If you follow Church news, you may be aware that the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has launched a National Eucharistic Revival which began on the Feast of Corpus Christi last month and will continue until Pentecost of 2025. The official website for the Revival says that “Jesus Christ invites us to return to the source and summit of our faith: his Real Presence in the Eucharist. The National Eucharistic Revival is a movement to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States.” According to the timeline on the site, there will be a “year of diocesan revival” wherein the clergy are being called to “share [Christ’s] love with the faithful through eucharistic congresses and events.” This will last until June 11, 2023. Then, from June 11, 2023, to July 17, 2024, there is “year of parish revival.” The website says of it, “The second phase will foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening our liturgical life through faithful celebration of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and organic movements of the Holy Spirit.” Then, from the 17th to the 21st of 2024, the National Eucharistic Congress will take place in Indianapolis. Finally, there is a “year of going out on mission” that lasts from the end of the National Congress to Pentecost of the following year, 2025, which is a jubilee year for the universal Church.
Now, I really do have to compliment the USCCB here, the website for the revival is really well done, though it is currently rather slim as far as content goes (more is said to be coming, thankfully).
As far as the Revival itself goes, I think this is a pretty good thing. I am a young person, and so I interact very regularly with other young Catholics, and the number one thing that every single person says is the most important part of their faith and of the mass is the Eucharist, whether that be at communion or at adoration. I have spoken with a few people who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s, and they say that Eucharistic adoration was very rare, even nonexistent, until later on. Now, it is one of the most highly demanded practices by Catholics today, at least in my own community and dioceses. The Eucharist is, indeed, the source and summit of our faith, and rightly it deserves to be given great honor and praise.
We also know that there are many Catholics who lack a proper understanding of the Eucharist, whether from personal experience or from national surveys. All of this taken together seems to point clearly toward the need to foster greater devotion and to and understanding of the Eucharist, and the Eucharistic Revival aims to do just that. But how exactly can this be done? The website mentions a few things but doesn’t go into great detail. It does, however, say that it is a grassroots effort and says “What tangible thing does the Lord want you to do for your community? We’ll post some ideas and opportunities soon, but the real power of this grassroots movement is YOU. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you, and encourage your friends and fellow parishioners to do the same!”
Therefore, I will give my suggestions for what any and every parish can do to foster greater devotion to the Real Presence.
1. Get rid of the communion hymn
One thing that has always bothered me a bit is how, at mass, every otherwise quiet time is “filled” with music or some thing rather than being left silent. For example, communion. How many churches have a communion hymn? Most that I have ever been to do. Why? Seriously. Why is there a hymn here? The laity hardly ever participate in this hymn to the same degree as the others since, well, they are getting up, walking in line, and then shuffling back to the pews. Most people, I have observed, also spend their time after communion praying or watching the line. However, rather than being allowed to pray in silence, you often hear “taste and see”, “table of plenty”, or “one bread, one body” playing. Outside of just being overplayed, boomer tier hymns, these are also just filler in a time that would otherwise be one of the most solemn and prayerful times of mass. Therefore, I propose we ditch the communion hymn and instead embrace the quiet.
2. More Eucharistic Adoration
I hardly feel the need to justify this one, but I will say just a few things. Adoration provides a wonderful time for prayer, meditation, scripture reading, journaling, and most of all, time to be in the presence of God. When it comes to a Revival, Eucharistic Adoration serves a few functions. Not only is it just a good practice, but it is also a teaching opportunity. When we show that the Eucharist is something to adore, something to pray before, and when we really hit home the idea that Christ is present in that monstrance, we are demonstrating the Real Presence as something to be taken very seriously. Children and young people especially could benefit from this sort of example.
3. Stop using Eucharistic Prayer II at Sunday Mass
This is an obscure pet peeve of mine, but I actually think it is a larger problem than it may first appear. Eucharistic Prayer II is the one that goes “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body + and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ” and is also the shortest of the prayers. An especially speedy priest could probably finish this prayer in just three minutes or less.
