Monday, June 10, 2024

Decline in Belief in the True Presence in the Holy Eucharist and How We Can Reverse This

The Eucharist, known as the source and summit of Christian life, has been a central element of Catholic worship for centuries. However, recent studies and surveys have indicated a decline in the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist among Catholics. This trend is a complex issue that encompasses theological, cultural, and educational factors.

One significant aspect contributing to this decline is the lack of understanding of the Church's teachings. A study by the Pew Research Center found that only 31% of U.S. Catholics believe that during the Eucharist, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, a process known as transubstantiation. This is a fundamental doctrine of the Catholic faith, yet it seems that many Catholics are either unaware of this teaching or do not accept it.

Another factor is the role of clergy in communicating and reinforcing Church teachings. An article from Catholic Answers Magazine discusses how clergy who do not fully understand or believe in the doctrine of the Eucharist can inadvertently lead to a weakening of faith among the laity. The article highlights the importance of clear and coherent teaching from the clergy to prevent confusion and maintain the integrity of Eucharistic faith.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on religious practices, including Mass attendance. A survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and NORC revealed a decline in weekly Mass attendance, which fell from 24% in 2019 to 17% post-pandemic. This reduction in participation may also contribute to a weakening of Eucharistic belief, as regular attendance at Mass is closely linked to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist.  This makes sense due to the fact that churches were closed, sick and dying people were denied the Eucharist and last rites. This sent a message that not even the Church believed God is stronger than a virus and pretty much invalidated the Eucharist and Sacraments.  Many Catholics found themselves asking what is the point of even being Catholic or following the rules, so to speak, if not even Church leaders had faith and many even believed Holy Communion could spread viruses and was not necessary for the sick and dying to receive the Sacrament.  

Education and catechesis play a crucial role in fostering a robust Eucharistic faith. The same CARA and NORC survey found that those who learned about the Eucharist from the Bible or through formal religious education were more likely to believe in the Real Presence. This underscores the need for effective catechetical programs that can address misconceptions and provide a clear exposition of the Church's teachings. Unfortunately, after Vatican II some took it upon themselves to water down catechetical programs and curriculum in order to align to secular values and views. We saw clerics, religious and lay people toy around with the Liturgies of the Church and set aside devotions, processions, even relics as superstitious outdated practices. Even today we see on social media some alleged Catholics calling the Eucharist an "idol,"  Eucharistic processions as "idolatrous" or vain displays and the Brown Scapular and Rosary as superstition.  

In response to these challenges, many within the Church are calling for a renewed emphasis on Eucharistic education and devotion. Eucharistic adoration, for example, is a practice that can deepen one's reverence and understanding of the Real Presence. By spending time in adoration, the faithful can cultivate a more intimate relationship with Christ and, in turn, strengthen their belief in the Eucharist.

Reversing the Decline in Belief in the Holy Eucharist: A Multifaceted Approach

The decline in belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a concern that has been echoed by many within the Catholic Church. Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses education, liturgical reverence, and personal witness. Here are some strategies that could be employed to foster a deeper understanding and belief in the Eucharist.

1. Enhanced Catechesis and Education: There is a pressing need for improved catechetical programs that clearly articulate the Church's teachings on the Eucharist. This could involve the development of engaging educational materials, workshops, and courses that delve into the scriptural and theological foundations of the Eucharist. For this to work, the material must be properly vetted. Catechists and religious education coordinators, seminary professors must be aligned with Church teaching. They must be orthodox in their doctrinal views and not use the Church and scholarshop as their personal fellowship where they can toy around with ideas that are foreign to the faith. 

2. Liturgical Renewal: The way the Eucharist is celebrated can profoundly impact belief.  Priests and deacons need to be retrained and that training refreshed every year.  They must be reminded of the rubrics and how to engage them pastorally while simultaneously adhering to Liturgical norms and regulations that present an authentic lex orandi lex credendi situation.  Encouraging practices that promote reverence, such as receiving Communion on the tongue while kneeling, receiving on the hand properly and reverently could help underscore the sacredness of the sacrament.  Our people need to genuflect before passing the Tabernacle. They need to know how to properly receive and to be in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion. They need to know the church building and each part, in particular, the Sanctuary Lamp, its significance and the Tabernacle, Altar and other items used.

