‘It’s an invitation to light a fire throughout the whole country’
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Diocese of Brooklyn will be fully participating in the nationwide Eucharistic Revival with activities over the next three years leading up to the National Eucharistic Congress set to take place in Indianapolis in 2024.
Bishop Robert Brennan has organized the Committee for Eucharistic Revival to map out the diocesan plan. The idea is to encourage churches to host Holy Hours, Eucharistic processions, workshops and other programs to bring the faithful to a better understanding of Jesus Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, explained Father Carlos Velasquez, a member of the committee.
“This year of Eucharistic Revival gives us a chance to rekindle our faith in our love for Jesus in the Eucharist,” Bishop Brennan explained.
The committee will soon be rolling out informational packets to be distributed to parishes that will include tips on such things as how to organize Holy Hours and how to facilitate discussions among parishioners on the meaning of the Eucharist.
“We can tell parishes, ‘Do you want to have a Holy Hour? Do you want to have 40-Hours of Devotion? Here’s a packet with information you can use as a resource,” said Father Velasquez, the pastor of St. Brigid Church in Bushwick.
According to Father Velasquez, priests can play a key role in deepening Catholics’ understanding by talking about the meaning of the Eucharist in their homilies at Mass.
“The basic theology around our belief is that Jesus is not just a symbol, but he is really, truly present. I think preaching about this regularly over the next few years and teaching people about it is going to be important,” he said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the Eucharistic Revival at its general assembly in November and set its start date for Sunday, June 19, the Feast of Corpus Christi. During the week of June 10-18, a Corpus Christi Novena took place, in which Catholics were encouraged to pray each day for the ability to revere the sacred mysteries.
The USCCB is inviting all dioceses to sponsor activities at the parish level between now and the National Eucharistic Congress three years from now.
The Eucharistic Congress, the first to be held in the U.S. since 1975, will be the culmination of the three-year Eucharistic Revival.
The revival is meant in part to counteract the common misperception that the Eucharist is merely a symbol and to help Catholics understand that the Eucharist really is the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
“This is kind of an invitation to light a fire throughout the whole country, and to spark that fire of love, of devotion, of faith, and understanding of who Jesus really is,” Father Velasquez said.
The emphasis on the meaning of the Eucharist comes at a time when fewer and fewer Catholics are professing the belief in transubstantiation — that holy Communion becomes the body and blood of Jesus during the Mass.
The belief that Jesus is present in the Eucharist is a basic tenet of the Catholic faith.
According to a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center, 69% of U.S. Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass are just symbols.
Bishop Brennan had another view of the issue. “While I am concerned about what is described as a crisis of faith on the part of Mass-going Catholics, it is more a difficulty in expressing the profound mystery of Jesus’ real presence,” he said.
There is reason for hope, Bishop Brennan added. “I am heartened that those who do express their faith in the Real Presence of Jesus are strong and committed in that faith. Their witness will go a long way,” he said.
The Eucharistic Revival also comes at a time when churches have come under attack. Burglars broke into St. Augustine Church in Park Slope last month and stole a silver and gold tabernacle dating back to the 1890s. The burglars also left the Eucharist scattered on the floor.