The General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states in paragraph 365: “Eucharistic Prayer II, on account of its particular features, is more appropriately used on weekdays or in special circumstances. Although it has been provided with its own Preface, it may also be used with other Prefaces, especially those that summarize the mystery of salvation, such as the common Prefaces. When Mass is celebrated for a particular dead person, the special formula may be inserted in the place indicated, namely, before the Memento etiam (Remember our brothers and sisters).“
Meanwhile, Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon, “may always be used [and] is especially suited to be sung or said on days when there is a proper text for the Communicantes (In union with the whole Church) or in Masses endowed with a proper form of the Hanc igitur (Father, accept this offering) and also in the celebrations of the Apostles and of the Saints mentioned in the Prayer itself; it is likewise especially appropriate for Sundays, unless for pastoral considerations Eucharistic Prayer III is preferred. (Emphasis added).
Despite the language of the GIRM clearly showing that Eucharistic Prayer I is the preferred prayer on Sundays, and that the next best thing is Prayer III (and only for special “pastoral considerations”), priests use Eucharistic Prayer II at every single Sunday Mass. I have been to parishes where the priest uses this prayer even on major feast days. The use of the Roman Canon is so rare in my area that any time I hear it I am always surprised (and happily so). But if I am going to just some random parish, 9 times out of 10 they are using Prayer II, and in the one other instance, it’s III.
This is problematic for a few reasons. One is that the Roman Canon, which is objectively the best prayer, is neglected. It contains the most traditional elements and also has two litanies of Saints, which is very good because it better helps to connect us to our past. It is also problematic because it trains the laity to get used to shorter Eucharistic prayer. They expect every mass to have the shortest possible prayer and become annoyed when a priest dares to pray for 2 minutes more (the horror!) It also encourages priests to rush through. Prayer II is so short that you could blink and miss it with a really fast talking priest. Finally, using it at Sunday mass is simply an abuse and not in line with the GIRM. For these reasons, it should never be used on Sunday.
Oh wait, one more thing, Eucharistic Prayer II makes no reference to a sacrifice, unlike all the other prayers which do. Seems like maybe we ought to speak more about the mass as a sacrifice in a Eucharistic Revival. Just my opinion though.
4. USE THE BELLS
Use, and I cannot stress this enough, the bells, during the Eucharistic Prayer. There is absolutely NO REASON your parish cannot start doing this if it isn’t already. The only thing standing between you and the use of those sweet bells is an obstinate priest (okay maybe that’s pretty bad). Anyways, seriously, use the bells. The liturgy has sensory elements for a reason. We connect better to the reality of the Mass when we can see it, touch it, smell it, and hear it. The bells during the consecration are part of this. They signify with a real sound the very real transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. When you’re sitting in the pew, you are better connected to the consecration and its reality because of those bells. You hear bells at mass, you know consecration is happening and something truly miraculous is taking place. So, again, USE THE BELLS
5. Preach about it!
Again, this sounds so simple, but it is so important. If your priest is not preaching about the Real Presence, if he isn’t hitting home the idea that we are receiving the actual body and blood of Christ at communion, then it’s no wonder there are so many people in the pews who do not have a proper understanding of the Eucharist. I won’t say much more about this, I think it is fairly self-explanatory.
6. Stop using so many Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
Look, I get it, we want lay participation in the mass. I agree! I fully support lay people reading the scriptures, leading music, carrying the cross in and out, doing the collection, reading the petitions, and even serving at the altar, among other things. But there is one thing I do not support: lay people regularly distributing communion. Why? Well, for one thing, it is not proper based on what the GIRM says. They are, by their very name, extraordinary. Not to be used ordinarily. The GIRM says in paragraph 162: “The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.” (Emphasis added)
“These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.” (Empasis added)
This is perhaps one of the most common liturgical abuses in the American Church. I have seen four extraordinary ministers used at a daily mass of 32 people before. I have seen six used at a mass that could not have had more than 150 people, alongside the priest and the deacon! I do not think a normal Sunday crowd counts as a “very large number of communicants.” Now, let’s say you do attend a parish where there is a very sizeable crowd. In that instance, I am fine with a limited number of extraordinary ministers, though they ought to be reverent and in good standing with the parish, and ought to dress appropriately. I have seen extraordinary ministers wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I don’t really judge dress often, but when it comes to the person distributing communion, I absolutely will.
