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Five lessons from the bishops’ discourse on the Eucharist

Not only was there conversation around and approval of a much-discussed document on the Eucharist and a lengthy presentation on the upcoming Eucharistic Revival, the bishops incorporated the Eucharist more fully into their agenda.

The Eucharist rests on a paten at the altar in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington, Del., May 27, 2021. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

Amid much anticipation and speculation, the 2021 fall plenary assembly of the U.S. bishops took place this week, and, as it should be, the Eucharist was at the center.

Not only was there conversation around and approval of a much-discussed document on the Eucharist and a lengthy presentation on the upcoming Eucharistic Revival, the bishops incorporated the Eucharist more fully into their agenda.

And that seemed to make a significant difference in the events of the week. Here are five ways in which a focus on the Eucharist seemed to positively impact the bishops’ 2021 fall plenary.

Communion

The bishops’ summer assembly, conducted remotely via video in June, had some contentious moments during a discussion on a document on Eucharistic consistency — that is, that one is to pattern their life after Him who they receive in the Eucharist. This was not wholly unexpected given the sensitive and, for many bishops, frustrating reality of the pro-abortion agenda of many Catholics in public service — Catholics who, despite their political professions, continue to receive the Eucharist regularly and, sometimes, publicly.

The bishops’ fall meeting was expected to be more of the same. But after a host of opportunities for the bishops to come together as brothers in recent months — via regional meetings, committee meetings, and in an unprecedented number of executive sessions at this fall gathering — the bishops instead modeled unity. We did not see public debates over what lies at the heart of the Church’s life, giving fuel for skewed or misleading narratives in traditional or social media.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, as chair of the bishops’ committee on doctrine, delivered a document as promised. A display of partisan and ideological divisions was kept at bay, at least in public.

Centrality

The bishops have rightly made the Eucharist — in terms of both strengthening Eucharistic faith and emphasizing the centrality of Eucharistic living — a key priority in the years ahead.

In a move that seemed to set the tone for the rest of their meeting, the bishops began the fall plenary with several hours of prayer and adoration, and many bishops later participated in eucharistic adoration throughout that night. The bishops have modeled that, when in the midst of challenges, the way forward is found when we turn to the Lord and gaze upon his face. By their witness, and by collegially exercising their teaching office, the bishops have focused our eyes on the Eucharist and set our feet on the path Christ lays for us through the mystery of the Eucharist.

Conversion

Much to the disappointment of some, the bishops’ document on the mystery of the Eucharist in the life of the Church avoided addressing politicians or entangling itself with partisan politics. However, the bishops rightly pointed out that receiving the gift of the Eucharist compels each of us to change — to become more conformed to the One who sacrificed His life for ours.

It is not the job of the bishops to prohibit those perceived as political opponents from the Eucharist. But it is their job, as pastors, to call and challenge their flock to conversion for the good of their souls. The unity of the Church does not just depend on nice words, but on action. The call to holiness is never complacent or accommodating, and those who do not take action to unite themselves more closely to Christ, with reliance on his grace in the sacraments, put a strain on their relationships with God and the community. Our shepherds have rightly called us to better eucharistic consistency.

Evangelization

Some bishops expressed concern about how Eucharistic theology might be presented in the Eucharistic Revival process. One bishop expressed concerns about the $28 million projected cost of a national Eucharistic Congress slated to be held in Indianapolis in July 2024. (No bishops, however, proposed that their two yearly assemblies might be scaled back to help fund the initiative.)

But, surprisingly, more bishops voted against the proposal to hold the national event than against the document on the Eucharist (which still passed with a significant majority). By choosing to move forward with the national event — with an impressive list of deliverables presented by Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization — the bishops have concretely responded to the need to strengthen belief in what informs all else about our faith.

Holiness

Aside from the center-stage discussions on the Eucharist, nestled into the agenda of the final day of public meetings were three formal consultations with the bishops regarding canonization causes. The Church, the Body of Christ, has been scandalized and torn apart by the sins and crimes of clergy. Indeed, the faithful have also called their shepherds to greater eucharistic consistency because, in the clergy sexual abuse crisis, we have seen seed planted amid the rocks and thorns.

