Bishop Cozzens Talks New Eucharist Film, Explores Disbelief in the Real Presence

Being aired in all 50 states and Washington D.C., the movie features the testimonies of five men and women who share how the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist has transformed their lives.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, who is featured in the bonus section for the new eucharistic film.
Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, who is featured in the bonus section for the new eucharistic film. (photo: Courtesy photo / Diocese of Crookston)

“Providential” is the word that Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston used to describe the April 25 release of ALIVE: Who is There?, a movie highlighting the transformative power of the Eucharist. 

He said the movie is timed perfectly for this summer’s kick off to the U.S. bishops’ Eucharistic Revival, which Bishop Cozzens is leading in his capacity as U.S. bishops’ conference chair on evangelization and catechesis. Bishop Cozzens, who offers exclusive commentary in the bonus features of the film for U.S. audiences, spoke to CNA April 12 about his excitement for the movie, while elaborating further on his thoughts about topics such as disbelief in the Eucharist, reverent liturgy, the ad orientem posture, and practices for the reception of Holy Communion.

“I think it is a wonderful time as we‘re preparing to launch the Eucharistic revival to have such a powerful movie about people’s encounter with Jesus and the Eucharist,” Bishop Cozzens said.

The movie’s one-day-only showing in the United States on April 25 marks the first time that English speaking audiences will be able to read along with subtitles, as it was directed and produced by Spanish filmmakers. Tickets for the 90-minute-long, Spanish-language documentary, which is subtitled in English, can be bought through the movie’s content distributor in the United States, Fathom Events.

Being aired in all 50 states and Washington D.C., the movie features the testimonies of five men and women who share how the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist has transformed their lives. Negotiations are underway in Canada and Australia to distribute the film to English speaking audiences in those countries as well. 

Bishop Cozzens, who said he hopes everyone will see the movie, praised the film‘s mode of using testimony to teach about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. “When one person tells me about the reality of Jesus, especially his Presence in the Eucharist, that helps me believe in Jesus’ own words and what those words could mean for me,” he said.

Do This and the Real Presence will Become Clear to You

Commenting further on the Real Presence, Bishop Cozzens said that for those who haven't had a life-changing experience in eucharistic adoration, he would tell them that “in order for faith to be real, I don’t always have to have an emotional experience and real faith will transform things over time.”

“I would also say what Jesus says: ‘Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. Ask and you will receive.’ And that really means keep on seeking, keep on asking, and as you continue to pursue Jesus and his presence in the Eucharist, it will become clear to you,” he added.

Two Fundamental Reasons for Disbelief

Bishop Cozzens said he thinks there are a couple “fundamental reasons” why there are such high rates of disbelief in the Real Presence, among both Catholics and non-Catholics.

First, Bishop Cozzens said that modern culture has fallen into a heresy of what he calls “scientism” and has lost a “sacramental worldview.” Bishop Cozzens said that people struggle to understand the sacraments, which is “God's very life being communicated through this physical, tangible reality.”

The second reason for disbelief is bad catechesis, Bishop Cozzens told CNA. 

“More than 10 years ago, the bishops really sort of tried to take by the handle catechesis in our country because they realized that several things in common catechetical texts were misrepresenting the truth about Catholic theology and one of those was the Eucharist,” he said. 

“That‘s where the bishops started this very intensive catechism review for all catechetical texts and we’re still getting our hands around all that, but it pointed to a problem that was very real in catechesis,” he added. “And some of that reality in catechesis also really flowed into our liturgy.”

Bishop Cozzens said that the liturgy of the Mass has not always had true reverence “that would help to carry forth the meaning of the truth of both the sacrifice of the Mass and Jesus' presence and the Eucharist.”

Bishop Cozzens said that at times “we placed more emphasis on the communal dimension of the liturgy, which is a very important dimension, but sometimes to the detriment of the reality of what‘s happening at the Mass and who we’re encountering.”

How to Restore Belief in the Eucharist

“Good liturgy follows the General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” Bishop Cozzens said, while noting that the General Instruction allows for variations within the liturgy. He said if the Missal is followed, “that alone contributes to reverence of the Eucharist.”

When asked if liturgical changes such as Communion in the hand and celebration versus populum had contributed to disbelief in the Eucharist, Bishop Cozzens said, “I am hesitant to believe that certain particular ritual changes will solve all our problems.”

Bishop Cozzens said he believes that “we ought to receive Communion reverently,” while adding that he has seen people receiving on the hand with so much reverence that it has brought him to tears “because you can tell how much they believe in Jesus in the real presence.”

“I also think it‘s very beautiful when people receive Communion on the tongue, or even when people receive Communion kneeling and I appreciate the reverence that they’re showing for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament there,” he said.

Bishop Cozzens said that he trusts the Church in its judgement to permit Communion on the hand and Mass said versus populum, and noted that there “may come a day when the Church in general says, ‘yeah, we think it's better to go back to Communion on the tongue.’” 

However, he said it would be difficult to say Communion on the hand was a mistake, “because a lot of evidence that we have shows that Communion on the hand preceded Communion on the tongue for centuries.”

Bishop Cozzens praised the writings of Benedict XVI on Mass said ad orientem, which communicated his thoughts that “it would be too much of a dramatic change to try to change that back, at least right now and that it was better to try to do the versus populum liturgy well because something was gained for many people in their experience of the liturgy by being able to see more of what the action of the priest is.”

Bishop Cozzens told CNA that people often bring concerns to him about irreverent liturgy, and liturgical abuse. 

He said that he recommends to those people that they sit for an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament in adoration once a week and that they “offer that holy hour for the struggles that their parish is having and for the people in [their] parish.”

Anger is a normal reaction when holy things are not treated properly, Bishop Cozzens said, but, “that kind of anger needs to be converted into deeper love and sacrifice in order to be able to be used by the Lord in a spiritual, for the good of his Church.”

Bishop Cozzens also recommends starting a small group with friends to study the Eucharist and sit in adoration together as a witness.

“I think it's wonderful that [the movie] is in Spanish because we have so many Latino Catholics in the United States, many of them great lovers of our Lord in the Eucharist,” Bishop Cozzens said. 

He said that there are many English and Spanish speakers whom the movie could benefit by giving them a deeper understanding of the Eucharist.