Bishop Steven Lopes has responded in a most instructive way to the disturbing recent Pew Research study showing 70 per cent of Catholics in America do not believe in Real Presence in the Eucharist.
In an interview with Peter Jesserer Smith at the National Catholic Register, Bishop Lopes explains that better catechesis is not necessarily the solution:
I am sympathetic with the idea that we need better and more effective catechesis. I remember the catechesis before the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and catechesis after the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. So in other words, the resources are there, the catechesis is there. The catechesis today is in really much better shape. So there’s a “yes, but …” if you will, when I hear “well, we need better catechesis.” Well yes, but we can’t make it an intellectual thing alone. Because God and Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist is not an idea. It’s not an idea to be captured by the mind. It is a true self-gift. It is a personal gift of Christ to his Church, to the soul of the believer.
And therefore, as a personal gift, it has to be understood and received as a real person, which involves so many more aspects of the person rather than the mind. So worship – “the worship of God in the beauty of holiness,” as we say in the Psalms, has to involve the whole person. It has to capture all of the senses: sight, and smell and touch and even taste. That beauty in worship takes the faith in the real presence and makes it experienced; it makes it something that can be experienced. So the Ordinariate’s accent on beauty in worship — they all say we take worship very seriously and we do because it’s a very serious thing — it is the appearance of God on Earth, and receiving the gift of Christ’s self-gift is a tremendous thing.
On Saturday, I went to a Mass in a suburban neighborhood in Ottawa at a church built in the 1970s. The tabernacle was located in a small separate chapel off to the side. There’s another church like this not far from me that I sometimes attend for weekday masses.
I think this kind of church architecture was fashionable after the Second Vatican Council when there seemed to be a stress on Jesus present in the Body of Christ as the People of God and a shift from seeing the Blessed Sacrament alone as the Body of Christ.
On Twitter last week, I came across a link to this article by Fr. Thomas Reese SJ in response to the Pew Research study showing most Catholics do not believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.
In The Eucharist is more about Christ being present, Fr. Reese concludes:
Ultimately, the Mass is more about us becoming the body of Christ than it is about the bread becoming the body of Christ.
You can’t have one without the other.
Was there a time in the Church when there was too much focus on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and none on His transformative power in our lives through the Eucharist? Has that shifted and become unbalanced in another way? Bishop Lopes captures the connection between the two really well in the interview.
And that’s true of the bread and wine: that through the operation and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine are transformed into the body of Christ. Well, that same Holy Spirit is called down upon the church and the Holy Spirit does, if you will, the same thing. It transforms that assemblage of people into the body of Christ. So it’s the same action of grace that is transformative in the Eucharist, in Mass, where we start to recognize each other, not as strangers, not as individuals who have nothing to do with my life, but as members of the same body. Again, the Church isn’t an idea. It is something that is brought about by the Holy Spirit in the self-giving of Christ to the Father in the Mass. This is what happens at Mass. And so to celebrate Mass means of course to reverently receive the Eucharist, but also reverently to receive your neighbor as members of the same body of the church. So the worship fellowship dynamic goes hand in hand.
Go on over and read the whole interview on how he sees the Ordinariates for Catholics of Anglican Patrimony appealing to this understanding and experience of Real Presence both through the beauty of Divine Worship and through our emphasis on fellowship.