Bring the referees out to blow the whistles! Have them throw a flag on the play and call a penalty for illegal teaching! For Heaven’s sake will someone please do something to stop this game we’re losing and turn it around?
The Pew Forum on Religion and Pubic Life recently reported: Large numbers of Americans know little about the world’s major religions, including their own. But here is the kicker for Catholics: Nearly half of all Catholics surveyed did not know their church teaches that the bread and wine in Communion actually become the body and blood of Christ. That’s 50%. And it’s a failing grade.
Long we have known about the dumbing down of Catholic education. But these statistics indicate that half of us lack knowledge of the very source and summit of our Christian lives—the Eucharist. If we don’t understand the Eucharist, we don’t understand the most vital part of our faith! Without this knowledge is it any wonder that in recent years Catholics have left the church droves, or that those who have left Catholicism outnumber those who have joined the Catholic Church by nearly a four-to-one margin?
Protestants may have mastered fellowship. Evangelicals may be whooping it up with dancing, singing and having a good ‘ol time. But fellowship and fun can’t hold a candle to the Eucharist once we understand Who is waiting to comfort us in this Sacred Host. St Bernadette Soubirous said: The Eucharist bathes the tormented soul in light and love.
If our Eucharistic Lord is the source and summit of our Christian lives, then He must be the source and summit of Catholic education itself from which grace flows to preachers, teachers and all Catholics. That’s why it’s important to embrace a Eucharistic Catholic education.
A Eucharistic Catholic education points us towards the Eucharist, and includes devotions to the Blessed Sacrament and authentic Catholic teachings on it. These steps can guide us there:
1. Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction: Blessed Mother Teresa said: When you look at the crucifix you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now. On a regular basis, Catholic students can be brought before our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament and exposed to His Eucharistic love. Students can be taught to go to our Lord to intercede for their own intentions and those of the world. As part of Catholic education, students can be taught to journal on a scripture verse in the Eucharistic presence, taught to listen to His voice there, and taught to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy there as well.
The rich tradition of Benediction directs us towards the majesty of our Lord in the Eucharist. Benediction prayers reveal the Truth about our Eucharistic Lord, and we need to learn them. Where Benediction has been lost, it must be reclaimed as vital to Catholic education. If the Tabernacle is not in the center of the church, perhaps it can be moved there. We need to see our Lord as the center of our worship.
2. Honoring liturgical norms: What we believe about the Eucharist impacts how we worship at Mass. And how we worship impacts not just what we believe but what others believe too! We each become educators of the faith simply by the example we set at Mass. If we dabble in non-approved creativity and liturgical abuse, we distort the meaning of Eucharist for ourselves and others. But when we respect liturgical norms we elevate the Eucharist’s meaning—and lift it up. Authentically sacred music always points us towards Christ’s Eucharistic love at Mass, never towards people as though being entertained. Sacred music needs to be taught.
Catholics also need to be taught about the blessings of frequent Mass attendance—for herein lay the remedy for our ills. St. Therese of Lisieux said Receive Communion …very often…there you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured. We need education at Mass and in classes on why sacred silence is honored in church. We need to learn humility before the sacred host: Who are we to be so close to Him?… Christ gives Himself to us totally, with His Body, His Blood, His Soul and His Divinity…. We speak to Him intimately as one does to a father, as one does to love itself. And all this is true. It is no fantasy… Let us try to become more humble. For only a truly humble faith will allow us to see things from a supernatural point of view. (St. Josemaria Escriva)
3. Monthly confession is needed for all, including those newly educated in our faith. Confession properly disposes our hearts to receive grace from our Lord in the Eucharist. This truth must be taught. Would we attend a wedding banquet with mud on our feet and dirt on our hands? Yet, spiritually speaking, that’s the trap we often fall into often because we’re not reminded enough how confession cleanses our souls and disposes us to Eucharistic grace. We need this grace, and need to be taught about sin—particularly the seven capital ones.
4. The Rosary: Our Lady brought Christ into the world. Through the Rosary, she also brings the Truth of the Eucharist into our hearts. St. Padre Pio said that the Rosary is the weapon against evil. It defends against heretical teachings, and protects Eucharistic truths from being snuffed out. Catholics deserve lessons on Our Lady of Fatima’s messages to the Fatima children, and should be taught the meaning of First Saturday Masses. Learning Fatima Prayers will help us understand the Eucharist: Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee my God, I love thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
5. Biographies of Saints: Adding actual biographical books and movies of the saints to lessons will help students to connect in depth to how that saint loved the Eucharist. We need inspiration from these Godly role models. There are excellent biographies of the saints for young children, and excellent movies too. Catholic high school students can grow in understanding of the Eucharist through movies and books like St. Maria Goretti, Saint Therese of Leuseuix, St. Don Bosco, and St. Joan of Arc. High School, college and RCIA students can learn much about the Eucharist from St. Faustina’s Diary. The saints were interesting people who loved our Eucharistic Lord. Care needs to taken that materials on the saints reveal that love, and are as interesting as the saints themselves.
6. Studying Church Documents and Memorizing Scripture:
To develop spiritual life skills, we need to be taught how to directly research questions on the Eucharist from both the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We need education on the rich Eucharistic truths found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and papal encyclicals. As a Confirmation requirement, students can be taught how to use the encyclicals as references—including Humanae Vitae and the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia
When Christ taught about the Truth of the Eucharist in John 6:51-60, some said: This saying is hard: who can accept it? Some disciples left Him. He continued to teach Truth anyway. Catholic education programs must teach Eucharistic Truths even if some leave. We may need to grow stronger in Truth before we can grow larger in size again. That’s because: The Eucharist and the cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. (CCC 1336). If Eucharistic Truths seem to have vaporized where we live, there are a plethora of teaching tools to help us.
Memorizing scripture is important. Students need to memorize scripture verses particularly on the Eucharist. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51)
7. Embracing Purity and Modesty: Why does modesty matter when learning about the Eucharist? At the risk of being stoned, sawed in two and put to death at sword’s point (Heb. 12:37), I will state why. When our Lady of Fatima said many fashions will arise that will offend our Lord she was not referring to frills on the end of a skirt. She was referring to immodest clothing and telling us it is an offense to God and thus sin.
When we Catholics, who are children of Light, receive Communion dressed in attire like that worn by ladies of the night, we cause scandal in church. We set a bad example for others, including young children. Immodesty profanes our Lord in the Eucharist. We are often so blithe about our immodest dress that we clearly haven’t a clue immodesty is wrong. But ignorance won’t make immodesty right. The most basic teachings on purity and modesty are in the Catechism (CCC 2521-2527) to be studied. These truths need to be taught as fundamental to a Eucharistic education.
Relying on “Religion” books to communicate Eucharistic Truths is like chopping wood with a plastic knife. The tool is woefully inadequate. Catholic education must draw its depth of meaning from our Eucharistic Lord. With our focus on Him, we will more easily unite (CCC 1396), and some internal divisions within the church will naturally subside. We Catholics will likely find that the “greener” pastures other faiths sometimes seem to offer, may start seeming just a tad bit dry and brown. Christ’s rich Eucharistic love is the gift meant to sustain us on earth, until we reach our final home in heaven. Once that love is found, it becomes a love that’s hard to leave.