As Roman Catholics know, we have officially entered our “National Eucharistic Revival,” as of the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 16, 2022). This revival, a historic but not unprecedented occurrence, hopes to inspire new love for Christ in the midst of our muddling mis-hap of a modern world. A new love for Christ might inspire us to live justly, embrace wisdom, and love and believe in God’s mercy for ourselves and for others. I am hopeful.
With such hopes, I entered the Corpus Christi Sunday Mass on June 16 (rarely does anything trump a Sunday, but this is one of the exceptions). I wondered what we might experience on this national kick-off day of Eucharistic revival. This Feast might inspire the singing of so many wonderful hymns, the announcement of compelling devotions for the parish (like eucharistic processions or even mystery plays [!!!]), let alone the Word of the Gospel for this day, or the call to be transformed by the Eucharist to be as Christ in the world. We could even remember the story of the unshakable faith of Saint Juliana of Liège, whose mystical vision inspired the Feast and its celebration in the first place.
But, if you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, get ready for it. We did not receive an invitation for eucharistic devotion at some remote point in parish life. After the homily, we stopped everything—and our presider pulled out the monstrance and put it on the altar, right smack dab in the middle of Mass.
It’s all a little blurry to me—I’m not sure if we actually said the Creed, or if petitions happened. I do know that the congregation all stared rather dumbly while Father was affixing the monstrance with its host for adoration (he had to tell them to kneel). Helpfully, he did explain where to find the appropriate prayers for exposition in the backs of our hymnals, and the faithful obediently followed his instruction. I did, too, but I just felt…confused. Celebration of the Eucharist. Devotion to the Eucharist. Which is better? Which were we doing right now?!?
I knelt there, staring, and am ashamed to admit I had trouble focusing. I found myself asking, “Does it make any sense to be conversing with your beloved, and say, ‘wait a minute, let me take a look at you for a minute,’ before going back to actually engaging in the conversation?” This just feels awkward!!!
And, of course, as I sat there kneeling and wondering these thousand wonders, my four-year-old daughter started pulling at my sleeve asking “What are we DOING???”
“I have no idea,” I wanted to say, but bit my tongue and said how Father wanted to teach us some beautiful prayers for Jesus. Liturgy is already tricky enough to explain to kids.
In the end, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament happened, Benediction happened, and we all put up our kneelers so we could begin…the Eucharistic Prayer. So Mass happened, too.
Weeks later, I’m still bemused and befuddled. What is our Eucharistic Revival all about? Is it about turning from the Body of Christ to look and think about him—or to recognize him in the broken hearts and wounded souls of those gathered around the summit and font of our faith?
We need a Eucharistic revival. But, when the Church calls us to refocus our vision on the Eucharist…I’m pretty sure we’re not just talking about putting our eyes on the monstrance. Our vision is to partake of Christ’s Eucharist and, in doing so, come to see the world for what it could be: a place without suffering, sin and sadness. A place where hearts might be mended, and changed.
If we’re worried about how devotions to the Eucharist and Mass go together, Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us what to do: “[T]hese devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them” (SC 13).
So let’s celebrate the Eucharist—and let’s honor our beloved Eucharistic devotions—by celebrating them where they belong: flowing from Mass, and leading the faithful to it.