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Big hopes for the National Eucharistic Revival

Extending over three or more years, the Revival will get underway in dioceses in the summer of 2022 and continue at the diocesan level until the following summer.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis celebrates the Eucharist May 8, 2021, at the Cathedral of St. Paul in. St. Paul, Minn. He is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Nearly buried last month in the hubbub surrounding the U.S. bishops’ debate over who is and isn’t worthy to receive communion was a colloquy between two bishops concerning something that may prove of far greater importance in the long run.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul-Minneapolis had reported on plans for a project called the National Eucharistic Revival and was fielding questions. Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, a prominent media evangelist, urged that instead of starting next year, the project begin sooner because of the urgent need for it. Bishop Cozzens replied that dioceses could start earlier if they wished, but the revival needed careful planning if its impact was to be “lasting and deep.”

Both bishops were right. The need really is urgent. And one can only hope this project has significant results.

Familiar numbers underline the need. Fifty years ago nearly 60% of American Catholics attended Mass weekly, but by 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, the figure had dropped to little more than 21%. Not only that—recent survey results showed that two-thirds of all U.S. Catholics, and nearly a third of weekly Mass-attenders, do not believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.

Reacting to these disturbing figures, the bishops last year voted overwhelmingly in support of the Eucharistic Revival in hopes of promoting faith and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Bishop Cozzens, chairman of the planning committee, presented a progress report at the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

What is envisaged is at the very least ambitious. Extending over three or more years, the Revival will get underway in dioceses in the summer of 2022 and continue at the diocesan level until the following summer. The emphasis at this stage will be on the formation of priests and parish and young adult leaders, including training “lay eucharistic missionaries” who will carry the message into parishes. Among other events contemplated are diocesan “days of adoration” and diocesan eucharistic congresses.

Year two, from July 2023 to June 2024, will be devoted to carrying the Revival into parishes. Small-group leaders will be trained to head discussions among various age groups. Other parish activities are to include eucharistic adoration, sacramental confession, and Corpus Christi celebrations.

The high point of the third year will be a national eucharistic congress—the first of its kind in the United States since one in Philadelphia during the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. The search for a suitable site—probably in the Midwest or South—is now underway, Bishop Cozzens said. Overall, the project hopes to train and commission a hundred thousand “missionaries” to evangelize on behalf of the Revival.

A number of organizations and institutions have signed on as collaborators in the project including the Knights of Columbus, the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Our Sunday Visitor, Word on Fire, Hispanic and youth groups, and others.

Looking at all this, the first word that comes to mind is: big. It would be hard to recall any project undertaken by the American bishops in modern times comparable in scope.

But although bigness is no vice, neither is it in and of itself a virtue. And here is where Bishop Cozzens’ expressed hope for “lasting and deep” results is important. When the shouting is over, the success of the National Eucharistic Revival will be measured by how many American Catholics approach the Blessed Sacrament with stronger faith and deeper reverence. It deserves our prayers.


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About Russell Shaw 231 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, and, most recently, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity.

19 Comments

  1. We read: “The emphasis at this [later] stage will be on the formation of priests and parish and young adult leaders, including training “lay eucharistic missionaries” who will carry the message into parishes.”

    And what, pray tell, are “lay eucharistic missionaries”? Since in the Mass there is already a subliminal and sometimes intended confusion between mislabeled “Eucharistic Ministers” and the correctly identified “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion?” On the drawing boards, yet another possible slip-up in …”coherence”?

    It’s not without reason that recent popes have warned against “clericalization of the laity” (and “laicization of the priesthood”)…A term less likely to mislead yet another generation of young adult leaders might by “lay missionaries of the Eucharist”.

