The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, and the belief that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus in the form of bread and wine is a central teaching of the Church. But a recent Pew Research Center study on What Americans Know About Religion revealed that only one-third of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are transformed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. Among the Catholic respondents, 69% said they believe that the bread and wine are symbols, not the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
“It’s like a knife going to the heart of a priest,” Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ recently shared on St. Joseph’s Workshop. “I think it’s like a knife going to the heart of Catholics and the Church. If we don’t believe in the Eucharist then the other tenants of our faith begin to crumble and fall.”
Many have been discussing recently the need to teach the truth about the Eucharist to Catholics, and the many ways to do that. Fr. Matthew pointed to a recent editorial from Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly that suggested that the way to spread belief about the Real Presence begins with reverence.
Fr. Matthew agreed with the article, saying, “It was summarized very well, that if we’re going to spread the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, if we’re going to overcome this major failing that we’ve had in catechesis and in transmitting this important element of the faith, we have to start with reverence. We have to start with being reverent in the celebration of the Eucharist.”
And why would reverence make a difference when it comes to the Real Presence? Because if our actions don’t match up with what we teach, why would people believe us? Father Matthew encouraged listeners to look at the ways that they are not showing proper reverence in front of the Eucharist, and what message that sends to their fellow Catholics.
“I’d say the more reverent we become the more we recognize irreverence in the presence of Jesus,” he said. “We recognize unnecessary chatter that takes place right in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We recognize, not in a judgmental way, that other people might not have prepared well for Mass or worn appropriate attire. We shouldn’t be judgmental towards other people that way, but we realize how important it is for us as a Church to live so well this moment of adoration, of prayer, of celebration together of what Jesus has done for us.”
But would bringing back a sense of reverence in our sacred spaces make them less welcoming? Fr. Matthew pointed out it doesn’t have to be an either/or. But rather, when people see the reverence that we have toward the Eucharist it is an opportunity to be drawn in to the sacraments and deepen their relationship with Jesus, who is truly present in the Eucharist.
“We can bring people in and also demonstrate how much we respect Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, how much we believe in His presence in the Blessed Sacrament,” Fr. Matthew said. “I think it’s one of the most important things we do at Relevant Radio. We encourage people to celebrate worthily and reverently the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do that day in and day out, to invite people to greater reverence in the Eucharist.”
“But we’ve got to do it together, don’t we? When people see you being reverent before Jesus, if people see you dressing to the nines for Mass, if people see you spending time at Eucharistic adoration, in fact they’re going to realize there’s something much more than a symbol here. There’s something deeper than just a common celebration, because we’re in the presence of our Lord and Savior present in the Eucharist – body, blood, soul, and divinity.”
Listen to the full reflection below: