There has been a good number of
The invitation to comment by the USCCB Twitter account is of course an invitation to trot out our hobby horses at full gallop.
I certainly have a stable of them I am tempted to trot out.
Still I got to thinking, is this a new problem or one that goes back farther. I know there have been some previous polls on this with more dubious methodology that I had heard referenced from time to time.
What I was pondering what such a poll would have recorded in the 1950’s. I would guess the numbers of people believing fully in the Church teaching of the Eucharist would be higher. Yet, somehow I don’t think it would have been significantly higher. I don’t imagine this period as some golden age of catechized Catholics. Especially considering the aftermath in regards to the sexual revolution and the general chaos that erupted in those times. The sixties saw greater acceptance of Catholics generally, but with this acceptance was a Catholic trend to go with the flow. A trend that to the present day was one where the cultural beliefs of Catholics were hardly distinguishable from the general populace.
When I first saw this tweet my initial reaction was that this failure to discern the body and the blood of Christ was generally because of a loss of Eucharistic piety. A loss of the sacred. Thinking more about this I think this has played a part, but that the question is much more complex and involves a variety of causes.
Regardless I will ride this aspect of my hobby horse a little. There is much that was done that seems like a determined undermining regarding the Eucharist. The moving of Tabernacles and elimination of patens was bad theology. The building of ugly churches with the loss of the sacred. Places of worship that could be repurposed for convention centers. Abstract stained glass and the general Iconoclasm that seemed to prevail. The banality of hymns that celebrated how awesome we are – God should be pleased to have us.
Since I go to a Latin Mass on Sunday I also have a bias towards Ad Orientem. Still, I have to question myself that if there really was a “reform of the reform” and that there was support for previous Eucharistic pieties, how much would this have an effect on Eucharistic belief. I suspect it is not as much as I would want. Since I go to both a Latin Mass on Sunday and daily Masses at two different parishes, I make comparisons. The Eucharistic piety I observe in both situations I see pretty positively. Still, these daily Masses are in Eucharistic Chapels – one with Perpetual Adoration and the other with generally available adoration. I suspect that daily Mass-goers also have a high number of attendees who fully believe in the Eucharist.
My antidotal knowledge of general Sunday Mass goer’s is much more cynical regarding this. The general level of noise before Mass starting along with apparently perfunctory genuflections. This along with the number of people who leave right after Communion certainly for me lends support for the conclusion of the PEW study. When my wife was alive, she liked to go to different parishes on Sundays. So I did have a pretty wide sampling of Mass as celebrated in my diocese. On the positive side I also witnessed a trend away from liturgical abuses over those years also. Although, the hymns have remained generally awful and stuck in the 60/70’s.
So while I think the liturgy and the practices and pieties involving the liturgy have gone a long way to undermine Eucharistic belief, general culture also plays a big factor. The miraculous and general belief in the Sacraments gets lost in an empirical culture which lives on the philosophy of scientism. Many of Jesus’ disciples balked at this teaching on the Eucharist and can we be surprised that people today when they see the Eucharist undermined in many ways, would also walk away from this “hard saying.”
We do not really need a religion that is right where we are right. What we need is a religion that is right where we are wrong. G.K. Chesterton
So many times I have heard some person being described as prophetic when they go against what the Church has always taught. That accepting what the culture was accepting was a prophetic act. Apparently forgetting that the prophets were often martyred for going against what the culture was accepting. I think about our hierarchy and how they have been ineffective regarding societal trends, mainly since they have flowed with the river like a dead thing. But then I remember that in England there was only one episcopal martyr and that things largely remain the same.
All of this makes me largely pessimistic that this latest wake-up call will be answered. Our leadership has become quite adept at the snooze alarm. Despite my skepticism of general trends in the Church, I also see those on fire for the faith in my parish and elsewhere. I also see priests and bishops who are generally upset about this loss of Eucharistic faith.
In part this issue upsets me since I see the Eucharist as such a wonderful blessing, that we don’t deserve. God gives himself to us despite this. I want everybody to experience this gift and have a fuller understanding regarding this sublime mystery. That people who seem on the outside to be just going through the motions at Mass come to a fuller theological understanding. I also pray that I never take this gift for granted or believe that I deserve it.