Eucharist is the most intimate encounter of our Souls with Jesus offering sustenance for our souls. Jesus is here right now, around me, with me, but when I encounter His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, He transforms my human-ness to participate in His Human to Divine nature through His Love! As Catholics, we encounter Christ directly in the Eucharist, mostly through partaking in the Celebration of the Mass. My focus on the Eucharist assumes an increase in attendance at the Holy Mass, but emphasizes receiving the Eucharist as a highest priority. Further, even if we do not increase our attendance at Mass, once partaking, ‘How could we not receive the Eucharist, Jesus is there, waiting for us!
Growing up in the 50-70’s, and also being an altar server, I was told that Catholics were supposed to attend Mass every Sunday and on “other” Holy Days of Obligation. However the requirement regarding reception of the Holy Eucharist, while it has been encouraged at every Mass, it is not required. Canon Law states:
After [receiving their First Communion], each of the faithful is obliged to receive holy communion at least once a year. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at another time during the year” (Canon Law #920).https://www.vatican.va/archive/cod-iuris-canonici/eng/documents/cic_lib4-cann879-958_en.html#Art._2.
The Church has encouraged in more recent years frequent reception of the Eucharist, along with frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance. When it comes to attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is usually stated that “after a proper examination of conscience, if you feel that you are free of any grave sin, then you should receive the Eucharist, the “source and summit” of our faith. Source.https://aleteia.org/2017/04/10/how-often-should-i-receive-the-eucharist/
Actually throughout Catholic History, and in many Protestant religions, receiving Holy Communion or the Eucharist, regularly at Mass or “Service”, has not, and in some cases, still is not the norm.
Why has not the reception of the Eucharist at EVERY Mass when its’ available, been always recommended? Primarily because receiving the Eucharist pre-supposes that we are in a state of Grace, free from grievous sin. Due to our fallen nature though, most of us likely have lesser sins, of which we are guilty. In order to receive the Eucharist worthily, we must make an act of contrition, expressing our contrite heart to Jesus, at the beginning of the Mass, and promise to not sin again, if immediately prior, we did not receive the Sacrament of Penance. To put it another way, receiving the Eucharist, presupposes that we are in a state of Grace, so as to be worthy to receive the Eucharist at Mass. I do not think receiving the Eucharist at every Mass is ever discouraged but the coupling of Eucharist reception with the Sacrament of Penance to be a worthy recipient, gives us necessary pause to reflect on our State of Grace. Because of the conditionality surrounding reception of the Eucharist, (including fasting of food and drink, except water, for 1 hour prior to reception of the Eucharist,) some Catholics I believe question their worthiness to receive the Eucharist, and therefore abstain, from receiving the Eucharist when they come to Mass, even though I suspect they have not committed “grave sins”. Further, in my opinion I believe many Catholics do not embrace Jesus’s forgiveness and endless mercy, to absolve them of all their sin, through His death on the cross, for sins past, present and future, as long as they have a contrite heart, because somehow it doesn’t really apply to themselves! I say this because some regular Mass attendees, regularly abstain from receiving the Eucharist, and if they really knew how much Jesus loved them, they would not want to miss an opportunity to receive Him in the Eucharist and seek out the steps to reconcile their heart with Jesus through the Sacrament of Penance.
My anecdotal observation is “most” Catholics attending Mass, receive the Eucharist, but there is always a percentage that do not. My suspicion regarding the percentage of Faithful, that do not receive the Eucharist, is that they have become “discouraged’ from receiving the Eucharist, because of the pre-requisites that are in place, including the pairing of the Sacrament of Penance, with regular reception of the Eucharist. In these instances I think there might be a multiplicity of factors at play, including a need for an adult Education refresher surrounding receiving these sacraments, resulting in dispelling a sense of fear and unworthiness related to past sins. Also there can be a lack of “opportunity” of time, to receive the Sacrament of Penance, more regularly, and a lack of opportunity to understand the process of confession i.e. receiving the Sacrament of Penance. Canon Law states in the instance of Grave Sins:
Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
In the instance of non-grave sins, saying a sincere act of contrition, i.e., with a contrite heart, before reception of the Eucharist, would enable almost every Mass attendee, to receive the Eucharist.
What have we learned so far? 1.)the Church has placed emphasis on minimally attending Mass every Sunday, which is 1 X week. 2.)Reception of the Eucharist is absolutely required 1 X year, at Easter preferably.
Is it any wonder that an old Catholic as myself tried to; count out maybe 60 masses per year, hopefully 60 receptions of the Eucharists per year, maybe saying a weekly, or 5 daily Rosaries a week, often as quickly as possible, and if using an audio version, looking for the shortest version, with no extra prayers, as that makes the least amount of time. Is it any wonder that this describes a lot of my past faith life?
What I consider a more extraordinary or fervent faith life has occurred when I have been: very ill, was alone, or in distress, feared for my life, was having a mental breakdown with extreme depression, and at times when numerous family members died. As a nurse, there have been many situations when I found myself calling out to my Lord, for help and Mercy, when: I spent hours or an entire night with a dying patient; or cared for an extremely ill patient, who was suffering so very much, with screams of pain that couldn’t be mitigated with medication; or spent days and in one instance, over a year caring for suffering patients in their homes, with highly communicable diseases, or on fragile life-support and /or children with severe birth deformities.
Living what I call a more extraordinary faithful life, has bore a direct relationship to the crisis and impactful laden events I just described in my life. As a result of these situations: I attended extra masses, made extra Eucharist receptions, made more frequent visits to the hospital chapel, or a Church on the way to or after work, took the long way to say the rosary, and said more than one rosary in a day, made frequent visits to behold the image or statue of the Blessed Virgin, Sacred Heart of Jesus or a special saint… and rose in the morning with God On MY Mind and went to bed at night with God On My Mind. Is it any wonder that when I lost one job at a pivotal time when my children were in Junior High and High School, and I feared for my family’s economic and Psychosocial survival, I, with Mary’s intercession, made a pilgrimage against all odds, to see her!
