A bishop’s pectoral cross. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Denver Newsroom, Jun 16, 2021 / 13:12 pm (CNA).
From June 16-18, 2021, the bishops of the United States will gather for their annual spring meeting, held virtually this year, to debate and vote on several action items. Here is an introduction to the five most important items on the agenda.
1. Plans for a Eucharistic Revival
While the possibility of a document on the Eucharist has grabbed headlines for months, the most significant move of the bishops may be their bold plans for a national Eucharistic Revival. The multi-year plan involves partnership with ministries across the nation and culminates in a national Eucharistic Congress in 2024. Given its impact on the lives of everyday Catholics, this initiative may be the most important action item approved at the meeting.
2. Vote on whether to draft a document on the Eucharist
Likely to garner the most attention is the vote on whether to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The discussion about this document has received growing attention since the November election, though the bishops’ interest in questions related to eucharistic coherence and belief in the real presence date back to 2004.
Contrary to reports among activist groups and some media outlets, the vote is not a referendum on whether President Joe Biden, a Catholic whose public positions on abortion, euthanasia, transgenderism, and the death penalty contradict Church teaching, but on the creation of a document to catechize American Catholics.
An outline of the document obtained by CNA shows that the three-part document will focus on the mystery of the real presence and its reality as a sacrifice that heals; the sacramental celebration of the Eucharist, its beauty and ability to unify and forge an identity among the faithful as a people of God; and the moral and missionary transformation that occurs after partaking in the Eucharist, with a subsection on Eucharistic consistency and the problem on serious sin.
That subsection has overshadowed the bishops’ evangelistic attempt to catechize the faithful on the central mystery of the faith—a mystery that Pew Research shows more than 2/3 of Catholics do not believe.
3. Vote to advance the cause of two servants of God
The vote to advance the cause of canonization for a diocesan priest named Joseph Verbis Lafluer and Benedictine Brother Marinus LaRue may give greater recognition of two heroically virtuous men to the Church. Both men have military backgrounds and incredible stories.
Father Lafluer, a Louisiana native, was a military chaplain and prisoner of war who died sacrificing his life to help others out of the hull of a Japanese warship he and hundreds of other POWS were trapped in. When American forces unknowingly torpedoed the ship carrying their compatriots, Lafluer stayed behind to help his fellow men out of the hull. Prior to his death, he spent 2 ½ years under starving conditions in a camp in the Philippines where his generosity with rations and charity in such extreme conditions moved around 200 men to convert to Catholicism, including men who did nothing other than see his example.
Leonard LaRue, a Merchant Marine captain, was responsible for the execution of a courageous rescue operation during the Korean War. After traveling to Korea on a weapons transport ship whose capacity held 50-60 men, he saw thousands of Koreans on the shore attempting to flee communist powers. Grasping the eternal significance of the people before him, LaRue gave orders that nearly all weapons and cargo be dispatched and filled his ship with some 14,005 refugees. After winning accolades for his heroic and decisive action, LaRue decided to dedicate his life to God as a religious, joining the Benedictines as Brother Marinus and living the rest of his life in humility, obscurity, and penance.
4. Votes on evangelization efforts for various groups and updates on cultural diversity
A vote to approve a “National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love;” a vote to develop a formal statement and comprehensive vision on Native American/Alaska Native ministry; and a vote to create a national pastoral framework on youth and young adults are action items at the spring meeting.
Friday afternoon will also see presentations on the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study on pastoral care for migrants, refugees and travelers as well as an overview of the June 1-2, 2021 meeting on immigration matters held at Mundelein Seminary.
5. Approval of New Liturgical Texts
While the full new translation of the Breviary will most likely not be completed until 2024, the bishops will be voting on translations and insertions that will impact the prayers of Liturgy of the Hours. They will also be voting on a new book for the Order of Penance, and formally ratifying readings and prayers for the newly instituted feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.
The bishops conference meeting will begin with public remarks from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, as well as a presidential address by Archbishop José Gomez, current USCCB president. The public sessions of the meetings will be livestreamed on the USCCB website.