This past weekend 93 students from our school and parish Religious Education Program received the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time. I had the opportunity to be present for two of the First Communion Masses, and the excitement and enthusiasm among the children and their families were palpable. The weekend prior, I was present when my eldest grandchild received his First Communion in Orange County, and I am still beaming with pride and hope. Hope, because the future of the church – our church – rests in these young believers, who will carry on Jesus’ Mission throughout their lives. They will pass on their faith, just as we have, to their children and their children’s children, long after we are gone.
A great deal of thanks goes out to all the catechists and teachers who prepared the students for this most significant milestone in their faith formation, as well as to all of the parents who are and will continue to be the primary educators of their children. I believe that guiding our students/children on their faith journey – to establish a relationship and friendship with Christ – is one of the most important jobs we have.
As Catholic Christians, we believe in transubstantiation, which is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In other words, the bread and wine become (trans = across; substantiation = substance) the body and blood of Christ – it is not merely a symbol. This is one of the primary tenets of our faith, and it is non-negotiable. During the Eucharistic Prayer, when the celebrant raises the host and says, “This is my body,” and when he raises the cup and says, “This is my blood,” is the moment when transubstantiation occurs. Sometimes, out of habit, I think we forget this miracle when we approach the altar each week at Mass, but in the eyes of the First Communicants, there was no doubt – they were transformed!
In 2019, a Pew Forum poll shed light on the fact that 75% of adult Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They believe, like other Christian faiths, that the bread and wine are merely symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. That is shocking, that is incomprehensible, that is devastating. While a very high percentage of St. Michael’s School students, and likely most other Catholic school graduates, believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, somewhere, somehow along the way the belief must dissipate. I’m not sure how or why, but I am convinced that we need to do something about it. Teachers provide the knowledge and guidance during the elementary school years, but after that, it is up to parents and grandparents to keep the message strong. Our parishes also need to step up and re-educate the faithful, because it is clear this important teaching of the Church is forgotten among the faithful. All is not lost; however. As in all things, we now know where we are, and we know where we need to be. Now, we just need to take the steps to get there.
I hope you will watch the attached two videos from Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, who eloquently addresses this topic.