Last weekend I referenced the recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, in which nearly 11,000 Catholics were asked about whether they believe that in the Eucharist, Jesus is truly present. Only 31% said yes. I mentioned another recent survey indicating that among Catholics 40 years and younger, it’s only 20%.
Our belief in the Eucharist is no trivial matter for us as Catholics: It’s the gift Jesus gave us, to be our source of daily sustenance, and so much more. So, what or who is the cause in this trajectory toward unbelief? There are multiple causes. Continuing to address this topic, I remind you that my homilies are posted on our parish website.
So again, the causes: For sure, part of the cause is the secularization of American society. The figures that we’ve come to call the New Atheists have made great inroads in planting the seeds of skepticism and disbelief about whether there’s a God at all. There’s no doubt that’s part of the problem.
That brings me to our second cause: it’s our ‘catechesis’, our passing on and teaching of the faith. Among the principle things we are called to do as Christian people is to care for the poor; second, we are to worship our God, to be people of prayer; but third, we are to know and share the teachings of our faith.
It’s worth pointing out that the survey also asked Catholics if they understand what the Church teaches about the Eucharist, that bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. The responses showed a correlation, in that the majority of those who think the Eucharist is just a symbol, and not Jesus’ True Presence, are not aware of Church teaching on it.
Too many of us are woefully uninformed, and therefore we can’t begin to share what we ourselves do not have, whether to our own children or anyone else. Ask yourself: Since the start of 2019, how much time have I devoted to learning about my faith?
Some of you remember when Catholics learned from the Baltimore Catechism. Often, people critique that it was merely memorization and regurgitation of formulated questions and answers, that didn’t lead to a living interior faith; that it was all in the head, and not in the heart.
But then we shifted to a style of learning that I’ve sometimes heard characterized as having been reduced to making banners out of felt with cutouts of peace-doves and letters that say things like, “God loves me”. I’ve heard some people say, “That was pretty much the extent of my Catholic faith formation after we threw away the Baltimore Catechism”.
Perhaps it can be fairly stated that our catechetical method went from being overly structured to having no structure. The fallout, as some have proposed, is that we have a couple generations of Catholics who never were taught the faith and therefore have no ability to articulate it or share it with the next generation.
To counter this problem, what is increasingly being emphasized is whole-family catechesis. The practice of parents simply dropping off their children and heading off to run errands is something we’re increasingly moving away from. It’s absolutely best if parents learn with the children, preferably learning the same material as the child, but taught at an adult level.
With our parish’s limited facilities, it’s not easy, but our Pastoral Assistants for Faith Formation—Amy, Jill and Carlie—are working together to help provide more of this. Therefore, the parents of Confirmation youth are required to attend some classes. As are parents of First Communion parents. As are parents of Children’s Faith Formation. I haven’t figured out how to do it, but I’d also like some faith formation for parents of our parish school. If parents do not invest themselves in learning and show it’s important, there will be no faith in the life of the family, the domestic church, and the faith will not take root in the children.
You can imagine that sometimes people will decide and then wonder: “Okay, I want to learn about my faith, so what’s a good resource?” I remind you that for the past four years, we subscribe to a service called formed.org—at a cost of $2000 annually. Through your computer, smart TV or mobile devices, you can access educational programs, audio lectures, movies, e-books, etc. It’s amazing and available to you at no cost.
Having stressed the importance of coming to know and therefore share the faith, I realize that belief in Jesus’ True Presence in the Eucharist is more than merely an intellectual endeavor—it requires faith in something beyond natural human reason. But, there’s no question: The more one comes to know their faith and engage it in their consciousness—whether you have children or not—it provides a platform to nurture belief.
I’ll continue next week, addressing another prevalent cause. Along with serving the poor, and worshiping our God, if we don’t engage and learn, the fires of our faith will cool, and the gift of the Eucharist—Jesus’ very gift of himself—will be evermore lost on us.