Eucharistic Revival Kicks Off in US
Mass with relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis initiates the national effort to revive devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was consigned a first-class relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis on April 7, in the South Bronx section of New York City. The consignment took place at St. Rita di Cascia Church during a Mass concelebrated by Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, newly ordained auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat and Father Pablo Gonzalez, pastor of St. Rita’s. The Mass marked the beginning of a three-year Eucharistic Revival in the United States.
Despite a torrential downpour outside, the Mass was packed.
“Rain and thunderstorms couldn’t keep hundreds from honoring the relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis as it arrived in the U.S. There were just two police cars outside, ostensibly to protect the cardinal and visiting Italian dignitary in this admittedly rough neighborhood,” said Kristy Schade of St. John and Paul parish in Larchmont.
But once churchgoers entered St. Rita’s, the scenery changed dramatically.
“What awaited us inside was a truly unexpected sight: an oasis of faith, light and warmth on this otherwise dreary and miserable night. We knew right away that we were in good company when several sisters in the familiar white habit with blue bands — Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity — could be spotted,” said Schade.
Cathy Hickey from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Pelham was also awestruck.
“I was deeply impressed with the fervor of this mostly Hispanic population,” said Hickey.
“Down a flight of stairs into the darkened, candlelit St. Rita’s Church, a large crowd of mostly immigrants, families, religious, clergy — young and old — had all gathered in hushed tones to honor the Church’s newest and very young blessed,” said Schade.
At the front right-hand side of the church was an enormous photograph of Blessed Carlo Acutis surrounded by flowers. A relic of Carlo’s pericardium (the membrane that surrounds the heart) was placed delicately in front of his picture. On the left-hand side of the Church was a large choir of men and women singing in Spanish, the dominant language of the parish.
“I was so impressed with Cardinal Dolan’s Spanish, which was so good, and that he, the archbishop of Assisi and the new New York bishop were all in attendance in this small basement church,” said Hickey.
Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino spoke about Carlo’s love for the Eucharist during the homily in English and Spanish.
“He was a boy, like so many boys — with his wishes, his dreams, his problems and his schoolwork. But when it was time for Mass, he would say, ‘I need to go to Jesus,’” said Archbishop Sorrentino.
He recalled the recent testimony of an elderly woman from Assisi who knew Carlo.
“She saw him attending Mass every day. Now I see a Church full of people, and I hope that it is like this every day and every Sunday here, but in Italy it is not always so,” said Archbishop Sorrentino, eliciting laughter.
“There are many days when there are only three, four or five old women attending Mass. But when Carlo was in Assisi — his family would visit Assisi for months at a time — he would go to Mass every day. The old woman met Carlo and asked him, ‘Why are you here?’ and he answered, ‘Because I love Jesus,’” recounted Archbishop Sorrentino.
Reminding the crowd about the need to renew Eucharistic understanding and adoration, he said, “For Carlo, it was clear, so evident, that Jesus was there and that he could not miss Jesus.”
Archbishop Sorrentino also reminded the crowd that the saints cannot be the sole focus. They must point us toward Jesus.
“They say, ‘Don’t think of us. Think about Jesus,’” he said.
Why a Eucharistic Revival?
In 2019, a Pew study found what many had suspected: Only 30% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus. After the shuttering of churches during the many months of COVID’s height, fewer people came back to Mass once restrictions were lifted.
The U.S. bishops decided that a revival was needed so that Catholics could rediscover the Eucharist. They are organizing, at the grassroots level, three years of prayer, pilgrimage and worship — culminating in a Eucharistic conference in Indianapolis, July 17-21, 2024.
Blessed Carlo Acutis is the patron of the U.S.’ Eucharistic Revival.
“This is so needed right now, when we seem to be fixed on a very unhealthy inward focus of the self,” said Schade. “Who better to encourage us to look outward and see Christ in the Eucharist, and in each other, than this very holy young man?”
Father Pablo Gonzalez, pastor of St. Rita’s, explained that when the Eucharist is adored, miracles happen. St. Rita’s has 24-hour Eucharistic adoration three days a week, with a few hours dedicated to the devotion on the other four days of the week.
“I see it all the time. We have seen so many miracles happen here in our parish that, one day, I will need to write a book about it. Churches need to be open, and they need to expose the Eucharist. In the moment that you do this, you don’t have to do anything. Jesus does it all,” explained Father Gonzalez.
When asked about the miracles he has seen, Father Gonzalez related many inexplicable conversions and healings of hearts.
“People will walk past the church, and, for reasons they can’t explain, they walk inside. Once they are inside, they find themselves going to confession — sometimes for the first time in 40 years. There are people who have a great deal of anger inside and unforgiveness. They come and start praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament and realize, over time, that somehow they were able to let go of anger and forgive. It actually changes their faces,” said Father Gonzalez. “You can see it.”
One year ago, Father Gonzalez was able to get a first-class relic — of his hair — of Blessed Carlo Acutis from Assisi, where his tomb is located, and he began to speak about Blessed Carlo to his congregation.
“Devotion to him has been growing by leaps and bounds,” he told the Register.
After the April 7 Mass, Cardinal Dolan blessed the entire crowd with the relic of Blessed Carlo in his hands. He explained that no one was to touch it, but people could come up and reverently pray in front of it in veneration.
Everyone who attended the special Mass agreed that the story of Blessed Carlo Acutis is exactly what is needed right now.
“I think it is critical. Here is a young man that young people now can relate to. He was not a cloistered person living in the desert. He lived in the middle of the world. We need saints like this,” said Eileen Slattery of St. Paul’s parish in Yonkers.
“Carlo had such devotion and love for the Eucharist. The only one who can save us is Our Lord. He gave himself to us, and every day we can receive him.”