www.archbalt.org/eucharist). During the year ahead, we hope to begin the process of renewing and reviving the great treasure of our Eucharistic faith, a treasure we hold in common. We want to deepen and enrich the Eucharistic faith of those who regularly practice the faith.
At the same time, we want to till the soil and replant the seeds of Eucharistic faith among those who no longer practice the faith and among those who are searching for the truth.
Like the USCCB Eucharistic Revival Project, the Year of the Eucharist is not merely a program that will run its course and fade into history. Rather, this is our way of getting ready to participate wholeheartedly in the national project. It is our way of re-igniting “fully active and conscious participation” in the Eucharistic liturgy, our way of fostering a personal encounter with the Lord, our way of strengthening our unity, our way of renewing our mission of evangelization and charity, a mission firmly rooted in the Eucharist.
During the year ahead, we will reflect on the various ways in which Christ is present in the celebration of Holy Mass: 1) In the liturgy of the Word – when the Scriptures are proclaimed, it is Christ who speaks. 2) In the worshipping assembly – where two or three or gathered, Christ is in their midst. 3) In the priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass – he does so in the Person of Christ. 4) Above all, in the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ offered for our salvation. We can begin this journey of rediscovery right now. As the summer progresses, the Sunday Gospel readings will be from the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John. What an opportunity for preaching, teaching and prayerful reflection on this great mystery of Christ’s self-giving love.