By Joel Padgett
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Can you believe that just over a half-year has gone by since our diocese kicked off the Eucharistic Renewal? Perhaps it’s an opportune time to take a new look at the goals of the Renewal, and, as Providence would have it, it just happens to coincide with that famous—or infamous—time for making New Year’s resolutions. So, if New Year’s resolutions are your thing, why not incorporate an aspect of the Eucharistic Renewal into yours? Take it to prayer, and see what the Holy Spirit inspires. It just might be one of those rare resolutions that won’t let you down. But if New Year’s resolutions aren’t your thing, hopefully Eucharistic Renewal still is because, ultimately, Jesus never disappoints in the Eucharist.
The four goals of the Eucharistic Renewal are:
- to believe in such a way that our living God, Jesus Christ, is truly present in the Eucharist that I am moved
- to worship Him, especially in the Mass
- to reflect that belief through the way I live my daily life
- to share with others—through my words and acts of self-giving love—the unconditional love of God that I encounter in the Eucharist.
I hope to delve more deeply into each of the goals in future articles; but, for now, let’s focus on the first.
Belief in the Real Presence includes a doctrinal aspect, which is important. In fact, the Church has an obligation to teach this doctrine; and all believers have a responsibility to try to understand it, keeping in mind that the mystery of the Eucharist can never be fully comprehended. Belief in Jesus’ Real Presence isn’t merely doctrinal or intellectual. Our entire person assents to Jesus’ personal presence in the Eucharist, and the ways that a person comes to belief are multiform. Whereas some people come to this belief through study, others may come to it through the beauty of a reverently celebrated liturgy. Still for others, an experience of receiving true Christian charity may lead them to belief in the Source of that charity. Ultimately, belief is always a fruit of grace, and God’s grace can never be put in a box.
The various paths to belief work together and strengthen each other like the individual threads of a rope. Although I don’t remember a lot about my first communion, I do know that I was taught that Jesus was really present in the Eucharist—something I could only grasp as much as any 7 year old could. However, formal teaching is only one aspect. I also “learned” about Jesus’ presence through the witness of others. For example, I saw the reverence and love with which the priest held the consecrated host. To give another example, I was not only taught the importance of genuflecting to Christ in the tabernacle, I was also “taught” by watching my parents and grandparents genuflect. I perceived its importance through their action. (We are all aware of counterexamples, but that is one of the reasons why it’s important to allow our belief to be strengthened in a multiform way.)
When I was in high school, I remember stopping by my church late at night. I can’t explain it, but I can testify to the sense of peace that I discovered in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Although this example is experiential and not intellectual, it most definitely contributed to helping strengthen my belief. I later studied theology, which helped me understand and articulate on a deeper level what the Church believes about the Eucharist. Discovering more fully the unique treasure of the Eucharist in Catholic Church moved me even more to want to share it with others.
All of these aspects working together—some objective, some subjective, some intellectual, some experiential—contribute to strengthening my belief in the Eucharist. There are many things that can and will test our faith (and we are all subject to them), but there are also many things that we can do to collaborate more effectively with God’s grace in strengthening our faith. How would you like to see your faith in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist grow this year?
Joel Padgett serves as the Director of the Diocese of Evansville’s Office of Catechesis.