In the holy ones, in the saints, we find seeds that fell on good ground and bore fruit. It seems a nod of providence that two of the causes supported by the bishops come from the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, which was one of the first American dioceses sent reeling from the clergy abuse scandals. By providence, the bishops’ meeting helped remind us — and themselves — that holiness must be our aim and priority. There is no better topic than holiness to sit amid discussions on the Eucharist, which itself nourishes, challenges and compels us to stay focused on that goal.


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About MIchael R. Heinlein 4 Articles
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of OSV's SimplyCatholic.com and author of a forthcoming biography of Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI.

33 Comments

  1. How many hundreds of thousand dollars, if not millions, were spent for the bishops to come to the conclusion that Christ is truly present – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity- in the Eucharist.

    Couldn’t each bishop just have been sent a personal copy of the Baltimore Catechism and then they could have stayed home and preached Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins‽

  2. My only response to this shameful moral capitulation, they didn’t make the slightest effort to meaningfully address the key Eucharistic cohesion issue, in fact they gave tacit approval to the aberrant vote of Catholic politicians and laity in favor of abortion and the mass slaughter of the innocents is my shameless repetition of what’s posted elsewhere. Like March our bishops stormed in like a roaring lion and left with a whimper.

    • The WSJ blurbs the USCCB news story: “U.S. Catholic bishops ended a debate over whether to bar politicians who support abortion rights from receiving the Eucharist, passing new guidance on Communion that doesn’t address the issue.”

      Meet the press! They are so wrong and yet so right.

    • Father, do you think that this is because we are in the midst of The Great Falling Away, making it appear as if it is possible for a counterfeit church, which denies that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, Is The Author Of Love, Of Life, And The Holy Sacrament Of Marriage can subsist within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, And Apostolic Church, the True members all who affirm The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, and thus the fact that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, Is The Author Of Love, Of Life, And Of The Holy Sacrament Of Marriage, are following the same Christ?

      What precludes a statement being read before every Catholic Mass making it clear that those who refuse to affirm Christ’s Teaching on The Sanctity of Life from the moment of conception, and The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, should not present themselves to receive The Holy Eucharist because they have separated themselves from the One Body Of Christ, outside of which, there is no Salvation, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost?

      Thank you in advance for your reply🙏💕

      • It appears viable from all indications Nancy. Others have anticipated a counterfeit church, others Benedict XVI referencing a faithful remnant allude to it. Apostasy means to deny Christ outright. There’s growing evidence of that in decreasing attendance at Mass, agreement on abortion ‘rights’ and homosexual behavior by an apparent majority of Catholics. Within the Church ordained from presbyter to bishop to the Vatican there’s similar agreement. As such they’re apostates de jure including active parishioners. This may be seen as a counterfeit church nominally within the Church but de jure outside the gate, the gate or doorway being Christ. The predicament of the Church is highly unusual since we haven,t historically had an apparent alignment with this drift away by the apex of authority. All the more reason for our personal sanctification, and prayers, sacrifices for the many in increasing spiritual jeopardy.

    • “We did not see public debates over what lies at the heart of the Church’s life, giving fuel for skewed or misleading narratives in traditional or social media.”

      It’s called transparency. It costs over one million dollars for the bishops to meet. I want my money back.
      They did not want to show their faces who voted for what.

  3. As a postscript I haven’t lost hope in our bishops, specifically those whom I know would have addressed the vote issue, and love as I do my own bishop, who aren’t satisfied with this document. Perhaps this was thought as the only response considering the lack of faithful unanimity. Although it’s a misconceived opinion due to the adverse impact of tacit approval given to Eucharistic incoherence. Hopefully, and I expect there will be response by the faithful bishops for the failure of a document meant to address malfeasance in practice of the faith, and the virtual eradication of canon 915.

  4. If by writing of “political opponents to the Eucharist,” the writer means to imply that it would be getting too much into politics to prohibit politicians who publicly support abortion from receiving the Eucharist, then he is mistaken — It has nothing to do with political partisanship (such politicians might belong to any party), only with faithfulness to the canons that prohibit such communion and to the Lord. How disappointing. And whoever heard of the phrase “political opponents to the Eucharist”?

  5. It is not just that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus. It is that we are called upon to consume this sacrifice, like the priestly caste in the Old Testament. In every Mass, we are permitted not only to be present at the Last Supper and at the Crucifixion, but also to participate in this eternal sacrifice by consuming the Victim. I do not understand why this astonishing privilege is not more often emphasized.

  6. To Mr. Heinlein:

    It is the job of Bishops to enforce Canon 915, and deny Holy Communion to certain persons who are publicly known to persist in grave sin.

    It is unbecoming of a Catholic Bishop, or a Catholic journalist, to deny this duty, especially by word play.

    We confess that we will be called to account for “what we have done, and what we have failed to do.”

  7. In my view, it’s a mistake to assume that denying the eucharist to those in manifest, grave sin is somehow “politicizing” the eucharist. Those who are politicizing the most Blessed Sacrament are those who defy the teaching of their faith by willfully and unapologetically facilitating the killing of the helpless innocent and yet still insisting that they have a “right” to receive Christ our Lord without confession and a firm amendment of life. Would anyone think that denying the eucharist to an overt Nazi was somehow a “politicization” of the eucharist? And we are somehow to believe that “dialogue” will somehow win the day? It’s accomplished precious little if anything for a half century but more of the same is what’s called for? It’s small wonder that so many Catholics have lost faith in the real presence when our Lord is demeaned in such a manner without consequence.

  8. <<>>

    Let’s be clear. Putting an end to the defilement and desecration of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is NOT “partisan politics.”

    Ending the public display of pantomime Catholicism by those who have aggressively attacked the Church’s most seminal, fundamental teachings in the most public of public squares is NOT “partisan politics.”

    Forbidding the union of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and Creator of all the universe, with individuals whose unfathomably evil actions have directly resulted in the willful killing of more than one hundred million innocent children all around the world — the greatest evil humanity has ever seen — for a full half century IS NOT “PARTISAN POLITICS!!!”

    Abortion is not infrastructure, not tax policy, not a school lunch program.

    It is satan’s own program to destroy the Kingdom of God, one glorious, irreplaceable, infinitely lovable child at a time.

    If the bishops cannot speak that truth, then I question whether they can themselves can possibly believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

    Honestly, I don’t see how they possibly can.

  9. Sixth Lesson: The bishops do not care enough about the unworthy reception of Communion to do anything about it.

    Seventh Lesson: There are legions of Catholic writers who are happy to do public relations work for the USCCB. Some are directly compensated for it.

  10. It looks to me as though a bishops’ puff piece that was supposed to be posted on the USCCB web site was mistakenly posted on CWR.
    “It is not the job of the bishops to prohibit those perceived to be political opponents from the Eucharist.” No one has said that it was. And who are the bishops’ political opponents anyway? Not apparently the catholic political leaders who promote and expand abortion, the slaughter of pre-born babies, or as Archbishop Cordileone put it, “child sacrifice.” No, their political opponents seem to be those who want secure borders, defunding of Planned Parenthood, etc.
    What is the job of the bishops is to enforce Canon 915 of Canon Law. Those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
    But they won’t do it, voting 222 to 8 not to do it. Would the bishops say that the laity do not have to obey those parts of Canon Law that pertain to them? NO, they would not.
    Will this new document add to Eucharistic Coherence? I don’t think so. As the old saying goes, “Look at what someone does, not what he says.”

  11. “It is not the job of the bishops to prohibit those perceived as political opponents from the Eucharist.”
    That is patently false. In fact, the whole ruckus has been precisely about that point, namely, that canon 915 does, in fact, call for a bishop or priest to deny Holy Communion to obstinate, public sinners.

    • I missed the description of abortion supporters as “perceived political opponents” in my first reading of this piece. It is almost as if there is just a friendly disagreement about what the top marginal tax rate should be. In reality, most bishops do not regard Biden, Pelosi, etc. as enemies. That’s one of the big reasons why they won’t take any action against them. Even the ones who regard abortion as a big deal (and that is by no means all), really are on the same page with them on so many other issues. The bishops, for their part, try to present their stupid political views on immigration, climate change, welfare, etc. as being binding church teaching.

  12. Couldnt disagree more. Read Canon Law 915. This isnt about with holding communion from “percieved political opponents”. It is about refusing the Sacred body of our Lord to wicked men and women who are aggressively promoting murder and who are UNREPENTANT. Gods chastisement is coming on the Church. Sounds harsh? It will be

  13. This article confirmed my decision to never donate to CWP again. If you want accurate Catholic reporting go to churchmilitant.com

  14. “It seems a nod of providence that two of the causes supported by the bishops come from the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, which was one of the first American dioceses sent reeling from the clergy abuse scandals.”

    We are reassured. We shall not look at any USCCB INACTION and we shall IGNORE any episcopal attempt at cover-up-sleights of episcopal crimes and misdemeanors. Instead, we shall keep our line-of-sight on the good and holy members of the Church. We shall keep our little lay mouths shut. We shall not pray, hope, expect or ask our bishops to deny =ANYONE= the fruits of a sacrilegious receipt of the sacramental Christ.

    Why not unbury the dead and bring them also to the feast?

  15. “It is not the job of the bishops to prohibit those perceived as political opponents from the Eucharist.”

    Straw man.

    Nobody is saying the bishops should deny the Eucharist to people based on the perception that they are political opponents.

    It is obvious that the bishops have no coherent defense of their position. Irrational immorality can’t be defended.

  16. On the bright side, we have three years of posters and programs, capped off by a shindig in Indy where they rent the Lucas Oil Stadium and other “venues”, will only cost a grand or three to attend and there will be mobs of gabbing people, music, speakers, break-out sessions, and is SURE to inspire a life of simplicity, prayer, non-attachment to worldly things, and care for ill and sick Catholics in each individual parish, just as soon as the wealthiest 1% of Catholics returns home from the convention centers. Am I right, or what?

    • You are right. Bloody well right.

      I myself am very reassured that the bishops intend a =REVIVAL= of the Eucharist. Sounds like an oxymoronic miracle, doesn’t it? As if the Eucharist Itself were ‘in extremis’ and in need of the extraordinary life support efforts. I’m quite beside myself with anticipation, awaiting the episcopal transmogrification of our Eucharist. How might the host look with a little red dot looking like real blood in His center? Or how about our receipt of Him together with a loot bag containing miniature souvenirs of today’s Caesars and other assorted church leaders?

  17. I am struck by the Mass readings this week from Maccabees and today’s Gospel with Jesus weeping over doomed Jerusalem. And then we see our Neville Chamberlain bishops. The contrast is overwhelmingly sad. They are desperate to appease the very elements of our society that are determined to ruin the Church. They are complicit, all the way to the very top. And that Eucharistic Congress, mere window-dressing for their abject failure to lead in truth. Shame on them.

  18. Interesting timing. We have had a sequence of readings at daily Mass from Maccabees. It starts with the capitulation, and abandonment of the holy covenant, of some of the people to worldly Gentile ways[Monday]. It is followed by Eleazar’s refusal to give bad example to young people[Tuesday]. Then we hear the story about the seven brothers and their mother[Wednesday], the revolt of Mattathias[Thursday], the rededication of the Temple[Friday], and the failure of King Antiochus to impose his designs on Judah[Saturday].
    *
    What a contrast with the bishop’s meeting.

  19. We really need a PENITENTIAL CONGRESS as Confessional ques are tiny! First we need to recognise sin and mortal sin before we are worthy of the Blessed Sacrament.

  20. I may have missed it – but I don’t think I have seen anything relating to Confession – Sacrament of Reconciliation – in any of these discussions about the Eucharist. Why not?

  21. I don’t think that God is only present in the Eucharist. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, chapter 6.5-8, Jesus of Nazareth explained that when you pray, seek a private place, and don’t use a lot of words, because our Heavenly Father, who sees in secret knows what we need even before we ask. Therefore, our Heavenly Father is present at every moment. We have this great emphasis on the Eucharist, and yet the Christian churches largely ignore Christ’s teaching concerning how His disciples are to pray. Thus, this is like smoke and mirrors. We need to honor and obey Christ, not just try to flatter Christ. They honored Christ with their words, yet their hearts were far from Him.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Five Lessons from the bishops’ discourse on the Eucharist – Via Nova Media
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  3. FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

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