Catechesis on the Holy Eucharist
Dear Friends in Christ,
In case you missed it, there is currently a heated debate going on in the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion. The media (and others) have made this a standoff between President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other Catholic public figures versus various bishops and even Pope Francis. There is some truth to this controversy, but it is NOT the whole picture. The issue concerning the eucharist is much larger and has been around for some time. The scandal of public figures who profess to be Catholic and yet promote actions contrary to the Catholic Faith or misrepresent the Catholic Faith is serious. However, the issue is NOT politics! The issue is FAITH. Because the issue is not politics, one ‘s political affiliation should not play a role in determining who should be able to receive the sacraments. That being said, faith and the adherence to faith does and should determine if a person is properly disposed to receive the sacraments. St Paul teaches us, Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (I Cor 11:27-29)
As is often the case, things are not as simplistic as the media would like to pretend. As is more often the case, the media does not understand or present the issues accurately. My personal advice is do not rely on the media for an accurate presentation of the facts. Rather, do your homework! For several decades, numerous studies have sadly shown that a majority of Catholics in the U.S. do not know or understand what the Catholic Church actually believes and teaches about the Holy Eucharist. There is much confusion and misunderstanding surrounding what the Eucharist is and subsequently what the Catholic Church’s teaching about the reception of Holy Communion is. Needless to say, I am not able to cover everything in a single bulletin letter. The Catholic Bishops of the United States have been aware for some time about the crisis of faith regarding Holy Communion among the faithful. For too many American Catholics, their understanding of Communion has very little in common with the Catholic Church’s authentic teaching on the Holy Eucharist. The range of misunderstanding is huge. Communion is often seen in Protestant theological terms, in contemporary sociological terms, in political terms, in relativist terms and individualistic terms and in almost every other kind of term except what the Catholic Church actually understands, holds, believes and teaches about the Holy Eucharist.
In all fairness and candor, since Vatican II (1962-65), there have been a lot of people in the Church (catechists, religious, priests, deacons, bishops, theologians, and everyday Catholics) expressing the teaching of the Catholic faith poorly and inadequately. In many instances, they have simply put forth error and called it dogma. In other words, a lot of crazy stuff has been said and believed that is contrary to the Catholic Faith. Often the motivation was sincere yet ignorant. Often, the error was not seen as an error and was repeated to people who do not know better. It is for this reason; Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church to aid Catholics everywhere to better understand and know the authentic teachings of the Faith. One of the many gifts of this great saint of our day was his encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, on the gift of the Eucharist. Every adult Catholic would do well to read and reflect upon this wonderful letter.
Today, the Catholic Bishops of the United States are working on a document on the Holy Eucharist for Catholics in the United States. Under the leadership of Archbishop Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and President of the Bishops’ Conference, the bishops of the United States are undertaking a multi-year catechesis (study/teaching) to aid Catholics in the United States to deepen our understanding and love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Contrary to some, the desire is not to “weaponize” the Eucharist or make for “war over the communion rail”. The goal is to assist all Catholics to grow in holiness and in their knowledge, appreciation and love of the gift of the Eucharist. The current, sad situation did not appear overnight and will not disappear or be resolved overnight. This is going to be a long, and at times, laborious process. In the end however, it will be well worth our efforts. For with God’s blessings, we will be a holier, healthier, stronger and happier Church.
Stay tuned and keep praying,
In pace Christi,