A simpler program for the Eucharistic revival
Last year, on the feast of Corpus Christi, the US bishops’ conference launched a four-year program aimed at a National Eucharistic Revival, designed to “restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States.” The goal of the program is commendable; every faithful Catholic recognizes the urgent need for a recovery of reverence for the Eucharist. But I suggest that our bishops are missing the most obvious means toward that end—the quickest, most direct route to the desired goal.
The bishops’ program offers a number of useful resources: documents, podcasts, online courses, conferences, meetings, discussions, videos—all intended to increase understanding of the Eucharist. Unfortunately most American Catholics will never use those resources; in fact, most will never be made aware of their existence.
Many readers will probably be surprised to learn that we are already nearly a full year into the revival program. The results are not yet evident at the parish level. Since it is in parishes that we ordinarily celebrate the Eucharist, shouldn’t the primary emphasis be there as well? If the goal is to revive devotion to, and reverence for, the Eucharist, why not make it the first order of business to foster devotion and reverence in our regular celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy? Rather than talking about devotion to the Eucharist, why not show devotion, and thus encourage others to do the same?
Herewith some simple ways—most of them obvious—in which our pastors could encourage devotion to the Eucharist, and discourage irreverence:
- Encourage the practice of receiving Communion kneeling—a traditional posture of reverence—and on the tongue. If the bishop favors this practice, he might announce that it will be normative whenever he celebrates Mass.
- Encourage priests and ushers to watch carefully, to ensure that communicants consume the Blessed Sacrament.
- Encourage the faithful to receive Communion from consecrated hands. Discourage the routine reliance on extraordinary ministers—particularly when there are enough priests and deacons on hand to distribute Communion.
- Encourage those present to remain for a few minutes after Mass in prayerful thanksgiving. Discourage social gatherings in the pews after Mass. (Encourage parishioners to take their conversations outside, or to the church basement.)
- Encourage regular Confession. Discourage the assumption that everyone will receive Communion at every Mass. Encourage ushers to be sensitive to the privacy of those who do not come forward for Communion. Discourage spontaneous “first Communions” by non-Catholics at weddings and funerals.
- Encourage parishioners to realize that they must not receive the Eucharist if they are not in a state of grace. Discourage the reception of Communion by public figures who are causing scandal.
- Encourage a spirit of recollection during the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Discourage haste. Encourage silence. Discourage constant background music.
- Encourage the perception that the sanctuary is the “holy of holies, set apart from the rest of the world and even from the rest of the church (by an altar rail, perhaps?). Discourage lay people from clustering around the altar during or after Mass.
- Encourage the use of Eucharistic Prayer #1, the Roman Canon, which is more closely connected to the tradition of Temple sacrifice and offers a greater prayerful exposition of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Discourage Eucharistic Prayer #2, which was written in haste and seems to be favored simply because it is shorter. (If a priest has a valid reason for needing to finish Mass quickly, suggest a shorter homily.)
- Encourage priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem, so that the focus of attention is on the altar rather than the celebrant. Discourage priests from making themselves the center of attention.
- Encourage every organic practice of devotion to the Eucharist (kneeling, genuflecting, fasting, etc.), even if it is not obligatory. Discourage any public denigration of Eucharistic piety. If a priest or theologian (or bishop or cardinal) says that we put too much emphasis on the Eucharist, correct him!
- Encourage the placement of the tabernacle in the center of the sanctuary, reflecting the centrality of the Eucharistic Presence. Discourage the use of a prominent central “presider’s chair” that overshadows the Blessed Sacrament.
- Encourage Eucharistic processions. Discourage liturgical abuses. In fact, take stern disciplinary action against priests who are guilty of liturgical abuses, to show the faithful that these are serious offenses.
- Encourage Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and Eucharistic Adoration. Start with just an hour of adoration each week, and watch the practice grow.
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Posted by: vboast4348 -
May. 22, 2023 9:16 AM ET USA
Yes to all these. Please add encourage the Nicene Creed on Sundays (its not de rigeur in our city). I think your last point is the most important, to encourage Eucharistic Adoration, with a roster for a set day. The graces abound and young people especially love coming. (Think Bl.Carlo Acutis, Bl. Georgio Frassati)...
Posted by: jalsardl5053 -
May. 12, 2023 8:02 PM ET USA
Ditch Traditionis custodes. Stop treating Vatican II as anything other than a pastoral council. People will sort it out and go where they find it most edifying which is far more important than trying to jam "unity" down our collective Catholic throats. Stop escalating a hermeneutic of discontinuity. If the great difference in liturgy is suspected to cause "division", spend a little time pointing out the difference between liturgy and the heart of the liturgy: worthy reception of the Eucharist.
Posted by: DanS -
May. 12, 2023 6:54 PM ET USA
Praise the Lord, let it be so!!
Posted by: miketimmer499385 -
May. 11, 2023 10:28 AM ET USA
I'd like to add one more which probably will not gain widespread support. But, quit asking the congregation to sing during and immediately after its reception of the Eucharist. This is a time of reflection following the communal participation in the Mass of all that leads to personal prayer and meditation. Let the choir or organist alone provide appropriate background music at this solemn time. I have seen it and wish it were practiced at all Masses I've attended.
Posted by: rameyersjr9828 -
May. 11, 2023 8:28 AM ET USA
Posted by: Gramps -
May. 10, 2023 11:24 PM ET USA
Excellent suggestions, Phil Lawler! You are right. What is the holdup for attention to these ideas at the parish level?
Posted by: nix898049 -
May. 10, 2023 7:29 PM ET USA
My priest has remodeled our Church after 25 years. Overall very nicely done. In the sanctuary the altar is now elevated on a dias making ad Orientum impossible. The provider's chair is also on a platform. The tabernacle was moved to a shelf right of center and the reconciliation room has been turned into an adoration chapel. Communion rails may be coming. Win some, lose some? Your suggestions are very good.