Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is present to people in many ways, but most especially through the Eucharist.
“What we believe as Catholics with the Eucharist is that it is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, that he continues to be really present among us,” said Dr. Karen Shadle, director of the Office of Worship.
That foundational belief is the focus of a catechetical effort the Archdiocese of Louisville launched this month. Last week, the archdiocese shared with parishes a packet of instruction and background information related to the Eucharist.
The effort is propelled by two things: the national Eucharistic Revival that’s close to entering its second year, the parish phase, and the reintroduction of the chalice at Communion. After a three-year suspension due to COVID-19, parishes in the archdiocese will be permitted to offer Communion from the cup beginning June 10 and 11, coinciding with the June 11 feast of Corpus Christi.
The feast day — also known as the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ — offers an “an opportunity to explain what we believe as Catholics with the Eucharist, that is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, that he continues to be really present among us,” said Shadle in a recent interview.
“It’s not just about the chalice,” Shadle said. “And it really is more about us having an encounter with Jesus through the Eucharist. And that’s the purpose of the revival — to give more people an opportunity to have a real encounter with Jesus through the Eucharist.”
The Eucharistic Revival, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a three-year process focusing on reviving and fostering Eucharistic devotion in the dioceses, parishes and hearts of the faithful. The revival is wrapping up the diocesan phase now. From mid-2023 to mid-2024, the revival will be in the parish phase, encouraging “Eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening our liturgical life through faithful celebration of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and organic movements of the Holy Spirit,” according to the Eucharistic Revival website, www.eucharisticrevival.org/.
“From June to June of next year, the focus of the Eucharistic Revival is on parishes — the grassroots ways that the parishes are … an action, a vessel of the Body of Christ,” Shadle said. “And so, you know, it’s a really good choice of date, I think,” to reintroduce the chalice during Mass.
To guide parishes during the reintroduction, catechetical materials sent April 21 cover background information, practices for Holy Communion, a question and answer section on the Eucharist, instructions for receiving Communion and more.
“A lot of the materials that you’re going to see for the parishes, the catechetical materials that we’re sending out, they’re not just about ‘The chalice is coming back,’ you know, but it’s taking a broader approach and saying, first of all, this is what we believe as Catholics.”
Shadle said the materials cover the technical knowledge — such as the definitions of transubstantiation and concomitance — as well as what she calls “the heart part:” “This is why we believe that, this is what it means for us.”
“And you’re going to see some of the how-to, like, ‘Precisely how is one to present oneself for communion? What are the gestures?’ ”
Shadle noted that “troubling data” suggests some Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine.
“Catholics, people who say they’re Catholics, also say they don’t believe in this very important critical aspect of who we are,” she said. “Or that they don’t understand it. Or they (the Body and Blood) haven’t been explained to them.”
For that reason, the catechetical materials cover more than how to reintroduce the chalice.
“We’re just kind of cleaning some of those up so that everybody’s on the same page, we all know what we’re doing,” she said. “So we’re kind of taking this as an opportunity to think about Holy Communion more broadly. Are we doing it right? But also, why are we doing it? What do we believe about it? So we’re taking a broader approach.”
To continue preparing for the reintroduction of the cup, parishioners can expect to see more materials related to the Eucharist published in The Record, in their church bulletins and during homilies.