Harvard's President Has Learned Something about the Eucharist, So Should Catholics

The black mass re-enactment scheduled to take place at Harvard was canceled, marking Drew Faust's dawning appreciation for what the Real Presence means. But how many Catholics "get" the moral of this story?

Harvard president, Drew Faust, learned something over the past week: The Eucharist is integral to Catholic belief, and some of the faithful expressed their love and reverance for the Eucharist, as they responded forcefully and prayerfully to the news of a planned re-enactment of the Satanic mass, which mocks  the Eucharist.

Last week, Faust dismissed Catholic outrage about the black mass, which was scheduled for May 12 at a campus pub. Pressed to cancel the event, Faust limited her comments to an expression of support to the right of assembly for participants at the event.

This week, Faust responded differently, calling the black mass "abhorent" and 

a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community.

No doubt, her change in tone reflected the impact of Catholic efforts to challenge Harvard's apparent lack of respect for their beliefs. Catholics  don't generallly raise a fuss when their beliefs are attacked, and they weren't expected to do so this time.  Last week, as I previously reported, Father Roger Landry, a Fall River priest and a member of Harvard's undergraduate class of 1992, made that point in a letter he sent to Faust:

We also all know that if an “independent student organization” were trying to host an event in which there would be reenacting the burning of a copy of the Koran, it likewise would never be permitted, because Harvard would never associate itself would the desecration of Islam’s sacred text or allow its name or property to be used in something that would obviously outrage the spiritual sensibilities of Muslims.  

But Catholics, like Father Landry,  made a very big fuss, and it mattered.  By May 12,  80,000 people had signed a petition that called for the university to cancel the event.

Yesterday, as Catholics gathered at the Church of St. Paul in Harvard Square for a Holy Hour and a solemn Benediction to reverance the Eucharist and  make reparations for the black mass' mockery of Our Lord, Faust joined the faithful. Her presence  acknowledged the Real Presence.  which the Church celebrates as the "'source and summit' of Christian life," as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states. Holy Scripture also ofers many references to the Eucharist.

"I am the bread of life," says Jesus, in John 6, 48. "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eaet of it and not die." 

 Unlike many protestors,  who typically register their hurt or anger by lashing out at their perceived enemies, believers responded to the planned mockery of the Eucharist by scheduling the Holy Hour, as well as circulating the petition. The Register's Brian Fraga reports

“Prayer is the most powerful thing in the world. That’s exactly why we’re all gathered here tonight. I couldn’t be more grateful that out of an act intended to harm and attack the Church, love and unity and worship of the Eucharist have emerged,” said Aurora Griffin, a 23-year-old Harvard senior and former president of the university’s Catholic Student Association.


[Update 5/14: Phil Lawler offers a compelling portrait of the scene that unfolded before Faust here.

Faust's decision to attend the Holy Hour revealed that she had learned something over the past week. Now, that lessson needs to be shared with the many baptized Catholics who don't believe in the Real Presence. Recent surveys suggest that less than 50 percent of self-identified Catholics accept the Eucharist as the Real Presence.

This turn of events at Harvard also offers another lesson for Catholics: Those who think that the "dictatorship of relativism" will leave them unscathed -- if  only they remain on  the sidelines of fractious debates on abortion or same-sex marriage -- must now reassess their game plan. The dictatorship of relativism will not be content with winning the "culture wars." Increasingly, it will target our most sacred beliefs,  including the Eucharist. As Pope Benedict observed in his 2005 homily warning of a dictorship of relativism

We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires. 

Pope Benedict said that the only sure and worthy response to that threat was a deep friendship with Jesus. What better why to foster that friendship than through regular reception of the Eucharist and prayers during a Holy Hour?

Harvard's president, Drew Faust,  learned something over the past week. Let's hope Catholics did, as well.