Between Amens — Reviving a eucharistic culture

Dr. Karen Shadle

Several years ago, during some initial conversations about the Eucharistic Revival, I recall being struck by the use of the word “revival.” For me it evokes camp meetings, fiery preaching and music festivals, along the lines of the “Asbury revival,” which garnered national attention this past February.

Revival is a term I don’t often associate with a Catholic context. The word has two parts: the prefix “re-“ meaning “again,” and the French root “vivre,” meaning “life.” To revive means to bring something or someone back to life. You revive a wilted houseplant with water and fertilizer. An unconscious person may be revived with CPR. Fashion from the 90s, once dead, is experiencing a revival today.

A Eucharistic Revival, then, is more than boosterism. To bring something back to life, we first must acknowledge that it is dead or dying — that something has gone wrong. I have been a part of many hard conversations around this topic, often pointing to studies that show declining Mass attendance, participation in sacraments and belief in core doctrines. However, I believe this problem is not really about doctrine. 

The “death” we face is a loss of Catholic culture — a wholesale, generational devaluing of the practices, devotions, communal activities, family traditions, music, art, language, and things which make us uniquely Catholic. We are spiritually tepid, lacking personality. 

In this context, it is easy to see how liturgy becomes banal, catechesis turns pedantic, and sacraments seem redundant. A failure to understand or assent to doctrine is really a symptom of this underlying problem. And although we certainly need robust catechesis and preaching about core tenets of the faith, no amount of explanation will fix this. Handing out flyers explaining transubstantiation won’t do it.  

Rather, the Eucharistic Revival seeks to pump life back into a eucharistic culture. For some, this means blending an existing culture with Catholicism. For others, it’s discovering a culture they never knew existed — reclaiming the past not as a relic, but as a treasure in the modern age. 

For all of us, this means celebrating our unity, centered on Jesus, present to us in the Eucharist. We are one Body of Christ with a common heritage and call.

How do we bring eucharistic culture back to life? 

It will take sustained effort in our churches to have beautiful, worthy celebrations that people do not want to miss. It will take a commitment to raise children in homes where faith is visible and a source of pride. 

We need school cultures where children expect to see their friends at Mass. We must have communities that honor Sabbath rest and neighborhoods that evangelize by knowing and caring for one another. 

This is no easy task, and it will take longer than the three years of the official Eucharistic Revival, but I am grateful to the USCCB for putting forth this national effort as a starting point.

It is spring — the season of new life. In coming months and years, the Eucharistic Revival will offer some specific opportunities for all of us to reclaim our Catholic heritage. I pray that, in moving from death to life, our church may grow and flourish.

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