One of the most fundamental problems behind the excessive use of extraordinary ministers is the idea that communion should be hurried along as fast as possible. It may not be a conscious decision or intent, but that is the ultimate intent of their use at most parishes. Communion takes a while if it is just a priest and a deacon or priest and one or two ministers, so let’s add four or five more! What this really says to the laity is “communion should be quick and the quicker the better. We are here to get the goods and get out, so let’s hurry up.”
I also think there are some catechetical issues with the excessive use of extraordinary ministers. Basically, when someone other than the priest, who is consecrated and even performs a ritual hand cleansing ceremony, is in a position to handle and distribute communion, it has the potential to degrade the sacrament in the eyes of the recipient. People have argued over this in much greater detail than I will here, but it boils down to the idea that excessively allowing these ministers undermines the priesthood and the gravity of communion and of the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ.
7. Do not stigmatize receiving on the tongue. In fact, encourage it.
From my experience, young people love receiving on the tongue, far more than their predecessors. When they know the priest will not just allow it but not judge it, they do it often. But when the priest is judgmental or even downright refuses it, naturally they receive on the hand. What does this say? I am not going to get into the weeds about which is superior, reception on the hand or the tongue. I will say I do not have any problem necessarily with reception on the hand, and that is my most common way of receiving. However, for many people, reception on the tongue is viewed as being more reverent, and thus they wish to receive this way. Why should anyone stop them, discourage them, or look down on them? If this way of receiving benefits their faith and helps them to show reverence towards the sacrament, then they should by all means be encouraged to receive on the tongue. They should be treated normally, like every other person coming up for communion. The Vatican says as much.
Here’s what the Congregation for Divine Worship said in 1999:
Certainly it is clear from the very documents of the Holy See that in dioceses where the eucharistic bread is put in the hands of the faithful, the right to receive the eucharistic bread on the tongue still remains intact to the faithful. Therefore, those who restrict communicants to receive Holy Communion only in the hands are acting against the norms, as are those who refuse to Christ’s faithful [the right] to receive Communion in the hand in dioceses that enjoy this indult.
With attention to the norms concerning the distribution of Holy Communion, ordinary and extraordinary ministers should take care in a particular way that the host is consumed at once by Christ’s faithful, so that no one goes away with the eucharistic species in his hand.
However, let all remember that the time-honored tradition is to receive the host on the tongue. The celebrant priest, if there is a present danger of sacrilege, should not give the faithful communion in the hand, and he should make them aware of the reason for the way of proceeding.
Receiving on the tongue is a right and it is the norm of the Church around the world as well as in the past. Therefore, reception on the tongue cannot be restricted and it cannot be refused.
However, in many parishes, priests either disallow it or marginalize those that do. One of my closer friends says that in her parish, all those who wish to receive on the tongue must get in the back of the communion line. How terrible is that? In other places, the priest actually refuses to distribute on the tongue and delegates it to an extraordinary minister. In some places, you’ll get a scowl and weird looks. All these things are horrible abuses, and they can really harm people’s faith and reverence.
Rather than treat those who wish to receive on the tongue this way, priests ought to treat them normally, and should even consider encouraging people to receive on the tongue, or at least make it clear that both ways of receiving are equally valuable (though we know reception on the tongue is the more traditional way).
Receiving on the tongue also prevents dropping the host and getting crumbs all over your hands, which is an additional plus and, again, shows in practice that we take the Real Presence very seriously.
With that, I feel I have exhausted my present suggestions for what parishes can do to foster a greater devotion to and understanding of the Real Presence. I do plan to get involved in my own community and diocese and suggest some of these things in hopes they actually get implemented.
What do you think would be good for parishes to do during this Eucharistic Revival? Put your ideas in the comments! Additionally, I am curious to hear your feedback on my suggestions. Do you agree or disagree? Let me know!
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