The biggest news of all in 2022
When I first became a Diocesan newspaper editor, I had the pious, albeit mischievous, desire to have big front-page article with the thick bolded headline, "Jesus Christ Coming To Our Diocese!"
That's, of course, the type of headline that would always be above the fold if a pope were coming, or if a new bishop were appointed, or had been done when Mother Teresa of Calcutta actually came.
I wanted to do it to underline the fact that the biggest news that happens any day within the diocese -- or, in fact, across the globe -- is that the Son of God, son of David, and son of Mary, the Messiah, the Redeemer of the World, the King of the Universe, daily comes from heaven to our churches, nourishes us with himself and awaits us in the tabernacle.
If the biggest events in the history of the world were the incarnation, birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus -- so big that our calendars were eventually recalibrated to what occurred in Bethlehem -- then the fact that that same Jesus each day is present to help us recapitulate those mysteries at Mass, and accompany us in life, deserves top billing over what is happening in the comparatively trivial and ephemeral spheres of politics, culture, sports, education, medicine, religions, war, peace, and current events.
Such a long-range perspective about the biggest news of all cannot but impact the consideration of year-end reviews. There is much that has happened in the world, the country, the Church universal, and the Church in our country, the significance of which deserves deeper analysis than can be provided when the events are unfolding, as other articles in this edition will explore.
But I think -- and admittedly hope -- that the most consequential happening of the year is that the Church in the United States has begun to awaken to the reality that in the midst of all of the other important stories, the Big Story is that God is with us, day to day in history, as we confront them.
He's with us as we respond to the atrocities occurring in Ukraine, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Yemen. He's with us as we pray for the people in Lebanon, Syria, China, Hong Kong, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela.
He's with us as we labor to care for pregnant women and their babies and foster a culture of life and love after the Dobbs decision. He's with us as we welcome, protect, and integrate the massive waves of migrants coming over our borders in hope of freedom and prosperity. He's with us as we protect our children against the poison of gender ideology and compassionately care for those confused about their identity. He's with us as we heal the diabolical divisiveness of our political polarization and raise up leaders of integrity who seek to govern wisely and justly.
He's with us as we deal with the diabolical divisiveness and chaos flowing the moral polarization in the Church, where some global and domestic Church leaders and faithful, convinced that charity and truth are opposed rather than complementary, are pushing to bless practices explicitly contrary to the deposit of faith, and others are behaving as if they're ashamed of any part of the Gospel contrary to modern tastes or political, social, liturgical or anthropological ideologies. He's with us as the Church addresses financial, moral, or organizational corruption in various branches of the Mystical Body.
He's with us, just as he was with the people of first century Palestine. And that's what the Eucharistic Revival that commenced in June ultimately proclaims.
The short-term goals of the Revival are to increase Eucharistic knowledge, faith, amazement, adoration, love, life and practice. The ultimate goal, however, is to help us to grasp that God who promised to remain with us always until the end of time has been faithful to that commitment -- and is not just with us in a metaphorical sense or somewhere far away, but has drawn as near to us as the closest Catholic Church, altar or tabernacle, ready to accompany us from within every day as we experience the ups and downs of human life.
Recognizing the truth and significance of Jesus' Real Presence for personal life and the life of the world is the biggest game-changer a Christian will experience. That the Church in our country has committed to a three-year process of helping Catholics awaken to this reality is one of the most consequential decisions our bishops have collectively made.
The Revival is a response to many factors: the shocking data of how the vast majority of Catholics believe the Eucharist is just bread and wine symbolic of Christ rather than the real, true and substantial presence of Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity; the low rates of Mass attendance, where, depending upon the survey, only 16 to 24 percent of Catholics come on Sunday, even less among the young; the consequences of the scandalous shutdown of Churches during COVID, in which many faithful concluded that if the Sacraments aren't important enough to be offered during a pandemic then they must not be so important after all, with one-third of those who were attending weekly prior to March 2020 now ceasing to come; and the accumulated impact of ineffective, unhelpful or erroneous catechesis and preaching; liturgical tepidity, abuse and irreverence; and more.
In 2022, the U.S. bishops began a long overdue, collective response to these troubling trends. They wisely didn't limit it to a year, but stretched it to three-plus years, giving it a chance to be transformational. Over the objections of some critics and doubters, they are going full steam ahead for a national Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July 2024, to be preceded by four national Eucharistic processions from the east coast, west coast, southern border and north.
Some have objected to the allocation of resources, as if the revitalization of the source and summit of Christian life and love for God should not be so high a priority or worthy of the Church's lavish modern aromatic nard (Jn 12:3). Others have pessimistically predicted failure, commenting that the ideas for the Congress are too ambitious and the liturgical processions even crazy.
But the leaders of the Renewal, captained by Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, MN, have patiently and faithfully not taken account of the winds as they boldly lead the Church in our country to journey toward and with the Eucharistic Christ over stormy seas (Mt 14:24-33) -- and at the Lord's command, against worldly cynicism, to put out into the deep and lower the nets for a catch (Lk 5:1-11).
The reform of the Church necessary for her to be the salt, light and leaven our culture and age needs must be fundamentally Eucharistic, because as the early Church proclaimed, the Eucharistic makes the Church. It begins with the consoling and embolding truth that the Eucharistic is not a "thing," but Christ himself, God-with-us, full-time. The Revival puts that truth, that Person, front and center, and seeks to turn the eyes of all the faithful, in the midst of various concerns, to the one who continues to say, "Do not be afraid. It is I" (Mt 14:27).
That's why it's the biggest story of 2022 in the Church in America and why it deserves a big, bolded headline.
- Father Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River who is national chaplain to Aid to the Church in Need USA, a Papal Missionary of Mercy and a Missionary of the Eucharist for the US Bishops.