This could go some way towards helping lapsed Catholics return to Mass, says an editorial in a US diocesan paper
IT IS hard to imagine that any Catholic who truly understood and accepted that Jesus is truly, physically present in the Eucharist would treat His body and blood with anything less than the utmost reverence and respect.
And yet, anecdotal reports bespeak an all too common lack of such reverence and respect, seen in the lackadaisical way some people approach the sacrament.
Disturbing as this is, of even more concern, perhaps, should be the numbers of Catholics whose lack of faith in the Real Presence prompts their consistent absence from Sunday Mass, and from reception of the Eucharist.
A 2008 study in the US by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that only 57 percent of Catholics there profess belief that Christ is present in the Eucharist; but the figure was 91 percent among respondents who attend Mass at least weekly.
This indicates, obviously, that the vast majority of professed Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence are found among those who do not attend Mass regularly; or, put conversely, most Catholics who do not attend Mass regularly do not believe that the Eucharist is truly an opportunity to receive the body and blood of Jesus.
This presents the classic “chicken-or-the-egg” question: Is it their regular absence from Mass that has caused their faith in the Real Presence to wane? Perhaps, in some cases.
More likely, however, such Catholics never really internalised or felt that they were receiving the body of Christ when they received Communion.
In simple terms, “they don’t know what they’re missing” when they miss Mass, and so don’t feel drawn to attend.
One American bishop, in a pastoral letter, challenged Catholics to give witness to other Catholics who “cannot find their way to the manger of Sunday Mass”.
What better way to do so than to give witness to what the Eucharist means to us?
Perhaps we can focus on being more prayerful as we proceed to our reception of the Eucharist, and more humbly reverent as we pray after Communion.
Perhaps we’ll give more attention to always receiving worthily, by joining our regular participation in the Eucharist to frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
And perhaps, if we enhance our own prayer, reverence and worthiness in receiving Jesus, it will help us to better exude Christ to others outside of church; to make it more evident that we do indeed have the presence of Christ within us, in a way that will make others desire to have the peace of Christ that they see in us. n CNS
This editorial first appeared in The Long Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Center, New York, USA.