|It is always risky to use superlatives. And most risky when, as here,
the superlative applies to the whole world.
What are we saying when we say that the greatest need in the world
today is to form the Eucharistic faith and love of children. What do we
We mean that what the world most needs is to believe in Jesus Christ;
indeed believe that Jesus Christ is on earth in the Holy Eucharist. The
world needs to love Jesus Christ, with us in the Blessed Sacrament,
offering Himself for us in the Sacrifice of the Mass and present within
us in Holy Communion.
In the measure that this faith and love are nurtured from the most
tender years of children to that extent will Jesus Christ continue
working the miracles of grace He performed during His visible stay in
My plan for this conference, therefore, is very simple:
Briefly summarize the Church's pedagogy of the Holy Eucharist over
Explain why parents and teachers should develop the Eucharistic faith
love of children from infancy to adulthood.
Provide some guidelines to children on how to grow in their faith and
of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
THE CHURCH'S PEDAGOGY OF THE EUCHARIST
We know that already in the first century of the Christian era, the
Church was concerned to teach the faithful from the earliest years the treasure of God's love which the
Son of God gave to His followers in the Blessed Sacrament.
When errors arose as early as 100 A.D. about the Real Presence, the
Church's defenders, who became martyrs, made it clear that the Holy
Eucharist is Jesus Christ.
Not coincidentally, the Eastern churches gave Holy Communion to
infants on the day they were baptized. When about the year 1000 A.D.,
heresies cropped up which openly denied that Jesus Christ is on earth in
the Blessed Sacrament, these heresies were condemned by papers and
councils. Surely symptomatic of our times, Pope Paul VI issued a
historic encyclical during the Second Vatican Council, the Mystery of
Faith, in which he verbally repeated the profession of faith in the
Real Presence demanded by his predecessor a thousand years before. The
reason for the encyclical is obvious. Millions of Catholics are being
challenged on their Eucharistic faith in today's widespread climate of skepticism.
In the sixteenth century, the rise of a militant Protestantism
challenged the Eucharistic belief on a scale never before experienced in
history. Many of the Church's martyrs were killed for their faith in the
Blessed Sacrament. Thus, the Jesuit John Ogilvie, was murdered by
command of the Scottish for daring to celebrate Mass. St. John Ogilvie's
feast was yesterday, October 14.
Since the sixteenth century, the education of Catholic children has
had to stress the Real Presence and the Mass as never before. Why?
Because of the penetration of so many erroneous ideas about the
Eucharist that we are only now beginning to wake up to what has happened
since 1517, when Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church. Not
surprisingly, Luther denied the priestly power of transubstantiation.
We get some idea of how confused things had become once we realize
what Pope St. Pius X had to do to restore the Church's practice of early
and frequent Holy Communion. Seven hundred years before Pius X, at
general Council, the Church had prescribed First Communion on reaching
the age of reason. Yet, in the height of Jansenism in the 17th century,
religious women were known to receive the Holy Eucharist for the first
time on their death bed!
Coming to our own day, the two popes, Paul VI and John Paul II have
been, I would almost say militant, in the insisting on sound Eucharistic
The whole of Pope Paul VI's encyclical, Mysterium Fidei is a
plea for charity and orthodoxy in teaching the faithful about the Real
Presence. All the liturgical progress made in the last generation will
be lost, says the pope, unless Catholics from their earliest years
understand that the Holy Eucharist is the presence and sacrifice of
Jesus Christ on earth in our day.
On August 12 of last year, speaking to half a million young people in
Denver, Colorado, Pope John Paul II told them:
Your pilgrimage will lead you to Christ present in the Holy
Eucharist. Praying before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, you can open
your hearts to Him, but you should especially listen to what he says
to each of you. Christ's special words to young people are the
following: "Do not be afraid" (Mt. 10:31) and "Come,
follow me" (Mt. 19:21). Who knows what the Lord will ask of you
young people of America, sons and daughters of Europe, Africa, Asia
So the Church's Eucharistic pedagogy has gone on for 2,000 years.
Aimed especially at the young, it is in essence simplicity itself. From
infancy through adolescence the young people are to grow in their
believing love of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
They are to be taught and trained to realize that Jesus Christ is
indeed at the right hand of His heavenly Father. But Jesus Christ is
now on earth, present in the Blessed Sacrament, offering Himself in the
Sacrifice of the Mass and received by us His Body in our bodies in Holy
WHY DEVELOP THE EUCHARISTIC FORMATION OF THE YOUNG
We cannot even begin to answer this question "Why develop the
Eucharistic formation of the young "unless we assume that our
nation needs a moral conversion.
During his talks in Denver for the World Youth Day last year, Pope
John Paul told the young people to "Pray that America might not
lose its soul." The soul of America is Christianity. Christianity
is the principle of our national life. As our nation becomes
increasingly dechristianized, it loses more and more of its source of
vitality. Unless the moral disease is cured, America as the nation we
still call the United States will disappear.
But there is another and deeper meaning to America's danger of losing
its soul. Individuals lose their souls when they die estranged from God.
There is such a thing as a second death, which means everlasting
separation form God in what Christ calls eternal punishment. This is the
awful prospect awaiting not just single persons, but whole societies,
unless they repent and return to the God from whom they have separated
by their stubborn resistance to His will.
Sin-laden America. It is remarkable what a dream world people can be
living in. By all material standards, America is a prosperous country.
We are the best fed, most expensively clothed, most comfortably housed,
most conveniently transported, most lavishly entertained large nation in
But we are also a world leader in sin. I like St. Augustine's
definition. "Sin," he says, "is nothing else than the
neglect of eternal things and seeking after temporal things." In
other words, the very affluence of our country in having access to so
many satisfying creatures here on earth is a demonic seduction that
lures people from the love of eternal things.
