" Our amen that we say before we receive the Eucharist is an amen not just to the fact that this is the body of Christ; rather, we are saying amen to all that that means. " Archbishop Alexander Sample
An excited Archbishop Alexander Sample on June 18 announced an upcoming period of eucharistic revival in the U.S. Catholic Church.

While secular media reported mostly on politicians and Communion, the U.S. Catholic bishops took a broader perspective as they planned a document on the Eucharist and slated celebrations for the next three and a half years. One of the bishops’ hopes is to find 100,000 Catholics who will go out as volunteer missionaries to testify about the real presence and the love of God in the Eucharist.

“It’s all intended to bring about a real revival in our faith, our love, our devotion and our living out of the eucharistic mystery,” Archbishop Sample said during a Chapel Chat, a Friday evening livestreamed presentation from the chapel of his Northwest Portland home. About 2,600 viewers joined in.

“I’m excited about this,” the archbishop said. “I think it’s going to be great for the life of the church.”

The project was prompted by a surprising 2019 Pew survey which found that only a third of Catholics accept church teaching on the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Then in 2020, the pandemic scuttled and limited public Masses, leaving bishops and priests wondering how many will return to the Eucharist.

The task became even more pressing after the 2020 presidential election, in which a Catholic abortion rights supporter was elected. The case of Catholic public officials who support immoral acts and yet present themselves for Communion will likely get attention in the third and final part of a wider document being drafted by the bishops’ doctrine committee. The paper will go up for a vote at the November bishops’ meeting.

Archbishop Sample cited ancient teaching from St. Augustine who said that those who receive the Eucharist are transformed into Christ. That calls everyone, even bishops, to constant conversion in the direction of Christ, the archbishop said.

“Our amen that we say before we receive the Eucharist is an amen not just to the fact that this is the body of Christ; rather, we are saying amen to all that that means,” Archbishop Sample said. “That means our communion with the church, our communion with the faith, our belief in all that the church believes and professes, and that we live it in our own lives. We can’t live a life that is inconsistent. We can’t receive the Eucharist and then live in a way that is contrary to the faith.”

The archbishop said that anyone who has sinned in a grave matter with full knowledge and full consent of the will should refrain from Communion until seeking healing in confession. It is not that God rejects sinners in that state, the archbishop explained, but that the sinners have closed themselves off to God and ought not act as if the relationship is alright when it isn’t.

Another issue emerges when it comes to well-known Catholics: public scandal. Canon law teaches that Communion should be withheld from those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” The classic examples are mafiosos who present themselves for Communion with no intent to halt murderous and corrupt behavior.

The archbishop said that some public officials are formally cooperating with grave evil, with laws permitting abortion as primary examples.

While the third section of the bishops’ letter on the Eucharist is expected to focus on living the mystery, the first two parts are likely to focus on belief and celebration. The first section will teach and reflect on the gift of self from Jesus, the real presence, the Mass as sacrifice and the healing presence of the Eucharist, which the Second Vatican Council has said is food for the sick and sinful.

The second section will explain the Eucharist as a sacrament of love, a sign of unity and a bond of charity.

“It is in the Eucharist that we Catholics are united,” Archbishop Sample said, adding that the bishops also are likely to discuss the need for beauty and transcendence in Masses.

“We need to recapture that beauty that should surround the Eucharist,” he added. “It represents the beauty of God. It should have a whole different atmosphere from our secular activities and entertainments.”

Revival celebrations will be planned for parishes, dioceses and even on a national level.