  2. A hundred thousand revival missionaries to apparently door to door educate on the Real Eucharistic Presence, I suppose to include a teaching presence in other available forums sounds ‘huge’ including Catholic media. It’s certainly worth an effort, however, it’s difficult to envision significant success without participation of the mainstay of doctrinal transmission, the priest presbyter or bishop from the pulpit. That’s where the lacuna of credibility among Catholic laity began and that’s where it may continue, or where it must be reversed. Our significant issue is there, the faith or lack thereof of the clergy. If bishops are serious they’ll necessarily require theological education offered firsthand by them to their presbyters. Either believe or change professions. Christ was either or regarding transmission of the faith. Just the way bishops of old, today the Feast of bishop St Bonaventure, and others who taught their clergy firsthand Augustine, Athanasius, Borromeo. Bishops were ordained primarily to teach and defend the faith. “From the Roman Empire’s recognition of Christianity in the 4th century until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the bishop was the chief pastor, priest, administrator, and ruler of his diocesan Christian community. He was the chief liturgical minister; he baptized, celebrated the Eucharist, ordained, absolved, controlled church finances, and settled matters of dispute” (Britannica). After the Reformation Catholicism retained the practice until being a bishop devolved into being primarily an administrator of properties rather than teacher of clergy and the faithful. If this effort as described by Russell Shaw were to be universal it requires direct involvement by the Pontiff. Historically, it’s always been the case of a prominent churchman who initiates effective change. My prayers for the success of this effort.

    • Real Presence is required affirmation, nevertheless devotedness is related to Eucharistic cohesion on the parish level. Amoris Laetitia gives benefit of the doubt to mitigation and personal conscience. Most priests do not believe they can make enquiries, nor instruct parishioners otherwise. The conundrum is how many bishops are willing to address that with clergy? Surely some, Paprocki for one who is outspoken. It comes down to worthiness and whether to follow what Amoris Laetitia proposes. Or abide by tradition. Unworthy reception is what actually mitigates faith in the Real Presence.

  3. A “National Eucharistic Revival” to accomplish what? So the newly-“Revived” can shuffle forward in a McDonald’s-like fast-food-line to stand proudly in front of the Sacred Species, stepping on the fragments left by the previous communicants, where they will then grab It with their hands and then pop It into their mouths where they can munch on It as though It is a taco chip?

    • The Pope and bishops are thoroughly modernist. They have rejected the Truth of the Faith wholesale. They cannot pass on what they don’t have. The same is true of much of the clergy. I am a priest. I know very many priests who do not believe in the Real Presence or the Mass as the one Sacrifice of Calvary. Until and unless the bishops and priests are re-educated this National Eucharistic is doomed to fail.

  4. Looking at all this, the first word that comes to (my)mind is:permission

    Unless and until the Government give approval the project will not go ahead and then with full agreement of the church.
    It remains afterall a nonessential service

  5. Clearly, the majority of Bishops REFUSE to do THEIR DUTY to ENFORCE CANON 915, and withold Holy Communion from abortionist politicians and others in flagrant public support of killing unborn children.

    The REFUSAL to do their duty speaks louder than any phony national project on “Eucharistic Coherence,” which is a junk-public-relations theme first concocted by the Argentinian Bishops, led by then-Cardinal Bergoglio, which then as now and will always signify nothing.

    Any Bishop such as the Bishop of Rome, who so brazenly orchestrates idolatry and hires frauds and sex coverup Cardinals and liberates and deputizes sex abusing Bishops to do his bidding, is going to be understood as phony, especially by young people who take Jesus seriously.

    What deserves prayers for success in Jesus’ Church are serious Bishops and priests. The others deserve prayers for conversion or overthrow.

    The USCCB has long chosen and implemented “The McCarrick Doctrine of the Eucharist,” solidifying this program in July 2004, when they lied to the themselves in USCCB assembly, and to the whole Church, pretending as McCarrick bid them to pretend, that the Pontiff John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger had not wrote to them directing them to enforcer Canon 915.

    They will lie to themselves and the Church about Holy Communion every day until they die, because they are false shepherds, unworthy themselves of the Eucharist they pretend to proclaim.

