In a 2019 study, the Pew Research Center found that just one-third of U.S. Catholics Agree that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. That is a sobering statistic. Even if we account for the way in which the survey question may have been imprecisely formed, it still seems that the overwhelming majority of Catholics surveyed espoused belief in a more symbolic meaning of the bread and wine on the altar, as opposed to the sacramental, real presence of Jesus Christ.
The Eucharistic Revival in the United States seeks to respond to issues like this, to help increase both belief in and devotion to the Eucharist. One area that I have become especially attentive to is the formation of children for First Communion. Of all those Catholics who were surveyed and said that they believed only that the bread and wine of the altar were symbolic, most if not all of them had been formed for their First Communion and have likely received the Eucharist numerous times throughout their life. We could think that a Eucharistic Revival is about correcting and reforming the belief of adults, and enkindling their devotion, but I say that we ought to think deeply about Eucharistic formation from the very beginning, which means the period of preparation for First Communion.
I am also interested in that issue because I am a parent, and four of my own children have been formed for First Communion, with two more to go. More than anything else, I want them to know and to believe that the love of God does not stay far away, but draws near. The love of God is near enough for us to touch, near enough to taste. The Eucharist is the love of God Incarnate, given for us: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
● Fed by the Lord: At-Home Scriptural Formation to Prepare Children for First Communion (Liturgical Press, 2023), by Leonard J. DeLorenzo
● Article on the 2019 Pew Study on U.S. Catholics belief in the Eucharist
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