3. Eucharistic Adoration: Promoting and increasing opportunities for Eucharistic adoration can provide the faithful with a space to contemplate and worship the Real Presence of Christ in a quiet and prayerful setting.  Parishes need to be open daily for people to come. There is nothing sadder than seeing a church with its doors shut while the Church says all are welcome.  How can we say Jesus is truly in our churches while keeping the people locked away from Him?

4. Personal Testimonies: Sharing personal experiences of how the Eucharist has impacted individuals' lives can be a powerful tool for evangelization. Testimonies can be shared through various platforms, including social media, parish websites, and community gatherings. This is key and part of the New Evangelization. People learn more from others who are like them, think like them and are familiar with their customs and cultures.  

5. Clergy Formation: Ensuring that seminarians and clergy have a robust and orthodox understanding of the Eucharist is crucial. They are, after all, the primary educators and role models for the laity in matters of faith.  It is crucial for seminary instructors to be orthodox Catholics and not whatever scholar you found and hired. Deacons, priests and bishops must continue their education. Four or even seven years is not enough. Humans forget. They lapse overtime. It is important for them to get refreshment courses.  

6. Community Involvement: Creating parish groups focused on deepening Eucharistic devotion and understanding can help build a community that supports and grows in faith together.

7. Family Catechesis: The family is often referred to as the "domestic church," and as such, it plays a vital role in faith formation. Providing resources and programs for families to learn about and pray before the Eucharist together can help instill belief from a young age.

8. Integration into Parish Life: The Eucharist should be the center of parish life. Activities, from social events to service projects, can be tied back to the Eucharistic mission of the Church, thus reinforcing its importance.  More Eucharistic processions need to be held, especially on streets to give witness.  

9. Art and Music: Utilizing the beauty of sacred art and music can draw people into a deeper appreciation and awe of the mystery of the Eucharist. This can include Eucharistic hymns, art exhibitions, and educational tours that explain the Eucharistic symbolism found in church architecture and iconography.

10. Regular Preaching on the Eucharist: Homilies that frequently highlight the Eucharistic teachings of the Church can help keep the doctrine at the forefront of parishioners' minds.

11. Inviting Non-Practicing Catholics: Outreach to those who have fallen away from regular practice can include invitations to special Eucharistic celebrations and events designed to reignite faith and understanding.

12. Intercessory Prayer: Encouraging the faithful to pray for an increase in Eucharistic belief can be a powerful spiritual practice, recognizing that faith is ultimately a gift from God.

By implementing these strategies, the Church can work towards reversing the decline in Eucharistic belief and fostering a renewed love and reverence for this central tenet of Catholic faith. It is through education, worship, and personal witness that the mystery of the Eucharist can once again be recognized and cherished by the faithful.

The decline in belief in the Holy Eucharist is a multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach to address. It involves not only educating the faithful about the doctrine but also ensuring that the Church's teachings are presented clearly and compellingly. As the Church navigates this challenge, it is essential to remember the transformative power of the Eucharist and its place at the heart of Catholic life.


References:

: When Priests Weaken Eucharistic Faith - Catholic Answers

: Majority of US Catholics Misunderstand the Real Presence in the Eucharist - uCatholic

: Eucharistic Adoration - What is it and How do We Practice it? - Catholic Heart Ablaze

: Survey on Catholic belief in the Eucharist prompts calls for better catechesis - Catholic News Agency

Study Shows Declining Belief in the Eucharist – The Torch | Boston College's Catholic Newspaper (bctorch.com)

One-third of U.S. Catholics believe in transubstantiation | Pew Research Center

What Should We Do About the Loss of Belief in the Real Presence?| National Catholic Register (ncregister.com)

New study shows that now almost two-thirds of US Catholics believe in Real Presence  | Catholic News Agency

The Crisis Behind the Crisis of Faith in the Real Presence – Catholic World Report

The Eucharistic Revival is missing something: the Blood of Christ | America Magazine


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