How do we bring the “Nones” back to Church?

In a time where people are consumed with physical health, spiritual welfare is often forgotten. Yet, the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, an early Church martyr, still ring true today. He wrote that the Holy Eucharist is “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying.” If we go to such great lengths to protect our mortal bodies, how much more should we strive to safeguard our immortal souls?

Believers were heartsick when they read that only 30 percent of US Catholics believe that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist (2019 Pew Research poll). As Catholics, we know that the bread and wine at Mass “By the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1333). In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus reaffirms that He is the bread of life nine times: “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).

When I heard a song recently, it reminded me of the infinite love that God has for us in the Blessed Sacrament: “I have died every day, waiting for you . . . ./I have loved you for a thousand years/I’ll love you for a thousand more” (“A Thousand Years,” Christina Judith Perri and David Hodges). The same Jesus of the Gospels waits for us to love us, heal us, and strengthen us. Everyone is wounded, whether from relationships, life’s challenges, physical, emotional, or psychological sufferings. The Holy Eucharist—the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ —reminds us that we are not forsaken, we are not forgotten, we are cherished, we are God’s beloved.

We live in increasingly uncertain times. There are painful divisions in the political world, and in Christ’s Body, the Church. It is easy to reel from the news and attacks against what is holy. Where do we look for answers, for truth, and for solace? We must look to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, receive Him in Holy Communion, proclaim His Real Presence, and adore Him in this Sacrament of Love.

“I think every parish should have . . . round-the-clock Eucharistic adoration, during which good people pray for the return of the unaffiliated,” declared Bishop Robert E. Barron, of Los Angeles, in a 2019 interview with Our Sunday Visitor. Bishop Barron’s comment followed a Pew Research poll that reported a rise in Americans who identify as “nones,” that is, those claiming no religious affiliation.

In his letter “Real Presence,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC of Peoria wrote that “It is Catholic doctrine that the Most Blessed Sacrament is at all times to be given the latria [Divine worship] of the Church, because through the power of the Holy Spirit, the consecrated Bread and Wine truly become the glorified Body and Blood of Christ. We therefore rightly recognize and adore the Most Blessed Sacrament as our Lord and our God.” As Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence said, sharing our faith with others “begins when we are transformed ourselves, especially through the power of the Eucharist, into the image and likeness of Christ.” Bishops around the U.S. are promoting greater devotion to the Blessed Sacrament through catechesis, as well as through the devout reception of Holy Communion and Eucharistic Adoration.

From eternity, God chose you to love and be loved. He waits for you each moment with all of His tenderness — patiently hoping that you will come, receive Him in Holy Communion, and visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Holy Eucharist we find the mercy and compassion of Our Father who created us, who always remains with us, and will not leave us orphaned. Jesus, our redeemer who died for us, longs for us to receive Him in the Sacred Host, with all of the love of a bridegroom and best friend. At Eucharistic Adoration, we also find the ever present peace of the Holy Spirit, our guide and companion, who comforts, inspires, and encourages us on our journey. When we receive the Blessed Sacrament and make a Holy Hour, we are on a date with God and experience communion with the Holy Trinity, a glimpse of heaven on earth.

Vatican II said the Holy Eucharist is “the source and summit of Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, OR echoes the need to teach Catholics, using every opportunity, about the Real Presence. In his article “A crisis of Eucharistic faith,” he writes, “We have lost much of the reverence, awe and respect for the Holy Eucharist that we once had in the Church. How we celebrate the Holy Mass and treat the Blessed Sacrament are at the heart of this. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, ‘If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.’”

The Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, called “The World’s Greatest Secret,” is waiting to be told. Sheen taught: “The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.” How can we find our identity, as individual believers and maintain who we are as a Church, without the essence of what we believe?

The crisis we face today is that the Church’s “CENTER is no longer God and the adoration of Him,” Cardinal Robert Sarah instructed, “but rather men and their alleged ability to ‘do’ something to keep themselves busy” (Address on Summorum Pontificum). In his book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, Cardinal Sarah describes the awesome silence where we encounter Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament through the heartfelt reception of Holy Communion at Mass and in Eucharistic Adoration. “Without silence, there is no light. Darkness feeds on the incessant noise of this world, which prevents us from turning to God. Take the example of the liturgy of the Mass today. It brings us to adoration, filial fear and love in the presence of God’s greatness. It culminates in the Consecration where together, facing the altar, our gaze directed to the host, to the cross, we commune in silence in recollection and in adoration.” (Sarah, May 22, 2018, Homily to Chartres pilgrims)

Do you believe that Jesus is here? We talk about so many things daily, on Facebook or in person, why not the Real Presence of God among us? The greatest Love of all awaits us. “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you” (Is 30:18).

How long will we keep Him waiting? In the words of St. Josemaría Escrivá “When you approach the tabernacle remember that He has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.” Will you spend a weekly or daily hour with Him Who has spent Himself totally for you? (Matthew 26:40). Will you start Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in your parish? The future of the Church and the world — and salvation of souls — depends on our response.

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Mary Beth Bracy is a consecrated virgin of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York. She is a writer who is blessed to research, publish, and speak extensively on various aspects of Catholic spirituality. Her books include Behold the Lamb, Bread of Life and The Little Way of Healing Love Through the Passion of Jesus: The Stations of the Cross with St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She is also co-author of the book Stories of the Eucharist. Mary Beth has written articles for numerous Catholic publications and recorded some Catholic talks. For more information or to view her blog visit The Little Way.

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