A recent Pew survey on “What Americans Know About Religion” comes as a “wake-up call” to many of us.
The survey, conducted in February this year, showed that only one in three Catholics in the United States believes in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
The Church teaches the Holy Eucharist is the “source and the summit” of Catholic faith and life. This centrality of the Eucharist was taught by Christ himself, affirmed by the Church Fathers and continuously developed by theologians since the first century.
This belief is fundamental to Catholicism — saints have even been martyred out of reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist — and yet today his real presence is either not known, misunderstood or rejected by Catholics. Sixty-nine percent believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”
That means a mere 31% believe that during the Mass “the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” Even among Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week — meaning those regularly exposed to the Scriptures and a homily breaking open Church teaching — only 63% know what the Church teaches about transubstantiation.
The Pew survey is another stark reminder of the work left to be done in making Jesus’ presence in Holy Communion known and, even more, loved.
Yet, instead of bemoaning this sad state of affairs, we need to look at this as a monumental challenge to accept.
Pope St. John Paul re-energized focus on the Real Presence with his promotion of perpetual Eucharistic adoration. Pope Benedict XVI sought to bring back a sense of the sacred to the Holy Mass. Pope Francis has affirmed the ability of Christ’s true Body and Blood in the Eucharist to transform our lives.
What can we do? At the Register, as a start, we’ve planned a special section in our Sept. 29 issue dedicated to making the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist better known. At EWTN, spreading true devotion to the Eucharist has always been a crucial aspect of what we do, from televising Mass daily to hosting catechetical programs to airing documentaries about Eucharistic miracles. I hope this content increases right understanding of our Catholic faith. But all of us can do something more personal: By receiving Christ at Mass, we become living tabernacles of the living God.
We must strive to live like we believe that.
The clear teaching of the Church must not rest until our hearts and minds are transformed!
God bless you!