    • Well said. I fear, however, that the sheep and the goats have been split up cleanly. One can almost hear their steps as shearer and butcher approach.

  6. “Big Hope for the National Eucharistic Renewal.” I don’t see it happening. Nor do I think a document on Eucharistic Coherence will have any significant effect. I do not think I am pessimistic, but rather realistic.
    We are a Church of signs and symbols. In the 1950’s (and prior) we had kneeling for communion, reception on the tongue, only the priest’s consecrated hands touched the host, fasting from midnight, and more. Now we stand, receive in the hand, and pop the host into our mouth, with essentially no fasting, since it is only one hour before reception. That’s a problem only if you planned on bringing a snack to Mass. Unless we return to the signs and symbols that expressed the real presence, I don’t see Eucharistic congresses and Eucharistic documents doing much good.
    Also, so much of what I am reading on this issue seems to present the Mass as just a process for creating communion hosts. It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – an unbloody renewal of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That understanding has been lost also. Signs and symbols – a table, not an alter, a presider, not a priest.

  7. “Bishop Cozzens, chairman of the planning committee, presented a progress report at the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

    Where and how is the mystical body of Christ present in the modern, efficiently run, administrative body, and corporate franchise that is the Catholic Church in America as described in the article?

    Is this what Catholicism has become in the United States….just another corporation pushing sales and measuring results?

    If so, how sad.

  8. To me dogma on the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist begins with Chapter 6 of John’s gospel, “the bread of life discourse.” How anyone can read and truly absorb this passage without recognizing that Jesus was very serious when he said “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you,” repeated five times. Many followers could not accept this teaching and proclaimed “this saying is hard who can accept it? … As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” If Jesus only meant this symbolically, as a teacher, he would have been forced to go after them explaining the symbolic nature of his discourse. Jesus even asked the apostles “do you want to leave.” Peter, in all of his wisdom, answered, “Mater to whom do we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

    The next source of belief comes from reading the early Church Fathers, where it becomes apparent that the belief of the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was believed from the beginning of Church history and has been taught for over 2,000 years. How the Protestant reformation led to the dismissal of this belief by the majority of separated denominations is a major scandal.

  9. A majority of bishops agreed to a draft being made, then in fall they will meet and discuss it, then in spring maybe they will decide on one if the majority agrees to a draft??? For the love of Christ! We just need the bishops to speak out loud about the true Apostolic faith, the truth of Christ. Lord, have mercy on your church!

  10. It will be beneficial to faithful and maybe marginalized catholics but unless we have a new and different Pope by then it will mean very little to the Biden catholics who are not interested in what the Church has to say,especially when the present pope isn’t either. I ‘ll pray for it though. We could use a miracle.

  11. I’m in favor of anything that will improve peoples’ understanding and appreciation of the Holy Eucharist but I can’t help but notice the limited to almost non-existent role of the Bishop and the clergy. We already have too many lay ministers doing everything. We need and want to hear from our priests. We need them to be excited and promoting Adoration and Confession and proper reception practices for Holy Communion. Covid has only made those already lax reception practices worse.

    Secondly, will this qualify as ‘synodal’? If not, it might get the kibosh from Rome! But I will pray for success because I love the Church

  12. The recent beatification of the young Carlo Acutis had a very profound effect on me. He had cataloged and made a database of Eucharistic Miracles. I had not heard of Eucharistic Miracles, and reading about him and these miracles made it much clearer about the Real Presence. If Blessed Carlo Acutis’s website and its Miracles could be talked about as part of this Eucharistic Revival, I believe it would get the attention of young people because of his young age and computer skills, and of old people like me because of these Miracles.
    Our diocese (Charlotte North Carolina) has a Eucharistic Congress every year, with a holy bishop (Peter Jugis) who helps lead us in this devotion. My prayer is that every diocese would have a holy bishop and that Blessed Carlo Acutis may pray for the success of this National Eucharistic Revival.

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