In parishes all across the United States we hear about a Eucharistic Revival occurring. The bishops of the U. S. are concerned (and with good reason!) that Catholics in America are no longer aware of or necessarily believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and have initiated this Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative that aims to inspire, educate, and unite Catholics and non-Catholics alike on the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This revival began on June 19, 2022, the Feast of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), and will end in a major national event to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, from July 17-21, 2024, with an expected 80,000 people attending.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 31% of American Catholics even believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. On the website for the Eucharistic Revival one reads, "Our world is hurting. We all need healing, yet many of us are separated from the very source of our strength. Jesus Christ invites us to return to the source and summit of our faith in the celebration of the Eucharist. The National Eucharistic Revival is a movement to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States by helping us renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist."
Bishop Andrew Cozzens, chairman of the USCCB (United States Catholic Conference of Bishops) stated, "We want to start a fire, not a program." In other words, the vision for this revival is "to inspire a movement of Catholics across the United States who are healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist — and who are then sent out on mission 'for the life of the world.' " (https://www.eucharisticrevival.org/mission-vision-and-timeline)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that, beginning "at the moment of consecration" (CCC 1377), the bread and wine offered at Mass "become Christ's body and blood" (CCC 1333). This is not a metaphor, a symbol, or a spiritual idea; it really happens. In the Eucharist, "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained" (CCC 1374). In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking" (CCC 1327).
We, as Catholics, are called to believe the words of Jesus, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). How awesome! Our God comes to us, not just in a spiritual sense, but He comes to us in His own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity! What an immense treasure we possess! When a Catholic priest takes a little piece of unleavened bread and repeats the words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, "This is my body", and when he takes a small of amount of wine in a chalice and says, "This is my blood", the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine. At every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we participate in a marvelous miracle, the miracle called, in the Latin Rite, transubstantiation.
In the year 1215, there was a German priest, Fr. Peter of Prague, who was struggling with his faith in the Most Holy Eucharist. All around him there was a general lack of interest on the part of the laity, and an immorality and laziness among the clergy leading to a lack of reverence for the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass. Fr. Peter found it difficult to believe that Our Lord Jesus would share with us His very Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.
Encouraged by his spiritual director, Fr. Peter made a pilgrimage to Rome. On his way, he stopped in the town of Bolsena, just north of Rome, and offered Mass at the tomb of St. Christina. At the words of the consecration, "Hoc est enim Corpus meum (For This is My Body)," the Host suddenly began to bleed. The Blood fell onto his hands and onto the corporal, the white cloth on top of the altar cloth.
Distressed, but also very moved by what had taken place, Fr. Peter turned to the congregation, showing them what had happened. He then left immediately and went ten miles away to the town of Orvieto, where Pope Urban IV was living. Having placed the Host and carefully folding it in the corporal, he went to tell the Holy Father what had happened. Pope Urban IV ordered an investigation which found that a miracle had truly taken place. The relics (the Host and corporal) were then taken by solemn and joyous procession to the Cathedral of Orvieto, where they still remain to this day, almost 900 years later.
Not long after, at the Fourth Lateran Council, the Church declared officially the doctrine of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation, simply put, means that through the calling down of the Spirit and the words of consecration at Mass, the ordinary bread and wine change the entirety of their substance into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, with only the mere appearances remaining.
This has been the consistent and perennial teaching of the Church since the time of Christ's Last Supper in the Upper Room. The Church knows that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically, and further, the Church Fathers, in the earliest days of the Church used words similar to transubstantiation to connote a true change had taken place.
A year after this miracle had taken place, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of the Christ) as a day to especially recognize and promote this wonderful gift of the Blessed Sacrament. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure were both asked by the pope to create hymns for this new feast, and St. Thomas Aquinas was asked by the Holy Father to compose prayers for the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours for this new feast day of Corpus Christi. The great Eucharistic hymns which we still sing today: Panis Angelicus, Pange Lingua, O Salutaris Hostia, and Tantum Ergo, were composed by him.
The term "Eucharist" originates from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: "It is called: Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God." (CCC 1328) By eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we become united to the person of Christ through his humanity. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56). In being united to the humanity of Christ, we are at the same time united to his divinity. Our mortal and corruptible natures are transformed by being joined to the source of life (USCCB).
Christ remains ever on our altars as a proof of His love for us, and He desires, and deserves, to be worshiped by us. "Come to Me, all you who labor, and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). If we say that we love Jesus; do we prove our love? When we have a dear friend whom we love, we are ever eager to be in his presence; do we show Jesus this same loving tenderness? Or are we so forgetful of Him that we go to see Him only once a week?
Jesus' presence in the Holy Eucharistic is our opportunity to show Him that same loving tenderness that we show to a close friend. This time of Eucharistic Revival is our hope to discover the Truth of Jesus' True Presence in the Holy Eucharist, and to kindle a loving friendship with Him. It is the hope of this Eucharistic Revival that we all will be shown what wonders the True Presence of Jesus can do to heal the soul.
A common practice is to spend a holy hour (one hour) in Eucharistic Adoration. If an hour is not possible, then even a few minutes is fine; we are spending time with Jesus Himself! Find out where Eucharist Adoration is offered in your own diocese — surely there is a time and a place that will best fit your schedule — then strive from this day forward to make Eucharistic Adoration a central part of your prayer life; it will transform you and develop in you a true relationship with Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily in 2012 said that "the encounter with Jesus in Holy Mass [Holy Eucharist] is truly and fully brought about when the community can recognize that in the Sacrament He [Jesus] dwells in His house, waits for us, invites us to His table. Then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with His discreet and silent presence." In Adoration, Christ wants to transform us as He transformed the host, and this adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament can only lead to more devotion of Him in the Holy Eucharist.