Catholics asked to make the Eucharist integral to life

Archdiocese of Louisville seminarian Evrard Muhoza led a procession to celebrate the launch of the national Eucharistic Revival in downtown Louisville June 19, 2022. Eucharistic processions take the body of Christ into the community. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

The National Eucharistic Revival calls Catholics to renew their devotion to the Eucharist and become eucharistic people within a eucharistic culture by returning “to the source and summit of our faith in the celebration of the Eucharist.”

“And what does that mean?” asked Karen Shadle, director of the Office of Worship. 

While it means participating in eucharistic processions and receiving the Eucharist at Mass, it’s much more than that, she said.

“It also means neighborhoods where people know each other and care about each other and, you know, evangelize through caring,” she said.

Shadle said making the Eucharist integral to life should exist in multiple layers — personally, in our families and homes, in our schools and jobs, in our hobbies and extracurricular activities, in our neighborhoods and communities, and in our churches.

“Everything (we) do is connected to the Eucharist,” she said. “Everything is connected to the celebration on Sunday and how everything either comes from that or leads back to that, or both.”

Barry Mudd, associate director of the Office of Worship, said when he thinks of living in a Eucharistic culture, he recalls a saying from Archbishop Emeritus Joseph E. Kurtz. 

“He would say, ‘You know, a lot of faiths want to prepare you to get to heaven’ or whatever, but that as Catholics, ‘we want to get to heaven together.’ Because it’s not just me and what I do, it’s that I’m bound in this journey with a lot of other people.”

What does that look like?

The Eucharist in families and homes

First, Shadle said, families should raise their children to be proud of their faith and that parents can keep the baptismal promise top of mind while educating their children.

Some families read the Gospel before Mass and discuss the message before and after attending church, said Art Turner, director of the archdiocesan Faith Formation Office. He suggested pointing out keywords or phrases to have the children listen for during the readings and homily.

“And if the teen says, ‘That’s the most boring thing I ever heard,’ then you challenge them and say, ‘Okay, what would’ve made it better? Why? How could it have been more interesting? Or what did you get from the Gospel? If you were preaching this, what would you have said?’ ”

Families can also arrange their homes to let visitors know they’re Catholic.

“When people visit you, do they know that you’re Catholic?” Shadle asked. “And how do they know? It’s by how you treat them, but it’s also by what’s in your home, how your home is arranged. Is it clear that you’re people of prayer, that you believe in Jesus?”

Shadle said Catholic families may display the Epiphany tradition of the chalking of the doors, as well as crucifixes and rosaries.

“They’re not magic,” Shadle said. “They don’t create a force field around your house or anything, but they are physical things that then point us to a bigger reality. And so in that sense, they’re really important to have, and could even be opportunities for evangelization discussions.”

Elementary school teachers of the Archdiocese of Louisville filled Our Lady of Lourdes Church during the annual back to school Mass Aug. 9, 2022. Archdiocesan officials recommend hosting small retreats for those who work for the church to remind them of what they do and why. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)
The Eucharist at school and work

Receiving the Eucharist at Mass is receiving Jesus in the body and blood, in word and sacrament, said Turner. The intention is for Catholics to become like Christ and take that to others.

“But how am I aware of that? How much do I pay attention to that?” Turner asked. “Does it stay with me into the evening? Does it stay with me on Monday morning? Does it begin my work week? What does it take to be mindful that what I have received on Sunday, I’m expected to share that throughout the week.”

He said making the Eucharist an integral part of life, being truly open to the possibility of change when encountering the sacrament, means being intentional in how we engage people.

“Whether it’s being more attentive to my family’s needs or refusing to do certain gestures on the Watterson Expressway when I get cut off,” he said with a laugh. It’s also “how I treat people at work. It’s really paying more attention to living out the encounter with Jesus Christ.”

For church workers, he suggested hosting a retreat for staff to remind them of what they do and why they do it.

“Remember what you do, whether it’s the books, or you’re doing the budget, or you’re doing maintenance, remember that it goes back to our identity as eucharistic people,” he said. “And even ask the question, what does that mean to you?”

The Eucharist in hobbies and extracurriculars

What sets Catholics apart from secular groups is that connection to the Eucharist, Shadle said, adding that it should inform everything we do.

“Every activity, every school function, every fish fry, everything that you’re doing” connects back to the Eucharist “in some meaningful way,” Shadle said.

She said it’s helpful to ask questions, such as, “How is this activity in the action of the body of Christ? And then how does that lead me back to want to praise God and give thanks to God?”

“It gives us a way of talking about the various things that we do. Why do we have a fish fry at all? … And then we can say, ‘Okay, if we’re doing things that aren’t clearly connected to that, then there needs to be some pruning,’ because everything can sort of become just another organization.” 

The Eucharist in neighborhoods and communities

Centering a community’s culture on the Eucharist can even come down to architecture, noted Mudd.

“One of the things in recent years in church architecture has very much been building the church so it is the center of the community, and it’s another way of forming people into that where it helps shape us.”

In the past 30 years or so, parishes such as St. Bernadette Church in Norton Commons, St. Michael Church in Jeffersontown and St. Patrick Church in Eastwood have been designed to be prominent places in their communities and the dominant buildings on each property, he noted.

“Everything (we) do is connected to the Eucharist. Everything is connected to the celebration on Sunday and how everything either comes from that or leads back to that, or both.”

Karen Shadle, director of the Office of Worship

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” that Catholics are eucharistic people rooted in community: “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”

For Turner, that idea is “basically saying that any Eucharistic celebration that does not have as a result a practice of love or an act of love is incomplete.”

That notion is profound, he said, adding that at the end of the day, the Eucharist serves to remind us who we are.

“We are followers of Christ. We are the body of Christ in the world. … So at the end of the day, when you look at all this Eucharistic Revival stuff and all the energies that are going into it, I think it’s trying to jar our memory.”

Living it has to go beyond Mass, eucharistic adoration and procedures, Turner said.

“It has to penetrate our hearts and minds, and we have to allow the Eucharist to change us to the people we’re being called to be.”

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