Monday, June 27, 2022

What Makes a Eucharistic Revival?

The Catholic Church in the U.S. has embarked upon a multi-year "Eucharistic Revival." According to the USCCB's Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis, the "Mission" of this "Eucharistic Revival" is to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Its "Vision" is movement of Catholics across the United States, healed converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist - and sent out in mission "for the life of the world."

Admirable goals, and God grant that we may move forward together on this journey!

Meanwhile, however, like just about everything else in these days, this "Eucharistic Revival" is bogged down in controversies - from how to interpret the research showing widespread ignorance about the Real Presence (research which allegedly sparked this preoccupation with "Eucharistic Revival" in the first place) to continuing arguments about weaponizing the Eucharist for partisan purposes to on-line debates about whether the "Eucharistic Revival" is also a "liturgical revival," and exactly what that quaint question actually means anyway.

I have already written in this space about the first two controversies (cf. "Conflicting Conversations about Holy Communion," June 21, 2021). It may be worth repeating here that, regardless of technical questions about the survey itself and its data, the research in question at least appears to show serious deficiencies in some American Catholics' understanding about the Eucharist. But really this should hardly have come as any surprise. For decades now, traditional practices which highlighted the unique sacredness of the Eucharist for previous generations (e.g., fasting before Communion, frequent Confession, kneeling for Communion, receiving on the tongue, reverential silence in church, etc.) have all been in decline. There may be multiple reasons for these developments, which are not necessarily bad, but it still should have been expected that such developments would have inevitably predictable cultural consequences for how the Eucharist has actually been experienced by many, regardless of whatever they may have been formally taught (if in fact they have been taught). In any case, clearly a conversation needs to occur about the way the Eucharist is experienced in the Church's life - a conversation that extends the narrow language and preoccupations of religious professionals. How such a conversation occurs, however, will significantly impact its efficacy, which places a significant burden on whatever happens during this national "Eucharistic Revival." Whatever happens, continued and at this point probably unavoidable partisan conflicts about how to be Church in a modern democratic, pluralistic, and increasingly secular society seem unlikely either to promote the mission or foster the vision articulated for this "Eucharistic Revival."

I'm not sure of what to make of the questions about the relationship between "Eucharistic Revival" and "liturgical revival." It seems to me that examining and (hopefully) improving the ordinary American Catholic's experience of how the eucharistic liturgy is celebrated is inherently desirable at any time and obviously ought to be a component of any "Eucharistic Revival" for the vast majority of American Catholics, who will not be assembling in Indianapolis for the 2024 Eucharistic Congress. Clearly, any serious "Eucharistic Revival" should care about  improving the ordinary American Catholic's experience of how the eucharistic liturgy is celebrated in actual parishes in a contemporary America in which religion, like more or less everything else, is riddled with consumerism. For many that experience may seem somewhat sub-optimal at present - whether measured in terms of  welcome and hospitality, length and reverence of celebration, music, preaching, etc. At the same time, any serious "Eucharistic Revival" ought also to include reviving (where they have been lost) such historical up-datings in eucharistic worship as Corpus Christi processions, Forty Hours, and ordinary experiences of Exposition and Benediction. That the Church's liturgy developed in certain directions over the centuries is part of its historical vitality. Without inordinately privileging any particular practice or any particular period in the Church's history (a common failing on both sides of contemporary generational liturgical divides), our post-modern predicament challenges the Church to draw upon all her treasures - heeding the familiar teaching of Jesus himself, Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Matthew 13:52).

On the other hand, however, no amount of liturgical revival - not even a Corpus Christi procession and Forty Hours in every single American parish - would alone be sufficient to promote the mission or foster the vision articulated for this "Eucharistic Revival." As Sacrosantum Concilium, 9, famously acknowledged: Before we can come to the liturgy we must be called to faith and to conversion: "How then are they to call upon him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?" (Romans 10:14-15).

Clearly, we still have a lot to do in the U.S Church to get us from here to there!

No comments:

Post a Comment