One highlight of my seeking of Mary was when I visited Greensides Farm in Marmora Canada, with my friend @Colleen MacAlister, OFS (Secular Franciscan Order), in the ~spring of 2000. I expected to see a vision of Mary, as signs had been wittnessed there in the past. While I did not see Mary, I definitely believed I felt her presence while in the field at Greensides. While I looked for a sign of Mary, at the farm, perhaps the greatest sign of her intercession had already happened. I had lost my job some years before, and with scant financial means, while daily praying to the Virgin Mary, I met Colleen over a Christian Music endeavor, and she invited me to make a pilgrimage from Tennessee, USA to Marmora, CA. I said it would be quite impossible, and she said if Mary wishes you to come she will find the way. Several months later I found work just South of the US Canadian Border, and the future pilgrimage was in the works, 4 months later!Greensides Farm Mary Apparition site
My whole life, my Faith life changed, when I was either in crisis or helping another in crisis. My Faith life changed from counting Masses, Communions and Rosaries to counting-on minutes with God, with Jesus, with Mary, with a particular Saint, with the Holy Spirit…Praying to them, talking to them, giving up my sufferings to the Lord, and believing and trusting in the Lord more than ever before. In retrospect, all my adversities in my life were some of the greatest Blessings God has given me.
Throughout this blog I refer to my 3% chance of survival from my stroke, July 22, 2020, perhaps this has been the greatest Blessing bestowed on me to date. I previously mentioned in the months prior to the stroke, reading about the Life of Mary, and the Life of St. Catherine Laboure. I had been and am a firm wearer of the Miraculous Medal, and the Brown Scapular, and had Consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary in the months prior to that event.
I know that God has Blessed me, He has saved me, He has retuned some time to me…I can’t repay Him, but I can show Him Gratitude by DOING what I believe He asks of me, with the time He has given me. God wishes me to continue to do all the things I can, through my work, through my interactions with my family and friends, through the life I continue to live, a GodMindfulness kind of Life. Upon reflection today, it is not surprising to me that during times of adversities in my life that I have turned to Prayer, Penance and the Eucharist, with greater fervor and frequency than usual. Since my stroke, Prayer Penance and Eucharist can’t be intermittent activities practiced anymore, but I find I’m finding Prayer Penance and Eucharist as the way of my life, there to comfort and support me during the stressful times, but also amplify my happiness during Joyous times, and assist me in the way I can give Gratitude to the Lord, all the time.
I have been feeling at loss about what I could say about the Eucharist, that hasn’t been already said in Official and Scholarly religious writings of consequence. Then I thought that the most important message I can convey about the meaning of the Eucharist today in my life, and how it has changed from the past, comes from an image I daily hold in my mind, from the early life of St. Catherine Laboure, several years following the death of her Mother, and after she made her first Holy Communion. It is this fact, this image I so often remember from her entire biography that most stands out for me.
Most people though would think, the most impactful image one would associate with St. Catherine, would be when she was a nun, in the Convent on the Rue de Bac in Paris, and during the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Catherine was given the instructions on the commissioning of Mary’s Miraculous Medal. The Miraculous Medal of the Virgin Mary is associated with numerous miracles throughout the world, But while the Miraculous Medal is a fact, and a powerful one at that, what I remember most is the description of Catherine when she was 11, following her first Holy Communion and after the death of her mother, where:
Zoe Laboure, an 11 year old French Girl, who we know today as St. Catherine of Laboure, to whom the Blessed Mother revealed the commissioning of the Miraculous Medal; rose at 5 A.M. before caring for her siblings and their home, and ran to the church 2 miles away, in her neighboring village, to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist often as possible, (as daily Eucharistic reception wasn’t common nor available daily.) Catherine ran because she KNEW Jesus was waiting for her in the Mass and Eucharist.
For a moment forget about the standard catechetical definition of the Eucharist, IF you know that Jesus is waiting for you everyday in the Eucharist, what do you do, do you not go see Him at every opportunity you have?
If not, how long must He wait?
Reading Catherines biography helped me understand what prioritizing the Eucharist in my life looks like. Receive the Eucharist at every opportunity you can. Having a fire in my belly for Jesus, and seeing Catherine’s incorrupt body at the Chapel on the Rue de Bac, in Paris fixed in my mind the reality of Catherine’s experience and made my fire for Jesus burn with greater intensity. More than ever there is an URGency to my living and seeking more opportunities to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I join others who I see at frequent mass and pray that more will respond to His invitation.
I understand that more frequent reception of the Eucharist may not be possible for many people, given our way of life and access to Mass. Catherine lived in a village, and was really an original “work from home girl,” and her church was about 2 miles from her home, and I suspect there wasn’t a lot of other foot traffic on her way to Mass. But I have to wonder, with all the education and information that Catherine lacked in her day, and that we are privy too today, she was a scholar! Catherine knew that Jesus loved her more than anything, and knew this so well, that she put Jesus at the top of her day, gave-up sleep, and RAN to Him! The message here is that her day meant nothing without Jesus in it, and she knew He would be besides her, with her and be her support for all she would do. Amazing was her wisdom!
For some very impactful and inspiring 1 minute video clips on the Eucharist, please click play below. Fiat!
Eucharist is the Centrality of Our Faith
What the Eucharist really is
Eucharist: Giving Thanks for Christ’s Sacrifice