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How Do You Foster a Eucharistic Revival? (Hint: four ways)

Jesus Holding the Eucharist, painting by Juan de Juanes
“Jesus Holding the Eucharist,” Juan de Juanes

If you haven’t heard…we in the United States are in a Eucharistic revival. Have you heard?

I forgive you if you haven’t heard. While I think this is one of the most impressive mission initiatives I have heard yet from USCCB, I know lots of people have not heard much, if anything. While I think that will change as the months move on, this is the period where roots are getting established deep underground and maybe, maybe the first green is poking out above ground…in the bleak midwinter at that!

It does raise an interesting–and needed–question. How exactly does one foster a spiritual revival?

If you look at spiritual revivals in American history (the Great Awakening in the early 1800s, the Azuza Street Revival in the early 1900s, the Catholic charismatic renewal starting in the late 1960s, etc.), they start with an event, a gathering, that makes clear that God is present in powerful truth through signs, wonders and life-changing message. And I have to admit–I’m not clear these revivals were pronounced ahead of time. 

Yet maybe they were, both in Scripture and in subtle God-hints given to people of prayer. Who initiates a spiritual revival? Has to be God, the Holy Spirit, yes? It can’t be us–we can’t make a spiritual revival happen (and if we do, something is very wrong). What we can do is we can foster spiritual openness and faithful expectation that God is moving in powerful ways to awaken us from our sleep and confusion, and then foster a culture of courage to rejoin the Lord on a new mission in the United States. What new mission?: to return to God, to go with good news to our secular mission field, to become an apostolic Church. For that, we need to accept what he has given us. Beyond any merit, God gives us himself in the Eucharist, and charges us to spread that word and live out of that union.

It would be fascinating to dwell on how the Lord announced this revival. We can reflect on Scripture, on prophetic words in our country and our Church, in prayerful hearts who knew in some way this is coming. But what I want to focus upon is how to foster and prepare a parish for revival. Because it is coming. He is coming in a new way.

I will not apologize that this is connected to The Four Ways Forward, because I do believe that for the past 40 years the Holy Spirit–evidenced in the first fruits of the New Evangelization–has given us these four emerging paths to the future. The purpose of this New Evangelization is to build a stronger people of God for this time of revival, a people eager to go on mission and live in a newly apostolic Church.

  1. Signs and Wonders. There is no way this revival will flourish without focusing on the Eucharistic Lord as sign and wonder. That means many possibilities: such as, focus on Eucharistic Adoration, which awakens wonder. That means inspired preaching and witness on how the Eucharist has changed people’s lives through new clarity of sight, a supernatural peace, or an increased thirst for God. This means bringing back the honor of Eucharistic mystery in the liturgy of the Mass: hymnody that evokes mystery, more praise, more silence. Less self-referencing (talking about the Church) and more worshipping God in joy and peace. This means openly talking about Eucharistic miracles as a glimpse of heaven rather than treating them as a mild embarrassment of a previous age. This means encouraging people to pray to the Lord that his Eucharist will heal you in the ways you most need. This means openly witnessing to longing for the Eucharistic Lord as a sign of relationship. If revivals begin around an event of power…treat the Mass and Adoration like the event of power that it is.
  2. Spiritual multiplication through small groups. Once people have had a renewed  encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, or heard of one, what do we do with those flames of hope? We encourage them to be open to small group discipleship. We all need to talk things out. If he is real in the Eucharist, how does that change things? Is the Lord who he says he is, and he is trustworthy–who are we called to be, together? We’ll make sure we know the teaching, the words, the reasonability of the Eucharist for our own benefit and the benefit of others.
  3. Organizational mission (re)focus. This way forward is going to create a discipleship path for people to encounter the Lord, from womb to tomb. Organizing parish life around the centrality of the Eucharistic Lord’s call to us to be his own–and empowering people to bring everyone with you to come and see–is key. Organizational mission refocus is where leaders (pastors, parish staff, teachers, and parents) “connect the dots” and point the way for those in their charge.
  4. Radical hospitality/first proclamation. This revival is clearly aimed toward “the Catholic base”–at minimum, people who are initiated Catholics. I suspect hospitality and proclamation will be the first tool for them in the Eucharistic missionary outreach to come. People who do not know the Lord and have little to no respect for organized religion will need to be won over by personal trust to even consider the wonder that is the Eucharist. How will people come to encounter the Lord? Through your friendship, heartfelt invitation, and serene witness. Additionally, connecting the Eucharistic Lord with the salvation that is the heart of our relationship with God will be key. We invite others to know the Lord, and to know that every way we see him–in prayer, in Scripture, in the poor–properly leads to the altar of the Eucharist.

I will be writing more detailed posts on each of these paths and the Eucharistic revival in the next two months. But I hope people reading will recognize two things quickly: 1) You need to pray for this revival to grow deep roots. That is the stage we find ourselves in right now. Whether you are a “signed up” prayer missionary with the national revival or not, pray daily for the roots of this revival!  2) This revival is not a “sign up for a program and be done” initiative. Revival never is. If that makes us uncomfortable–and we don’t quite know what will happen–or how it will impact us–well then, good. We’re not in control of this. God is. Our role is to open ourselves to the truth that God is calling us to more, to greater, to new missions. He is perfectly worth it; the people he loves who do not know his name are perfectly worth it. But as you pray for growing roots, pray also for openness to this revival in your life and the life of your parish. And start telling people–something very big is coming. This is how you start a spiritual revival: In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isa 40:3)

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