When I say "world leader in sin," I mean this literally.
Not satisfied with world leadership in adultery, contraception,
fornication and sodomy, our American State department for months before
the UN Cairo Conference, broadcast to all nations that, and I quote,
"the United States believes that access to safe, legal and
voluntary abortion is a fundamental right of all women."
We are still answering the question "Why develop the Eucharistic
formation of the young?"
Our answer is
Because otherwise our young Catholics will become what their American
peers already are in large measure victims of an
anti-Christian militia that dominates our media and political system.
Because, as we enter the twenty-first century, we need a well-formed,
deeply committed and powerfully motivated Catholic leadership, which is
the children and young people of today.
Why Eucharistic Formation? To anyone who does not have the Catholic
faith, it is meaningless to associate the Eucharist with the moral
revolution going on in our country today. But to those who have the
fullness of the true faith, the relationship of the Eucharist to heroic
virtue and massive conversion is not only meaningful. It is
The key to this relationship is miracle. What am I saying?
I am first of all saying that except for the Eucharist, no one can
remain totally faithful to Jesus Christ and the moral demands He makes
on His followers.
I am further saying that, except for the Eucharist, God will not
convert the multitude of souls estranged from His love.
In both cases, it is Jesus Christ, the Wonder Worker on earth in the
Eucharist who must perform the necessary miracles. He must work the
miracle of infusing heroic courage and He must perform the miracle of
conversion of lapsed Christians and unbelievers in the modern world.
Remember what we are speaking about. We are answering the question of
why Eucharistic faith and love must be nourished among Catholics from
their earliest years. Why? In order to prepare them for heroic virtue,
and in order to make them channels of miraculous grace in a godless
This, then, is my principal message to you today. Train the
Eucharistic faith of young Catholics today to become the living martyrs
of Christ in the next century.
In the early Church, the expression was coined Sanguine martyrum est
semen Christianom, "the blood of martyrs is the seed of
Christians." This is even more true in our day. Christ needs
martyrs who are willing to shed their blood if need be, and who do shed
their acceptance by the world, out of loyalty to Jesus Christ.
In this same early Church, which we call the Church of Martyrs, daily
Mass and daily Holy Communion were the accepted practice for Catholics.
Children were not excluded.
But you might object. That was the age of the catacombs. Did I hear
you say, "That was the age of the catacombs?" If that is what
you said, let me enlighten you. Anyone who wants to really, honestly,
sincerely, wholeheartedly live his or her Catholic faith today must be
ready to live a catacomb existence in the closing decade of the 20th
century. Twenty-five years of working for the Holy See has taught me
many things most of which I will never publish or
even articulate in public. But this much I can say. We are today living
in the Age of Martyrs.
Where do we get the strength even to survive? From Jesus Christ in
the Eucharist. How do we become instruments of divine grace in restoring
a Christless society to its Redeemer? From Jesus Christ in the
GUIDELINES FOR THE EUCHARISTIC FORMATION OF THE YOUNG
Our closing reflections in this conference concentrate on how we parents and teachers, priests and
religious are to become apostles of the
Eucharist in our day.
What is an apostle of the Eucharist? An apostle of the Eucharist is
one who has certain Eucharistic qualities, eight to be exact.
An apostle of the Eucharist is one who is personally very devoted
to the Holy
- as Real Presence
- as the Sacrifice of the Mass and
- as Holy Communion
An apostle of the Eucharist is one who realizes that there is no
solution to the
problems of the world or the problems of the Church, except through the Holy
An apostle of the Eucharist is one who does everything in his power,
and example, to promote a deeper faith in the Eucharist
- as Presence-Sacrament,
- as Sacrifice-Sacrament, and
- as Communion-Sacrament.
All these are seen as the main sources of divine grace for the
whole human race.
An apostle of the Eucharist prays for a deeper understanding of the
Sacrament, by himself and by others especially by bishops and priests.
An apostle of the Eucharist lives a life of reparation for those who
Holy Eucharist or desert the Holy Eucharist, or distort and desecrate
An apostle of the Eucharist is zealous to convert or re-convert
people to a life of
grace and the fulness of the Christian faith, which believes that Jesus
now, present on earth, offering Himself in the Mass by giving us the graces He
won for us on Calvary, and giving Himself to us and coming bodily into our
body, His soul
into our soul, as the pledge of eternal destiny.
An apostle of the Eucharist is a martyr for the Eucharist. No matter
has to be paid, an apostle of the Eucharist is ready to pay it as a witness
faith that Jesus Christ is living in our midst today.
An apostle of the Eucharist simply expects the Eucharistic Christ to
whatever miracle needs to be performed in our day, especially
- Miracles of courage in conquering the demon of human respect by
Jesus Christ twenty-four hours a day.
- Miracles of conversion in changing sinners, even today's
murderers in high
places, to be humble followers of Christ.
But an apostle of the Eucharist has no illusions. There will be
opposition. "Have confidence," Jesus tells us, "I have
overcome the world."
"Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we believe you are with us in
the Blessed Sacrament. We believe you are inviting us to become apostles
of the Eucharist through the young people you place into our lives.
"You told us, 'Allow the little children to come unto me, and do
not prevent them from doing so.' In saying this, you were telling us to
nourish the Eucharistic faith of the young. It is by believing in you
that they come to you. It is by growing in their understanding of this
faith that they will grow in their love for you.
"Here on earth, they cannot see you with their bodily eyes. But
they can see you with the eyes of their soul provided we nurture their faith by our
own deep belief in you our Eucharistic Lord and nourish their hearts by
our own selfless affection for you our Eucharistic Love. Amen."