My dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus:
On June 19, 2022, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, our diocese, in union with all (arch)dioceses throughout the United States, will formally inaugurate a three-year Eucharistic Revival. As you are well aware, I have written and spoken on many occasions and in many forms about this most important event in the life of our diocese and about the centrality of the Most Holy Eucharist in our practice of the faith. How could it be otherwise? “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324).
On May 6 last, I had the honor as diocesan bishop and the chancellor of St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry to preside over and to deliver the commencement address at St. Bernard’s 2022 graduation. My message to the graduates was in essence simple and direct: stay close to Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament if you wish your labors in the Lord’s vineyard to bear fruit and elevate the lives of those you serve. Make the Most Holy Eucharist the heart and soul of all you do.
On the following day, May 7, it was indeed my joy and honor to celebrate Holy Mass for the First Holy Communion recipients at St. Lawrence Parish in Greece. I was truly delighted when the pastor, Father Lee P. Chase, extended this invitation to me. It was a great celebration. Words are quite inadequate to express the profound joy in seeing our young children receive Our Lord for the first time in Holy Communion. What an extraordinary gift to be able to offer to them!
On the other hand, how sad it is when our young people are deprived of this great gift when parents do not bring them to church each week so that at a young age they come to know and to love Jesus. Our young people need to see the adult community regularly and reverently participating at Holy Mass. The splendor of the First Holy Communion Day must be kept alive and repeated again and again.
In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis (Feb. 27, 2007), Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “I also recommend that, in their catechetical training, and especially in their preparation for First Holy Communion, children be taught the meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus, and helped to cultivate a sense of awe before His presence in the Eucharist” (No. 67).
Noting these words, it is essential that our Catholic schools and religious-education programs continue to make the reality of Christ present in the Eucharist the centerpiece of religious instruction at every level and supported by the celebration of special Masses, Eucharistic Adoration and other devotional practices. At the same time, parents should be invited to these special celebrations contributing to family unity and manifesting the church’s support for families who face so many challenges. Likewise, I hope that our campus-ministry programs will help the young adults they serve find in the Eucharist the very presence of Jesus always there to support them as they discern and find their life’s work and vocation in the years ahead.
To emphasize that “all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it,” it is strongly recommended that whenever possible parish meetings begin with some moments of prayer before Our Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Those we serve through our many charitable agencies and social-justice committees are truly God’s children, and as Catholic agents of mercy and love, we must help these sisters and brothers to come to know Jesus, the Good Shepherd, present in the Eucharist. In extending our hands in Christian outreach, we must also extend Christ’s own hands truly with us in the Blessed Sacrament. All that we do must be done in His name and be motivated by our own practice of the faith.
The Eucharistic Revival should be as natural to us as drinking water – we have been celebrating it since the Last Supper and that first Good Friday. What we need to do, each in our own way, is to dust ourselves off, take a hard look at our lives and see what is missing, and we need to do it with Jesus otherwise the dust will never settle. We need to gaze upon that transubstantiated Host and repeat the words of St. Thomas: “My Lord and my God.” If we look upon that Host and believe with our whole heart and soul, how can we ever destroy God’s gift of life in all its stages, from the child in the womb, the innocent victims of violence and war, the abandoned poor, the vulnerable and the aged? How can we truly believe that in that Host is Jesus, complete and entire, and not want to be with Him, follow Him and seek His help?
Discipleship and answering the call to follow Jesus are united intimately to our worship of God and our worthy reception of Holy Communion. In essence, what does it mean to be Catholic if we are not present with the Lord at Holy Mass? Jesus wants us there with all our faults and failures, for He is the Good Shepherd who went after that lost sheep. The Eucharistic Revival has as its fundamental purpose returning to Our Father’s home. Think of our sisters and brothers who because of sickness and infirmity or those in places where the faithful are persecuted for practicing their faith, still so deeply attached to their Catholic faith, and long to be able to be at Holy Mass. At the Eucharist, we bring them through our prayers into communion with the Lord.
During this Eucharistic Revival we are blessed that our priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion continue to reach out to the sick to bring them Our Lord in Holy Communion; it is also a beautiful living out of sacerdotal ministry for our priests to bring our ailing sisters and brothers the healing and comfort of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. These sisters and brothers are never to be forgotten!
And deeply joined to the Eucharistic Revival is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession. In the document “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2021, we read: “(Jesus) gave the Church the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation when He breathed upon the apostles and said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained (Jn 20:22-23). Whenever we sin, we have this beautiful opportunity to be renewed and strengthened by God’s grace. If we have sinned gravely, the Sacrament provides us the opportunity to recover the gift of sanctifying grace and to be restored to full communion with God and the Church. All the Sacrament requires of us as penitents is that we have contrition for our sins, resolve not to sin again, confess our sins, receive sacramental absolution, and do the assigned penance. We encourage all Catholics to a renewed appreciation for this wonderful Sacrament in which we receive the Lord’s pardon and peace. In the words of Pope Francis, we say to all Catholics in our country: ‘Don’t be afraid to go to the Sacrament of Confession, where you will meet Jesus who forgives you’” (No. 50).
Our parishes are asked during this Eucharistic Revival to review the availability of Confession for the faithful. It is indeed commendable that some parishes have altered and extended the opportunities for receiving this sacrament of mercy, whether providing hours for confession during weekdays or evenings. The administration of the sacraments is the first priority of priests, as it has been and always will be.
My sisters and brothers, the Eucharistic Revival is not an option, it is an absolute necessity and must be the first priority in our parishes. Empty pews close churches; diminish support for Catholic education, whether in Catholic schools or religious-education programs; limit opportunities to support and assist the poor in authentic Catholic outreach services that respect their dignity as God’s own children; seriously weaken the strength of our social-justice initiatives according to the mind of Christ; and the list goes on. For as Catholics, all we do emanates from our love for the Most Holy Eucharist. Most importantly, our children need to know Jesus in a world where many do not know Him or have forgotten Him or, more devastatingly, have walked away from Him. Our children deserve the very best and, to be sure, Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist is the very best!
Let us take to heart these words attributed to St. Teresa of Calcutta: “Once you understand the Eucharist, you can never leave the Church. Not because the Church won’t let you but because your heart won’t let you” (Cf. USCCB document, op. cit., no. 55).
With an assurance of my prayers and with admiration for your already deep devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist, I remain, begging the intercession of Our Mother Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, for the success of this Eucharistic Revival,
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend
Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester