A headline from the Pew Research Center (August 5, 2019) stated the following: "Just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that Eucharist is body, blood of Christ." While I was disappointed with the findings, I cannot say that I was completely shocked. I have seen it coming for years now.
Let me share with you a some facts and incidents that accentuate and corroborate this conclusion in my own mind:
- We knew (before the pandemic) that only
about one-fifth of our registered Catholics attend Mass each week. Can people really believe in the Real Presence
with such sparse attendance?
- People come to Mass looking like they are ready for the gym or even the beach. Someone at one of my former parishes also came forward to distribute the Holy Eucharist (presumably to fill-in for someone who did not show up) dressed in gym shorts, athletic shoes and a t-shirt. Really?
- A few years ago at a Mass for the religious education students, one of students took the Holy Eucharist in one hand and then began to give a high five with the other hand to the students in the first pew as he passed them. Eventually, he did consume the Sacred Host. I saw it happen as I was distributing Holy Communion. Does he understand or even have a clue what (WHO) he had in his hand?
- On a far too
regular basis I have had to follow someone down the aisle (usually at a funeral
or wedding) to make sure that they have consumed the Sacred Host after they had
taken it in their hands and then walked away.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
What can we do about this disturbing trend? In my mind, we must move in the opposite direction immediately and deliberately. Personally show proper reverence for Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
This weekend begins the 40 Hours Devotion here in the parish. I have asked all parishioners for one hour of time to give worship and adoration to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to make reparation to Him for the lack of belief. In addition, if your schedule permits, you could also take advantage of time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament we offer after the 9 AM Mass until noon, every Monday to Friday. Moreover, the chapel and church are both open during office hours to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
Receive the Holy Eucharist with the utmost reverence. Genuflect, bow or make a Sign of the Cross before receiving Our Lord. I am truly edified when people kneel for Holy Communion. While I personally believe that allowing the reception of Holy Communion in the hand was a serious mistake contributing to this lack of belief (and I have no authority to change this practice unilaterally), I can bring it to people's attention and request that they receive Our Lord much more reverently.
When you pass in front of the Tabernacle, please genuflect if you are physically able or bow. Please do not gather to talk or socialize anywhere in the Sanctuary area. And most importantly, always approach to receive the Holy Eucharist in the state of grace (not conscious of any grave or mortal sin). This includes willfully and negligently missing Mass. One should always go to Confession first before receiving Holy Communion, if the person is in grave or mortal sin.
Each of us can show others what we believe by our reverence and actions. We should never do things just for show or simply to gain the attention of others. However, how we dress, how we approach the Holy Eucharist, how we receive, etc., can speak volumes in a world of unbelief. Please do your part.
Fr. Ed Namiotka