The only constant is change. Seasons change in a rhythm that can only be orchestrated by God. Change. Our children come. We watch them evolve into adults as they grow, and they are soon gone from the loving protection that only we can provide. Change. Friends and loved ones come and go—through relocation, drifting apart, or passing from this life to the next. Change. And so it goes throughout our lives. Change. Sometimes for the better and acceptable. Sometimes heart wrenching and forever taking the joy from our lives. Change.
The Youngstown Diocese was once a vibrant diocese, having burgeoning parishes with churches overflowing with congregations attending an array of daily and Sunday Masses, Catholic practices and sacraments and having a plethora of priests and religious to minister to us. It is now faced with a painful shortage of priests and religious to meet our spiritual needs. Congregations are getting older and smaller in number. Church buildings and schools are closing. Parishes are merging. Painful decisions must be made. Catholics are confused, angry, hurt. Did we ever think we would see the day? Change.
Despite all the change that has become a part of our lives, Catholics are very fortunate. We know that there is only ONE thing that does not change and that is the foundation of our Catholicism, the true presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. From the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday to today, it remains unchanged. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Decade after decade. Century after century. Millennium after millennium. Wars. Pandemics. Schisms. False Popes. Bad clergy. Heresies. Persecutions. Negative media coverage. Consecrations of bread and wine into the sacred Body and Blood have occurred as numerous as the stars in the heavens. The Eucharist remains, unchanged.
The New Testament of the Bible is filled with references to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. One only need read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and especially John, and sections of Corinthians to know this is true. Each reference makes it clear that in order to enter heaven, one must believe in the true presence and partake. Fr. Raymond Paul, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Massillon in his homily on the feast of the Holy Trinity, described it beautifully. His words simply stated, doesn’t it make sense that if one believes that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary with the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord that the Holy Spirit can also change simple bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ?
Sadly, the Eucharist is now facing another challenge. A recent PEW study reports that as few as 30 percent of Catholics now believe that the Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Christ. Many may wonder how we arrived at this point. There are factors that we can name that would take a thesis to explore.
To reverse this dilemma, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a three-year Eucharist Revival. It is the hope of the USCCB that every parish in the United States will embrace the revival and once again bring the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist to its rightful place in our Catholic faith. This revival is supported by the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic men’s organization in the world.
The Catholic Men’s Fellowship—Diocese of Youngstown embraces this revival and embraces the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The organization is focusing its upcoming 2023 conference on the Eucharist and hopes to do even more in the mini-retreats being planned throughout the diocese. We as men must take the lead in promoting the Eucharist. Consider starting a small men’s group in your parish or join a group in another parish. Take up the Eucharist as a point of discussion. Men play a pivotal role in the church and can show strength through leadership, action, and belief. We can touch the hearts of many men. We can all take up the torch for Christ!